About Bed Bugs

Tens of thousands of you are wanting to learn more about bed bugs; we hope this article will be beneficial to you in many ways.

This article and others in our FAQ articles knowledgebase will educate you about bed bugs, how to detect bed bugs before you have an out of control problem, how you can prevent being bitten and it will tell you much more about bed bugs that you need to know.

Bed bugs are parasites and  they preferentially feed on humans.  When people aren't around or aren't available, the bed bugs will feed on other warm-blooded animals,  such as pets, rodents, birds or bats.


FAQ's on Bed Bugs


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Although bed bugs disappeared from the United States due to the use of DDT in the early 1940s, they have returned since the removal of DDT from the market. Bed bugs can be found in homes, apartments, dormitories, shelters, hotels, motels, prisons, theaters, airplanes, ships, trains, buses and numerous other locations.

What is a Bed Bug?

Also known as chinches, chintzes, mahogany flats, red coats, wall louse, house bugs and crimson ramblers, Bed Bugs are parasitic insects that have plagued humans for over 3500 years. There are at least 92 known species of bed bugs found throughout the world. The most common species is the Cimex lectularius, which is best adapted to human environments.

Appearance - about bed bugs

adult bed bug and nymph on hand info graphThe Common Bed Bug is a small, flat, oval insect that is a rich reddish-brown color. They have extremely well developed legs which allow them to crawl up verticals surfaces made of wood, paper, plastic and even glass. Adult Bed Bugs are about 3/16" - 3/8" long and mature in about four weeks when host blood is available. If hosts are scarce, adult bed bugs can survive for a year without feeding.

Developmental Stages - about bed bugs

Eggs - On average, the female Bed Bugs can lay upwards of 500 eggs in a lifetime at a rate of up to 12 eggs per day and these eggs are deposited around and on rough surfaces.   The white eggs are sticky at first and approximately the size of a single spec of dust.  These eggs hatch in 6 to 17 days; the babies or nymphs begin feeding immediately.  The nymphs need a blood meal in order to live and molt.  A bed bug will reach maturity after 5 molts.

Often found in dark, protected places such as walls and floor cracks, cracks in furniture, behind baseboards, under loose wallpaper, these eggs will usually hatch in one to three weeks, depending on temperature - the warmer the weather, the shorter the incubation time.

The nymphal period is greatly prolonged when food is scarce. Nymphs and adults can live for several months without food. The adult's lifespan may encompass 12-18 months. Three or more generations can occur each year.

Bed Bug life Cycle info graphic

penny with actual size of bed bug info graphicNymphs -Nymphs go through 5 molts, taking a blood meal between each one. This stage can last from several weeks under favorable conditions up to as long as a year when hosts are unavailable and temperatures are low. Nymphs can go up to 2 months without feeding. They are about the size of the "R" in LIBERTY on a penny.

Adults - Only about the size of Lincoln's head on a penny, an adult Bed Bug can feed nonstop for 10 minutes or more, consuming up to 6 times its own weight of your blood. Quite often, its victim doesn't even realize that they are being bitten.

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Bed Bug Symptoms

bed bug bites picBed Bugs have an elongated beak with mouthparts that saw through their victim’s skin and two hollow tubes.

One of the tubes is used to suck their victim’s blood while the other tube injects saliva, which contains anticoagulants and pain killers. Although the meal lasts about 3-10 minutes,most people will not feel it.

While some people do not have any symptoms from the bites, others will experience itching and swelling as a reaction to the saliva. Initially, most people mistake the bite for one from a mosquito.

This allows the infestation to develop over time and grow quite larger before detection occurs. Bed bugs hide during the day; hiding in cracks and crevices in the floors, beds, walls, and furniture.  If there is a small infestation, they live close to where a human sleeps; however if there is a large infestation, you can find them in many other rooms in the house.

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Bed Bug Disease Transmission

Although Bed Bugs can harbor pathogens in their bodies, there are currently no documented cases of Bed Bugs transmitting any diseases to humans at this time. However, lab tests have found that Bed Bugs can carry the causative agents for anthrax, plague, typhus, tularemia, yellow fever and numerous other blood infesting disease organisms.

Currently, their medical significance is mainly limited to the itching and inflammation from their bites. This is caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva secreted into the wound while they feed.

