Bed Bugs

Cimex lectularius

Last updated: January 2, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Dmitry Bezrukov/Shutterstock.com

Bed bugs feed for 4-12 minutes.



Bed Bugs Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Insecta
Order
Hemiptera
Family
Cimicidae
Genus
Cimex
Scientific Name
Cimex lectularius

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Bed Bugs Conservation Status


Bed Bugs Facts

Prey
Humans
Name Of Young
Nymphs
Fun Fact
Bed bugs feed for 4-12 minutes.
Gestation Period
1-2 weeks
Habitat
Beds, furniture, buildings, fabrics
Predators
American cockroaches, cone-nosed insects, pharaoh ants
Diet
Omnivore
Type
insect
Common Name
bed bugs
Number Of Species
90

Bed Bugs Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Red
Lifespan
10-12 months
Height
4.5mm
Length
5-7mm
Age of Sexual Maturity
21-35 days

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The bed bug is an insect that feeds on blood and is most active at night. True to its name, the bed bug is most common in beds. These insects are notoriously difficult to get rid of. These parasitic insects are members of the genus Cimex. Their bites cause skin rashes, but may also cause psychological effects and allergic reactions.

Species, Types, and Scientific Name

Of the insects in the genus Cimex, two species cause infestations of bed bugs: Cimex lectularius, the common bed bugs, and Cimex hemipterus, the tropical bed bugs. There are 11 subspecies of the genus Cimex. Only four out of 90 species of bed bugs feed on humans, with the aforementioned two preferring humans. The others are bat bugs.

Appearance

Proper identification of bed bugs rules out confusion with other insects such as fleas, ticks, carpet beetles, and cockroaches. It also depends on the life stage of the bed bugs.

Adult bed bugs are five to seven millimeters long — about the size of an apple seed — and visible to the naked eye. They are brown and long with an oval-shaped, flat body unless it’s recently fed. If it’s fed, its body is round, reddish-brown in color, and longer. As true insects, they have beaks with three segments, an antenna with four parts, wings that aren’t for flying, short, golden hairs, and a sweet-musty odor coming from glands on their undersides.

These insects have five immature or young life stages called nymphs before they become adults. Nymphs are smaller and either whitish-yellow or translucent depending on whether they’ve fed recently or not.

Bed bug eggs are pearly-white and tiny, about the size of a pinhead. If more than five days old, they have an eyespot marking.


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Rather than the identification of live bed bugs, however, identification may instead mean recognizing an infestation. This is usually from early signs such as bites or spots of human blood. You may also see rusty stains from crushed bed bugs, dark spots from excrement, or pale yellow eggs and eggshells.

Early signs of bed bugs are uncomfortable, itchy nights in bed, marks on arms and shoulders, and an unpleasant odor resembling a wet towel. Symptoms of bed bug bites are skin rashes of red, itchy, flat welts in zigzag lines or clusters. The bites have a darker red spot in the middle. Some people may have allergic reactions and develop fever, severe itching, blisters, or hives. They can also cause secondary bacterial infections such as impetigo, lymphangitis, and ecthyma, as well as symptoms of psychological issues such as insomnia and anxiety.

Bed bugs feed on human blood.

Image CreditMainelyPhotos/Shutterstock.com

Habitat

The habitat of these insects is worldwide, never in nature. Instead, they live in mattresses, fabrics, furniture, luggage, and pieces of wood. They hide from light and movement during the day and come out at night, so they wait in seams of furniture, curtain folds, electrical appliances, the junction of the wall and ceiling, loose wall hangings and wallpaper, and even in heads of screws. They can live singly but come together in clusters in their habitat.

Diet

The diet of bed bugs is blood. Some species prefer the blood of one mammal over another in their diet, while others absolutely need the blood of a specific mammal to survive and lay viable eggs. Those that humans deal with as pests in homes, apartment buildings, and offices feed on human blood. Their bites don’t hurt at first because they inject an anesthetic while they are feeding, which is four to 12 minutes. Plus, they feed during the night, when it is dark and humans are asleep. Their bites most often appear on the neck, face, arms, and hands.

Prevention

To get rid of these insects more easily and quickly, noticing the early signs of bed bug infestation or symptoms of bed bug bites is important. Professionals first use visual inspection, then sniffing dogs, interceptor cups, and insect monitor cards. Average people, however, need methods that don’t require a lot of money.

To get rid of them, laundering and drying with heat is one method. Vacuuming and steam treatment are others. Commercial heating services offer whole-room heat or cold treatments to kill them. You can either heat a room at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or 130 degrees Fahrenheit for three hours. Cold treatment isn’t possible or practical except through commercial heating services. If you’re getting rid of infested furniture, make sure they’re unusable so other people won’t spread bed bugs to their own homes.

