They come out at night and suck your blood; and they're growing in numbers.

While they may be small, when they bite, they can leave big red welts all over your body.

They are bed bugs -- and Winnipeg exterminators say there is an unprecedented infestation in our city.

"Since 2003, we've noticed a dramatic increase. I mean calls up 700 percent!" Lincoln Poulin, of Poulin's Pest Control, told CTV News.

Poulin says the calls are coming in from all parts of the city, from rental apartments, to expensive condos and houses.

Many hotels are also reportedly battling the bugs.

Poulin says the problem is being imported.

"Why is it so bad here? Well international travel is so cheap now. You can get to Europe for $450," he said.

The bed bug problem is far worse overseas. So when Manitobans visit those places, they often bring the bed bugs back with them.

Once they've made themselves at home in your bed -- their bite can leave marks on your skin.

However the WRHA says the health impact of being a bed bug buffet is mostly cosmetic.

"One of the concerns many people have is transmission," he told CTV News. "[The bugs] feed on blood, so the theory is that you could transmit a blood borne infection from one person to another. But bed bugs don't seem to do that."

Here are some facts about bed bugs:

  • They are roughly five to seven millimetres long, or about the size of a lady bug.
  • They feed off a person for five to ten minutes, then drop off and crawl into hiding.
  • Bed bugs can live up to a year without feeding.
  • If bed bugs are present, you'll see some dark spotting and staining on your sheets, mattress, or pillow.
  • The staining is from their excrement and blood from crushed insects that have fed.

In Winnipeg the bugs don't show few signs of going away anytime soon.

In fact Poulin's Pest Control believes the problem will get worse before it gets better.

But there are things you can do to protect yourself from their bite.

Poulin says inspecting your mattresses regularly will ensure finding a potential infestation sooner. And the sooner you get it treated, the easier it is to get rid of bed bugs.

With a report from CTV's Jon Hendricks.