Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite
A news report from Florida claims that “after disappearing for 60 years, the tropical bed bug has turned up in Florida — …. in Brevard County. And these nasty little creatures can spread faster than the ordinary variety bed bug, causing all the same havoc.”
Bedbugs are small, flat, wingless insects with six legs that feed on blood from animals or people. They range in color from almost white to brown, but they turn rusty red after feeding. The common bedbug doesn’t grow much longer than 0.2 inches (0.5 centimeters) and can be seen by the naked eye to the astute observer. Bedbugs get their name because they like to hide in bedding and mattresses. They feed on human blood, so they can cause health problems during severe infestations as well as inducing fear, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and itchy, blistery reactions on people.
As for the bed bug found in Florida “…’this could mean that this species would develop more quickly, possibly cause an infestation problem sooner, and also could spread more rapidly,’ Brittany Campbell, a UF doctoral student in entomology, said in a media release. Campbell and her colleagues at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences confirmed the tropical bed bug’s reemergence, which they recently documented in the journal Florida Entomologist. No one had confirmed the tropical variety of bed bug in Florida since the 1930s and 1940s. But in 2015, a family in Merritt Island, near the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary, reported the tiny unwanted creatures had infested their home.”
The common bed bug lives throughout the United States and around the globe. Before the insecticide, DDT was banned in the 1990s, its use had kept bed bugs infestations under control. Initially the agent malathion (more commonly used for mosquito control) worked to control the bugs but they quickly developed a tolerance and it is no longer effective in eliminating the bugs. However, during the past two decades, common bed bug have demonstrated a resurgence. They are resistance to most commonly used pesticides. A similar widespread epidemic of tropical bed bugs may be foreshadowed with this new discovery in Florida.
Bed Bugs are a Global Problem
Bed bugs are found around the world. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts, otherwise clean and tidy homes and anywhere where humans live/sleep. It is important to note that bed bugs presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.
Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.
A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.
One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take up to 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:
- The bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
- Bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
- Rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
- A sweet musty odor.
Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.
Can Bed Bug Infestations be Prevented or Mitigated?
It is difficult to prevent infestations and increasingly challenging to eliminate such infestations. Bed bug infestations have been commonly treated by insecticide spraying. However, the rise of pesticide resistant bed bugs make this task increasingly daunting. It is recommended that travelers should be aware of where they leave bags and suitcases (bed bugs usually stay within 8 feet of human sleeping locations). Carefully inspect clothing and luggage (and other items) for bed bug stowaways. Housekeeping staff and other employees should receive education and training to recognize the signs of bed bug infestations and given the knowledge of how to respond quickly and appropriately.
Bed bugs can be a disaster for those at home, especially given the challenge of eradication. They present a serious threat to businesses, especially hospitality, hotels, travel and tourism areas. They are also a threat to smooth operations for universities (residence halls and dorms) or other organizations with housing operations. They are also a potential issue for temporary field housing and EOC sleeping accommodations. Anywhere humans sleep is at risk for getting bed bugs. This risk increases when visiting an infected area and returning with stowaway bed beds leading to a new infestation in a previously bed bug free sleeping habitat. Anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.