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What are Bedbugs and Where Did They Come From?

Bedbugs are insects, like fleas, ticks, and mites. Bedbugs’ sole source of food is human blood. Bedbugs evolved from bat bugs.

The theory of their evolution goes like this: when humans entered caves for shelter and built fires in them, the smoke may have driven the bats away, and the bat bugs found us to be a great source of food. Humans and bats are both warm-blooded mammals not possessing fur.

Now let us use our imagination. Caves are dark, their walls are cool with many crevices to hide in, and if you are a bat bug, you feel safe in them. Bats fly out of the caves to get food and water. When they return to the caves, they land, hang from the walls, and sleep. When bats sleep, they are not moving. A bat bug crawls out of its hiding place, or harborage, climbs onto the bat, and gets its fill of blood. Once the bat bug is full, it will crawl off the bat and go back to hiding very close to the sleeping bat.

OK, now we know about the bat bug and its environment. Let us look at the bedbug environment. We are going to ask you to think a little weirdly here, but hopefully it will help your understanding. Imagine you are the bat and your bedroom is the cave. Like the bat, you leave your bedroom for the day to “get food and water.” What in your bedroom resembles a cave wall with crevices? Yep, it’s your mattress, especially your box spring and bed frame. The bedbug has many hard-surfaced nooks and crannies to hide in. Now, imagine it is the end of the day, and it is time for bed. You are the hairless bat going to sleep. During this period of time, it’s dark and you aren’t moving. The bedbug crawls out of its harborage, crawls onto you, and gets its fill of blood. Once the bedbug is full, it will crawl off of you and go back to hiding in a crevice very close to you.

How do Bedbugs Find Us?

If you have a bedbug in your home, it will find you. It may take a while, but the bug will find you. Think of yourself as a campfire in the woods. You are stationary and giving off heat and CO2. Now, when are you most like a campfire? Yep, when you are sleeping, making it easy for the bedbug to find you. When the bedbug is within about twelve feet of you, it senses your breathing vibrations. The bug thinks, “I sense a meal source, so I am going to make my way in that direction.” Once the bug is within about three feet of you, it senses your CO2 and body heat. The bug says, “Bingo! Found it!” Once the bug gets its fill of blood, it says, “Here is the buffet table. I think I will find a hiding place within about three feet of it.” What provides a hiding place for a small bug and is almost always within three feet of where you sleep? That’s right—the bed. Hence, these insects are called “bedbugs.”

How Do Bedbugs Get in Our Homes?

This is a pretty easy answer. Bedbugs are considered a “transfer pest,” meaning we bring them into our indoor environment. Not to freak you out, but anybody coming into your home is a potential carrier of bedbugs. You can include family and friends as potential carriers.

Bedbugs are great hitchhikers. Unlike most pests, they don’t fly in, they don’t crawl in, and they don’t come in on other mammals (rats, birds, etc.). Humans carry the bugs in on luggage, backpacks, purses, computers and computer bags, used furniture, books, and clothes.

An important reminder when reading this gem of a book: the term “luggage” includes anything you carry out of your home and bring back home. Things like suitcases, backpacks, computers and computer bags, and purses.