You can run, but you can’t hide…
Bed bugs are increasing in numbers at an alarming rate and with most people unaware of the dangers associated with the bug, the problem now threatens to become an epidemic.
Bed bugs are small (5-7mm) reddish-brown insects with oval shaped flat bodies and no wings. Because they are so flat, they can hide in a crack wide enough to fit the edge of a credit card. Bed bugs have a lifespan of about one year. A female can lay 200 to 500 eggs depending on her human food supply and temperature of her hiding place. The eggs hatch in about 10 days and are whitish in colour. Pear-shaped and the size of a pinhead.
In the past the answer to the problem was an insecticide called DDT. This product has now been discontinued. The discontinuance of DDT, along with other effective bed bug insecticides undoubtedly has given the bed bug an opportunity to rebound and we are now suffering the consequences today.
Unlike cockroaches, bed bugs are not attracted to filthy environments, dirty homes or poor personal hygiene. Bed bugs feed only on human blood not human waste. They are attracted by exhaled carbon dioxide and body heat and their favourite hiding places are mattresses and pillows. Bed bugs can tolerate weeks of freezing temperatures and can even live from 6 to 12 months without human blood. They are also expert long distance travellers, surviving in our luggage, clothing, planes, trains, cars, buses and cruise ships. They arrive home with us as a memento of our holiday or business trip. Bed bugs feed on human blood every 5 to 10 days piercing our skin with their elongated beaks and inject their saliva that contains an anaesthetic to reduce our pain. The saliva also acts as an anticoagulant to keep our blood flowing. In one night, bed bugs can leave as many as 90 bites on our bodies. Often painless, these bites are small, red, itchy bumps that resemble mosquito bites. For some people, the bites can go away within hours or days without treatment. Others don’t even know that they have been bitten and don’t see any bites for up to two or three weeks. There are individuals that are extremely sensitive to their bites and can have immediate localised allergic reactions namely bright red, painful and very itchy swellings. Scratching these bitten areas can cause serious infections and other ailments.
Bed bugs leave definite dark spotting and staining marks on mattresses, sheets and pillows from excrement and blood left by crushed bed bugs. Moulted skin, excrement and eggshells will also be found in mattress crevices and in severe cases, you will be able to smell an offensive, sweet, musty odour produced by their scent glands.
Dust mites feed on our skin cells. On average we shed about 30 000 to 40 000 skin cells every day, enough to feed about one million dust mites.
As dust mites don’t have stomachs, their digestion occurs outside their bodies. Their partly digested food, namely our skin cells as well as their own faecal matter can cause Allergens, Rhinitis, Conjunctivitis and Dermatitis.
Dust mites thrive in mattresses, pillows, bedding, blankets and comforters. To avoid the suns rays they burrow deep into the various fabrics and climb to the surface when they want to feed. Dust mites can also thrive in dry climates and easily reproduce in pillows because of the moisture from perspiration and saliva generated by the body while sleeping.
The weight of a mattress can actually double after a period of 10 years because of dust mite infestation and their waste particles. The average pillow can after one year increase in weight by 10 %.
Males can live for 20 to 30 days and mated females can live for 10 weeks, laying 60 to 100 eggs in the last five weeks of their lives and also producing about 2 000 faecal particles. Dust mites can survive except at high altitudes where they cannot reproduce because they require humidity. Although they remain active all year round, they tend to be worse in winter.
Bleach and strong soaps do not kill dust mites but washing sheets in temperatures over 60°C/140°F for one hour can prove fatal to dust mites.
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