Life tends to throw us multiple curveballs and that’s true for trying to fall asleep as well. Not only do you sometimes have to deal with loud neighbors, stressful situations keeping you up, or the children not being able to sleep, but there’s also the increasingly common issue of bed bugs.
If you have ever been interested in their life cycle and how these little creatures have survived and evolved over time, this article will surely serve as an informative guide on what to expect from bed bugs. You will also learn whether they pose a danger to you or your family.
Table of Contents
- History of Bed Bugs
- Physical Description
- Life Cycle of Bed Bugs & Life Span Factors
History of Bed Bugs
Around 3,500 years ago in ancient Egypt, bed bugs came to life. But since then, bedbugs have transformed into nest parasites, inhabiting the nests of birds and the roosts of bats whenever the opportunity arises.
To add fuel to the burning flame, bed bugs have also learned how to adapt to the human environment over time. To better put things into perspective, newborn bed bugs or hatchlings are tiny and are about the size of a poppy seed. However, we will delve more about them later.
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Once they start feeding, they can double in size, becoming increasingly active during the night. However, it’s noteworthy to know that they are not solely nocturnal. In fact, they can feed on their hosts without being noticed at different times of the day.
Regarding their appearance, adult bed bugs can either be reddish-brown or darker brown, with an overall oval shape and no hind wings. What is interesting is their banded look, which comes as a result of their segmented abdomens that feature microscopic hairs.
By comparison, the hatchings are lighter in color or even translucent, becoming dark as soon as they reach maturity and molt. A bed bug that has consumed enough blood will boast a translucent abdomen with a bright red hue, which will eventually turn brown after a few hours.
Because of their appearance, bed bugs can be often mistaken for booklice, carpet beetles and other insects with a similar complexion as well as smell released when crushed.
On the one hand, adult bed bugs can reach approximately a quarter of an inch in length and a tenth of an inch in width. Besides that, they have quite a flattened presentation, despite the reality that a bed bug will suck as much blood as needed to become full.
Once that is done and dusted, a bed bug will hide in order to digest the blood – with the body swelling up to six times the normal size.
1. Their Feeding Habits
Bed bugs are commonly known for piercing the skin of their hosts using a stylet fascicle, otherwise known as a rostrum or a “beak.” As mentioned earlier, bed bugs have evolved over time from their ancestral and basic style, boasting both maxillae and mandibles these days.
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The two parts are connected at the midline and once bed bugs extract blood, they use both their maxillary and mandibular bundle to penetrate the skin. In regards to their appearance, the tips of the left and right parts are not the same.
On the one hand, the right is curved and resembling a hook, while the left is completely straight. Nonetheless, they both extend on the outer sides of the maxillary. During the feeding process, they fold and bend so that the tip never needs to enter the wound.
The mandibular stylet tips have teeth that are smaller in size. Through alternately moving these stylets back and forth, the bed bug manages to cut a path and reach the blood vessel it needs and wants for its size.
Ultimately, the pressure from the blood vessel will fill the bed bug with blood, needing as little as three minutes to make it happen.
Afterwards, the bed bug withdraws the stylet from the feeding position it is in, retracting it into the labial groove and then folding it under its head and away from sight.
Overall, bed bugs don’t require much contact with their hosts, spending less than 20 minutes in physical contact and not more than ten minutes to fill up their entire bodies with blood.
Plus, they do not attempt to feed again until they have molted enough times, or until they have digested the blood if they are an adult.
2. Are They Dangerous?
As far as research shows, bed bugs are incapable of transmitting diseases. However, this does not mean that they do not bite or take blood, which can come with a plethora of different side effects.
For instance, you can get nasty secondary infections if you, unknowingly, scratch your wounds. Of course, in some cases, the itching is quite unbearable, meaning that it can be as hard as having chicken pox and trying not to scratch yourself.
However, as a rule of thumb, an infestation would get this bad only because the host would not realize that the problem is happening.
The primary problem is that bed bug bites can cause a severe anaphylactic reaction, or an asthmatic reaction due to the bugs shedding their skin and leaving it behind as they grow old and eventually die.
However, there are also other health effects that should worry people confronting bed bugs and this can include skin rashes, allergic symptoms, or even psychological effects.