Finally, there are chemical treatments. Pesticides can be effective but need to be handled very carefully, and bed bugs can become resistant. They cannot be used on items that people come into contact with. Liquid and dry formulas should only be applied to cracks and crevices. They may include insect growth regulators as well as desiccants, which dry out these insects. They must be registered by the EPA and labeled specifically for bed bug control.

An alternative is the use of botanical oils, which are plant-based insecticides. Certain neem oil insecticides are registered for bed bug control.

As for how to prevent them in the future, a mattress encasement will protect your bed. It covers both the mattress as well as the box spring. Diatomaceous earth and pheromone traps work on everything else. It is difficult to find how to prevent bed bugs with just one method, though, so it’s best to use them together.

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Bed Bugs FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What do bed bugs look like?

Adult bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye. They are small, long, and brown, about the size of apple seeds.

How do I check for bed bugs?

Look for signs of bed bug infestation by checking mattresses, furniture, clothes, luggage, and electrical appliances.

How do I get rid of bed bugs?

Heat treatment with hot water and high-heat drying of fabrics, hot or cold treatment by commercial heating services, and insecticides. As for how to prevent them, furniture covers, diatomaceous earth, and pheromone traps work best when used together.

Where do bed bugs come from?

Bed bugs have been around for 115 million years, as early as 400BC. They thrive in dark, damp places but can be anywhere from public transportation and homeless shelters to homes, apartment buildings, offices, public libraries, and 5-star hotels.

What kills bed bugs instantly?

Diluted rubbing alcohol instantly kills all bed bugs it comes into contact with. Insecticides, which are best professionally applied by pest control services, also kill bed bugs instantly. But at home, you can use heat above 120 degrees F, a clothes iron, or laundering and dry with heat.

Where do bed bugs hide on your body?

They don’t. They only go on your body when they feed off your blood.

Can bed bugs live in your hair?

No, they don’t live anywhere on the human body.

Do bed bugs hide in pillows?

Yes, they are likely to hide in pillows.

What do bed bugs eat?

Bed bugs eat human blood.

Sources
  1. Bed Bug Lawyers, Available here: https://bedbuglawyer.org/types-of-bed-bugs/
  2. WhatKillsIt, Available here: https://whatkillsit.com/pests/how-many-types-of-bed-bugs-are-there/
  3. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cimex
  4. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bed_bug
  5. Terminix, Available here: https://www.terminix.com/bed-bugs/facts/
  6. USEPA, Available here: https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/bed-bugs-appearance-and-life-cycle
  7. Terminix, Available here: https://www.terminix.com/bed-bugs/human-symptoms/
  8. Mayo Clinic, Available here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bedbugs/symptoms-causes/syc-20370001
  9. Thermal Bedbug Heat, Available here: https://www.thermalbedbugheat.com/what-causes-bed-bug-infestation-and-how-to-control-them/
  10. Treating Bruises, Available here: https://articles.treatingbruises.com/are-bed-bugs-caused-by-poor-hygiene/
  11. Dominion Pest Control, Available here: https://www.dominionpestcontrol.com/how-fast-do-bed-bugs-spread/
  12. Terminix, Available here: https://www.terminix.com/blog/bug-facts/what-do-bed-bugs-eat-do-they-only-feed-on-humans/
  13. PetSeek, Available here: https://pestseek.com/what-do-bed-bugs-eat/
  14. DoMyOwn, Available here: https://www.domyown.com/where-do-bed-bugs-live-a-442.html
  15. Penn State Extension, Available here: https://extension.psu.edu/biology-habitat-and-management-of-bed-bugs
  16. Bed Bug Lawyers, Available here: https://bedbuglawyer.org/the-real-places-where-bed-bugs-come-from/
  17. Bed Bug Lawyers, Available here: https://bedbuglawyer.org/what-kills-bed-bugs-instantly/
  18. Pestivate.com, Available here: https://pestivate.com/where-do-bed-bugs-hide-on-your-body/
  19. Terminix, Available here: https://www.terminix.com/bed-bugs/behavior/can-bed-bugs-live-in-pillows/
  20. Pest Stop Solutions, Available here: https://www.peststopsolutions.com/how-long-does-it-take-for-bed-bug-infestation-to-show/
  21. USEPA, Available here: https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/bed-bugs-appearance-and-life-cycle
  22. Terminix, Available here: https://www.terminix.com/bed-bugs/life-cycle/
  23. TreatingBruises, Available here: https://blog.treatingbruises.com/what-is-the-incubation-period-for-bed-bug-eggs/

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