Bedbugs – creepy and persistent saboteurs of sleep. It is no wonder these parasitic insects have caused such a stir in the news. Their resilience can make them unwelcome house guests indefinitely. And now they’re invading more than just houses and hotels; latching on to furniture, suitcases, or any number of comfortable surfaces, they’ve started moving into airplanes, schools, movie theaters, hospitals, and more.
But panic isn’t – as it rarely is – the answer. Bedbugs aren’t known to carry diseases like other vermin. And while they can be a painful nuisance and costly to exterminate, they are not life-threatening.
Their survival techniques are clever. When bedbugs bite, they inject “a sort of anesthetizing agent, which allows the bite to be painless,” explains Michael Potter, an entomologist specializing in pest management, to an NPR reporter. “That’s a good survival mechanism because if you woke up and felt the pain, not too many bedbugs would survive to feed another day.” Painless at first, bites from bedbugs can become red and itchy welts.
After bedbugs bite, they can hide in a number of out-of-sight places including behind loose wallpaper, electrical switch plates, seams of mattresses and other upholstery.
Next: 10 tips on how to spot the blood-suckers and what to do if you find them.