Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are so named because they recognize their meal will come when humans are most vulnerable. They live in cracks and crevices within your bed and linens. They can be found on wooden slats, springs as well as the bed frame. They can also live in wallpaper crevices, electrical wall plates, light fixtures, wall hangings, cabinetry as well as carpet fibers and wooden floorboards.
For their size, common household bed bugs are extremely fast. When the lights go out they make their way from their hiding place and find locations on a human host that can accommodate their rich tastes (generally legs, arms, shoulders and waist).
Bed Bug Feeding Habits
Bed bugs are typically active at nightime, with a maximum attack period about an hour or two before sunrise, though given the chance, they may try to feed at other times throughout the day. Attracted by warmth and the presence of CO2, the bug penetrates the skin of its host with two hollow injector tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while the other tube withdraws the blood from its host. After a five minute blood meal, the bug returns to its hiding area. The bites can’t usually be felt until a few minutes or hours later. Although bed bugs can live for up to 20 months without a meal, they usually look for blood every five to ten days.
Bed bugs are often falsly associated with dirt. They are attracted by exhaled CO2, not by filth, and they feed on blood, not garbage. The cleanliness of their surroundings has no effect on bed bugs.
Bed bugs have been known to carry pathogens in their bodies, including plague and hepatitis-B. But they have not been linked to the transmission of any diseases and are not a medical threat. Some people can get skin irritations and scars from scratching bed bug bites. While these bugs are not thought of as a vector of transmissible diseases, they are a serious irritator and will create a lot of worry and alarm. With some people, it may precipitate mild cases of delusory parasitosis.
Bed Bug Reproductive Habits
Female bed bugs can lay up to five eggs in a single day and up to 700 during a typical life time. Their eggs are able to be seen by the naked eye, and measure 1mm in length (approx. 2 grains of sugar) and are a milky-white in color.
Some bed bug species make use of a mating-plug, secreted by the male upon withdrawal after bug fornication, effectively sealing the vaginal area of the female to protect against other males. Among these species, the male impales the female via her stomach, thus avoiding a mating-plug.
Bed Bug Behavior
Bed bugs start life as an egg, laid by an adult female. Female bedbugs exude an adhesive when eggs are laid affixing them to concealed surfaces. Hatchling bed bugs are poppy seed sized. Adult bed bugs are oval shaped and ¼” in length. Colorations of bed bugs range from off-white after molting to burnt orange or dark brown. Bed bugs go through five molts before becoming sexually mature adults. bed bugs cast their shed skin each molt. bed bugs only require one blood meal to develop to the next stage. Well fed adults may live from 6-18 months. bed bugs can survive for months between feedings.
Bed bugs are wary and cautious. When disturbed, bed bugs actively scurry trying to escape seeking shelter in dark cracks and crevices. Bed bugs prefer to feed at night while their hosts are sleeping. bed bugs when hungry will feed during the day. Bed bugs can move from room to room by passing through wall cavities and conduits through which wires and plumbing pipes pass. Bed bugs are most abundant close to where people sleep, dwelling in and near bed or furniture used for sleeping. Favored harborages for bed bugs include: box springs, mattresses, bed frames, picture frames, nightstands.
Bed bug infestations can start for a number of reasons. Most bed bugs find a new home because they were transported from place to place by travelers. Often times, they hitch rides in suit cases or laundry to end up in the home of their next host. It is recommend that when traveling to areas that are known to have higher numbers of infestations, the traveler should make sure to sleep with clean bed linens and wash laundry before taking it back home. Motel, hotels, and other sleeping areas that have high turn over rates for travelers are at a much greater risk for infestation.
Bed bugs will usually take refuge some place near their food source. Since their food source is mostly sleeping humans, the most logical place to find a bed bug is near the bed. Bed bugs will use their small flat bodies to hide themselves in the crevices or folds of sheets and mattresses. They will usually stay hidden during the day, and come out only at night to feed. This makes them very difficult to detect, and infestations can become very large and out of control before they have ever been seen.
At night, while the host is asleep, the bed bug will venture out and find its food source. It can take up to ten minutes for an adult bed bug to fully engorge itself with blood. As they fill themselves with their hosts blood, their bodies enlarge and turn a darker red color. They will then crawl back to their hiding spots where they will digest their meal and sleep until time to feed again.