The Life Cycle of a Bedbug
Did you know that a single female bedbug can lay hundreds of eggs throughout her lifetime?
During the previous century, the bedbug population was all but extinct, partially due to the use of toxic pesticides which are no longer in use.
But in recent years that’s all changed. Bedbugs have become a serious problem for many homeowners and even businesses.
A bedbug infestation is serious business and it’s not something that one should take lightly. Bedbugs have a remarkable ability to survive anything but the most well planned out extermination solutions.
In fact, many so-called solutions can actually make the problem even worse. So, if you think you might have bedbug trouble it’s important that you speak to an exterminator as soon as possible, as the infestation will probably get worse over time.
In order to help you recognize any potential warning signs of a bedbug infestation, I’d like to share a few details with you about the various phases of the life cycle of a bedbug.
Bedbug Life Cycle Phase #1: The Egg
Bedbug eggs are tiny.
They are about 1 millimeter (0.039 inches) in diameter.
In other words, they are roughly the size of a couple of grains of salt.
Sometimes these eggs are laid and stored individually, other times they may be stored in clusters. The bedbug mothers generally try to lay their eggs in tight cracks and crevices where they will be protected and not easily accessible.
Bedbug eggs are pearl-white in color. After five days of existence, they tend to develop a small dot on the side.
Most eggs hatch within two weeks. Under optimal environmental conditions, which includes temperatures between 70-90°F, most eggs will hatch within no more than 6-9 days.
An important fact to keep in mind about bedbugs is that many so-called bedbug solutions, may help to eradicate the bugs themselves. Unfortunately, many of these treatments are not effective at destroying bedbug eggs. This is one of the reasons why working with a competent exterminator is so important.
Bedbug Life Cycle Phase #2: The Nymph
After birth, the newborn bedbugs immediately seek to begin feeding.
The most vulnerable part of the bedbugs’ life cycle is between the time of hatching and the first meal of the young bedbugs (or nymphs as they are called).
Depending on where their eggs were laid, it’s possible that a newborn nymph could have to travel several yards before finding a suitable host for their first meal (i.e. blood; a bedbug’s diet consists completely of blood). Given their incredibly small size and their limited capacity to travel very far, such conditions can actually lead a newborn nymph to die of dehydration before managing to find a host for its first meal.
That said, researchers believe that more than 80% of nymphs survive to reach adulthood.
Mature bedbugs are brown, oval-shaped and flat. After feeding on blood, their bodies elongate and become more plump, taking on a cigar-like shape. Their color also turns dark purple.
Nymphs are fairly similar in shape. But they are significantly smaller and they have yellowish-white (almost colorless) bodies. Due to their having somewhat transparent skin, their bodies take on the color of blood after feeding.
As they progress towards adulthood, nymphs go through five molting stages during which they shed their skin in a similar manner as snakes do.
Each molting phase includes a blood meal. The nymphs need this meal in order to molt their skin and advance to the next phase of growth.
Under favorable environmental conditions, each molting stage will last roughly 5-8 days, given proper access to a host for regular blood meals. If the nymphs are exposed to cooler temperatures (50-70°F), each molting stage might be prolonged by about 2-3 days.
A nymph’s development from birth until adulthood is estimated to take approximately 37 days.
Bedbug Life Cycle Phase #3: Adulthood
As previously mentioned, adult bedbugs have brown, flat and oval-shaped bodies. They are roughly a quarter of an inch long.
Unsurprisingly, bedbugs are nocturnal creatures, meaning that they sleep during the day and become active at night.
Their daytime rest is spent inside cracks, crevices and other cramped areas with low visibility.
Bedbugs generally prefer to congregate in areas that will allow them to reach a blood meal host (humans or animals), without having to travel very far. This often includes areas like:
- Cracks or crevices in headboards
- Underneath mattress tags
- Hidden areas along the stitching of pillowcases, bed sheets and mattresses
- Open areas of box springs
- Inside open electrical outlets near the bed
As bedbugs reproduce and an infestation becomes more serious, these popular hiding places may become too crowded causing some of the bugs to search for hiding spots further away from their host.
Bedbugs usually awake and become active during the hours between midnight and 5:00 AM. The adults generally feed about once every 3-7 days.
A single bedbug may bite its host several times before finding an ideal feeding spot. Once it does find a good spot for feeding, it will feed on its host’s blood for about 5-10 minutes. As the bedbug feeds, its body elongates and turns from brown to dark purple and from flat to round and plump.
Bedbug Life Cycle Phase #4: Reproduction
An important part of a nymph’s passing into adulthood is that after the final molting stage is complete the recently matured adults are capable of reproduction.
After feeding, bedbugs (particularly the males) are eager to mate. As opposed to the reproductive process of humans and other species that reproduce by having a male insert his genitals into those of a female in order to inseminate her reproductive organs, the mating process of bedbugs is rather unusual.
In a process known as “traumatic insemination”, a male will literally stab his reproductive organ into the right side of a female’s body in order to deposit his sperm into what is known as the Organ of Berlese. During the next several hours this sperm will migrate to the ovaries and fertilize the female’s eggs.
This traumatic reproductive process takes a toll on the female’s body. After being stabbed in the side by a male’s reproductive organ, the female is left with a wound which will scar and from which she needs time to heal. If she is mated again too quickly or too frequently, her ability to produce eggs may diminish to a certain degree.
At times, females will migrate away from a group of bedbugs after being mated several times in order to avoid further physical damage while she takes time to heal.
A female’s ability to produce eggs is largely dependent on routine access to blood meals. A female can produce up to 20 eggs after the consumption of a single blood meal.
Bedbugs can live up to approximately one year. During this time a female bedbug might lay hundreds of eggs.
If just one solitary female bedbug, that has already been inseminated, manages to find her way into a home, she can single-handedly form the beginning of a full-blown infestation. Even after using up all the sperm in her body to produce new eggs, the mother can continue to reproduce by mating with her offspring.
Unfortunately, the discovery of even a single bedbug in your home can indeed be cause for concern. If you fear you may have bedbug trouble, we strongly encourage you to reach out to an exterminator and request an inspection.
If you are interested in a free inspection, please contact us. We’d be happy to help you.
Presidio Pest Management