Bedbugs have been turning up for years in often times weird and random places including movie theaters, subways, schools and dressing rooms. Scientists believed that in order for them to flourish, they would need frequent access to human blood. As it turns out, bedbugs do not.
A study by the University of Florida has demonstrated that bedbugs can not only survive, but also actually thrive, with far less human blood than believed. The three-year study discovered that it takes only around eleven weeks for one pair of bedbugs to create a large enough population to cause harmful loss of blood to a baby. In under fifteen weeks the same pair can do the same to an adult. A population of 3,500 bedbugs can cause harm to a baby, while 25,000 can cause harm to an adult.
What is meant by, 'harm,' is not that the bugs have the ability to kill a person, but that the person's body would become stressed. According to Roberto Pereira of the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 'When your body is stressed, all sorts of things can go wrong. Your blood volume would be low, your iron levels might be too low, or you might be anemic." According to the research performed, bedbug populations grew under all conditions, even the bedbugs that were fed less often and for the shortest duration. Pereira stated, "Basically what we found is that they can live on a diet of weekly snacks." Researchers were surprised to find that if uncontrolled, bedbug populations large enough to cause harm to people could grow four times more quickly than previously thought - in a mere 11 to 15 weeks.
Even though bedbugs were nearly eradicated in America, they became resurgent in the late 1990's and early 2000's. In the year 2011, the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky released a survey of American pest control professionals. The survey found that 99% of those who responded had encountered a bedbug infestation within the past year. Prior to the year 2000 only 25% of the respondents to the survey had encountered such an infestation. The study also discovered that unless pest control efforts against bedbugs can kill at least 80% of any given population they would most likely not succeed.
Pest control managers often times use, 'pyrethrins,' to fight bedbugs, but the bugs have grown increasingly resistant to them. Some types of heat treatments have been successful in fighting the bugs but they are time-consuming, labor intensive, and expensive. Bedbugs have once again become a very difficult problem for people to deal with.
Around the world bedbugs were once common public health pests. The population of bedbugs declined through the mid-twentieth century. In recent years; however, the population of bedbugs has gone through a dramatic resurgence. Worldwide there are reports of increasing numbers of bedbug infestations. The bugs have the ability to travel around the world through clothing, luggage, furniture and bedding.
Basic Facts about Bedbugs
Bedbugs feed on a person's blood by piercing their skin with an elongated beak. The bug injects saliva that contains an anesthetic to reduce pain as well as an anticoagulant to keep the person's blood flowing. A person's reaction to bed bug bites differs depending upon the individual. A person may have no reaction, or they may have severe skin inflammation and irritation.
Treating Bedbug Bites and Infestations
The redness and itching associated with bedbug bites usually goes away on its own over a period of a week or two. Ways to speed up the recovery process include using a hydrocortisone cream, or using an oral antihistamine such as diphenhydramine. For people who develop a skin infection from scratching the bites from a bedbug, a doctor might prescribe an antibiotic.
After a person's symptoms have been treated, it is important to deal with the underlying infestation. Doing so can be hard because bedbugs like to hide and can live for months at a time without eating. The best way to deal with bedbugs is to hire a professional exterminator who might use a combination of pesticides and non-chemical types of treatments. Non-chemical types of bedbug treatments may include:
Hot Water: Washing your clothing and other items in water that is at least 120 degrees F or 49 degrees C can kill bedbugs.
Clothes Dryer: Putting dry or wet items in a clothes dryer that is set at medium or high heat for 20 minutes or more will kill both bedbugs and their eggs.
Vacuuming: A complete vacuuming of crevices and cracks can physically remove bedbugs from an area. Unfortunately, vacuum cleaners do not have the ability to reach all of the places bedbugs can hide.
Freezing: Bedbugs are vulnerable to temperatures that are below freezing - 32 degrees F or 0 degrees C, although you would need to leave the items that are infested outside or in the freezer for several days.
An Enclosed Vehicle: If it is summer time you can bag up items that are infested and leave them in a parked car in the sunshine with the windows rolled up for the day. The temperature must be at least 120 degrees F or 49 degrees C inside the car.
At times, a professional exterminator will use a portable device that produces heat, freezing temperatures, or steam to kill bedbugs. Sometimes you might have to throw out items that are heavily infested such as couches or mattresses.
Bedbugs and Health Risks
Bedbugs need blood to reproduce and complete their life cycle. The effect of bedbug bites differs among people, although the bites do eventually produce itchy red welts. The bites are not painful and people usually do not feel them, but frequent feeding can disrupt a person's sleep and make them feel irritable. Seeing the bites the bugs have left can cause emotional distress. Heavy rates of feeding may result in a significant loss of blood and eventually lead to anemia, particularly in children who are malnourished.
At least 27 different agents of human diseases have been found in bedbugs, to include bacteria, viruses, parasitic worms, and protozoa. None of these agents reproduce or multiply within the bedbugs themselves and very few of them live for any length of time inside of a bedbug. There is no evidence that bedbugs are involved in the transmission of disease agents, to include HIV or hepatitis B.
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