“Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
That was often the goodnight message Dad gave us before we went to bed as we were growing up. We really don’t know where the warning originated. Maybe his Mom told him that at bedtime, too. Perhaps it’s a common saying of parents to their family before settling down to sleep.
However, upon seeing recent news reports on the subject, perhaps the warning was not just a conversational piece in jest as we always thought it to be and still do in reality. Bed bugs really do exist, and they can be a problem.
Certainly, we’ve never been bitten by any of the bugs that we know of, but the thought they might occurred to us last week when the horse show we were judging booked us into a motel that could congenially be described as not the cleanest nor enhancing we’ve been in. We slept fine and didn’t have any biting-partners that we felt.
Upon researching, we’ve found that bed bugs are small, oval, non-flying insects that bite people. They have flat, reddish bodies, sometimes mistaken for ticks or small roaches, and reach 5-7 mm in length, while juveniles are as small as 1.5 mm.
Bed bugs were common in the U.S. before World War II and became rare after widespread use of the pesticide DDT. They remained prevalent in other countries and have been increasingly observed again in the U.S., with immigration and travel from the developing world as well as restrictions on the use of pesticides.
Most active at night, bed bugs bite the skin and suck blood while an individual is sleeping. The bite itself is painless, but small, red bumps can become infected when scratched. Typically, no treatment is required for bed bug bites. If itching is severe, steroid creams or oral antihistamines may be used for symptom relief.
Reports in recent years have focused on bed bugs in hotels, and lawsuits have been filed by guests who awoke to find bites covering their skin. Since bed bugs travel on clothing or in suitcases, hotels are a target for infestations.
Bed bugs have glands that leave odors and dark fecal spots. Getting rid of bed bugs is not easy, and often bed bug infestation requires treatment by a pest-control expert. A variety of low-odor sprays and insecticides can be used. Maybe our unconscious fright of bed bugs is the reason we’ve always worn a full suit of pajamas and socks to bed.
We are told of bed bugs’ origination in Genesis 8:18: “Noah and all crawling creatures, birds, every being on the face of the Earth, left the ship family by family.” Then, we are reminded of their place in Micah 7:17: “Like the crawling things of the earth, we shall come with dread to the Lord our God and be afraid and stand in awe.”