What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

It's easy to mistake a bed bug for a tick or carpet beetle—it's not like you want to get that close to a bug you want to squash and kill.

What do bed bugs look like?

bed bugs engorgedCourtesy Jody M Green, Ph.D

Bed bugs—or as entomologists call them, Cimex lectularius—are small, brownish-red, with a flattened oval-shape body and visible body segments. Younger ones appear as a pale yellow. By the way, if you spot what you think is a bed bug, don't kill it. Capture it and seal it in a container so it can be identified. Here are 16 secrets about bed bugs that help you keep them out of your house.

How big are bed bugs?

bed bugs and seedsCourtesy Jody M Green, Ph.D

The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) has five developmental life stages. Bed bugs, like other insects, have an exoskeleton, meaning their skeleton is on the outside of the body. In order to progress to the next life stage, bed bugs have to shed their exoskeleton to grow larger. Eggs are about the size of a poppy seed; younger bed bugs are the size of a sesame seed. An adult bed bug that isn't full from a blood meal is about the size of a flaxseed, while an engorged bed bug expands to the size of an apple seed.

What do bed bugs look like after feeding?

bugFrantisek Dulik/Shutterstock

Bed bugs sport a flat and oval shape by day, but once they get a blood meal, their body expands and looks like a mini red torpedo. This bed bug is so full, it's leaking the extra in a trail of blood behind it. But they don't need to feed every day—usually, it is every three to seven days, says Dini M. Miller, Ph.D., department of entomology, at Virginia Tech. There's the digestion state too, in which the bed bug returns to the oval shape of the unfed stage but has a black spot on its body, which is the digested blood that it will excrete later.

When are bed bugs active?

Cimex lectularius or bed bug changed skin on sound columnDmitrii Erekhinskii/Shutterstock

Bed bugs are cryptic and pretty much hide out during the day in cracks and crevices with other bed bugs in harborages (bed bug community) hoping to remain undiscovered, explains Dr. Miller. However, once midnight rolls around, the party starts for the hungry bed bugs which remain active until about 5:00 a.m. The timing couldn't be more perfect for them because those five hours are when most people are in a deep sleep.

How do bed bugs find us at night?

Bed bug sucking bloodPavel Krasensky/Shutterstock

Bed bugs don't need a neon vacancy sign flashing from our toes to let them know where we are, but the cues scientists think they use are pretty fascinating. "They can become alerted to the presence of a food source in a room because we emit carbon dioxide, which stimulates them," says Eric Braun, a board-certified entomologist for Rentokil Steritech, a pest control company. "They also look for the heat signature from our bodies to find us." Still, bed bugs have to be within close proximity to sense us—usually five to 20 feet from their harborage.

How do bed bugs bite us?

bed bug bitingCourtesy Jody M Green, Ph.D

Look closely at this bed bug picture and you'll see the mouthparts bed bugs use to probe our skin. They're pretty choosy and may poke our skin several times before they find a capillary space that allows the blood to flow quickly into their bodies. That means we could wake up with several bites from one bug, Dr. Miller says. Once the bed bug settles on a location, it will feed for about five to ten minutes. When its belly is full, it will return to the crack or crevice where other bed bugs are hanging out. Here's how to treat the most common bug bites, including bed bugs.

Will I see a bunch of bed bugs together?

Bed bug Cimex lectularius Akos Nagy/Shutterstock

"Unlike bees or ants, bed bugs don't exhibit social or task-related behaviors. They will harbor in clusters and groups, finding one another through the use of an aggregate pheromone, but they are not a true colony," says Braun. Basically, bed bugs go about their day, driven by their own needs and they don't come out all at once as a group to feed on a host.

Why do some bed bugs have a black spot on them?

bed bug nymphsCourtesy Dini M. Miller, Ph.D

Dr. Miller says the black part is the digested blood the bed bugs ate a couple of days ago. Given bed bugs don't feed every day, most of the bed bugs are in the digesting state and not feeding. They'll excrete the digested blood later which will be evident to us as dark spots (feces) in cracks and crevices or seams of furniture.

How do bed bugs multiply?

bed bugs matingCourtesy Dini M. Miller, Ph.D

At first glance, this bed bug picture looks kind of cute—two bed bugs in a warm embrace. But in reality, the male is actually mating with the female by stabbing her in the side rather than mating with her in her genital area. "He pushes his paramere through her body wall. She does kind of have a receptacle for his parameter called the spermalege. But he still wounds her in the process of 'traumatic insemination,'" says Dr. Miller. The female must heal from the wound but it does leave a scar. And if she's been mated one too many times, she'll leave the aggregate to avoid further abuse, Dr. Miller says.

What do bed bug eggs look like?

bed bug eggs with eye spotsCourtesy Dini M. Miller, Ph.D

Once a female has sucked down a full blood meal, she's ready to lay some eggs. In fact, she can lay one to seven eggs per day in a ten day period. But she can't lay eggs on an empty stomach, which means she'll need to feed again to produce more eggs. The eggs are clear and tubular, similar to the shape of a jelly bean but in reality the size of a speck of dust. As fragile as they appear, they have a pretty good shot at hatching; Dr. Miller says 97 percent will hatch under optimal conditions.

Where do bed bugs lay eggs?

bed bug egg on backCourtesy Dini M. Miller, Ph.D

The female bed bug lays her eggs singly or in groups and just about anywhere in a room she wants, but it won't be on your body. Bed bugs prefer quiet places since they are shy. The eggs are sticky when they pop out and as this bed bug picture shows, one got stuck on the back of bed bug. It's worth mentioning that a single mated female brought into your home (via a mode of transit like a purse, duffel bag, blanket, etc.) can cause an infestation from the eggs she will lay in your house. Follow these steps to avoid an infestation.

