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Bedbugs: Top five myths -- and the icky truth

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Bedbugs, which are the subject of this week's feature, "Bug Bedlam," are truly creepy. If you need proof, watch these video clips of them sucking human blood, pooping and procreating.

But nasty as they are, there are also some nasty rumors out there about them that are just plain fiction. So here, we present the top five bedbug myths -- and the revolting truth.

Myth: Bedbugs can jump and fly.

Truth, via the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University: Bedbugs crawl. They can't jump or fly. If the insect you saw emerged at night near the bed or couch, it was probably a bedbug looking for a meal. Bedbugs aren't social insects like ants, so they don't need a colony. But while they group together in good hiding spots, loners could be hiding elsewhere.

Myth: Bedbugs live on humans, like lice.

Truth, via the University of Kentucky Entomology Department: Bedbugs normally do not reside on people like head or body lice. Immediately after feeding, they crawl off and reside elsewhere to digest their meal.

Myth: Bedbugs spread diseases.

Truth, via the University of Kentucky Entomology Department: A common concern with bedbugs is whether they transmit diseases. Although bedbugs can harbor pathogens in and on their bodies, transmission to humans is considered unlikely. Their medical significance is chiefly limited to the itching and inflammation from their bites.

Myth: Bedbugs are so small, you can't see them.

Truth, via the University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Adult bedbugs are brown, flat and about a 1/4 inch long, with a soft, rounded look. After a blood meal they are dark red, rounded (distended), and about 3/8 inch long. In other words, they're tiny, but not so tiny that you can't see them -- especially the adults.

Myth: Bedbugs only live in the beds of dirty people.

Truth, via the University of Kentucky Entomology Department: Unlike cockroaches that feed on filth, the level of cleanliness has little to do with most bedbug infestations. Pristine homes, hotels and apartments have plenty of hiding places and warm-blooded hosts. Thus, they are almost as vulnerable to infestation as are places of squalor.

More from our News archive: "Bedbugs: See a map of the addresses of all bedbug complaints made to the city in 2010."

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