The adult bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is 4-5 mm. the body is oval and rust-red. It has no wings, which makes the abdomen clearly visible.
The bed bug is not a louse, but a kind of tick. Most ticks feed on plant sap, but the bed bug uses its sharp proboscis to suck blood.
About 75 different species of bed bugs are known, and it has been proven that they are all, in addition to the human, live on some birds and bats. That may seem a strange choice, but there is an explanation. Bed bugs do not live like the real louse on the body of the host. They live most of their lives in the environment of the host and they only occur on the hosts when sucking blood. Therefore they only survive with animals that have a nest or a home they continue to return to.
Evidence suggests that bed bugs originally evolved from bed bugs living on bats. One can imagine that when our ancestors, thousands of years ago, moved into caves, where bats already lived, bed bugs discovered that people were suitable hosts.
It must have happened in a warm area as bed bugs thrive best at temperatures between 25 and 28 degrees C. They can not survive if the temperature falls below 13 degrees C. The bed bug spread to Northern Europe when we started to have reasonably heated homes during the 1600s.
Bed bugs live in dark cracks and crevices as close as possible to the places where people sleep at night. They often live in the bed itself, but also behind loose wallpaper, behind pictures and wall hangings as well as under lists to name just a few possibilities.
Although it is not always possible to find living bed bugs in these places, they can easily be found by the presence of black droppings, empty white egg shells and empty hides.
Bed bugs come out at night, mostly attracted by body heat. They bite preferably on uncovered parts of the skin such as hands, arms, feet and neck, as opposed to fleas that often bites under close-fitting clothing. An adult bed bug eats 5-10 minutes and is then full. Then it pulls the proboscis back and crawls into hiding again. Here it sits and digests for a week until it gets hungry and crawls out from hiding again.
People respond very differently to bed bug bites. Some people have severe reactions while others do not react at all. It is estimated that about 10% of the population can be bitten every night without even noticing it, and it means that the stock can manage to grow wildly before the animals are discovered by accident.
One good note: It has never been proved that bedbugs spread diseases.
The female bed bug lays 4-5 eggs per day, totaling up to 200. She adheres them firmly to the ground in her hiding place. At room temperature, the eggs hatch in ten days. The small bed bugs resemble the adults. They shed their skin five times and must have a blood meal between each moult.
Bed bugs can live a few months without blood, and even longer if it is chilly. That explains why living bed bugs are found in houses that have been empty and cool for up to one year.
Bed bugs can travel from one apartment to another, for example. through piping, but they are primarily dispersed passively with furniture and luggage. One may be unfortunate enough to buy bed bugs along with recycled furniture, or to get them by taking things that might have been discarded due to bed bugs. even “nice” hotels can have problems and a common route of infestation is luggage that has been standing under the bed in a room with bed bugs.
If you suspect that bed bugs have slipped into your luggage it is a good idea to review it on return.
Clothes and other items that can tolerate it, should be washed in the washing machine or placed in a freezer a few days at minus 18 degrees C. Things that do not tolerate this treatment should be thoroughly inspected and optionally treated with an approved insecticide.
If you find bed bugs as a renter, you have a duty to report it to your landlord, who then has the responsibility to exterminate them.
If you own your home it is an advantage to have an experienced exterminator take care of the matter. Knowledge of habits and habitats of bed bugs is a prerequisite for a good result, and wrong treatment causes a risk for simply chasing the bed bugs to the neighbour.
Some birds and bats that may occur in our homes are also plagued by bed bugs, which in rare cases can seek into our houses and bite people. They resemble our own bugs to confusion.
The bat bug (Cimex pipistrelli) live in places where dwarf bats have their resting places. Bats sometimes settle in attics in residential buildings and then their bed bugs seek down and bite people. This happens especially if the bats for any reason disappears from the house and the bed bugs are left without their natural food source.
Pigeon bugs (Cimex columbarius) are very close relatives to the bed bug. They live in pigeon’s nests or in attics where some pigeons live, they can on rare occasions find their way into homes and then bite people.
Dermestes haemorrhoidalis is a very close relative to the bacon beetle. The larvae are indistinguishable from those of the bacon beetle, but the beetles are distinguished by being black and they lack the bright bands over the elytra.
The dermestes haemorrhoidalis is unlike the bacon beetle not an old Danish species, and it has been introduced relatively recently, and is now common especially in properties in cities. Its way of life is similar to that of the bacon beetle. It thrives well in untidy companies and in apartments where offal is allowed to accumulate, but a small population of dermestes haemorrhoidalis can thrive near a dog’s or cat’s food bowl.
The main living space is often pigeons’ nests in attics.
When the larvae are ready to pupate they, like the larvae of the bacon beetle, tend to hide in cracks and crevices possibly gnawing into woodwork. One should therefore be aware that even after careful pest control and cleaning adult beetles can emerge for months if you have not found all the larvae during the pest control.