Bed Bugs

Facts

In This Article:

Appearance / Identification

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

closeup
bed bug closeup
bed bugs next to each other
crawling on arm

Size
An adult bed bug is small and wingless, with flat, reddish-brown bodies shaped like ovals and measures about 1/5 inch long (7 mm) and 1/8 inch wide (about 4 mm). They are roughly the size of a kernel of corn or an apple seed (when engorged with blood).

Color
The parasitic insects expand greatly and turn a reddish color after feeding, a direct result of the blood they consume to survive. Nymphs are smaller and lighter in color.

Bed bugs can be easily detected against the typical whites of bed sheets and mattress pad covers. Nymphs, on the other hand, measure at most 1 and 1/4 mm and are clear or off-white in color, which makes them considerably harder to detect.

Body
Bed bug bodies feature three legs on each side and two antennae above a pair of small eyes.

General Information

Although once greatly reduced in developed countries, bed bugs once again present a growing problem to urbanized nations particularly in densely populated areas. The common bed bug, scientific name, Cimex lectularius L., is prevalent throughout the world but thrives in crowded regions with apartment complexes, hotels, public housing, and other buildings where people sleep collectively. The recent surge in bed bug infestations is largely attributed to the growing popularity and ease of international travel. Other common names for the bed bug include the mahagony flat and red coat.

Habits / Habitat

When Do They Feed?
Bed bugs are nocturnal creatures that emerge at night to feed.

Where Do They Hide?
During the day, the pests take refuge in a variety of places. Small, flat bodies enable the insects to hide in:

  • bed frames
  • headboards
  • box springs
  • mattress seams
  • cracks in walls
  • crevices in floors

The insects often hide in briefcases, clothes, luggage, purses, or other objects scattered near beds, making it easy for travelers to unwittingly carry the bugs from one location to another.

How Do They Get Around?
Unable to fly, bed bugs can nonetheless move rapidly across bedroom ceilings, floors, and walls.

Detection

The best way to detect bed bugs is to regularly inspect the mattress, box springs, head board, bed frame, and any other areas directly adjacent to the bed. Checking in folds created by bed sheets and around areas where mattresses and box springs meet and shaking out blankets prior to use are some of the best ways to check for signs of infestation.

Female bed bugs generally lay hundreds of eggs in a lifetime. The high volume of bed bugs congregating in a single area usually leads to their detection through visual inspection.

Diet

What Do They Eat?
Classified as parasites, bed bugs feed exclusively on the blood of humans and other animals, usually at night while the hosts sleep. Though, humans are the preferred host of the common bed bug. The insects boast elongated mouths similar to beaks that puncture the skin of sleeping host animals and extract blood. Bed bugs typically feed for three to 10 minutes at a time. Though typically feeding several nights a week, adult specimens have the ability to survive for a year or longer without eating.

Life Cycle

Reproduction

Eggs
Fully developed female bed bugs can lay between one and five eggs each day and often produce hundreds of eggs over the course of their lives. Difficult to find without intense scrutiny, bed bug eggs are roughly equal in size to specks of dust.

Nymphs
Upon hatching, nymphs emerge and develop by molting their skin several times before attaining full maturity. Prior to each molt, nymphs must consume a blood meal.

Adults
The insects can reach adulthood in as little as a month, with females sometimes producing upwards of three generations of offspring a year.

How Long Do They Live?
The average lifespan of common bed bugs is about 10 months.

More information about the bed bug life cycle.