Do you remember the old saying, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite”? That phrase has recently taken on a literal meaning as, depending on where you take residence, you might be suffering from an awful infestation. As it stands there is an international bed bug (Cimex lectularius) epidemic, with bed bug infestations up 500 per cent in the U.S. alone.
Much like the old saying, bed bugs have been plaguing homes for centuries. Measuring just over one centimetre in length by the time they reach adulthood, they appear to be round and flat looking and are typically brownish in colour, until they eat. Like a tick, after the bug drinks its fill of blood, the insect will appear very round and reddish. In the 15 minutes it takes a bed bug to fill up on blood it will triple its size.
Once females reach adulthood they will lay one to five eggs every day which hatch after just 10 days.
Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs cannot fly and must be carried from host to host or walk. Bed bugs seek refuge in tight small areas such as around mattresses, cracks in walls, bed frames and bedding.
Their ability to hide so well make these bloodsuckers an extreme nuisance, since it allows them to wait out most spray and bomb treatments. Even if you have professional exterminator come in and spray your home or apartment, the chances are still very high that the bugs will return. This may be because a few eggs were able to survive the treatment, or the spray unable to reach the insects on your clothes or in cramped areas.
Another common issue is shared living spaces. According to Bedbugregistry.com, many apartments in downtown Winnipeg or the exchange district are infested with bed bugs. This may be because it is so easy for these insects to slowly work their way from room to room, floor to floor, eventually infesting the entire building, eventually returning to your personal apartment after it has been sprayed.
I recommend going online and checking out the Bed Bug Registry to see if your apartment or neighborhood is affected. The registry has a lot of listings posted for Winnipeg, so if you are seeking a new home you can see if it has previously been infested before you sign the lease.
The Province of Manitoba is aware of the increase in bed bug infestations, despite the fact that companies are not legally obligated to tell the province, city or the public about infestations, due to the fact that bed bugs do not appear to carry communicable diseases. In Winnipeg, recent media reports mention a movie theatre and a major downtown bank, both of which were sprayed for bed bugs with in the last few months.
Fortunately, officials are starting to make change to public bed bug policies.
State officials in New York have issued a disclosure form for landlords to provide tenants and future tenants information regarding whether or not the building currently has a bed bug infestation, or if it has had one in the past.
If you find yourself covered in itchy red blotches in the morning and you suspect you have a bed bug infestation, I recommend speaking to your landlord if you live in an apartment or calling an exterminator right away if you live at home.
Fun Fact: Bed bugs cannot survive temperatures lower than -32C and the wonderful thing is Winnipeg offers temperatures bellow that point. If you find you do have an infestation, place your clothing, mattress and bedding outside in our freezing winter air and the awful blood-suckers will meet their match!