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Fact Sheet                                                               Medical Entomology
Institute of Clinical Patholog...
Fact Sheet                                                                                                 Medical Entomol...
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Bed Bugs Fact Sheet


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Bed Bugs Fact Sheet

  1. 1. Fact Sheet Medical Entomology Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research Department of Medical Entomology Bed Bugs Introduction for nutrition and development. After clothing, bedding and furniture. As Bed bugs were once a common mating, each female lays 2-3 eggs a such, they have a worldwide public health pest worldwide, which day throughout her lifespan. The distribution. declined in incidence through the cream coloured eggs (1mm in mid 20th century. Recently length) are cemented on rough however, bed bugs have undergone surfaces of hiding places, and will a dramatic resurgence and hatch within around 10 days at worldwide there are reports of room temperature, but longer in increasing numbers of infestations. cooler conditions. Australia has also been included in this trend and the Department of The mouthparts of bed bugs are Medical Entomology, ICPMR, has especially adapted for piercing skin been at the forefront of and sucking blood. Like most blood documenting this phenomena and sucking arthropods, they inject providing information on the saliva during feeding, which has ecology and control of this anticoagulant properties. Bed bugs important public health pest. respond to the warmth and carbon dioxide of a host and quickly locate a suitable feeding site. They tend The Common Bed Bug, Natural History Cimex lectularius ~5mm not to live on humans and the only Bed bugs are wingless insects, contact is for a blood meal. Most roughly oval in shape, 4-5mm long Clinical Presentation blood feeding occurs at night, and when fully grown, and are fast Skin reactions are commonly they generally seek shelter during runners. They are rust brown in associated with bed bugs, which the day and become inactive while colour and change to a deeper red result from the saliva injected digesting the blood meal. However, brown following a blood meal. Bed during feeding. Some individuals bed bugs are opportunistic and will bugs are dorsoventrally flattened however, do not react to their bite, bite in the day especially if starved and being thin means that they can whereas others note a great deal of for some time. They can survive for hide in narrow cracks and crevices, discomfort often with loss of sleep long periods without feeding. While making detection often very from the persistent biting. The most their preferred host is human, they difficult. commonly affected areas of the will feed on wide variety of other warm-blooded animals including body are the arms and shoulders. The two main species that bite Reactions to the bites may be rodents, rabbits, bats, and even humans include the common bed delayed; up to 9 days before lesions birds. bug, Cimex lectularius, and the appear. Common allergic reactions tropical bed bug, Cimex hemipterus. include the development of large Being a cryptic species, bed bugs The presence of the former species wheals, often >1cm, which are shelter in a variety of dark locations, has been long known in Australia, accompanied by itching and mostly close to where people sleep. whereas the tropical bed bug was inflammation. The wheals usually These include under mattresses, only recently recognised in the subside to red spots but can last for floorboards, paintings and carpets, country by the Medical Entomology several days. Bullous eruptions have behind skirting, in various cracks Department, ICPMR. been reported in association with and crevices of walls, within bed frames and other furniture, and multiple bed bug bites and There are five juvenile stages anaphylaxis may occur in patients behind loose wallpaper. Bed bugs known as nymphs, which are with severe allergies. In India, iron tend to stay in close contact with miniature versions of the adults in deficiency in infants has been each other and heavy infestations appearance. Each nymphal stage associated with severe infestations. are accompanied by a distinctive requires at least one blood meal to It has been suggested that sweet sickly smell. Blood spotting moult to the next stage and it takes allergens from bed bugs may be on mattresses and nearby 5-10 minutes for complete associated with asthmatic reactions. furnishings is often a tell tale sign of engorgement to occur. The entire Bed bugs have been implicated in an infestation. nymphal development takes 6-8 the transmission of a wide variety of weeks, while the adult bed bugs infectious agents, although their Bed bugs are one of the great can live on average for 6-12 status as vectors is uncertain. It has travellers of the world and are months. All nymphal stages and been suggested that they might readily transported via luggage, adults of both sexes require blood play a role in the spread of hepatitis Serving Westmead Hospital, Western Sydney Area Health Service & Rural NSW A publication for the Institute of Clinical Pathology & Medical Research
  2. 2. Fact Sheet Medical Entomology B, however, experimental evidence then an approved insecticide, which such as cracks and crevices will does not support this. has some residual activity, should discourage repeat infestations. As be applied to all harbourages. bed bugs are cryptic in their habits, Note that an irritation or bite complete control is often difficult to experienced in bed may not The synthetic pyrethroids are often achieve with the first treatment. necessarily be due to a bed bug the main chemicals used for control This is especially so with heavy infestation. in Australia, however these are not infestations and thus a post control very effective and can even repel treatment evaluation is always Laboratory Diagnosis the bugs. The carbamates and the advisable. A bed bug infestation can be organophosphates are far more diagnosed by the identification of effective for control, but may not be Confirmation and Enquiries specimens collected from the recommended for use on Identification of bed bugs, and infected residence. Collection of live mattresses (check the label). other medically important insects, is or dead bed bugs, cast skins, performed through the Medical hatched or unhatched eggs will Non-chemical approaches to control Entomology Department at ICPMR, determine an infestation. There are involve the use of hot air and/or Westmead Hospital. The Medical two species of bed bug that wrapping up infested materials in Entomology Department is the only bloodfeed on humans but Cimex black plastic and placing the articles NATA accredited laboratory in lectularius has the most widespread in the sun, thereby killing the bed Australia for the identification of international distribution; the other bugs with the heat generated. arthropods of medical importance. species, C. hemipterus, is usually However this should only be used confined to tropical regions. for small items, if at all. Clothes can More Information? be washed in hot water and dried Please Contact: Treatment and Control on the hot cycle of the clothes drier. Department of Medical Entomology If bed bugs are suspected then a Delicate materials can be placed Level 3, ICPMR, Westmead licensed pest controller should be into the freezer. Generally, Hospital, WESTMEAD NSW 2145 consulted. A careful inspection must pesticides will need to be applied in be undertaken and all possible conjunction with any non-chemical hiding places within infested and means of control. Good adjoining rooms examined. Once all housekeeping practices and a likely sources have been identified, reduction in possible harbourages Lifecycle of the Common Bed Bug, Cimex lectularius Serving Westmead Hospital, Western Sydney Area Health Service & Rural NSW A publication for the Institute of Clinical Pathology & Medical Research