April 5, 2010
April 5 - Cimex lectularius
Ask any New Yorker what their greatest fear is and what do you think it will be? Runaway subway? Nah. Shoddy cranes? Well, maybe. But, my guess is that most will say bed bugs. These insects hatch from eggs into nymphs which are quite small and hard to see, but go through repeated moltings until they are about 5 mm in length and darker brown. They live in mattresses, bedding, and furniture and emerge at night to take a blood meal from a sleeping human, which they are attracted to because of the body heat and carbon dioxide. To get the blood, they insert their proboscis, and pump saliva and anticoagulants into the wound (shown in purple in the colorized micrograph). With the other part of their mouthparts (in red), they suck blood up. In recent times, bedbugs have become something of an epidemic, both in New York and globally as well. This is likely due to a decrease use in pesticides (for fighting cockroaches) and the fact the travelers spread them so easily in bedding (do *not* bring your favorite pillow to hotels!), luggage, or sometimes clothing or pets. They are extremely hard to get rid of because they are so good at hiding in very small, tight spots. Recently, dogs have been trained to sniff them out in apartments and hotels, which is helping with their extermination.
There is lots more info on bedbugs, including their historical association with humans and the best methods for detecting them and getting rid of them on their Wikipedia page.
Ok, I'm itchy now.
Image is from the CDC Public Health Image Library.