Cimex lectularius is supposed to be unmentionable under the heading of its garden or domestic namethe bedbug. But this is a silly piece of prudery and we shall pay no attention to it, especially as many of our readers are interested in the subject.
Bedbugs are engaging little creatures, according to my entomological friends. It is impossible to know a bedbug intimately without having one’s interest aroused.
Bedbugs are no disgrace. The insect gains entrance to a house in spite of the adoption of all reasonable precautions. It may get into the trunks and satchels of travelers, or into baskets of laundry. It is also capable of migrating from one house to another. This is especially likely to happen if the inhabitants of an infested house leave it. The bedbugs will escape through windows, pass along walls, water pipes, and gutters, and gain entrance into an adjoining house.
As might be expected, the bedbug is nocturnal in its habits and is extremely clever at concealing itself in the daytime. The normal places of concealment are either cracks in the bedstead, especially wooden beds, or behind wainscoting, or under loose wall paper. In these places and other cracks and crevices, the bugs collect in anti-social mobs. In such places also, the females deposit eggs almost daily over a period of two months, at the rate of from one to five eggs a day. The eggs hatch in a week or 10 days in the hot weather of mid-summer. In cold weather they may take twice that length of time.
The favorite food of a bedbug is human blood, and after piercing the skin and gorging itself with blood, it usually drops off the body. It may also live on mice, rats and birds, and it may have other sources of food. A single bedbug often will live nearly a year. Its average life is about two months. Even when unfed it may live long periods of time. It can endure cold, but is usually killed off by temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, especially when there is high humidity.
The bite of the bedbug is poisonous to some people, and in nearly all raises considerable inflammation. It may also cause erysipelas from secondary infection of the bites. The bites should be treated with hydrogen peroxide or tincture of iodine. The diseases which it is likely to carry are largely tropical, but leprosy, plague and typhoid fever have been ascribed to it.
Methods of getting rid of the bedbugs are numerous and usually simple. Liberal applications of benzine or kerosene with brushes or feathers in the cracks of the bed, in the floor and walls, is an effective method. Even hot water employed with a syringe will do the same thing. Using an atomizer with alcohol and pyrethrum, as described in the United States Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Bulletin No. 754, is applicable to situations where the pest has become well entrenched.