Bed bugs are small wingless insects that feed solely upon the blood of warm-blooded animals. They are a parasite that has existed since ancient times. There are at least 92 known species of bed bugs found throughout the world. The most common species is the Cimex lectularius, which is best adapted to human environments.
Bed bug eggs are tiny, whitish, and hard to see without magnification, as individual eggs are about the size of a dust spec. When first laid, the eggs are sticky, causing them to adhere to substrates. Newly hatched bed bug nymphs are translucent and lighter in color and continue to become browner and molt as they reach maturity. The nymphs are no bigger than a pinhead.
Bedbugs are generally active only at night, with a peak attack period about an hour before dawn, though given the opportunity, they may attempt to feed at other times of day. Attracted by warmth and the presence of carbon dioxide, the bug pierces the skin of its host with two hollow tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while with the other it withdraws the blood of its host. After feeding for about five minutes, the bug returns to its hiding place. The bites cannot usually be felt until some minutes or hours later, as a dermatological reaction to the injected agents. Although bedbugs can live for up to 18 months without feeding, they typically seek blood every five to ten days.
Repeated exposures to bed bug bites during a period of several weeks or more causes people to become sensitized to the saliva of these bugs; additional bites may then result in mild to intense allergic responses. The skin lesion produced by the bite of a bed bug resembles those caused by many other kinds of blood feeding insects, such as mosquitoes and fleas. For first time victims, lesions sometimes can be confused with poison ivy and spider bites.
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