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Commonly Infested Areas - about bed bugs

Bed bugs are usually unknowingly transported in luggage, clothing, furniture, or other belongings that are carried by individuals as they travel. Bed Bug infestations are extremely common in hotels, motels or apartment buildings located in areas that have high rates of tourism and travel. The bed bugs are small enough to go undetected in personal belongings and the even smaller eggs stick to almost anything.

bed bug commonly infested areas - info graphic

Once the bugs settle into a dwelling, they can easily spread from area to area. Although Bed Bugs are commonly found in the seams, tufts and crevices of mattresses, box springs, frame and headboards, these are not the only locations that they may inhabit. Other common hiding spots include, but are not limited to:

      • Upholstered chairs and sofas, especially those which are often slept on
      • Nightstands and dressers
      • Along and under the edges of wall to wall carpet
      • Cracks in molding
      • Curtains
      • Window and Door Frames
      • Wicker Furniture
      • Under Loose Wallpaper
      • Clothing
      • Inside Electronics, including smoke detectors

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Since Bed Bugs feed on blood, cleanliness is not a factor. Anywhere from a ritzy, high priced hotel to a homeless shelter can be at risk for an infestation.

Identifying a Bed Bug Infestation

The only way to determine if the bites are from bed bugs is to find and identify the bugs themselves.

bed bug harborage info graphicDuring the day, Bed Bugs will usually hide close to or in the cracks of the bed (mattress, frame, headboard, box spring, etc). Their hiding places are often marked by dark spots of excrement, eggs, egg shells, molted skin and the bugs. These spots are often a telltale sign of a bed bug infestation.

Even though they most often infest the bed, they can also spread throughout a room and into adjacent rooms or apartments. Bed bugs generally feed at night while humans sleep; their peak feeding time is an hour before dawn. They will also seek a meal during the daytime hours if they are hungry and the lights are dim. After feeding, the bed bug will return to its hiding place and usually emerges again in five to ten days to feed.

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Bites and Health Concerns

Bed Bugs bite usually at night while people are sleeping; however if a bed bug is hungry, they will bite during the day also.  A bed bug will bite and feed by piercing a persons skin by using their elongated beak; which consist of two stylets.  These stylets fold under their body when they rest, but the stylets extend during feeding.  The stylets pierces the skin and withdraws blood.

One stylet has a groove that carries saliva into the wound, while the other has a groove through which body fluids from the host are taken in.

A bed bug will feed from 3 to 10 minutes which is usually painless and the person seldom realizes they are being bitten.

Keep in mind that bed bugs don't reside or stay on a persons head or their body like lice do.   Instead, bed bugs crawls away to secluded itself.  If you've been bitten by bed bugs, you will most likely experience itchy red welts within a day or so.  For some, there are little or no reaction, while others there is a delay for days or weeks.

Studies have been performed and they suggest hat 30% of the people do not react at all when bitten.

Bed bugs usually bite the skin which touch the sheets such as face, neck, shoulders, back, arms, etc).  If the skin is exposed, and the skin touches the sheets, those exact areas are the areas the bed bugs hit first.

Know that if you are experiencing occasional bites, this would indicate that there is a light infestation.  If you are experiencing many bites, then you can assume that you have a heavy and a long standing population of both adults and nymphs.

Preventing Infestation - about bed bugs

bed bug on finger tip info graphicIn order to avoid infestation, you should always check your surroundings for signs of infestation when traveling or staying in unfamiliar locations. If signs of infestation are present, you should notify the appropriate responsible party immediately. If you may be staying in a hotel or bed that you are unsure of, a safe idea is to carry a disposable mattress cover along with you. After traveling, you should also make sure to treat your luggage and its contents to ensure that you have not unknowingly transported any “unwanted guests” into your environment.

You should also avoid bringing used furniture or clothing into your environment unless it has been carefully checked and treated.

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Other Resources on Bed Bugs

Other Related Bed Bug Articles


by Michael F. Potter, Extension Entomologist University of Kentucky College of Agriculture http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef636.asp, Researched 10/11/12

Pennstate Entomology Dept,  http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/bedbugs, Retrieved 10/11/12

Ohio State University Facts Sheet, http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2105.html, Retrieved 10/11/12

University of California Agriculture, http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7454.html, Retrieved 10/12/12