How long does it take for bed bug eggs to hatch?

Courtesy Dini M. Miller, Ph.D

In Dr. Miller's lab, 60 percent of the eggs hatch at six days old when temperatures were greater than 70° Fahrenheit and 90 percent will have hatched by the eighth or ninth day. Hatching time takes longer when the temperatures drop. When the conditions are ideal, a bed bug population can double every 16 days.

What do bed bugs look like when they are born?

bed bug eggs hatching under microscopeCourtesy Dini M. Miller, Ph.D

You would probably need a magnifying glass to see a newborn bed bug as they are super tiny, about the size of a pinhead. They are translucent with red eyes as seen under the microscope in the bed bug picture. It won't take too much time for them to go through all five nymphal stages and become a reproductive adult. As long as they get their first blood meal within about 20 days (and don't get crushed or die from something else), they'll become a full-fledged adult in about 37 days.

What happens after bed bugs drink blood?

engorged nymphs bed bugsCourtesy Dini M. Miller, Ph.D

These two nymphs just finished feeding and have a full blood meal in their body. Seems like they're comparing notes on their dinner but once they've gone through all five growth stages and become adults, they'll trade blood meal reviews for mating time. It's not uncommon for bed bugs to get frisky after a full blood meal, especially the males.

How many baby bed bugs survive after hatching?

bed bug egg on pennyCourtesy Jody M Green, Ph.D

Fresh out of the egg, bed bugs are pretty fragile but they do come from a hardy species so they have genetics going for them. But still, Dr. Miller says newly hatched nymphs are exceptionally tiny and can't travel great distances to find a host for a blood meal. And if the momma laid her egg too far from the host, the nymph could die of dehydration before sucking down its first blood meal.

Do bed bugs eat other things besides blood?

partially fed instar bed bugCourtesy Dini M. Miller, Ph.D

Blood is the only food source bed bugs need to survive. And a human host is their first choice. We're just easier for bed bugs to crawl on than an animal or bird. Getting enough blood is essential for a bed bug to survive though. This nymph is so young it still has some of its egg cap on and didn't get a full blood meal yet. You can tell because she has more storage available. If a bed bug doesn't get enough, it will likely die of dehydration Dr. Miller says.

Where do bed bugs live?

bed bugs aggregationCourtesy Dini M. Miller, Ph.D

They gravitate toward places humans don't notice on a daily basis—the edge of wall-to-wall carpeting, in seams of furniture, behind wall-mounted fixtures, in piles of clutter and clothing in closets and light switch plates. Staying out of sight isn't the only reason though. "Bed bugs pack themselves so tightly into small cracks and crevices so they can maintain a microhabitat of favorable temperature and humidity, thus increasing their ability to survive periods of starvation," says Dr. Miller.

Why do some bed bugs have different shapes?

fed bed bugs on stoneCourtesy Dini M. Miller, Ph.D

Depending on the growth stage, one bed bug may be bigger than another and what a bed bug look likes after a blood meal coincides with that stage. This bed bug picture shows bed bugs at different growth stages. Regardless of age, their shape transforms by becoming more narrow and longer than their usual flat, oval-shaped body. Then, in a couple of days, when the digestion process is complete, the pre-fed dark and flat body return.

Can bed bugs get inside a mattress cover?

bed bugs on zipperCourtesy Dini M. Miller, Ph.D

Unfortunately, if the mattress cover has even a tiny opening, the answer is yes. "This zipper photo shows that not all mattress encasements can keep bed bugs contained. You notice the zipper does not reach the very top of the enclosure. So bed bugs were able to come out and feed when we laid my technician's arm across it," says Dr. Miller. Bed bugs are all about being subtle. If you notice one of these warning signs you could have a bed bug problem.

Can I see a bed bug on my purse or backpack?

bed bug on backpackCourtesy Jody M Green, Ph.D

It's difficult but not impossible to see a bed bug on a personal belonging. Adult bed bugs are easier to spot because they are larger at about three to five milliliters and reddish brown. Younger stage bed bugs are pale yellow and smaller. If you've been traveling, visiting several homes or buildings where people come and go, inspect your purse, backpack, or laptop bag before you bring it in the house. And whatever you do, don't place these items near your bed without a thorough inspection.

Do bed bugs hide in our hair at night?

Bed bug on the human body in a macroDmitrii Erekhinskii/Shutterstock

Some insects like lice have grasping legs that make it easier to navigate human hair and animal fur but bed bugs don't have the same legs. "They prefer to feed on exposed areas of skin and don't live on the body, so haven't adapted any spines or specialized legs," says Jody Green, PhD, an urban entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "I believe this is the reason they would prefer to feed on humans than other animals, but of course, in the absence of a host, they will feed on a different host."

Do bed bugs fly?

Akos Nagy/Shutterstock

Bed bugs can't fly or jump like fleas nor can they sprint as fast as cockroaches but they're not slowpokes either. They can travel across sofas or down a hall in no time. And even if it doesn't find a human host right away, it can survive months without a blood meal before it dies of starvation—which by the way, Dr. Miller says is largely due to dehydration because bed bugs are mainly hydrated through blood when they live in an indoor environment. Now, find out the bed bug "facts" that should be exterminated for good.

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?, Source:https://www.rd.com/advice/bed-bugs/what-do-bed-bugs-look-like/