They're tiny bloodsucking pests that infest everything from furniture to picture frames to laptop computers, with no discrimination for race, age or social class, and they may be coming soon to a mattress near you.
This summer alone, bedbugs have been blamed for shutting down a Times Square movie theatre, a handful of major retail stores and offices for CNN and Elle magazine in New York City.
But bedbugs aren't strictly a NYC problem.
"The Health Department has been experiencing an increase in bedbug calls over the last several years, from one to two a month to one to two a week, most of them from homeowners and tenants with a few insitutions included," said Kevin Zimmerman, director of environmental health at the Onondaga County Health Department.
They are quickly becoming just as real a threat in Central New York, and Syracuse area residents stand to lose sleep over the issue.
What are bedbugs?
Bedbugs are flat, wingless insects that feed on blood. They follow the trail of CO2 expressed by their victims during their deepest sleep stages, usually right before dawn. Bedbugs inject the bite site to prevent their prey from feeling the gruesome interaction, then they have their fill and scurry back into their hiding spots, usually around the seams of a mattress, inside bed frames or even inside cracks in ceilings and walls.
For most people, the small itchy bumps left behind are the only evidence of bedbugs' presence in their home -- and some people don't react to the bites.
Translation: you may have them, and not even know it.
Tiny black dots of bedbug waste along mattress seams, or spots of blood on your sheets are also indicators of an infestation.
Where are they?
Since bedbugs love the blood of sleeping humans, its natural that they are most often found where large numbers of people sleep. Like, apartment complexes and dormitories.