Bed Bugs 101: A Beginner’s Guide to the most Dreaded Human Pestpaul
Let’s cut to the chase.
Bed bugs are causing a massive social stigma in Kenya today. Think about the blame games
going around. Owner of the house blames house help or they might say “Oh I think I got
them(bed bugs) from a matatu”.
Hotels too are constantly worried about someone throwing a bad review about them on an
online platform like TripAdvisor.
The worst part is some people are going through this psychological and mental torture without
confirming first if what’s bothering them are real bed bugs or just other creatures.
In fact, recently we had a client send images of cockroaches mistaking them for bed bugs. This
is why I decided to write this guide.
In this article, I’m going to take you from a beginner to a competent level regarding bed bugs.
Let’s get started.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs, also known as Cimex Lacterious, are tiny, oval-shaped insects which suck blood from
warm-blooded animals. An adult bed bug is generally about 6mm in size(about a quarter an
Bed bugs have an advanced sensory system. In pitch darkness, they can successfully trace you
through warmth and air you breath out(CO2).
Many people believe that bed bugs only feed on human blood, but this couldn’t be any further
from the truth. Given a chance bed bugs can suck blood from chickens, dogs, cats or any other
Bed bugs prefer staying in our beds because this is where we spend half of our lifetimes.
What do bed bugs look like?
Maybe you wake up one day and find swollen itchy, red spots on your arms or shoulder or your
neck. You suspect a bed bug infestation. Sadly, knowing if these are the creatures attacking you
is not easy, especially if the infestation is at initial stages.
Bed bugs are good at playing hide and seek games, but once in while you might bump into one.
So it helps to know the physical features you can use to identify them – things like shape, size,
It’s important also to note that shape, size and color changes at different stages of growth and
whether the bed bug is hungry or full.
The most difficult stage to notice them is immediately when the egg hatches. You might even
need to use a magnifier.
(picture goes here)
But when the nymph feeds it turns to bright red and round in shape.
Adult bugs are usually easy to spot. They appear flat and dark brown when hungry and turn
cylindrical and red when they’ve had a blood meal.
What if you saw some other pest and thought was a bed bug?
It’s not uncommon for many people to confuse bed bugs for other pests. You remember the
client who sent me cockroach images mistaking them for bed bugs.
Many pests look like bed bugs but I’d like to mention two of the most common mistaken Identity.
1. Cockroach Nymphs:(picture of bed bug vs cockroach)
Cockroach nymphs appear more like bed bugs than an adult cockroach. Most people get
surprised when they realize they are dealing with young cockroaches, not bed bugs. The
reddish-brown color shared by both is the most confusing. The key difference is that
cockroaches crawl way faster than bed bugs.
2. Spider Beetles:(picture of bed bug vs spider beetle)
Spider beetle looks like small spiders and most of them look brown just like bed bugs
although others are black. Crawling speed is what makes them look quite close like bed bugs.
How do bed bugs smell?
Smell is subjective. Take two people and let them smell a specific scent and describe the
experience. Each of them may give you a different description of the same smell.
Some people describe bed bug scent as “sweet” and “musty” others say it smells like coriander.
Some even describe it as smelling like spoiled raspberries.
The description here does not matter. What’s key to note here is that bed bugs have
a unique signature smell.
Bed bugs have scent glands that release this smell called alarm pheromone when they sense
They do this to warn others of danger from predators like spiders, cockroaches, lizards or even
some birds. This is the exact smell you get when you disturb a group of bed bugs.
Releasing this scent will also make bed bugs not to confuse mating partners.
The other smell you can never miss out if you have a heavy infestation is that of feces,
exoskeleton and dead bed bugs.
Needless to say, using smell as a major way of detecting bed bugs may not be effective
because you’ll only sense this when the infestation is heavy.
Trained dogs are sometimes used by big pest control companies to detect an infestation. The
problem is, these canines are most effective only when sniffing somewhere close, like within the
bed and may miss detecting bed bugs that are on the ceiling even if they are in plain sight.
How often do bed bugs suck your blood?
If you’ve woken up with many bites on you say, your arm, face, neck or hands, this might signal
many bugs fed on you. But it may not always be the case. It can also be that a single bed bug
drank your blood several times.
Truth is, how often you’ll get bitten depends on your availability, level of infestation and the
conditions in the house.
Generally, bed bugs need to feed about only once in seven days. But female bed bugs are
known to feed about every two days especially when the room is warm. Why? Because they
need your blood to lay eggs and they lay about 140 eggs in their lifetime.
Assuming you have a heavy infestation, you are always available and that you are staying in a
warm room, you might as well get thousands of bites in a single night.
Do bed bugs spread diseases?
One of the biggest concern you may be having is if bed bug bites really can make you sick or
not. Bed bugs are known to carry more than 40 diseases. The good news is that unlike
mosquitoes, bed bugs have not been found to spread any of these maladies by way of sucking
Be careful though with their fecal matter because it has been shown to spread a disease called
Chaga, also known as trypanosomiasis.
Apart from the actual diseases, specific physical, mental and psychological issues bed bugs
might put you through may include:
Itching: Bed bug bites are known to cause itching. Their bites usually follow some pattern or
clusters which when scratched can be worse lasting for several days.
Secondary infections: Severe scratching of the itchy bites may cause wounds opening your
body to secondary infections.
Allergy: Most folks don’t react to bed bug bites but the few that do usually experience mild to
extreme allergic reactions. Sometimes it can even lead to inflammation of the skin.
Lack of sleep: Fighting a bed bug infestation is not easy. Some people get stressed and may
even struggle to sleep. All these mental and psychological problems can even throw someones
into a deep state of depression.
How long can a bed bug survive without sucking your blood?
Have you ever been attacked by bed bugs until you thought, “Maybe I’ll just go stay with my
friend for a few weeks and come back when these bustards have gone?”
If such a thought did cross your mind, then you might be in for a surprise.
Truth is, how long bed bugs can stay in a dormant mode depends on size or stage of
development and temperature in the house.
While a nymph at its first instar( newly hatched) can last for only 3 days at normal temperature
without a blood meal, adult bed bugs are known to stay for up to 8 months.
So you can imagine coming back after the few weeks from your friend and finding the vampires
waiting to sink their teeth into your flesh. Doesn’t sound good, does it?
A better approach may be to engage a professional pest control operator instead.