If you live in a big city, more than likely you’ll eventually cross paths with urban vermin. Rats, mice, cockroaches—these unsavory annoyances have been icking humans out ever since large groups of people began congregating and putting down roots on relatively small allotments of land. Advancements in insecticides, poisonous baits and traps have in large part controlled both rodent and roach issues in recent decades, but something that has been a growing concern to city residents over the last few years is the issue of the bed bug.
According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), complaints of bed bug infestation increased by a whopping 71 percent between 2000 and 2005, and exterminators have reported record numbers of calls about the problem every year since. Government agencies in major urban centers around the country—Miami, Chicago, New York, to name some big ones—are fielding calls and complaints from tens of thousands of residents each year, and many cities have invested millions in educational and online campaigns aimed to help.
A Bug Mugshot
Not everyone really understands what a bed bug looks like; given the insect’s reputation, some may be picturing a fearsome critter with huge mandibles, or something really creepy, like a centipede. In reality, adult bed bugs are oval-shaped, flat, and about 1/4 inch in length — about the size, shape and color of an apple seed. Nymphs are translucent, and are about the size of a pinhead. Eggs are the size, shape, and color of a half grain of rice.
Bed bugs are typically brought into multifamily buildings either on people, including clothes and belongings, or on furniture. Their tiny size and flat bodies enable them to hide in the narrowest of crevices, and their nocturnal nature means that unless you know what to look for—and when to look for it—you’re unlikely to ever spot a live bed bug.
Interestingly, studies show that more than 30 percent of people living with bed bugs don’t react to the bugs’ attacks, and therefore often don’t realize they are being bitten. For the remaining majority, bed bug bites cause raised, itchy welts at the site of the bite. Regardless of whether you’re bite-reactive or not, it’s extremely common for people to hesitate in coming forward with a bed bug problem for fear of embarrassment, eviction, and the stigma of being unclean.