Bed bugs are the blood-sucking annoyance no one wants to find out they have. If you find yourself lifting your sheets and inspecting your mattress, only to find bed bugs or even their eggs, you are in for some work ahead. But don’t worry, read our guide to get rid of bed bugs and take action now!
Although there are many ways to rid these pests out of your home, it can take some time and plenty of research before attempting treatment. Before you begin to remove the bed bugs from your home, you should first understand the bed bug life cycle, what they look like, and where to find them. It is important to note that you should always take precaution when considering home remedy treatment for bed bugs or even doing research on the safest products to use.
In this section we will discuss the bed bug life cycle and reproduction, from eggs, to nymphs, to adults. Everything from each stage of their growth process, where they nest, how they spread, how they mate and the most important part, how they die.
It starts with an Egg
The life cycle of a bed bug is similar to standard life cycles of most living creatures on our diverse planet. They hatch from eggs; they grow up, make babies, and eventually die. It follows a predictable, cyclical pattern that non-entomologists may just find weird and unsettling. Bed bugs start out as tiny, milky-white, eggs; laid by a female bed bug into cracks and crevices, like mattress creases. Eggs are often found in groups or clusters. The eggs are grain shaped, approximately 1 mm in length, and hatch within 2 weeks of being deposited. Upon hatching, baby bed bugs, called nymphs, will immediately feed; becoming a bright-red color instead of the translucent, white color they were upon hatching. Bed Bug nymphs share the same shape as adult bed bugs. Physical characteristics of both the nymph and adult bed bugs include: narrow and flat bodies with an ovoid shaped back, six-legs, and are wingless. Their diet is not diverse, they rely exclusively on blood-meals for their nutritional needs.
Upon ingestion of their initial blood-meal bed bug nymphs will grow and then molt their exoskeleton within five days; thus beginning their second stage of development. In all, there are five stages of growth, or instars, between a bed bug’s initial egg-hatching and subsequent arrival at sexual maturity. Just five little steps to get through before they can start making more bed bug babies! Each instar involves the same sequence of events: consumption of a blood-meal, followed by digestion and growth, and finally, molting of the exoskeleton. Repeat process until mature. Bed bug nymphs undergo this cycle five times in total along their journey towards self-actualization. If environmental conditions are favorable, and no complications or delays in sourcing a blood-meal arise, a bed bug can successfully go from the egg stage to mature adult in just 37 days.
How do bed bugs reproduce: Bed Bugs aren’t Romantic, Reader Discretion Advised!
Romance in the animal kingdom is a normal and natural process. The wooing by one partner, usually the male, to attract another partner, usually female, for the purpose of mating is often a scintillating, tango-like dance. Preferably resulting in mutual benefits for both participants. That is not the case for bed bugs. Bed bugs mate via a method known as traumatic insemination. And, yes, it is as violent as it sounds. After consuming a blood-meal, male bed bugs tend to seek out a partner for mating. The evolutionary goal is probably to locate a female, but male bed bugs don’t appear to have a preferred orientation, either male or female mates will do. Once the mate-seeking male locates a mate, he hops on the back of his victim and “stabs the female with his sharpened genitalia and inseminates her directly into her body cavity.” Cutting through the exoskeleton of their mating partner for insemination creates a considerable wound, which often leads to infection of the abdomen of the stabbed partner. If the partner on the receiving end of this delicate dance is male, they often die from the subsequent wounds. Female bed bugs are better equipped to handle the mating process. Female bed bugs have developed a self-defense mechanism with a group of cells called a spermalage in their abdomen. The female bed bug’s spermalage is believed to “defend against pathogens” introduced during the mating process.
Fertilization will begin within any location in the female’s abdomen. The male’s gametes will then attach to the female’s ovaries. Reproduction is quick but not as fast as other insects might be. Post fertilization, roughly 5 – 7 weeks, the female will carry viable eggs. In order for the female bed bug to lay her eggs, she must continue feeding. She has the ability to produce 3 – 8 per week that will hatch and begin their feeding.
She may lay up to 12 eggs each day if she has been fertilized and well fed. Bed bugs will lay their eggs in small, hidden places such as carpet linings, tiny cracks, bedframes, and even baseboards. The female bed bug will strategically place a sticky, adhesive layer to help keep her eggs from moving.
A female bed bug can lay between one to eight eggs per cycle post blood feeding.
Female bed bugs, unfortunately, can become injured if they mate frequently. Because of this, the female bed bug will relocate herself so that she cannot be disrupted by mates and where there is a reliable food source. Female bed bugs have the ability to lay around 200 to 300 eggs during her lifetime. If you find bed bugs, it is likely there was a pregnant female who hitched a ride to find a new location to avoid mating again. Bed bugs will lay 1 egg per day, which is uncommon for many insects. Also, they can reproduce in great numbers.
According to a study produced by Alastair Stutt and Michael Siva-Jothy published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, “Females that mate with several different males to get “good genes” or allelic diversity in their offspring may produce more viable offspring,” (https://www.pnas.org/content/98/10/5683.full). This finding is interesting because not only will they mate but they are particular about how they mate. Similarly, to humans, female bed bugs have specific traits they are looking for but it is uncertain what traits (other than blood-sucking) they are looking for.
How does this enchanting process result in bed bug babies? Well, after the male bed bug pierces the female bed bugs body, “The male sperm is released into the female’s body cavity, where over the next several hours it will migrate to her ovaries and fertilize her eggs.” The sperm will remain viable inside a female’s body, continuing to fertilize eggs, until all the sperm is consumed. The female releases the fertilized eggs in cozy corners that can hatch in about two weeks.
Baby Bed Bugs (Nymphs)
After 6 to 17 days, the white, sesame seed sized baby bed bugs will hatch. They will molt (shed their exoskeleton) about 5 times before transforming into their adult self. For each molt, the nymph (baby bed bug) will require a blood meal, even though they can live for 3 – 6 months without blood. Although nymphs are tiny, they are still visible to the human eye.
Temperature can affect how nymphs grow. Bed bug eggs will hatch and within 21 days in warm temperatures, can mature. If the temperatures are cooler, it could take up to 4 months for the process. Blood feeding can begin as soon as when the eggs hatch. Something many may not know is that female bed bugs will mate with their offspring when their nymphs have fully matured.
Baby bed bugs will reside where their adult relatives do. They will locate to wherever they deem a safe space. Since they are flat and small, they ca hide practically anywhere they please. Baby bed bugs are commonly found inside furniture, mattresses, box springs, baseboards, headboards, under peeling wallpaper, and more.
The 5 Stages of the Nymph life cycle includes metamorphosis where the bed bug will have one blood meal to grow more and shed its exoskeleton to mature to its adult form.