A new study examines the feeding patterns of bed bugs -- and the impact they can have on humans' blood after several months.
The study, conducted by University of Florida researchers and published the journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology, shows that bed bugs will have a bigger or a smaller bloodmeal depending on when they last fed.
For example, if bedbugs are fed every day, they have 1.5 times fewer instances of eating than those only fed occasionally, researchers found.
Researchers also found that production of bed bug eggs is linked with how much blood the bed bugs were able to consume the week prior.
"Longer and more frequent feedings increased egg production, which would allow a faster growth of bed bug populations," they wrote in the study. "The increase in bed bug populations obtained with more frequent and longer feedings can be the difference between a population that barely survives at a location and a thriving population."
Researchers conducted their study by letting bed bugs feed on chickens (both chickens and humans are known to be great "feeding hosts" for bed bugs).
Bed bugs may be psychologically threatening and cause extremely irritating, scratchy bites -- but they aren't dangerous in the sense that they don't transmit disease. But in their simulations, the researchers noted that the potential blood loss associated with being fed on by bed bugs may not be good for health.
"Our simulations suggest that uncontrolled populations of bed bugs can reach harmful levels for infant and adult humans in 3–8 months," they wrote in the study. "Considering the blood supply available from humans, and the amount of time this host spends sleeping and available for bed bug feeding, it is obvious that bed bug populations in human-occupied facilities have the potential to grow extremely fast."
Again, bed bugs don't spread disease. But Scientific American previously reported that some people may be allergic to bed bug bites, and that itching bed bug bites can sometimes lead to infection:
As far as the research shows, they don't transmit diseases, but they do bite and take blood. People can get secondary infections if they scratch their wounds. In some people, the itching is unbearable. There's some disagreement as to how many people don't itch at all. That's one reason why infestations can be so bad, because people don't realize they have them.
Also, there have been reports of people being sickened from using pesticides to get rid of bed bugs, the New York Times reported last year.
"People lose their minds and, yeah, they'll do a lot of things trying to get rid of them," Dini M. Miller, an associate professor of urban pest management at Virginia Tech University, told the New York Times. "Certainly the overapplication of pesticides is one of them."