It’s every traveler’s nightmare — pulling the sheets after a long day only to spot a tiny critter taking up space in the area where you’re supposed to rest. Bed bugs are sneaky, hitching rides in suitcases and settling into new destinations while they hide and feed on you at night. But how long do bed bugs live? And when are they most active? Let’s find out!
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are small insects that grow only to about 1/4 inches long. They have a flat abdomen, and they don’t have wings. Their color is kind of a reddish brown and although they don’t have wings to fly and they’re not able to jump, they can scatter about pretty quickly.
You’re unlikely to see them during the day because they prefer the cover of nightfall to emerge. They’re called bed bugs because, during the day, they settle into beds. This can be the mattress, the sheets, the pillows and pillowcases, and even the headboards. They may also find crevices cozy. Those crevices could be in your furniture or even in any openings alongside your walls.
These insects feed on blood. They may feed on animals, but they also feed on humans. When they’re full, their coloration shifts a bit, and they exhibit an even redder tone. Bed bugs don’t nest like other insects, but they do live in groups. If you see one, there are likely many more hiding about.
How Long Do Bed Bugs Live?
Female bed bugs can lay hundreds of eggs throughout their lifetimes, which is usually about 10 to 12 months. Each egg is so tiny, it’s almost imperceptible. It’s kind of like a tiny particle of dust. While the bed bugs are still immature, they are called nymphs.
As they mature, they have to shed their skin multiple times. Sometimes, you may not spot a bed bug, but you may spot the shedding they leave behind. So long as the conditions are favorable for their maturation (meaning they have enough blood to feed on), they can fully develop in about one month. Each female can then produce a minimum of three more bed bug generations each year.
When Are Bed Bugs Most Active?
As if they had tiny watches, bed bugs emerge around midnight and remain active until about 3 AM. During daylight hours, they are concealed in their preferred crevices or cozy spots on a bed. What wakes them up and draws them to you is your resting body. You’re warm and you release carbon dioxide. Ultimately, this is what attracts those bed bugs and causes them to emerge from their hiding places. They can remain active until about 5 AM just before daylight breaks.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
The best way to get rid of bed bugs is to prevent them altogether. For instance, using a protective cover on your mattress is a great idea because that way, bed bugs can’t settle into your mattress. Do the same for your box springs. Make sure that you keep an eye on the protective covering and determine if there are any holes that bed bugs might squeeze into.
A minimalist environment in your bedroom is also a great deterrent for bed bugs. If they don’t have plenty of places to hide, they won’t be able to settle in during the day. Along with keeping a minimalist environment, you want to make sure that you are cleaning regularly. That means vacuuming everything, including your mattress.
When you’re traveling, make sure that you place your suitcase on an elevated surface like a suitcase stand or a dresser. Avoid placing it on top of a bed or on any furniture in the hotel environment you’re staying in. If you have already spotted bed bugs and you need to get rid of them, it’s not the easiest task. However, act quickly. Immediately strip your bed and throw your sheets in the wash.
Grab your curtains and any clothing and use the hottest water setting you have available. If you have items that you can’t throw in the washer (like shoes), use your dryer. Set it to the highest setting and run it on high for at least half an hour. When it comes to your bed, you’re going to need a stiff brush.
This way, you can aggressively scrub your mattress to remove any remaining bed bugs and any eggs that they have already laid. Then, get in there and vacuum it completely. Once you’ve cleared your mattress, seal it with a protective cover. If there are any surviving bed bugs, they may be able to remain alive for a couple of months. But without being able to feed, they eventually die.
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