As travel companions, bedbugs are a guaranteed nightmare.
Cimicidae (bedbugs) are small parasitic insects that, like vampires, feed on warm-blooded animals.
They are about an eighth- to a quarter-inch thick, they have oval, flattened and reddish-brown bodies and they leave signature triangular bites on their victims.
Luckily, they cannot fly, though they can scamper quite quickly over floors, walls and ceilings.
They hitch rides in suitcases and clothing, and have recently been showing up in Canadian cities, causing major issues for homeowners, fancy hotels and the residents that occupy them.
On the bright side, they don’t transmit diseases.
However, this has meant that little interest has been paid to them in both the field of entomology and by the government.
Bedbugs were prevalent in the developed world in the 1940s, but the use of DDT seemed to eradicate them from the Americas.
Though, they continued to pester Europeans.
The reason for their more recent return is unclear, but contributing may include increased traveling abroad, the ban on DDT and increased resistance among the bugs.
A single bedbug can lay up to 500 eggs in a lifetime and can fast for up to a year.
They are scarcely seen during the day, as they live in the dark crevices behind woodwork and molding, and even in old mattresses, in which they can linger for months without being detected.
At night, the bloodsuckers emerge to prey on their innocent victims, who are unaware of their presence until the morning when they awaken to the itchy red bites.
Q: How do I prevent bedbugs?
A: While not directly linked to personal hygiene, it is recommended you clean your sheets at least every two weeks. Try to investigate the problem quickly if you notice bites.
Place luggage and clothing away from your bed, and avoid buying old mattresses unless you can be guaranteed there are no bedbugs or eggs. Use white linen so you can see bedbugs if they appear. Vacuum your room and clean furniture regularly.
Q: How do I know if I have bedbugs?
A: It is impossible to be 100 per cent certain until you have retrieved an actual sample of a bug or egg from the area, but bug bites are a good clue.
They are typically small red clusters of three and can be isolated to one spot or can cover a large part of your body.
I nspect your mattress, walls and molding for black spots.
If you’re suspicious, call a pest control company for further diagnoses.
Q: How do I get rid of bedbugs?
A: Take all of your potentially infested linen and clothing and put it in a plastic garbage bag to lay in the sun for the day.
Alternatively, try using rubbing alcohol to kill eggs, or freeze your linen or clothing.
Of course, the best solution would be to consult a professional – or to get your housemate to do so, as you are probably too busy itching with paranoia.
Q: How do I treat the itch?
A: Try your best not to itch the bites, as that can cause infection and spread disease.
Some interesting remedies include baking soda and water paste, lemon juice, cortisone cream, calamine (my favourite for all bug types of bug bites) or witch hazel.
Good night, sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite!