Find out bed bug facts like how to identify a bed bug, where bed bugs live, how fast they reproduce, what are their natural predators, what it is they rely on for sustenance, and how long they can go without a meal.
Bed bugs can make your life miserable by depriving you of sleep, inspiring blood-curdling nightmares, and leaving you with itchy, ugly-looking bites and rashes. The bottom line is: they’ve got to go!
But until you take the time to understand your enemy, you have little chance of success at extermination. Bed bugs are not much like a lot of other household pests, so you can’t just assume you can kill them like you did your fleas, roaches, spiders, and centipedes (poor you!)
Would you know a bed bug if you saw one? If not, prepare for a quick bed bug anatomy lesson!
You’ll soon find it as easy to identify a bed bug as it is to identify an ant, worm, or butterfly. They really are quite distinctively built. But first, you have to know what to look for and get accustomed to their appearance.
How Big Is a Bed Bug?
Many mistakenly believe that bed bugs, or at least newly hatched ones, are microscopic and impossible to see with the naked eye. That’s just not true.
Adult bed bugs generally get up to 5 mm long, while the youngest ones will be less than one millimeter. The difficulty in spotting the small ones is made worse by their translucent bodies. But after a blood feeding, those bodies turn red, “solving” that problem.
How Many Legs Do They Have?
Bed bugs are true insects, so like all insects, they have six legs: three on the left, three on the right.
They do also have two long antennas on their heads, which someone might possibly mistake for a seventh and eighth leg.
Do They Run Fast?
If you happen to see a bed bug, and it sees you too, you might both react by running in the opposite direction. If, however, you grab a lint roller and pursue your nighttime torturer with a vengeance, rest assured you will be able to catch up with him.
Bed bugs don’t move especially fast. They are persistent and willing to travel surprisingly long distances (for them) when they sense a large mammal’s body heat or CO2 exhalation. But they are slower than, say, cockroaches, and not on a par with a speeding bullet.
Will Keeping the Lights on Keep Them Away?
It’s true that bed bugs prefer to feed at night, in the dark, safely unnoticed. After all, they are much smaller and weaker than their victims, so they can’t risk being seen.
But on the other hand, their hunger for blood will motivate them to do even risky things, like coming out into the light looking for a meal.
Keeping the lights on may help some, but it won’t be a real solution. You need to kill them; you can’t make them leave willingly.
Where in the world do bed bugs live? Are they restricted in geographical distribution like many other animals?
If you were thinking of moving to a new region to escape bed bugs, I’m sorry to burst that bubble. But, the fact is, bed bugs live just about everywhere people do.
What is a bed bug’s natural habitat? The fact is that bed bugs live mostly indoors. Their habitat is the same as their hosts, which are mostly human beings.
You might get away from them in Antarctica, at the North Pole, or on a desert island out in the remote Pacific: but you will find them everywhere else.
Where Do Bed Bugs Live in the Wild?
Bed bugs must have had a home in the wild before they mostly took to living in human habitations. It’s rare now to find them in that original, primal environment, and they may well have adapted through “natural selection” over thousands of years to become the nuisance they are today.
But if you’ve ever found bed bugs on dogs, you should have taken that as a “clue.” Bed bugs in the wild lurk about in natural crevices, waiting for a chance to suck the blood out of unsuspecting animals, rather than from people.
Can They Live Outside in the Cold?
Bed bugs like it inside where it’s warm and comfortable. But that’s not to say they can’t survive out in the cold.
You can kill bed bugs with heat (118ºF or higher) or with cold (sub-zero Fahrenheit temperatures are necessary.) You would have to put them in a freezer or outside for 4 solid days straight in sub-zero temperatures to be sure you had froze them all to death.
Unfortunately, many parts of the country never get that cold that long, and many home freezers don’t get that cold either.
Do They Crawl on Walls?
Bed bugs don’t restrict themselves to the mattress. Yes, they will crawl on walls when it suits them.
They will crawl up behind picture frames and wall clocks, into cracks, holes, or outlets above floor level, or even to parachute down onto the mattress (if you block the sides of your mattress with pesticides.)
