What are bed Bugs: appearance and life cycle
If you have been experiencing red, itchy rashes on your skin then it may be because of bed bugs. You must look out for bugs on your mattress or surrounding furniture and check if there are any bed bugs. But, how do you know if what you are seeing are bed bugs or not?
Bed bugs look different in each of their life stages. Hence, it becomes important to become familiar with each stage of their life cycle. Bed bugs are not harmful as such but their infestation can be psychologically triggering and make you unnecessarily anxious. It’s best to get rid of them to avoid any unwanted trouble.
The lifecycle of bed bugs
Understanding the lifecycle of bed bugs can help you know how long the infestation of bed bugs will last. Bed bugs do not travel on their own and hence, ignoring them can cause the infestation to grow even more. Taking the time to examine any bed bugs in your home can tell a lot about the extent of infestation in the home. A typical bed bug life cycle can be divided into mainly three stages – the egg stage, the nymph stage and the adult stage.
1. Egg stage
Eggs of bed bugs are small and difficult to identify. A bed bug infestation keeps on growing once it has started due to the frequency with which the female produces her eggs. Bed bugs lay their eggs in clusters in the cracks and corners of walls and furniture. A female can lay up to 5 eggs per day for her entire adult life. The eggs are extremely small in size, about 1mm and if the eggs are over five days old then a small black spot can be seen on the eggs. The eggs hatch 7-10 days after the female has laid them. After the bed bugs’ eggs are laid, in a week or two the eggs turn into nymphs and start looking for mammals to start their feeding routine. Since bed bugs hatch in a very short period, you will likely see more bed bugs every day since the beginning of the infestation. But, how does the infestation actually begin?
Most bed bugs enter your luggage in an infested hotel room or may get onto your clothes. Bed bugs can also enter via shared walls in your apartment. As soon as they have entered through a medium, they start spreading to other locations. The female bed bugs look for a hidden crack or crevice to lay their eggs in nooks and corners of beds, paintings or other pieces of furniture. They usually lay their eggs in clusters. So, if you are someone who frequently travels, you must take care of your belongings, wash your dirty clothes at the earliest, keep them away from the bed, wash your bed sheets often and vacuum clean your home.
2. Nymph stage
As soon as bed bugs hatch they start looking for their first blood meal from mammals. Bed bugs move from the egg stage to the nymph stage very soon. Freshly hatched eggs are called nymphs. They look for their blood meal before they can moult into their first instar nymph stage. They undergo a five-stage moulting process in five weeks after which they mature into an adult. Bed bugs undergo various nymphal stages before turning into adult bed bugs. Like many other insects, bed bugs shed their exoskeleton during each of their nymphal stages.
Nymphs are smaller than adults and lighter in colour than adults although they may look similar. Nymphs are translucent or straw coloured. They turn red after having their first blood meal from a mammal. Both adult and nymph bed bugs take about five to ten minutes for a complete blood meal. Bed bugs usually bite during the night as that’s when you are most likely to be on the bed. You may not feel their bite on your skin but your skin may see a small allergic reaction. This is mainly due to the proteins found in the saliva of bed bugs. You may experience itching if you scratch at the spot continuously. The reaction to the bite may stay on for about 1-3 days.
Adult bed bugs measure up to 4.5 mm long. An average adult bed bug lives for four to six months or a year depending on the natural conditions. An adult bed bug may obtain a blood meal once every week and can live longer without any food. After five weeks of maturation, adult bed bugs are capable of breeding and reproduction. Adult bed bugs give birth to new bugs and continue with their infestation. Adult bed bugs have flat, brown bodies and can grow to about an inch in length. Adult bed bugs are oval-shaped and their bodies enlarge after they have fed. An adult bug may obtain a blood meal once every week and can live longer without any food. Bed bugs can stay healthy even if they feed for about three to ten minutes every few days. They can go on for long periods without eating any food. Bed bugs’ lifespan is about 12 to 18 months. Throughout their lifespan, each female can create multiple generations of bed bugs throughout your home.
The appearance of bed bugs
Bed bugs are tiny and the size of a seed. Nymphs are smaller than adults, translucent, straw coloured. Nymphs are visible to the naked eye if they haven’t fed recently. Eggs are pearl white in colour and can be seen if they are more than five days old as they develop a black spot. Adult bed bugs are the largest in size. These can grow to about an inch. They are long, brown and have a flat, oval-shaped body. Bed bugs are smelly with a musty-sweetish odour which is produced by glands present on the lower side of their body.
Bed bugs can transfer from one place to another in a matter of seconds. They can move by getting onto clothes or luggage or any other materials and move with them. They can also spread unassisted within a matter of hours by crawling from one place to another.
Bed bugs can be found not just in beds but any other pieces of furniture such as paintings, walls, vases etc wherever there may be nooks and corners making it easier for the female to lay her eggs.
Bed bugs do not transfer any diseases as such. They only cause red itchy bumps on the skin. In cases where people have become ill after a bed bug bite, it is mainly due to, blood loss, or allergies.
The primary cause of a bed bug infestation is frequent travelling. Bed bugs hold onto luggage, clothes etc. From these objects, the bugs start infesting beds, furniture etc. Once the infestation has started it is not possible to get rid of them without proper pest control services such as these.
You can take certain steps to get rid of bed bugs.
1) Watch out for any signs of bed bugs. Any red itches on your skin etc. Notice any strange scent in your bedroom etc.
2) Wash all your fabrics. Make sure you wash your bedsheet and other clothes that may be infested. Hot water and drying clothes in the sun can help kill bed bugs.
3) Deep clean your mattress along with bedsheets, your mattress may also be infested. Make sure you clean the seams and/or vacuum clean the mattress to remove any infestation.
4) Fill wall cracks, clean your home thoroughly and seal all cracks and crevices so that there are no spaces for eggs to hatch.
5) Find a good pest cleaning service near you and get your home cleaned.
You can find bed bugs in any nook and corner of your home. These can be in the cracks of your bed, under mattress seam, behind pictures, wallpapers or paintings etc.
Out of more than 90 species of bed bugs, there are only three types of bed bugs which feed on humans.