Bedbugs are a rising problem throughout the UK, especially in heavily populated cities like Oxfordshire Manchester, Birmingham and London. They’re hitchhikers, which means they’re able to spread easily to non-infested properties by latching onto unwitting hosts. With thousands of hostels, hotels and shared accommodation located in cities around the country, they are able to spread extremely quickly and can quickly overrun a home
Bed bugs hatch as nymphs from eggs and go through five stages of immaturity where they shed their exoskeleton before becoming a sexually mature adult on the sixth shedding. They increase in size each time, and it may be difficult to identify them until the fourth or fifth nymph stage if you’re not practised in doing so. They can also live for up to a year without feeding, so don’t assume that they can be left to starve.
Particularly problematic for homeowners is the tendency for females to migrate after mating to avoid being hassled by males, thus spreading throughout the property and to nearby properties. This is why thorough heat treatments are usually recommended for most infestation cases.
Although there are different species of bed bugs, the likeliest species to have infested your home is the common or household bed bug (Cimex lectularius). Adult bed bugs and nymphs looks more or less the same in terms of their shape – they both have flat, oval-shaped bodies, but while adults are light-brown to reddish-brown in colour, nymphs are translucent and generally lighter in colour. However, both adults and nymphs will swell and become a bright red in colour just after feeding – this will fade as time passes.
Eggs can be difficult to spot unless you’re looking for them – they’re generally white in colour and about the same size as a grain of salt.
Signs of bed bugs
Faecal stains on the mattress or sheets
Although you might expect faecal matter to have a tinge of blood to it, given that it’s purely digested blood that has been excreted, it generally looks more like tiny brown or black stains or smears with no red streaks. If a lot of these are visible on the bed or bed frame then it could indicate an infestation.
With five stages of maturity, each lasting a day and resulting in the shedding of an exoskeleton, there should be ample evidence of a bed bug infestation, especially if it’s a bad one. The exoskeletons are small and transparent but enough of them should be noticeable.
Many people do not react to bed bug bites because they assume they are something else – eczema, hives, spots or bites from other insects like mosquitos, for example. If you have a number of bites in a localised area and you can’t explain where they might have come from, check for other signs of bed bugs to either confirm or rule them out.
Dead bed bugs
If bed bugs are present in our beds or bedrooms, some will be squashed when we go to sleep – whether they’re actually in the bed or under the mattress. Check the area around the bed if you suspect you have an infestation because that could be a dead giveaway.