If you’ve ever gotten itchy from a bite of a flea or a bed bug, you know what it feels like to be stung by something that seems impossible to get rid of. That's why it's important to know what you're dealing with, if you have an infestation, and how to prevent it from happening again.
Bed bugs, also known as Cimex lectularius, are wingless, reddish-brown in color, and range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny). They are parasitic, primarily feeding on blood. They are hardy, can live several months without a meal, and can hide in cracks and crevices.
There are many signs of a bed bug problem, including itchy bites and fecal stains. Exoskeletons, which bed bugs leave behind when they die, can cling to clothing and other items in the area where they are molting, says Mark Frye, president of M&M Pest Control in New York City. Fecal spots are black or rust-colored in appearance, he explains.
Bed bugs tend to bite areas of the body that are most exposed when people sleep, such as the legs or arms. The bites often cluster together or form a line, which is called a “breakfast, lunch and dinner” pattern, explains Erin Ungar, director of the University of Texas School of Public Health's Bed Bug Research Program.