Bed bugs were almost eradicated in Western countries in the 1940s and 1950s. The use of DDT and better hygiene caused bed bugs to almost disappear. They were still prevalent in other regions of the world such as Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.
A ban on the use of the pesticide DDT in the United States went into effect the end of 1984. With the use of DDT bed bugs had almost disappeared.
Until the last few years bed bugs were not seen as a problem and even pest control professionals rarely saw them. Now bed bugs seem to have come back to the UK. They are being found in hotels, motels, apartments, homes, health care facilities, shelters and schools. They have even been found in cinemas, dry cleaners, outlets for rental furniture and offices.
It is believed that immigration and international travel along with less effective pesticides has caused the rapid rise in bed bugs.
Immigration and international travel have undoubtedly contributed to the resurgence of bed bugs in the UK. Changes in modern pest control practice – and less effective bed bug pesticides – are other factors suspected for the recurrence.
Adult bed bugs are a reddish brown, they are a flattened oval shape and do not have wings. They are tiny but still visible, their length is 4-5 mm and 1.5 -3 mm wide. The babies, or nymphs, are translucent and lighter in colour and the size of a pinhead. They become browner as they moult and reach maturity, which takes about two weeks. Females will lay 1-2 eggs per day, and it takes just two weeks for a bed bug to mature into an adult and reproduce.
If you bring bed bugs into your home you need help to get rid of them and the sooner you get help the better. Pete Jameson is the owner of Dynamic Pest Control who once treated a house that had let a bed bug problem go for eight months. He had to drill in the walls and bugs were found in the light fixtures, and even the microwave. “They were everywhere,” Pete said, “I mean it’s heartbreaking to tell someone you should take keys and clothes you’re wearing (or maybe not clothes) and leave as if your house burned down. Don’t take anything with you.”
The only food bed bugs feed on is blood from humans, which they prefer, but also they will feed from other warm-blooded animals such as dogs, cats, birds and rodents. They are mainly active at night and will normally feed unnoticed. This is why they infest areas where people normally sleep.
Bed bugs have an elongated beak which they use to pierce the skin. It takes from three to ten minutes to withdraw blood then they crawl off to digest their meal.