Morsani College of Medicine

Dermatology & Cutaneous Surgery

The common bed bugs , Cimex lectularius, is making a comeback.

The common bed bugs, Cimex lectularius, is making a comeback.  Transferred by travelers, it quickly sets up housekeeping in bedrooms.  Adult bed bugs lay eggs in crevices such as in baseboards, walls, and beds.  The nymphs develop through four stages as they develop over one to three months before they become adults.  These nymphs require 10 to 20 blood meal feeds during their development, and the adults also require blood meal feeds.  They generally feed on exposed skin when the person is asleep, piercing the skin with their proboscis mouthparts and actively pumping blood up into themselves.  The bite is painless but redness and itching commonly develop afterwards.  It takes 10 to 20 minutes for the bedbug to become fully engorged with blood.  There is often a series of 2 or 3 bites in a row known as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Your dermatologist can explain options for reducing the redness and itching that occur after the bites.

Bedbug activity can often be detected by lifting the mattress and looking along the edge of the box springs for little brown bugs about a quarter inlife_cycle_bed_bug_smallch long or brown streaks from their fecal matter. You may see similar fecal streaks on walls or along baseboards. They defecate soon after each meal.  When traveling, it is wise to check the bed and baseboards before settling into the room, even in fine hotels.  Other travelers can transport the bedbugs in their luggage into a room, starting the infestation.  Often only a few rooms are infested in a hotel or motel.  If you stay in an infested room and have your luggage on the floor and open, or if you put clothing in drawers and then back into your luggage, bedbugs may enter and accompany you home. If you have visitors that bring in luggage and stay overnight with you, they can also transport bedbugs to your home.  Bedbugs have become resistant to many common pesticides, so it may cost over a thousand dollars to eliminate these unwelcome visitors from your home.  An ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure in the case of bedbugs.

by: Philip D. Shenefelt, M.D. Associate Professor of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of South Florida