Other than that, bed bugs are not known for transmitting diseases or pathogens. Of course, those with sensitivities are at a much higher risk than other, with certain symptoms pointing directly to the presence of bed bugs – which can be a double-edged sword.
If you’re concerned about the possibility, the best course of action is to try and identify the presence of any adult bed bugs, which are distinctive in color, size and shape.
However, if you are sure that you don’t have any bad reactions to bed bugs and their bites, then you don’t have to worry about diseases. Although it would still be best to thoroughly wipe them all out as soon as possible.
Life Cycle of Bed Bugs & Life Span Factors
Bedbugs, also known as Cimex lectularius, are a very irritating problem many households these days. If left unchecked, they can quickly multiply out of control, which leaves you in the lurch with a bedbug infestation.
Due to their small size, it can be extremely difficult to detect these tiny insects and they are often confused with flecks of dust. As a matter of fact, they can even appear to be invisible to the naked eye.
To help you combat this problem, we have written an easy to understand guide that details the bedbug life cycle. All bed bugs have three life stages: first an egg, then they become nymphs, then adulthood. We will discuss these three life stages more thoroughly below.
1. Bed Bug Eggs
The beginning of a bed bug’s life cycle is where all bed bugs start out as eggs. These eggs are absurdly small and are approximately 1 millimeter in size or about 0.03 inches.
To give you an idea on how small this is, 1 millimeter is 1 tenth of a centimeter, which is the size of a sesame seed. This should give you an idea on how difficult it can be to spot these eggs with your naked eye.
A single female bed bug lays eggs in batches at a time, with each batch consisting of hundreds of eggs. Now, imagine thousands of female bed bugs laying hundreds of eggs at a time and you will see how serious a bedbug infestation can be.
Female bed bugs usually lay their eggs on surfaces like wood or paper. Besides that, these pests have been known to lay their sticky eggs on secluded objects just like mattresses, couches, behind headboards, or just about anywhere near your sleeping quarters.
If you’re heading out on a vacation, you may need to take note that these opportunistic parasites have been known to reside in hotels. There, they hide among the mattresses and other sleeping materials.
This could be due to poor hygiene on the part of the hotel, or by the simple fact that hotels often have thousands of visitors. This means that bed bugs often “hitch” a ride in the baggage and clothing of unsuspecting guests.
Hence, they can survive for extended periods of time awaiting the arrival of an unsuspecting host when left unchecked.
While you may have taken various steps to protect yourself, these little blighters may simply lay hundreds of eggs on your luggage or articles of clothing. In that way, they can follow you home and begin spreading themselves out.
2. Baby Bed Bugs (Nymphs)
After 10 days, the eggs laid by the females will hatch to produce what is called a nymph or an immature bed bug. These nymphs are extremely small in size and come up to be about 1.5 millimeter.
Bed bugs pass through five nymph growth stages before they develop to become a fully grown adult. During each growth stage, these nymphs will shed their skins, which is a process called molting. During each of these stages, the nymphs will require a meal of blood to grow.
Oftentimes, the most convenient blood source would come from either humans or animals. Baby bed bugs are almost identical in appearance to fully-grown adult bed bugs.
In the absence of a food source, the growth of these nymphs becomes stunted and they are “stuck” in that stage. However, these little blights are resilient and can often live for several months without a food source, as they wait for the arrival of an unsuspecting host.
If you happen to live in a warmer or even a tropical climate, this can be very unfortunate for you. This is because these pests often become much more active and have a tendency to feed more often.
This means that they will mature very quickly and reproduce even faster, which makes bed bug infestations a serious problem for those who live in warmer climates.
Hence, this is a reason why one would notice that bed bugs are increasingly aggressive when the weather heats up. In fact, you can even expect to feel more bug bites as the temperature rises.
The entire lifecycle of a bed bug from egg to adulthood ranges from 1 to 4 months at a time. These are reliant on factors like temperature and the ready availability of a food source i.e. blood.
In colder conditions, bedbugs have been known to enter a sort of “hibernation” stage, where they remain dormant for extended periods of time without having to feed.
This means starving these bugs out in countries with colder climates is impossible, as bed bugs are able to survive without feeding even in the coldest conditions for up to 12 months at a time.
