How Bed Bugs Mate

How Do Insects Have Sex?

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  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Insect sex is, for the most part, similar to other animal sex. For most insects, mating requires direct contact between a male and a female.

Generally speaking, much like humans, the male of the insect species uses his sex organ to deposit sperm into the female’s genital tract spurring on internal fertilization.

But there are some standout cases where males and females make no contact at all.

Wingless Insects

The primitive insect order (Apterygota) relies on an indirect method of sperm transfer to its mate. There is no insect-to-insect contact. The male deposits a sperm packet, called a spermatophore, on the ground. For fertilization to occur, the female must pick up the spermatophore.

But there is a bit more to the male’s mating ritual than just dropping some sperm and running. For example, some male springtails go to great lengths to encourage a female to pick up his sperm.

He may nudge her toward his spermatophore, offer her a dance or even impede her path away from his sperm offering. Silverfish males attach their spermatophores to threads and sometimes bind their female partners to force them to accept their sperm package.

Winged Insects

Most of the world’s insects (Pterygota) mate directly with the male and female genitalia coming together, but first the couple must attract a mate and agree to mate.

Many insects use extensive courtship rituals to choose their sexual partners. Some flying insects can even mate midflight. To do so, the winged insects have a unique sex organ for the task.

After a successful courtship, copulation occurs when the male inserts part of his penis, also known as an aedeagus, into the female’s reproductive tract. In many cases, this requires two steps.

First, the male extends its penis from his abdomen. Then, he extends his penis further with an inner, elongated tube called the endophallus. This organ acts as a telescoping penis. This extension feature enables the male to deposit his sperm deep within the female’s reproductive tract.

Satisfying Sex

One-third of insect species studied by scientists show that the males do not seem to neglect their partners either. There seems to be a decent effort on the male’s part to make sure the female is pleased with the sexual encounter.

According to Penny Gullan and Peter Cranston, ​entomologists from the University of California-Davis, in their textbookThe Insects: An Outline of Entomology:

"The male indulges in copulatory courtship behavior that appears to stimulate the female during mating. The male may stroke, tap, or bite the body or legs of the female, wave antennae, produce sounds, or thrust or vibrate parts of his genitalia."

Another example, milkweed bugs, also known as Oncopeltus fasciatuas, may copulate for several hours with the female leading and the male walking backward.

Everlasting Sperm

Depending on the species, a female insect can receive sperm in a special pouch or chamber, or a spermatheca, a storage sac for sperm.

In some insects, such as honey bees, the sperm remains viable for the remainder of her life in the spermatheca. Special cells within the spermatheca nourish the sperm, keeping it healthy and active until needed.

When the bee’s egg is ready for fertilization, sperm is pushed out of the spermatheca. The sperm then meets and fertilizes the egg.

Bed Bug Reproduction

By DoMyOwn staff

How do bed bugs reproduce?

Male and Female bed bugs mate by what is called traumatic insemination. The traumatic insemination takes place by basically stabbing the female’s abdomen with a specialized hardened reproductive organ. The fertilization can take place at any location on the abdomen and the male’s gametes will travel to her ovaries or reproductive gametes. Once fertilization occurs the female contains viable eggs for 5-7 weeks. After three or so days of feeding, the female begins to lay eggs. As the female lays eggs, she continues to feed. She can produce an average of 3-8 eggs a week. The eggs hatch and immediately feed.

Female bed bugs are capable of laying as many as twelve eggs each day after being fertilized and having a proper blood meal. They are deposited in small cracks and crevices along bed frames, baseboards, and carpet linings. The female lays the eggs with an adhesive layer to assure that the eggs will stay in place. The baby bed bugs will hatch from the eggs in around six to seventeen days. The young emerge and immediately begin to feed or search for food. Nymphs and adults are able to survive long periods of time without food. Bed bugs usually live for a year to a year and a half. Three or more generations can occur each year.

To stop bed bug reproduction, use an IGR (insect growth regulator). For bed bugs, we specifically recommend using Gentrol IGR.

