Bed Bugs

Cimex lectularius

Last updated: March 24, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Dmitry Bezrukov/

Bed bugs feed for 4-12 minutes.


Bed Bugs Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Cimex lectularius

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Bed Bugs Conservation Status

Bed Bugs Facts

Name Of Young
Fun Fact
Bed bugs feed for 4-12 minutes.
Gestation Period
1-2 weeks
Beds, furniture, buildings, fabrics
American cockroaches, cone-nosed insects, pharaoh ants
Common Name
bed bugs
Number Of Species

Bed Bugs Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • Red
10-12 months
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 – Also known as the common bed bug. While these can be in the same location as the tropical bed bug, they typically are not in the same warm areas. But bed bugs can be found wherever their hosts can be found.
  • Cimex hemipterus – Also known as the tropical bed bugs. These are very similar in appearance to the common bed bug and have similar characteristics, and they obviously live in tropical climates.
  • Leptocimex boueti – As a result, populations of this type of bed bug are contained in South America and West Africa. This is partially due to the fact that humans actually aren’t the primary prey for this species of the bed bug. Most members of Leptocimex boueti feed off of bats rather than humans, although they’re not choosy eaters.

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.

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What Do Bed Bugs Look Like

Four out of 90 subspecies of bed bugs feed on humans.

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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.

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.

Read this guide on how to identify bed bugs for more information.

Bed bugs feed on human blood.


History and Evolution

When it comes to evolution, it is always important to factor in what the animal ate and what was in its diet. This is because survival ability dictates adaptation and supports evolution towards being more successful at obtaining that food source. It is especially important for animals like bed bugs that require a host to feed.

Specific species of bed bugs are generally known to feed on four different types of hosts: humans, bats, water birds, and other birds. This is because they have evolved to become very adept at feeding off them. As researchers are finding, however, the history of the bed bug ancestry dates back many millions of years ago and predates some of their current hosts, like humans. Scientists are working on solving the puzzle of how these insects were able to make the jump between different types of hosts over their evolution.


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.

Bed bugs - signs on mattress

Bed bugs live in mattresses and fabrics.



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.

How Big Are Bed Bugs Compared to Other Bugs Poster Image

Bed bugs feed on their hosts at night.

©Dmitry Bezrukov/


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. Read our complete guide on how to get rid of bed bugs for more information.

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.

Bed Bugs Exterminator - professional

Bed bugs exterminators use gloves and safety glasses to inspect infected mattress sheets and blanket bedding.

©Michael O’Keene/

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. We recommend all of the items below be used in conjunction for the most effective bed bug prevention.

  1. Bed Bug Killer by Ecovenger 16 oz
    • USDA BioBased formula is child and pet friendly
    • 100% effective per recent study
    • Kills bed bugs at all stages - adults, nymphs, and eggs
    Check Amazon
  2. SureGuard Bed Bug Mattress Encasement
    • Effective encasement against bed bugs
    • Waterproof - doubles as a mattress protector
    • Invisi-Zip and SureSeal enclosure ensures no bed bug entry
    • 100% Cotton top - free from phthalates and other unhealthy chemicals
    Check Amazon
  3. HARRIS Bed Bug Traps - (20-Pack)
    • No chemical option to confirm bed bug presence
    • Catches other bugs and pests as well
    • Easy detection coverage for 2-3 rooms.
    Check Amazon
  4. EcoPest Bed Bug Interceptors – 8 Pack
    • No chemical solution to block bed bugs
    • Easy application
    • Effective blockers for other pests like spiders
    Check Amazon
  5. Queen Mattress, Novilla 10 inch Gel Memory Foam Mattress
    • 10 inch gel mattress is very comfortable
    • Easy to apply encasement compared to wood frame mattresses
    • Fast shipment and easy to install vs traditional optionss
    Check Amazon
  6. Housmile Bed Vacuum Cleaner, UV Handheld
    • Powerful 10Kpa suction sucks up dust mites
    • Specialized design for cleaning mattresses
    • UV lamp eliminates moisture and kills bacteria

    Check Amazon

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About the Author

Heather Ross is a secondary English teacher and mother of 2 humans, 2 tuxedo cats, and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading papers, she enjoys reading and writing about all the animals!

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.

What is the difference between a baby cockroach and a bed bug?

The greatest differences between a baby cockroach and a bed bug include size, shape, and antennae. Baby cockroaches are equal in size but grow slightly larger than them in a short amount of time. Baby cockroaches are cylindrical in shape, but bed bugs are oval-shaped, and that difference makes it easy to distinguish these creatures.

What is the difference between a bed bug and a spider beetle?

The subtlest difference between a spider beetle and a bed bug is in their shape. While both insects are oval-shaped, the bed bug is flatter than the spider beetle. A good picture that may help you spot this difference is that the bed bug is typically shaped like an apple seed, while the spider beetle looks like it is hunch-backed.

What are the differences between male and female bed bugs?

There are only two ways to differentiate male bed bugs from female ones: the shape of their abdomen and whether or not they lay eggs.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

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