What Are Bed Bugs? And What Are They Doing In Your Bed?

The answer to "What are bed bugs?" can be simple or complex. It all depends on how much you want to know. The simple answer is this. They are parasites.

Parasites are living organisms that require another organism to survive. This is not a mutually beneficial relationship. The parasites cause damage to the host organism.

Parasites that feed on humans and other animals include tapeworms, flukes and fleas. Parasitic plants that feed on other plants include Indian paintbrush and broomrape. Funguses are parasites that feed on humans, animals and plants.

Viruses and bacteria are sometimes referred to as micro-parasites. They can only survive for a short time outside of the host body. The relationship between the parasite and the host is always one sided.

A more specific answer to what are bedbugs is this. They are parasitic insects. The two species most commonly associated with housing infestations are the Cimex lectularius and the Cimex hemipterus. Of the two, Cimex lectularius is most common.

Other species prefer to feed on the blood of bats, poultry and other animals. Those two prefer to feed on human blood. All species feed exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals.

Bed bug — Cimex lectulariusBed bug — Cimex lectularius. Photo: Piotr Naskrecki

If you are wondering what are bed bugs, you might also wonder how the insects got that common name. The bedbug is more active at night. They are very small and can hide in the crevices of a bed or sofa. The female is small enough to hide in a screw hole and lay her eggs there.

They come out at night to feed. They are attracted by the carbon dioxide people exhale and their body heat. One group of researchers has developed a trap for the insects that consists of heat, carbon dioxide and chemical lures.

It has been said that most species will feed on humans only if other prey is not available. But it is as human pests that the insects are most well known.

Reference to them as pests appeared in Greek literature dating back to 400 BC. They continued to be problems in the United States and the United Kingdom for centuries. In the early 1940s, they were practically non-existent, which brings us to another question.

What are bed bugs killed by? That is today’s biggest question, because infestation has again become a problem.

In New York City, DC, Chicago and other large cities around the world, the resurgence of bedbug infestations has led to the temporary closure of firehouses and other buildings. People have started to panic. Not only because the bites hurt and itch, but also because there is the feeling they are associated with poor hygiene and unsanitary conditions.

Killing them has become more difficult. Researchers have found that the insects have become more resistant to once effective pesticides.

Resistant genetic mutations of the Cimex lectularius have been identified and attributed to mating with other species. The mating probably occurred during the years when they were largely under control.

One of the reasons for the resurgence is believed to be increased international travel. During the years they were under control in developed countries, they were still problems in undeveloped countries. A person staying in an infested hotel could travel home with unwanted guests in his or her suitcase.

A recent study in Thailand attempted to answer the question of what are bed bugs killed by. Their results were similar to those found in other studies. Only 50% of the adult insects were killed when using very high concentrations of the pesticide pyrethroid, which in years past would have killed them all.

In short, we have learned the answer to what are bed bugs. Learning how to get rid of them may take a little more time.

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