Bed bugs are believed to have been around since the time of the caveman. An increase in domestic and international travel is the likely cause of their resurgence over the last 10 years. Other factors contributing to increased activity include the use of second-hand goods, and the movement of furniture and linens, changes in pest control procedures, and a generational lack of knowledge.
- Adult bed bugs are light brown
- Approximately 1/4” long
- Flattened oval shape.
- Mouthparts adapted to piercing and sucking.
- After feeding they become rounder and darker.
- Nymphs: Hatching from eggs, these are miniature versions of the adults, but have no rudimentary wings and are sexually immature. There are five stages of development in young bed bugs, called instars. The first instar to hatch is approximately 1/6” long and is an amber color until it has fed. To develop into an adult, the bed bug must molt five times, passing through five nymphal instars. Each instar is the same as the previous – but bigger. The bed bug needs to feed at least once between each molt.
- Adult: Bed bugs become sexually mature after a molt from the fifth instar. The bugs are approximately 1/4” long, have three pairs of legs and a dorsally flattened body. They are a dark chestnut brown color after feeding, but lighten in color after a period of starvation. They have rudimentary wings but cannot fly. They are extremely quick and agile walkers but struggle with smooth polished surfaces. In densely populated areas females tend to disperse into new areas where males are not present (in response to traumatic insemination). If these are pregnant females this reinforces the need to catch infestations early before numbers build and spread.
- Bed bugs feed exclusively on blood and can be seen with the naked eye. They are different from mites, many of which are microscopic.
- They feed by piercing the skin and injecting their saliva, which contains an anesthetic and anticoagulant, then feed upon blood for up to ten minutes.
- Bed bugs can consume about four times their body weight in a single feeding.
- In warm temperatures, one meal lasts each insect about three days, but by lying dormant bed bugs can survive up to a year between feedings.
Download Ehrlich's bed bug fact sheet for more information on trends, habits, and bed bug biology.