Bugs in my bed!

15 March, 2009

Two bed bugs on human skin <I>Cimex lectularius</I>
Two bed bugs on human skin Cimex lectularius
Image: Paul Zborowski
Source: Close-up Photo Library

Question: I found these bugs in my mattress. What are they?

Answer: The insects that you have found are what are commonly known as bed bugs (Cimex species). Bed bugs are a pest species that have been brought to Australia by people and are usually spread via luggage, clothing or furniture.

Upon the eggs hatching bed bugs are blood suckers at all stages of their development. They have mouthparts which are designed to pierce skin and siphon up the blood. When biting people they also inject an anticoagulant to stop the victims blood from clotting. Their feeding can cause no reactions in some people but severe irritation in others. 

Bed bug infestations declined during the middle part of the twentieth century due to improvements in hygiene and the use of chemicals such as DDT. However, a decline in the use of dangerous chemicals and a boom in the volume of people travelling around the world have helped to increase their numbers again. For example, the Department of Medical Entomology at the Westmead Hospital in Sydney has reported that “in Australia there has been an increase in the number of bed bug infestations of around 5,000% since the year 1999”.
 
Bed bugs usually feed at night and are attracted to the carbon dioxide and warmth of their meal. They prefer humans, but in the absence of people they may switch to other warm-blooded animals. Bed bugs’ bodies are very flat. This allows them to hide in tiny cracks and crevices that can be difficult for us to access. A mature female is capable of laying hundreds of eggs in her life and in the event of a bed bug infestation it is recommended that the services of a professional pest control company are sought.

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Helen 4 July, 2010 20:05
Bed bugs do seem to be an increasing problem in the developing world.
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