In other words, moving to a friend’s house for a few days is quite pointless, as these bugs will still be there waiting for you to return and they will be hungry as ever.
Attempting to starve these pests out of your life is impossible, unless you can stay away from your home for several months at a time. However, this is extremely difficult for anyone living a normal life.
It’s also good to know that baby bed bugs feed more frequently as compared to adults, since they need to grow. The only effective way to eliminate these bugs is by employing the services of a professional to thoroughly spray down your home.
This needs to be done over a period of time, as there could be eggs that are still present. Hence, your exterminator would need to make several visits to your home to eliminate any additional bugs that may have survived the first onslaught.
3. Bed Bugs Adults
After shedding their skin for 5 times, baby bed bugs reach what is known as adulthood, which is where they develop into either male or female adults. As mentioned previously, these adults are about ¼ of an inch in length and are about the size and shape of an apple seed.
They are reddish-brown in color and are surprisingly flat, just like a business card or a credit card. As a result, this grants them the ability to hide in surprising areas and makes eliminating these pests a difficult task, which requires plenty of time and energy.
As these critters feed on your blood, they will swell up in size just like a balloon into tiny capsules filled with your blood. We have, on occasion, caught several bed bugs that were filled with blood and we have to admit that their size is quite shocking.
Upon crushing these pests, you will discover that these blighters could feed on an amazing amount of blood as compared to their size. We know that it can be disgusting, but this is one detail that you should keep in mind when dealing with a bed bug infestation.
As mentioned previously, a single female bed bug lays hundreds of eggs with each batch. As a matter of fact, you can expect a female bed bug to lay more or less 500 eggs over a single lifetime.
Adult bed bugs are surprisingly hardy and just like baby bed bugs or nymphs, they can live for extended periods of time without blood before starving to death. Under the right conditions, an adult bed bug can even live for up to 18 months without any food.
If you are now frightened by the prospect of a bed bug infestation, that’s completely understandable. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to deal with and prevent these pests from being a right pain in your life.
We have put together a simple guide to help you ascertain the best method of dealing with and preventing a bed bug infestation in your home.
1. Replacing Your Mattress and Box Springs
This may seem like a rather drastic step, but given the fact that DDT – a chemical used to kill bed bugs, lice and other pests – has been outlawed and is extremely damaging to your health, you should consider changing your mattress every 2 to 3 years instead.
This is because bed bugs often lay their eggs on mattresses and other bedroom fittings, which makes preventing these pests from reproducing very difficult. Hence, replacing your mattress and box springs is an effective way of terminating the problem right at the root.
2. Using Protective Covers for Your Bed and Mattress
Unless you spend your entire life at home, chances are high that you have spent time staying in a hotel, motel, resort, or homestay of some kind.
In some unfortunate stroke of luck, you may have the misfortune of bringing home several visitors (i.e. bed bugs) when you visit such locations. This is why protective covers are a great way of preventing these pests from gaining a foothold on your sleeping area.
3. Make Cleaning Consistently a Habit
Bed bugs love clutter and messes, as they can hide among these as well as other rubbish present in your home or bedroom. Old shoes and an overfilled garbage bin are a favorite place for bed bugs to lay their eggs and reproduce.
Of course, just because you have bed bugs in your house doesn’t necessarily mean that you have bad hygiene. As mentioned, they could have accompanied you from your travels. However, having a dirty household will only benefit them in the long run.
That is why it is best to keep your entire house, especially your bedroom, clean. By consistently cleaning your sleeping quarters, you are reducing the chance that these pests are able to reproduce.
As a result, you will be able to eliminate and prevent the prospect of a bed bug infestation.
Having to deal with bed bugs is both tiring and stressful and without a doubt, nobody wants to deal with these pests at all. However, unfortunately, these things cannot be helped sometimes. These resilient creatures will do whatever they can to survive.
As a result, it can be quite difficult to wipe them all out completely when there is already an infestation happening. Undoubtedly, prevention is always the best way to avoid having bed bugs in your home.
That is why before your house gets infested, you need to make sure that you clean and vacuum your house thoroughly. You also need to make sure that you change your bedsheets and hot wash them, in case there are any bed bugs living there already.
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