SCRATCH AN ITCH

Think you have bed bugs? There’s now an app for that

Pesky critters.
Pesky critters.
Image: AP/Carolyn Kaster
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Bed bugs are a home dweller’s worst nightmare. The Cimex lectularius species is nocturnal, can hide in nooks and crannies for weeks at a time, and swells to twice its normal size after feeding… on human blood. Finding one is enough to make some residents trash their furniture, or even move.

A new app called Bed Bug Field Guide, created by Ohio State University entomology professor Susan Jones with a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency, is hoping to at least walk people through the experience. It’s meant to be a sort of Homeowners’ Guide to the Galaxy of Bed Bugs.

“If you don’t know anything about an organism, then you are sort of at the mercy of that creature,” Jones told the AP. She has been researching bed bugs for nearly a decade, and says that despite all the anxiety and attention surrounding bed bugs, there remains a lack of awareness about how to deal with them.

Bed Bug Field Guide is more of a detailed booklet than a savvy mobile app. It features 15 chapters, including one on preventing bed bugs, another on identifying them, and another on choosing a pest control service. The app also includes tips on how to avoid picking up bed bugs while traveling.

It also comes at a good time. While the bed-bug population in most rich countries was nearly stamped out by DDT in the 20th century, the adaptive critters have come back in force. They now have 15% thicker skin than a few decades ago, according to Business Insider, as well as enzymes that break down harmful insecticides.

The Bed Bug Field Guide could help combat any future infestations, but it’s not for the squeamish. Be prepared to come across photos of bed bugs, their bite marks, and their feces.