Bed bugs are wingless, rust-colored insects about the size of an apple seed as adults. In their juvenile stage, bed bugs are clear (or bright red, if they have recently fed) and measure just over 1mm – barely visible to the naked eye.
They don’t fly or have nests like other pests, but they do move very quickly and congregate in groups in whichever hiding places they are able to find.
Bed bugs are blood-feeding insects that prefer to feed on the blood of humans. If they cannot find a human host, bed bugs will prey on animals like small rodents and house pets.
The anxiety about being bitten can lead to sleeplessness, and psychological distress in some people.
Although bed bugs and their bites are a nuisance, they are not known to spread disease.
Bed bugs are spread by hitching rides on people’s clothing, bags and in furniture when they move it traveling from place to place.
The United States has not experienced widespread infestations of bed bugs for decades, but they have always been prevalent in places like Asia.
With so many people traveling internationally these days, bed bugs are usually transported from other countries by travelers who stay in hotels, which is why bed bug infestations are so common in places with a high turnover rate of people. Bed bugs can also be brought into a home on used furniture, beds and clothing.
Bed bugs are partial to wooden and plush surfaces so places like bed frames, headboards, the seams, nooks and crannies of mattresses and carpeting can all be a bed bug’s paradise. Bed bugs usually stay close to their host, once they are present – so bedrooms and sleeping areas are the most common places to find them. However, in larger infestations, bed bugs can move through a whole house and invade virtually any surface.
Bed bugs are most active when we sleep. They crawl onto exposed skin, inject a mild anesthetic and suck up a small amount of blood. Most people never feel the actual bite, but will see the tell-tale welts, bumps and red splotches on the skin the next morning.
Bed bugs feed for about five to ten minutes at night, while the host sleeps, usually in the pre-dawn hours. If they are hungry and the light is low, bed bugs will sometimes feed in the daylight hours as well. After feeding they crawl to a sheltered crevice where they’ll remain for several days while digesting the meal.
Their average lifespan is ten months to a little over one year, and in that time, a female may lay 300–500 eggs, depending on the temperature and the amount of food available.
The eggs will hatch in about ten days and under ideal conditions, the young can reach adulthood in five to eight weeks.
Bed bugs are resilient pests, however. A juvenile bed bug can live for months without feeding while an adult can live over a year without feeding.
Bed bugs are one of the hardest pests to get rid of. They are resilient to most chemicals and simply throwing away infested furniture and bed parts won’t remedy the situation. Bed bug infestations are not something to be taken lightly and outside professional extermination services should be employed anytime there is an infestation present.