Grossness is subjective, but bed bugs are objectively pretty disgusting.
"The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) has long been a pest — feeding on blood, causing itchy bites and generally irritating their human hosts," says the Environmental Protection Agency.
If the concept of blood-sucking bugs isn't creepy enough, learning about their amazing reproductive abilities and mutated features will really make your skin crawl.
In observance of Bed Bug Awareness Week, here are five nasty facts about these buggers.
1. They're almost invisible vampires
There's something unsettling about animals that subsist on the life force of other creatures — a fact that's been used by countless horror writers and filmmakers to inspire dread in audiences.
Bed bugs love human blood. They use the nutrients they get from our blood to grow and reproduce, adding insult to injury.
These pests aren't even selective about their blood meals. They will also feed on cats, dogs and other pets, irritating every member of your family, including Fido.
2. If you spot one, there are already thousands creeping around
You know the creepy feeling you get when you realize someone is staring at you? It's exponentially worse to discover thousands of pests have been feeding on you while you sleep.
Bed bugs are prolific reproducers, so if you see one or discover a bite on your body, chances are there are a lot more lurking around your living space.
"After mating, females lay white, oval eggs (1/16" long) into cracks and crevices," according to researchers at the University of Minnesota. "An individual bed bug can lay 200 to 250 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs hatch in about 6 to 10 days and the newly emerged bed bug nymphs seek a blood meal."
They say three's a crowd, but you'll never catch bed bugs without at least a few hundred relatives to keep them company at their blood banquets.
3. They're mutants and hard to kill
Even vampires have their kryptonite – they steer clear of Italian food with lots of garlic and anybody building a wooden fence. Unlike vampires, bed bugs have mutated and are immune to the techniques that could once kill them.
This immunity to pesticides has caused their numbers to rise and outbreaks of the pests to become more frequent in cities around the world.
"Experts believe the recent increase in bed bugs in the United States may be due to more travel, lack of knowledge about preventing infestations, increased resistance of bed bugs to pesticides, and ineffective pest control practices," according to the EPA.
4. They can live without food
If this fact weren't so disturbing, it'd be seriously impressive: in certain climates, some bed bugs can live a full year without eating.
They can enter a kind of hibernation state when there are no blood-filled hosts around, which will be interrupted when they sense animal body heat and the CO2 emitted by regular breathing.
5. Bites can cause allergic reactions and infection
The one upside to bed bugs is they don't carry microbes or parasites that we know to be communicable to humans. Their bites alone won't give you diseases, but their saliva can irritate skin and cause allergic reactions.
"Many people have mild to severe allergic reaction to the bites with effects ranging from no reaction to a small bite mark to, in rare cases, anaphylaxis (severe, whole body reaction)," reads a joint statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and EPA. "These bites can also lead to secondary infections of the skin such as impetigo, ecthyma and lymphangitis."
This is why it's so important to keep bug bites clean, avoid scratching, and treat an infested site as soon as possible after discovery. Find out how to deal with these disgusting pests here.
Have unwanted visitors already breached your defenses? Contact the professionals at Paratex for help. They’ll answer to your questions and can help create an Integrated Pest Management plan for your property. Paratex also help homeowners and businesses with bird control, wood-destroying bugs and other pest problems. Learn more and request a quote at http://paratex.com. Responses are speedy and prices are fair.