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Bedbugs (Cimex lectularius) are small blood-sucking insects that can live in cracks and crevices in and around your bed.
Attracted by your body heat and carbon dioxide, they crawl out at night to bite your exposed skin and feed on your blood, just as mosquitoes do.
Not everyone develops a skin reaction to bedbug bites, but some people will develop itchy red bumps one to nine days later, usually on the face, neck, hand or arm. These are often mistaken for mosquito bites, but while mosquito bites tend to be random in pattern, bedbug bites more often occur in straight lines.
The media has recently reported a huge increase in the number of bedbug infestations around the world, particularly in America. It is likely that tourists and an increasing resistance to insecticides are the main reasons for this.
Bedbugs are not dangerous. They do not transmit any human diseases and most people do not develop any serious skin reaction. However, their presence can be upsetting and stressful, and you should take action straight away.
If you think you have a bedbug infestation, read the advice below and contact your local council or a professional pest control firm that is a member of the British Pest Control Association or go to http://www.euro-guard.co.uk
Adult bedbugs look a bit like lentils and are visible to the naked eye. They are oval-shaped, flat and reddish-brown, and up to 5mm long.
Females lay 200-500 eggs over a two-month period. These white specks stick to surfaces and are very difficult to spot. They hatch to form tiny straw-coloured insects that take about six to eight weeks to grow into adults. As they grow, they shed their skin. This looks like mottled brown shells on your mattress.
Bedbugs need to feed on blood to be able to mature, but they are very resilient. Adults can survive for up to a year without feeding.
They are not attracted to dirt, so a bedbug infestation is not a sign of an unclean home.