According to Health Canada, bed bugs are small, flat-bodied, insects that resemble apple seeds. They are brown, and darken to a red colour when they feed. Unfed bed bugs are six to 10 millimetres.
The female bed bug lays at least two eggs a day for a minimum of 200 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs are sticky, white, one millimetre long, and hatch in six to 17 days. They are usually left in cracks and not visible on some surfaces.
Adult bed bugs live for around a year, depending on the environment. They can also go weeks to months without feeding.
There's no accurate test that determines whether you have bed bugs. Though they do not directly cause health problems, they can cause allergic reactions such as itchy welts. If your mattress, sheets, bed frames, or walls have black or brown spots, this usually suggests the presence of bed bugs.
Because they are wingless and flat shaped, bed bugs are able to hide in small cracks in furniture and along flat surfaces. They aren't just for beds!
Preventing bed bugs is not easy because they are easily transportable, especially between densely populated areas or heavily used services like hotels. There are easy things you can do to prevent the possible invasion of bed bugs in your home. Inspect and clean any furniture, especially beds, before bringing them home. When you inspect a bed, keep an eye out for red, brown or black stains. When transporting a mattress, be sure that it's completely wrapped in plastic film and avoid second-hand furniture and mattresses. When staying at a hotel, do not put your suitcase on the bed and always examine the headboard and mattress.
It's also a good idea to get rid of any old furniture you have. This will help stop the spread of potential bed bugs in the rest of your home. Cleaning your house regularly will also reduce potential hiding places for bed bugs, since they can hide just about anywhere.
With bed bug reports up 47 per cent this year, New York City has been scrambling to get the epidemic under control. Getting rid of the bugs can take weeks and cost several thousand dollars. Mary Plummer and Bradley Gallo report on the city's newest solution
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