Monday, October 21, 2013

Household Bugs -- Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite!

What's It Like to Be Bitten by Bedbugs?

It was in Costa Rica, in a little off-the-beaten-path hotel, that I encountered my first bedbug. Actually I never encountered, or even saw, the little sucker -- I just found the evidence, in the form of a line of red itchy bites on my neck. I spent most of the morning trying to convince my wife, and myself, that they were just mosquito bites, but finally had to admit that they seemed different. For one thing, the bites were blotchy and irregular, unlike a nice round mosquito bite, and they didn't itch quite as much. Plus, there were at least six of them, all in a rough line from my left ear extending down to my shirt collar. Classic bedbug action. But I didn't want to admit it.
"Maybe they're spider bites," I said hopefully. 
"Ew," said my wife. "That's even worse."

Actually, bedbugs are much more serious pests than spiders. Spiders actually have an upside -- they eat tons of mosquitoes, flies, and other insects -- while bedbugs are just a pest. Bedbugs feed on human blood, which they suck much like mosquitoes do, with a sharp, hollow proboscis. Bedbugs don't fly, though. They hang out in the cracks and crevices of walls and mattresses and crawl out during the night to bite you, often on the face, where blood-rich capillaries lie just below the skin's surface. 

They tend to bite, suck, move a few steps, and repeat the process, which is why the bites, like ones on my neck, are often in a line. The worst part is that bedbugs poop while they feed. They can track their own feces into the bites, causing potentially serious infections. All things considered, bedbugs are pretty gross. This quick and easy bedbug guide gives you some options for bedbug control, if you think you have them, or if you live in the south where they are most common. But don't laugh, Yankees -- bedbugs are currently expanding their range, and can be found anywhere from New Orleans to Winnipeg, Canada.

If you think you might have bedbugs, have a look around your mattress. Bedbug colonies are relatively easy to spot -- they basically look like dirty spots, and closer inspection will reveal live bugs, both adults and immatures, which look like smaller versions of the adults. If you do find these nasty little pests, have a look around the web for control measures or a local exterminator. If you don't attack the problem right away, the colony will only grow!


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