Many travellers are haunted by the sight of waking up to blood stains on their pearly white hotel sheets - traumatised by the idea that they were an all you can eat meaty buffet to the little pests. Myths shroud bedbugs and their nefarious bite.
"Don't let the bed bugs bite" - A travellers nightmare
Not to be confused with dust mites, bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed exclusively on blood. Similar to a vampire from the movies, they prefer to feed on human blood. Usually feasting at night while the victim is fast asleep. A bed bug bite can occur anywhere on your body, but in a Dracula-esque fashion, they usually target your neck and areas close to your blood vessels such as hands, arms and legs.
Bed Bugs Infestation
An infestation is almost impossible to spot to the untutored eye. An unpleasant sweet, sickly smell announces their presence. Like a classic murder mystery scene the pest leaves clues behind such as blood spots on sheets and black stains from bed bug excreta. Additionally, similar to a murderer returning to the scene of the crime, you may be able to spot live bed bugs. Pull out your Sherlock Holmes kit! You may spot them with a magnifying glass. Taken straight out of Count Dracula's handbook bed bugs usually only come out at night to feed on unsuspecting victims before hiding away before dawn.
When feeding bed bugs, with their chilling kiss, penetrate your skin with two tubelike proboscises. With one injecting saliva consisting of an anticoagulant, vasodilatory compounds (widening blood vessels) and an anaesthetic. While the other is for drawing your blood. Reddish black faeces is released after the feast.
Do Bed Bugs carry diseases?
There are debates as to whether diseases can be spread through bed bug bites. The common narrative is that diseases can't be spread by their bite. Contrary to that though, did you know that bed bugs, like many other pests such as cockroaches or rodents, carry a wide variety of diseases within their bodies. It is commonly accepted that they do in fact spread hepatitis, especially the hepatitis B virus, not through their bite but rather their faeces.
A study from Penn Medicine researches in Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics has determined that bed bugs, like their cousin the kissing bug, through their faeces can spread chagas disease (also known as American trypanosomiasis), which is one of the most deadly and prevalent diseases in the Americas.
Though there haven't been many documented cases of diseases spread by bed bug bites, their bodies contain around 40 different dangerous pathogens which may be accidentally contracted through open wounds.
Bed Bugs Bite: is it Fact or Fiction?
In busting the myths I believe the current consensus is that a bedbugs bite may not spread diseases as rumoured. Though their bodies may pose a serious health risk as a carrier of many dangerous pathogens. Exposure to an infestation may increase the likelihood of being infected by other means aside from their bites
Why is it so hard to get rid of them?
Bed Bugs are notoriously difficult to eliminate, mainly due to their reproductive capabilities. Female bed bugs produce 200 to 500 eggs in their lifetime. Additionally, within a few months, their offspring can reproduce too.
Adult bed bugs are as small as 5 mm long making them very hard to spot. They are adept at squeezing into small cracks and crevices. To successfully eliminate an infestation, you need to kill every single bed bug, which is a mammoth task to do on your own.
P.S. if you aren't distressed enough, remember bed bugs don't only live in beds