Ask anyone what they know about a bed bug and even the most uninformed person will tell you, “They live in your bed and they bite you.” Which is actually not true. Yes, they do live in your bed, but they don’t bite – they suck! Both literally and figuratively.
Beyond that, there are a number of other vital bits of misinformation floating around about bed bug bites. Luckily, you have me to give you the facts you need to know.
Three signs that you have bed bugs: (1) you develop bites, (2) you see bloodstains on your sheets or mattress, or (3) you see their fecal matter on your mattress, box spring, or headboard.
Everyone with bed bugs does not get itchy bed bug bites. To say it another way: you can have bed bugs, but not react to the bites. Who are these lucky people? They physical appearance of an itchy bite has to do with how allergic you are. So just as one mosquito bite may leave you itching like mad and the other may not itch at all, now two bed bug bites have to be the same. Also, their intensity varies from person to person.
All bed bug bites do not look alike. Unfortunately, there is no standard-looking bite. Depending where on your body they attack, how long they fed, or how much blood was extracted, there can be anything from tiny red marks, to ball–shaped blisters, to big puffy welts. You cannot tell the moment you get bitten. When a bed big bites you, it simultaneously injects an anesthetic, so you feel nothing. For most people, it takes three to twelve hours for a bite to develop.
Bed bug bites appear in close proximity to each other (groups of two or three in small areas of the body). The classic pattern is a line of three. This is often referred to as the breakfast-lunch-dinner formation. Yet it is not the only way bites will appear. Often people have a bite on their leg, one their stomach and another on their neck, and they think it can’t be bed bugs because they are all scattered. WRONG! If you roll over in the night and dislodge the bug while it’s feeding, it doesn’t give up and go home, it latches onto a new area.
You may have bed bugs and no bites because you have pets. Bed bugs like dogs, cats and other mammals just as much as they like you. And your pet is home more than you are, often not doing much moving around. That makes them prime target s for hungry bed bugs. So while you may never suspect you have a problem because you have not received a single bite, your pooch may be taking the brunt of them.
Dermatologists are practically useless. Common sense will tell you to have the doctor check your skin out, yet today’s dermatologists didn’t spend time in medical school learning about bed bugs or reading about them in their text books. For a DIY remedy to reduce itching, apply a warm compress directly to the bite. Beware of any dermatologist who wants to biopsy the bite – there is no method of extracting the salivary protein to determine whether it’s a bed bug or not.
In a perfect world, smears or specks of your blood on a mattress would indicate that you rolled over on the creatures and crushed them when they were in your bed. And in some cases, you’d be right. It could also mean that they gorged themselves on you and a little blood spilled out (yes, like crumbs).
Yes, we’re talking about poop. Bed bug poop looks like pepper spots on your mattress, box spring (especially in and around the cheesecloth covering), or headboard.
Now that you’ve been forced to consider bed bugs burping up your blood and pooping on your bed, I hate to add that more often than not you can have a bed bug infestation and never see the signs.
William Hawkins has been in the pest control business for over 15 years, and is currently utilizing the state of the art bed bug heat treatment for Jersey City Pest Control.