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In the 12 years since New York City saw it’s first wide-scale increase in bed bug occurances & infestations, one problem has remained painfully clear: how quickly an infestation can go from as few as 1 bed bug to as many hundreds or even thousands of bed bugs in a matter of weeks or months, if not detected.
It’s our opinion that the primary challenge the public has faced in combating the bed bug epidemic has been how many infestations are not being detected early enough in the process. Typically, un-detected bed bug infestations have taken hold and expanded in apartment building environments, and spread to other apartments within the same building. However, in 2015 we saw our highest increase in high levels of infestation in single-family private homes, and the trend has continued in 2016, 2017, and 2018. As we’ve written in the past, we believe that the worst infestations, when finally detected, have come about because a resident was not reacting to the bed bug bites they were receiving, or, not seeing the infestations that were growing each day within their home. Often, these infestations might finally be uncovered accidentally – 1 bug might finally be observed walking on a bed sheet, or, a housekeeper might finally notice a bed bug on the side of a box spring. Sadly, these infestations were being caught too late in the process, and by the time the solution had begun, bed bugs could have already spread to adjacent apartments, or, hitchiked (usually accidentally) their way out of the home to another place.
To illustrate how quickly a bed bug infestation can grow, we can use 1 adult, fertile female bed bug as an example. It’s been documented that 1 fertile bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime, and as many as 3-5 eggs a day. That said, if that female finds its way into a home & immediately starts laying 2 eggs a day, when those first eggs start hatching (on average, 10 days after being conceived, but sometimes quicker), there will be 60 baby bed bugs that have hatched after 40 days.
If all of those nymphs start feeding right away, and if one bed bug completes a 45 day cycle in graduating from a nymph bed bug to an adult capable of reproducing, the math starts to get a lot worse. Using our example of 60 baby bed bugs being born, if half of them are females capable of becoming fertile adults, and, if the same half starts producing 2 eggs a day, then there will be 30 bed bugs producing 2 eggs a day. In another 40 days, the bad news occurs: 1,800 bed bugs have been born in about a 3 month period.
In recent years, we were quite often were finding these numbers of bed bugs in worst-case scenarios. Even if an adult bed bug was not laying eggs every single day, we can often take an educated guess as to how long an infestation has been present by the number of bed bugs we’re finding, as well as the amount of bed bug droppings we’re seeing. When heavy infestations are present, we’ll often assume that the infestation usually took hold about 3-5 months before it was detected.
As has been written frequently, they key to remediating bed bug infestations successfully will continue to be how early in the process an infestation is uncovered. What we tell any concerned person – customers or not – is to be leery of bites which didn’t seem to be present when he or she went to sleep, but which was present when he or she woke up. Also, periodically checking the sides and undersides of mattresses and box springs (monthly or even weekly) is an excellent idea, because that’s the likeliest place an infestation will take hold & grow in the home.