They bite, multiply and can be in your bed tonight.
Bed bugs live in cracks and crevices of mattresses, box springs and couches, and they come out to feed at night.
"People realize they've got bed bugs most of the time when they're bitten," said Earl Fulbright, president of Fulbright Pest Control, located on West A Street in Newton. "People will also find small red dots of blood on their bed sheets from
bed bug bites."
Adult bed bugs are about 4-5 millimeters long, flat and oval. They have ridges in their backs and are brown or reddish-brown in color.
According to the North Carolina State University Department of Entomology, the bugs suck blood from their hosts' skin, and bed bugs' saliva often causes an allergic reaction in humans which results in swelling, itching and irritation.
Fulbright Pest Control visits homes where owners believe they have bed bugs, and if bed bugs are present, the company uses a liquid-based treatment to get rid of the pests.
"A property owner going out and trying to take care of it themselves, they're not going to be able to do it," Fulbright said.
Catawba College in Salisbury closed down some of its dormitories earlier this month while exterminators treated beds for a bed bug outbreak.
It takes the presence of just one bug or pest to be considered an infestation.
"If you've got it, you've got an infestation," Fulbright said.
Female bed bugs lay one to five eggs a day, which is an average of about 200 eggs in the bug's lifetime. There is no scientific evidence, however, to suggest that bed bugs transmit diseases, according to the NCSU Department of Entomology.
Fulbright Pest Control received one call about bed bugs last week, but Fulbright said he has seen no evidence to suggest an outbreak in Catawba County.
An infestation can become an outbreak when evidence of bed bugs or other pests are present in public locations, such as schools.
Dr. Glennie Daniels, Catawba County Cooperative Extension family and consumer sciences agent, said more people are aware of bed bugs since the outbreak at Catawba College.
"We've had more calls, yes, and we've had people come in with them," Daniels said.
She first received a call about bed bugs about two to three years ago when a family left their home to stay at a hotel during an ice storm. The family was concerned that they had picked up the bugs during their stay at a hotel.
"Beware of people traveling that may drop suitcases off at your house," Fulbright said.
The bugs can travel from an infested motel room or home, which transfers the infestations to different areas.
"If there wasn't but one bug on (a suitcase or handbag), they can get off," Fulbright said. "All you know is that you've got them."