That latter example of free-falling bed bugs is somewhat rare, but it does happen.
Even bed bugs “get romantic” and start families. Actually, they will start up a whole new clan right in and around your bed or elsewhere in your home.
How Fast Do Bed Bugs Reproduce?
To get an idea of how fast bed bugs can reproduce, consider their life cycle:
- A mother bed bug lays a small, rice-like egg.
- Around 5 to 10 days later, the egg hatches and a “nymph” emerges, immediately thirsting for blood.
- The nymphs molt 5 times before reaching adulthood, leaving their exoskeletons behind as evidence of an infestation.
- Within five or six weeks, they can be starting up the next generation.
Thus, you can have a major infestation rolling good within one or two months of the arrival of the first “pioneer” bed bugs in your bed room, and a real problem can develop even within a week.
How Many Babies Do They Have?
Again, let’s take a few basic facts so you can get an idea of how big of a bed bug population you can soon have:
- A single female bed bug will often lay one to five eggs per day.
- A female can lay from 250 to 500 eggs in her lifetime.
- A bed bug life span ranges anywhere from 3 to 12 months.
Do the math. That adds up to hundreds of bed bugs, potentially, within just a couple months. And it only takes a single impregnated female to get the ball rolling.
What Are the Natural Predators of Bed Bugs?
Perhaps, you are wondering if there is a way to kill off bed bugs by letting their natural predators do the work for you?
Bed bugs do have some natural enemies, but unfortunately, this approach is not practical as far as ending an infestation. Too many bed bugs would manage to hide out and escape being devoured.
Introducing these bed bug eaters will only give you a new pest problem rather than solving the original one.
But for interest’s sake, bed bug natural predators include:
- The masked hunter insect, proud members of the “assassin bug family.” Their nymphs camouflage themselves in dust particles, hence the term “masked.”
- Cockroaches, definitely not worth introducing.
- Ants, always an aggressive insect.
- Mites, which will also bite you.
- Common house centipedes.
Do Spiders Eat Bed Bugs?
Spiders will eat bed bugs as well. However, most of them aren’t especially efficient at it. Spiders of the thanatus flavidus variety are skilled bed bug hunters, but they mostly live in Russia, Ukraine, and Greece.
What About Earwigs?
Earwigs may appear ferocious with those long back-end pincers, but most of them actually feed on plant material. There are certain, less common species of earwigs that will prey on small insects, which could include an occasional bed bug, but no, earwigs are not very good bed bug killers.
If you have any bed bug symptoms, like itchy bite marks or rashes or fecal matter and shed shells on your mattress, you know what bed bugs feed on: you.
What Do Bed Bugs Eat?
Bed bugs’ diet consists almost entirely of human blood or the blood of animals. They are true parasites. They feast on blood just like leaches, mosquitoes, and ticks.
They get all the nutrition and all the hydration they need from blood, so there’s not need for anything else to be included in their diet.
Do They Feed Every Night?
Typically, bed bugs do not feed every night. You might well get bit every night, but probably, not by the same bed bug.
It is usual for a bed bug to feed about once a week, but this can vary. They don’t follow strict meal schedules but eat whenever they feel the need.
When they do feed, it will only take a few minutes. Then the return to their hideout and wait till it’s time to feed again.
Some fear that, because they find bed bugs in their hair, they live there like lice and feed every day. But in reality, they climb over hair, on the hunt for bare skin, and bite the face and neck. Much better!
How Long Can They Live Without Feeding?
There is disagreement in the scientific community over how long bed bugs can live without a blood meal. And this can vary based on conditions as well.
The evidence seems to suggest, however, that a bed bug can live 2 to 3 months without food at room temperature. When it colder, their metabolism slows down, allowing them to live up to a year without blood.
Bed bugs are unusual insects in may ways. Having now learned some of the basic facts about bed bugs, you are in a much better position to begin plotting their destruction. But don’t stop here: continuing education is essential for effective bed bug eradication.
You can find further details of Bed Bugs Control here.