Creeping and crawling through the country, bedbugs are causing quite a stir. Major cities, including Portland, have become infested with the creatures. Hotels, department stores and offices are all trying to figure out a way to prevent and get rid of existing bedbugs.

What are bedbugs?

Bedbugs are small, oval, non-flying insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Bedbugs can live up to a year without feeding, but usually feed every five to 10 days. Researchers believe that bedbugs only feed on humans when they can’t find any other prey. Bedbugs, which are attracted to humans because of the carbon dioxide we carry and the warmth we provide, are often found in beds, hence the name. Even though beds are most convenient for bedbugs to live, because they easily go unnoticed, they have also been known to lurk in clothes, carpet and cracks in furniture.

How do bedbugs spread?

Bedbugs can live on any piece of clothing, in suitcases, furniture and in walls, which is why they are so easily spread. They spread by crawling from room to room or by hitching a ride on items, such as clothes, furniture or suitcases, that are being moved from one place to another.

How do you know if you have been bitten by a bed bug?

It may be difficult to determine if you have been bitten by a bedbug or if you were bitten by a different insect. If the bite is noticed, which many times it is not, it will usually look red, often with a darker red spot in the middle, may be itchy and swollen, and there is usually a cluster or line of bites in one area, most often on the face, neck arms and hands. The bites are often harmless, if left alone. Scratching bites can cause infection.

Some people may have an allergic reaction to the bite, so it is important to get to your doctor if you experience severe itching, blisters or hives.

Why have they suddenly appeared?

Bedbugs have always been around, but lately they are popping up in more places. It could be due to more international travel, resistance to pesticides or changes in current pesticides.

If I get bedbugs in my home, how can I get rid of them?

You should call a professional pest-control expert so your home can be evaluated to see how minor or severe the case is. Certain items, such as mattresses, may have to be replaced as some bedbug-treating chemicals can be harmful to humans. All holes in furniture and in walls should be sealed, and your pest-control expert will be able to suggest specific cleaning items for you to use in your home.

How can I prevent bedbugs?

Preventing bedbugs is hard, especially because they are so small and often the human eye can’t see them. One way to protect your mattress is by using special mattress protection bags.