STATEN ISLAND, NY — If you find yourself with itchy and red bites on your body, you may have bed bugs.
Pest control company Terminix notes that bed bugs are a nasty and uncomfortable problem — and signs and symptoms of an infestation can be hard to detect at first. To the untrained eye, bites from bed bugs could be confused with other insects.
The common bed bug has long been a pest — feeding on blood, causing itchy bites and generally irritating their human hosts, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
New York City recently ranked third on Orkin’s 2022 Top 50 Bed Bug Cities List. The company, which provides pest control services, ranked the metropolitan areas where bed bugs have been most reported.
The EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) all consider bed bugs a public health pest.
However, unlike most public health pests, bed bugs are not known to transmit or spread disease. But they can cause other public health issues, so it’s important to pay close attention to preventing and controlling bed bugs.
The insects are typically 3/16-inch long, red to dark brown in color and are mostly nocturnal. They come out of hiding to take blood meals from sleeping humans. They are hematophagous, which means blood is their only food source. They can travel from place to place with ease, clinging to items such as luggage, purses and other personal belongings.
The pests are known for rapid population growth, as females can deposit one to five eggs a day and may lay 200 to 500 eggs in their lifetime. They can survive for several months while waiting for their next blood meal, so they’re likely to emerge when a food source, like humans, becomes available.
Here are eight easy signs that can help you determine if you have a bed bug problem, according to Terminix.
1. Red and itchy bite marks
People don’t usually consider bed bugs until they’ve left a bite mark.
The appearance of flat, red welts in zig-zag lines or small clusters is a key sign of bed bugs on humans, Terminix says. They can also leave their bites in straight rows and, while they don’t spread disease, their bites are irritating. Scratching them can lead to bleeding and infection.
2. Uncomfortable while sleeping
Bed bugs are most often found in the bed, so it makes sense that they would be most active at night while humans sleep.
If you find yourself developing these itchy welts while laying in bed sleeping or trying to sleep, it’s likely you have bed bugs.
3. Marked arms and shoulders
Terminix notes that bed bugs tend to feed on exposed skin like arms and shoulders, which you may tend to leave uncovered while sleeping. This is different from fleas and chiggers, which tend to bite around the ankles.
4. A buggy bed
The first sign of a bed bug problem? the bed After bed bugs feed on humans, they’ll leave behind blood stains resembling small rust spots. These will usually be found near the corners and edges of the bed.
Bed bugs also shed their skin or molt — several times as they mature — so you may find their oval brown exoskeletons during a search, Terminix said.
5. Unpleasant smells
A strong, unpleasant, musty odor — like a wet towel — is another common bed bug sign. Bed bugs release pheromones, and when in large numbers, that smell can be strong. So if you find your bedroom smells like a dirty locker room, you should inspect it for bed bugs.
6. Inspect the bed
Strip the mattress and box spring and thoroughly inspect the corners and seams. Use a magnifying glass and a flashlight to search for bed bugs, Terminix says. You’ll be looking for rust-colored, reddish-brown blood stains and/or small brown ovals (molted bed bug skin).
7. Inspect the room
After you’ve searched the bed, you should inspect the rest of the room. Check anything upholstered, including chairs, couches, curtains and the edges of the carpet. Look in and behind dresses, underneath the bed — and if possible, behind the headboard. Always be on the lookout for the signature reddish-brown spots, Terminix says.
8. Open the closet
Bed bugs can also cling to clothing, according to Terminix. This is how they can travel and spread, so be sure to look in your closets and check your clothing thoroughly. Bed bugs on clothes mean they are on humans.
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