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Bed Bugs Reproduction

How Bed bug reproductions works

All Bed Bugs mate via a process termed traumatic insemination. Instead of inserting their genitalia into the female’s reproductive tract as is typical in copulation, makes instead pierce females with hypodermic genitlia and ejaculate into the body cavity. This form of mating is thought to have evolved as a way for makes to overcome females in terms of physical damage and increases risk of infection. To reduce these costs females have evolved internal and external ‘paragential’ structures collectively known as the ‘spermalege’. Some bedbugs species make use of a mating-plug, secreted by t he male upon withdrawal after bug fornication, effectively sealing the vaginal area of the female to protect against other males

Remarkably, in the genus Afrocimex both males and females possess functional external paragenitalia, and males have been found with copulatory scars and the ejaculate of other males in their haemolymph. There is a widespread misbelief that makes inseminated by other males will in turn pas the sperm of both themselves and their assailants onto females with whom they mate. While it is true that males are known to mate with and inject sperm into other males, there is however no evidence to suggest that this sperm ever fertilizes females inseminated by the victims of such acts.

Restrictions to Bed Bug Reproduction

In a natural controlled conditions, traumatic insemination was frequent and temporally restricted. It has been shown for the first time, to our knowledge, that traumatic insemination results in last-male sperm precedence, suboptimal remating frequencies for the maintenance of female fertility, and reduced longevity and reproductive success in females. When the females are experimental they do not receive indirect benefits from multiple mating. In conclusion that traumatic insemination is probably a coercive male copulatory strategy that results in a sexual conflict of interests.

These days there has been a shift away from the view that the sexes share a common goal during reproduction and a move toward the concept that males and females are often in conflict over reproductive outcomes. Sexual conflict occurs due to the potentially different fitness optima for each sex resulting from copulation, such as conflicts over isogamous and anisogamous reproduction, copulation duration and mating frequency, and relative parental investment. Conflicts may arise when copulation is costly to one partner (usually the female), due to adaptations in the male that are associated with sperm competition.

Capacity of Bed Bug Reproduction

Female bed bugs have the ability to lay up to five eggs a day, allowing up to 500 eggs in a life time. Meaning the bed bug eggs must be treated as well in order to eliminate the infestation. Using products that contain IGR (Insect Growth Regulator), IGR does not destory nor kill the eggs but prevents them from being able to reproduce. Use Gentrol IGR Bed Bug Aerosol Sparyor Gentrol IGR Liquid Concentrate along cracks and crevices, baseboards, floors, ceilings, walls, under beds, closets (do not spray on bedings or the mattress) while treating bed bug infestation. There are non residual sprays such as Steri Fab that can be used to treat the mattress and will not irrate the skin. The eggs are visible to the naked eye measuring 1 mm in length and are a milky- white tone. The eggs are ready to hatch in one to two weeks. The hatchlings begin feeding immediately. They pass through five molting stages before they reach maturity. They must feed once during each of these stages. At room teperature its takes only about five weeks for a bedbug to pass from hatching to maturity. They become reproductively active only at maturity.


To control both adult bed bugs and their eggs use one of the kits provided:

If you would like to just Purchase the IGR by itself used the products recommended above:

What You Should Know About Female Bed Bugs And Bed Bug Eggs

Dini M. Miller, Assistant Professor of Entomology, Virginia Tech, recently provided an update on bed bug biology and control at Chicago’s ‘A Meeting of the Minds V’.

You should know …

Mating Biology

  • Bed bugs can not mate until they have fed 5 times and shed their skins or exoskeleton 5 times – this takes approximately 37 days depending upon access to a host for feeding.
  • Once fed, the adult male bed bug is very interested in mating.
  • Bed bugs mate by traumatic insemination – the male stabs through the female’s abdominal wall to deposit sperm which migrate to her ovaries and fertilize her eggs.

