What are bed bugs? Useful facts about these insects

What are bed bugs

Have you ever wondered what are bed bugs and how long they have been around? Well, you are not alone. Common as these insects are, many people don’t know much about them. To answer your question, bed bugs have been around for ages. And they are in no hurry to leave the planet any time soon. If you are finding it difficult to sleep at night because of them, stop hoping for them to leave you alone. That’s not going to happen.What can you do then?

First, learn as much as possible about them, in particular how to identify them. Next, equip yourself with knowledge about the best way to treat bed bug infestation.

All this information — and much more — is shared in this post. So, let’s delve in.

What are bed bugs – Short facts

If you are wondering what are bed bugs, these important facts will help you learn much about them.

  • Bed bugs are small, blood-sucking parasites which feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals.
  • Bed bugs don’t fly as they don’t have wings. They don’t even jump. But they are expert crawlers.
  • Bed bugs’ favorite food is human blood. That’s why they are mostly found in places inhabited by humans.
  • Bed bugs are part of the insect family Cimiciade.
  • Many different species of bed bugs exist. However, Cimex hemipterus and Cimex lectularius are two species that are commonly linked to human bed bug infestation.
  • Bed bugs don’t spread diseases, but scratching the bite site can increase the risk of bacterial or viral infection.
  • There are no sure tell-tale signs of bed bug bites. The most common sign is itching and appearance of reddish welts. However, not everyone whom bed bug bites experience symptoms. And among those who do, some don’t develop them for as long as a few weeks.
  • An adult female bed bug can lay up to a couple of hundred of eggs during her life.
  • In normal conditions, these wingless insects live up to 2-4 months.

Description and habits

What are bed bugs?

What are bed bugs? Let’s learn!

Do you know that while bed bug mostly feeds on humans, it doesn’t shy away from biting other warm-blooded animals, like rodents, cats, dogs, and birds, whenever the opportunity arises?

Bed bugs, if you didn’t know, are tiny, brown colored, flattened insects. Adult bugs have a reddish-brown skin color and are approximately 3/16” long. They have an oval-shaped body.

Sometimes, adult bed bugs are mistaken for carpet beetles, cockroaches, or ticks. The young bed bugs, which are called nymphs, are pretty much like their grownups, except for the size and color. Nymphs are smaller in size and lighter in color than adult bed bugs.

Bed bugs don’t have wings, so they can’t fly. These wingless insects don’t jump, either. However, they crawl with ease on different surfaces, including floors, ceilings, and walls.


Like many other female insects, adult female bed bugs look for a safe, secluded place for laying eggs. Adult females usually don’t deposit more than 2 eggs a day. However, during a lifetime, a single adult female bed bug can lay hundreds of eggs. This probably explains why a bed bug infestation grows rapidly.

Bed bug eggs are small, no bigger than a dust spec. Spotting them with naked eye, while not impossible, is extremely difficult, more so on surfaces having a light color. Newly-laid eggs are sticky. If you look with a magnifying glass, you’ll find newly-laid eggs sticking to the surface.

The eggs hatch within approximately a week at room temperature. When nymphs come out of the eggs, they have a straw color and are about just as big as a pinhead.

Bed bugs molt when they grow. They shed their skin no fewer than 5 times before hitting maturity. The need of blood meal is greatest between 2 successive molts. Additionally, adult females need blood meal to deposit eggs. When the conditions are favorable (temperature around (70-80°F), bed bugs can reach maturity within a month. However, fewer opportunities for blood meal and cooler temperatures result in their taking more time to become mature.

Extreme resilience

These little, pesky insects are extremely resilient. Nymphs, as well as adults, can go without food for months. This behavior is not seen in many insects. At cooler temperatures, bed bugs can even survive for a longer period of time without having a blood meal. If the temperature is 55°F or lower, bed bugs can live for up to 12 months without having a blood meal. In buildings where temperature is usually controlled, bed bugs can survive up to 2-6 months.

In short, leaving the building so that bed bugs can starve themselves to death is an impractical solution. When an infested apartment becomes empty, bed bugs stealthily move to other units nearby or lower their activity till the apartment is occupied again.

Night creatures

These insects are mainly active at night. Bed bugs prefer to stay in hiding close to where humans sleep in daytime. Because bed bugs have a flat body, they can easily slide into small crevices, particularly into small gaps in mattresses, bed frames, box springs, and headboards.

