Bedbugs are small, elusive insects who live strictly by feeding on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals. They are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding unnoticed on humans or animals. Their peak feeding period is about an hour before sunrise.
The bedbug pierces skin with two hollow tubes: one for injecting its saliva, the other for sucking blood. The bedbug feeds for about 5 minutes before returning to its hiding place. Bedbugs normally feed every 5 to 10 days, but can live for over a year without feeding.
Adult bedbugs are reddish-brown, flat, oval and wingless. They are shaped similar to an apple seed. They grow to 4 to 5 mm in length and 1.5 to 3 mm wide. They move slowly enough to be observed. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent and lighter in color.
Bites consist of a raised red bump or a flat welt and are often very itchy because of an allergic reaction to an anesthetic contained in the bedbug’s saliva injected into the person. Bites may take over a week to become discernible.
Among other sources, bedbugs can be brought into the home from travel to hotels and motels, from second-hand or even new furniture, and via wild birds and household pets. Bedbug infestations in hotels and apartments can travel from room to room, eventually saturating every room.
Bedbugs may hide not only in beds, but along pipes and boards, furniture, carpeting, electrical outlets, inside walls, screw holes, and even room clutter. The most common hiding place is along the piping material on the edges of mattresses.
Bedbugs may be present on any furniture where sleeping takes place – sofas, chairs, air mattresses, futons, camping cots, strollers, cars, and so forth.
Largely eradicated as pests in the early 1940s, bedbugs have been resurgent in the past decade to near epidemic proportions (amongst industrialized nations) and have infested dwellings, businesses, and institutions, etc. alike.