Bed Bug Egg Biology

Adult bed bug with grains of rice and flanked on each side by a bed bug egg

  • A mated female bed bug can lay 5 – 20 bed bug eggs over 10 days – providing she has recently fed.
  • A meandering female bed bug may lay her eggs anywhere – singly or in groups.
  • She will eventually run out of sperm and have to mate again to continue egg production and her egg production will be dependent upon regular feedings.
  • Over the course of her lifetime, providing she feeds regularly, the average female bed bug will lay 131 bed bug eggs.
  • Of those 131 bed bug eggs, approximately 97 percent will be viable and successfully hatch.
  • Providing the bed bug egg incubation conditions are ideal – 70°F/21°C or above – 60 percent will hatch on day 6, and less than 90 percent by day 9. Decreasing the temperature to 50°F/10° C will add several days to the bed bug egg hatch timeline.
  • The ratio of male and female eggs produced is about equal – 1:1.
  • Within 16 days – under ideal conditions – a bed bug population could double. Ideal conditions are between 70°F/21°C and 90°F/32°C with regular feedings.

1 Bed Bug May Become An Infestation

It is apparent from these population numbers that a single breeding female can be the origin of an infestation, as Dini Miller states:

"In practical terms, this means that a single mated female brought into a home can cause an infestation without having a male present, as long as she has access to regular blood meals. The female will eventually run out of sperm, and will have to mate again to fertilizer her eggs. However, she can easily mate with her own offspring after they become adults to continue the cycle.”

Early Bed Bug Detection

When faced with numbers like these, it is apparent early bed bug detection is crucial to nip an infestation before the population gains ground. Learning about bed bug biology and behaviour is your first line of defence. Establishing a pro-active early bed bug warning system is the second step. Passive bed bug monitors are an excellent second line of defense. TheBB Alert Passive Monitor, is simple to use, costs 8¢/day over a year and provides an early warning system to safeguard your home and your family.

How Bed Bugs Reproduce

In order to prevent the spread of bed bugs, it’s important to understand how they reproduce. Bedbugs reproduce via hypodermic insemination, also known as traumatic insemination. Male bugs use their genitalia to pierce the females anywhere on the abdomen, releasing sperm into the body. The sperm migrate through her abdominal fluiduntil they arrive at the ovaries, resulting in fertilization of the eggs.

The mating process is traumatic for female bed bugs, and they are frequently injured in the process. The wound can result in infection and leakage of blood, which reduces the lifespan of the female. For this reason, female bugs will avoid excessive mating where possible. After mating, they prefer to move to a location where they can remain undisturbed with a guaranteed food supply. In a safe environment, a female bed bug will typically lay between one to seven eggs each day, following each blood meal.

Bed bugs generally live for 12 to 18 months. During her lifetime, a female bed bug will lay up to 250 eggs. The milky-white eggs are roughly one millimeter long, and visible to the naked eye.The eggs are deposited in crevices and cracks on bed frames, baseboards, furniture and carpets. The female uses an adhesive layer to ensure the eggs remain in place.

Because mating results in scarring, females that have mated many times within a short period of time will produce fewer eggs. Females that have time to recover from the mating process will produce more eggs. This phenomenon helps increase the proliferation of bed bugs, because pregnant females will travel to new locations to avoid male bugs.

Eggs hatch within 1-2 weeks. The nymphs that emerge can feed on blood immediately, but are unable to reproduce until they have fully matured. Theyundergo five molting stages before reaching adulthood. During each stage they must feed at least once. The time taken to mature depends on the temperature – from three weeks in warm weather to four months in cold weather.

A female bed bug may mate with any of her adult offspring, and will lay eggs continuously assuming she has access to a blood meal. Thismeans a single pregnant female can easilycreate an infestation of five thousand bugs within six months.

A 2010 study discovered that bed bug nymphs release a pheromone that prevents males from attempting to mate with them. Scientists hope to eventually use this pheromone to disrupt bed bug reproduction and reduce infestations.

If you really want to get rid of bed bugs today try SayByeBugs! It was developed as a safe and highly effective alternative among a sea of products that rarely deliver on their promises.

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