Some bugs prefer to make nests, like bees or ants. Some others congregate in usual hiding places. Bed bugs are of the second type. That is why, the customary hiding places of bed bugs are almost always marked with dark spotting, which is their dried excrement.

These places are also marked by un-hatched and hatched eggs, skin sheds, and, of course, bugs themselves. Presence of reddish or rusty smears is also another common sign of bug infestation. These smears occur when bed bugs get crushed, usually under the bodies of people who sleep on the mattress and on whom bed bugs feast in the night.

While bed bugs like to hide near their feeding place, if necessary they can crawl many feet to get their hands on blood meal. When an infestation is new, bed bugs prefer staying close to sleeping areas, that is, beds, recliners, and couches. In case an infestation grows, bed bugs spread to other parts of the unit also, making complete removal all the more difficult.


Has the question what are bed bugs and how to identify them puzzling you?

It is important for to learn how to correctly identify bed bugs. Even though bed bug problem is a common one, research shows that many people fail to identify them correctly.

In one campaign, in which residents submitted suspected bed bug samples, the experts found that 76 percent of specimens that were submitted weren’t bed bugs.

How do bed bugs look?

An adult bed bug has a brownish skin color and an oval, flattened body. Bed bugs don’t have wings. Adult bed bugs are about 5-9mm long. In appearance, they are similar to wood ticks.

While an adult bed bug has brown color, after having a blood meal, its color changes to purplish-red. Additionally, after feeding, a bed bug becomes larger and its body shape is more cigar-shaped.

Young bed bugs, on the other hand, are no bigger than 1.6 mm. After hatching, young bed bugs look colorless, except after a blood meal. Young bed bugs have the same body shape as adults.

As young bed bugs grow, they shed skin, five times all together. You are likely to find cast skins in places where bed bugs are hiding. Dried fecal spots (blackish in color) can also be seen at the hiding places or in and around the feeding sites.

Life cycle

After mating, adult female bed bugs deposit eggs into cracks and crevices. Bed bug eggs are white, oval, and about 1/16” in length. A single adult female bed bug can lay about 200-250 eggs during her life.

How soon eggs hatch depends on weather conditions. Normally, eggs take about 6-10 days to hatch. Nymphs (which are newly-emerged bugs) molt 5 times before they become adult. The lifespan of adult bugs is approximately 2-4 months.

Bites and health concerns

Mostly bed bugs search for blood meal at night. However, it is not uncommon to find hungry bugs feeding during the day, particularly when that’s when the people living in the dwelling sleep.

Bed bugs use their elongated beak to pierce the skin and draw blood. The feeding can take anywhere between 3 and 10 minutes. Bed bug bites are painless and that’s why the individual who’s being bitten really realizes this.

Do bed bugs live on humans?

Unlike head lice, bed bugs don’t live on humans. After they have had their blood meal, they move to a safe, secluded place, where they can digest their meal without any risk of being disturbed.

Signs of bed bug bites differ from individual to individual. Some people develop a reddish, itchy welt soon after being bitten, within 24 hours or so. Others don’t develop a welt or show any reaction. At times, there’s a delayed reaction, occurring after a few days or even a couple of weeks the bite.

According to studies, usually 30 percent of individuals bitten by bed bugs don’t experience any reaction. This percentage is even higher among older adults.

While fleas prefer to bite around the lower leg region, bed bugs don’t discriminate. For them any exposed body part is as good an invitation as any to grab a blood meal. Bed bugs usually bite at parts that are exposed during sleep, which usually are the face, shoulders, neck, back, arms, and legs.

So, do you need to worry?

Many people have health concerns regarding bed bugs, in particular whether they spread diseases or not. While bed bugs can hold different pathogens, there’s no evidence of their transmitting disease to humans. So, one can rest easy on this count.

Itching and inflammation at the bite site is the maximum they can do. In some cases, an allergic reaction occurs, which can be treated with oral antihistamines. For itching and inflammation, you can use a suitable ointment.

Many people who wonder what are bed bugs don’t realize that while they don’t transmit disease, they are more than just petty nuisance. They can disturb your sleep, which is no small matter. According to various studies, continuous lack of sleep, besides causing frustration, increases the risk of several health conditions, like heart disease and depression.

