The Complete Guide to the Bed Bug Cycle

Some people victimized by bed bug infestations develop psychological trauma. These include severe anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder like symptoms. They can also cause physical manifestations, such as secondary skin infections.

So, even if bed bugs aren’t known to cause diseases, they can still take a toll on your health.

That’s why it’s vital to know the signs of bed bugs before they run rampant at home. One of the best methods to help you determine infestations is knowing the bed bug cycle of life. This can help you distinguish bed bug eggs from nymphs or adults.

After all, some pest control methods, like chemicals, work on nymphs and adults but not eggs. However, professionally-applied heat treatment kills all stages of bed bugs.

With all that said, let’s explore how bed bugs live and why they seem to be immortal.

The Egg Stage

An adult bed bug can lay one to five eggs every day. At room temperature, these eggs hatch within six to 10 days from the time they get lain. Optimal egg development appears to occur in environments with temperatures of 50 to 98.6 °F.

What Do Bed Bug Eggs Look Like?

Bed bug eggs are white and tiny, measuring only about one millimeter. They look much like sesame seeds, only plumper.

Moreover, you’ll notice two red spots on each egg if you look at them through a magnifying glass. Those red spots are the nymphs’ developing eyes. The darker and more vivid the red is, the closer the eggs are to hatching.

Live bed bug eggs are fully-sealed and intact. If one end of the shell is open or it looks shriveled, that only means it has already hatched.

Where Can You Find Bed Bug Eggs?

Adults deposit the eggs near blood hosts, but usually in places that get the least disturbed. For example, they can lay their eggs in or near the screw holes of your bed frame. They may also enter the mattress through splits or cracks and then lay their eggs inside.

The Juvenile Stage

Also known as “nymphs” or “hatchlings,” juvenile bed bugs look much like their egg cases. However, freshly-hatched baby bed bugs are slightly bigger, at about 1.5 mm. Juveniles at this stage (without having fed yet) are also known as “first-stage nymphs.”

Feeding and Molting

First-stage nymphs seek a host as soon as they come crawling out their eggs. This means that you can wake up to fresh bed bug bites the day after they’ve hatched.

Once they’ve had their first blood meal, baby bed bugs then go on to molt or shed their exoskeleton. The “molting” stages are also called “instars.” Bed bug nymphs undergo five molting stages, after which they become adults.

Each instar takes an average of five to eight days to complete. As such, the entire juvenile stage can last for 25 to 40 days.

However, bed bugs can become adults sooner if they get to feed more often. That’s because they require at least only one blood meal per molt. So, if there’s always a host they can feed on, they can progress to adulthood faster.

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like When They’re Still Nymphs?

An unfed first-stage nymph still looks like a sesame seed (with legs). Once it obtains its first blood meal, its abdomen turns red and engorged. It might look like a small but plump apple seed.

From here, it can already complete its first molt, and its abdomen shrinks again. However, a second-stage instar already features a tiny dark spot on its abdomen. This darker area grows in size each time the nymph molts.

Juvenile bed bugs also get bigger after each molt. By the fifth stage, a nymph can already measure 4.5 mm.

The Adult Stage

A fifth-stage bed bug nymph only needs one more blood meal before it reaches adulthood. As soon as it does, it sheds its exoskeleton for the last time. After this, it becomes a full-grown adult female or male bed bug.

What Do Adult Bed Bugs Look Like?

Adult beg bugs measure about 5 mm in length. When fed, they get really stout and plump due to all the blood they’ve sucked. Unfed adult bed bugs are flat and somewhat translucent, so you can still see their internal parts.

You can also tell the gender of adult bed bugs by the shape of their abdomen. Male bed bugs have an abdomen with a more pronounced pointed tip (like a “V”). Females have a more rounded abdomen (like a “U”).

When Do They Start Reproducing?

Adult bed bugs are ready to reproduce anytime, provided that they’ve fed. As for mate preference, males seem to like mating with bigger-sized partners. A study found that males mate with such females almost twice more than smaller ones.

How Do They Reproduce?

This is where things get even more horrifying.

After a blood meal, adult bed bugs, especially the males, become quite feisty. So, they seek a female bed bug to mate with right after they’ve fed. They then impregnate the adult female through a process called “traumatic insemination.”

It’s “traumatic” because the male adult stabs the female with its reproductive organ. Called the “paramere,” the male inserts this into the female’s “Organ of Berlese.” The male then releases its sperm, which then travels into the female bug’s ovaries.

The sperm transport takes a few hours, but fertilization begins as soon as it reaches the ovaries. Inseminated females can mate only once but produce eggs for many days. This depends on the number of meals the adult female can obtain, though.

The more she feeds, the more eggs she can produce. She’ll eventually run out of sperm, but she only needs to mate to get her eggs fertilized again. Finding a mate isn’t a problem, as she can pair up with one of her male adult offspring.

This is one reason that bed bugs, despite being less productive than other pests, can be hard to control.

Stop the Bed Bug Cycle Before Their Populations Go Out of Control

Now, you know how the bed bug cycle of life and reproduction goes. Always keep in mind that while it takes about 25 to 40 days for first-stage nymphs to become adults, it can be shorter. So long as they have a host, they can become reproductive within just a week from hatching.

So, as early as now, consider investing in integrated bed bug heat treatment. Give us a call here at Custom Bedbug to learn more about this effective bed bug control method.

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