Avoid bringing bed bugs into your home

Bed bugs love hitch-hiking. When you travel, they can stealthily attach themselves onto your luggage and clothes. Regardless of where you stay, check the room to ensure it is bed-bug free. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.

The other potential source is used furniture.

  • Avoid buying second-hand furniture and beds. And if you must, conduct a thorough inspection to ensure they are not housing bed bugs.
  • Bed bugs can also be found in tables and drawers, as well as electronics. So it is best you don’t purchase these items second-hand. At the least, thoroughly inspect any used table, drawer, or electronic item before bringing it home.

Looking for signs of bed bugs

Bed bugs like to stay close to where you sleep. If you suspect presence of bed bugs in the house, first check where you sleep.

In bedrooms, examine:

  • mattresses, box springs, bed frames, folds, tufts, and mattresses buttons
  • behind wall-mounted pictures and clocks, as well as under the wallpaper, especially if it is loose
  • furniture like sofas, recliners, chairs, and desks
  • cracks in wooden floors
  • below the edge of your carpet
  • check the luggage when you travel, as well as the part of the house where you store it

Bed bugs commonly hide in bedrooms, but they can dwell in other areas of the home too (like laundry rooms, bathrooms, and living rooms), especially if the infestation has grown.

Where do bed bugs hide?

These little, wingless insects can thrive in the smallest of crevices. Most commonly, they hide close to where people sleep. That’s why their most preferred hiding location is mattresses, especially when the infestation has not grown too much.

When the infestation becomes bigger, bed bugs move to places other than the bed. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to control them.

They usually hide in folds, crevices, and seams of mattresses, bed frames, headboards, and box springs. For close inspection, it is necessary to dismantle the bed, as this will allow you to examine the surfaces, as well as the seams, both upper and lower.

Check for shed skins, blackish or brownish fecal spots, and, of course, bed bugs. Dried fecal spots are present along the length of a mattress seam, as well as in any other place where bed bugs are hiding.

Check everything thoroughly!

The box spring is a safe haven for bed bugs. They most commonly hide along the length of the upper seam and below it.

You should also check crevices and cracks of your bed frame, particularly if you have a wooden frame. This is because bed bugs prefer fabric and wood more than plastic or metallic. Knots, screw holes and other small recesses are among the favorite hiding places of bed bugs.

The next favorite hiding spots of bed bugs are recliners, sofas, and upholstered chairs. Carefully examine the seams, folds, and skirts of fabrics.

Dressers and nightstands are other common places where bed bugs love to hide. Usually bed bugs hide in the corners, cracks and recesses. In addition to these places, bed bugs also frequently dwell at the edge of wall-to-wall carpeting, particularly behind recliners, sofas, and beds; behind pictures mounted on ceiling walls, wood molding cracks, behind wall-mounted mirrors, switch plates, and outlets; in closets; under wallpaper; and inside phones, televisions, smoke detectors, and clocks.

How to get rid of bed bugs?

One of the major concerns of many people is how to terminate bed bugs. While there are many do-it-yourself methods to get rid of bugs, the truth of the matter is they rarely, if ever, work.

Over-the-counter bed bug killing solutions, both organic and chemical-based, are largely ineffective at treating bed bug infestation. The same is the case of over-the-counter insecticides, no matter what the ads of these products say.

If you are dealing with bed bug infestation, you should seek the help of experts. Controlling a bed bug infestation is serious work, one which requires special skills and products.

Some of the common methods used by professional pest control companies to treat bed bug infestation include insecticide and heat treatments, among others.


Bed bugs can cause much trouble. While they don’t spread diseases, they can disrupt your sleep, night after night. Bed bug bites can also lead to allergic reaction. Therefore, it would be a mistake to think about bed bugs as just petty nuisance.

Bed bugs are great at hiding, and they prefer places that are near to where residents sleep. Examine your mattress, bed frames, box springs, and headboards if you suspect bed bug infestation.

Look for shed skin, blackish dry fecal spots, dark stains on your mattresses (which are crushed bed bugs), and bed bugs themselves.

If you see any of these signs, you must take immediate corrective measures to address the problem. The best way to handle bed bug infestation is by calling in experts.


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