How Often Bed Bugs Reproduce
Top 10 Myths about Bedbugs
The insects, making a comeback around the globe, cannot fly and are really not interested in hanging out on your body–but they do occasionally bite during the day
- By Megan Scudellari on May 27, 2011
"data-newsletterpromo-image="https://static.scientificamerican.com/sciam/cache/file/CF54EB21-65FD-4978-9EEF80245C772996_source.jpg"data-newsletterpromo-button-text="Sign Up"data-newsletterpromo-button-link="https://www.scientificamerican.com/page/newsletter-sign-up/?origincode=2018_sciam_ArticlePromo_NewsletterSignUp"name="articleBody" itemprop="articleBody">
Once a pest of the past, bedbugs now infest every state in the U.S..Cimex lectularius—small, flattened insects that feed solely on mammalian and avian blood—have been living with humans since ancient times. Abundant in the U.S. prior to World War II, bedbugs all but vanished during the 1940s and ’50s thanks to improvements in hygiene and the use of pesticides. In the past 10 years, however, the pests have staged a comeback worldwide—an outbreak after the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney was a harbinger of things to come. This revival may be the worst yet, experts say, due to densely populated urban areas, global travel and increasing pesticide resistance—something to consider as the summer travel season gets underway.
"By every metric that we use, it’s getting worse and worse," says Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Health authorities and pest control operators are regularly flooded with calls, and the epidemic may not have yet peaked. And because bedbugs are indoor pests, there are no high or low seasons throughout the year, he adds, only continual bombardment. "It’s just the beginning of the problem in the U.S.," Schal says.
Spreading rapidly with the bedbugs is a mass of misinformation about their biology and behavior. Straight from the experts, here are the facts behind some of the most notorious myths about the diminutive bloodsuckers.
Myth 1: Bedbugs can fly
Bedbugs lack wings, and therefore cannot fly. That is unless you put a blow dryer behind them, says Stephen Kells, a bedbug researcher at the University of Minnesota. Then they’ll fly about 1.2 meters. On their own, bedbugs crawl about a meter a minute, he says.
Myth 2: Bedbugs reproduce quickly
Compared with other insects, bedbugs are slow to reproduce: Each adult female produces about one egg per day; a common housefly lays 500 eggs over three to four days. Each bedbug egg takes 10 days to hatch and another five to six weeks for the offspring to develop into an adult.
Myth 3: Bedbugs can typically live a year without a meal
Scientists debate this point, but evidence suggests that at normal room temperature, about 23 degrees Celsius, bedbugs can only survive two to three months without a blood meal. But because they are cold-blooded, their metabolism will slow down in chillier climates, and the insects may live up to a year without feeding.
Myth 4: Bedbugs bite only at night
Although bedbugs are generally nocturnal, they’re like humans—if they’re hungry, they’ll get up and get something to eat. "If you go away to visit a friend for a week and you come back and sit down on the couch, even though it’s daytime the bedbugs will come looking for you," Schal says. Keeping a light on, then, unfortunately does not keep these tiny vampires away.
Myth 5: Bedbugs live exclusively in mattresses
"’Bedbug’ is such a misnomer," Kells says. "They should also be called pet bugs and suitcase bugs and train bugs and movie theater bugs." Bedbugs spread away from beds into living areas and can be seen on any surface, he says, including chairs, railings and ceilings.
Myth 6: Bedbugs prefer unsanitary, urban conditions
"Bedbugs are terribly nondiscriminatory," Schal says. Bedbugs can be found anywhere from ritzy high-rises to homeless shelters. The prevalence of the bugs in low-income housing is therefore not a result of the insect’s preference, but of dense populations and the lack of money to pay for proper elimination strategies. "Any location is vulnerable," Kells says. "But some people are going to have a harder time getting control of them because it is such an expensive treatment."
Myth 7: Bedbugs travel on our bodies
Bedbugs do not like heat, Kells says. They therefore do not stick in hair or on skin, like lice or ticks, and prefer not to remain in our clothes close to our bodily heat. Bedbugs are more likely to travel on backpacks, luggage, shoes and other items farther removed from our bodies.
Myth 8: Bedbugs transmit disease
Bedbug bites can lead to anxiety, sleeplessness and even secondary infections, but there have been no reported cases of bedbugs transmitting disease to humans. They do, however, harbor human pathogens: At least 27 viruses, bacteria, protozoa and more have been found in bedbugs, although these microbes do not reproduce or multiply within the insects. Canadian researchers announced (pdf) in the June issue ofEmerging Infectious Diseasesthat bedbugs isolated from three individuals in a Vancouver hospital carried methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus, aka MRSA. Still, there have been no reported cases that the bugs actually transmit human disease.
Myth 9: We should bring back DDT
When the controversial pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, most bed bugs were already resistant to it, Schal says, and today’s populations are even more widely resistant thanks to the use of a new class of pesticides. Pyrethroids, the main class of pesticides used against bedbugs today, targets sodium channels in bedbug cells, just like DDT. Consequently, as bedbugs develop resistance to pyrethroids, they also become cross-resistant to DDT.
You may not realize that you have been bitten. Bite reactions vary from no reaction to mild red spots to severe rash or hives.
The return of the bed bug
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) were almost completely removed from North America due to mass treatments with highly toxic insecticides that are no longer in use.
Frequent travel, improved treatment methods that target other insects without affecting bed bugs, and a lack of public awareness has led to a rise in the spread of bed bugs.
Identifying bed bugs
Contact an expert to help identify any suspected bed bug specimens.
The "Let’s Beat the Bed Bug" campaign at the University of Minnesota found that 76 percent of samples submitted for identification are not bed bugs.
- Adult bed bugs are oval, flattened, brown and wingless insects approximately 1/4" to 3/8" long (5-9 mm). They are similar in appearance to a wood tick.
- After the bug has taken a blood meal its color changes from brown to purplish-red and it becomes larger and more cigar-shaped.
- Young bed bugs resemble the adult in shape but are much smaller, 1/16" (1.6 mm), when they first hatch. They are nearly colorless except after feeding.
After mating, females lay white, oval eggs (1/16" long) into cracks and crevices.
Bed bugs need to feed at least once before each molt, although they could feed as often as once a day.
Young nymphs can survive without a blood meal for days up to several months. Older nymphs and adults can survive longer without a blood meal up to a year under favorable conditions.
Bed bugs are also found in schools, retail facilities, office buildings, libraries and other public areas.
Signs that you have bed bugs
Look where you sleep
Bed bugs typically group together in out-of-the-way areas. But some bed bugs will live by themselves, away from the rest of an infestation. The best way to check for an infestation is to look for bed bugs where you sleep or rest.
In bedrooms, look particularly on and around:
- boxsprings, mattresses, bed frames, tufts, folds and buttons on mattresses
- furniture such as desks and chairs
- behind wallpaper, clocks and pictures
- cracks in wood floors and under the edge of carpet
Be careful when you travel
The greatest chance of finding bed bugs is while you are traveling. It is a good habit to check your room whenever on vacation.
Check your luggage where you typically set it down when you enter your home and where you store it after travelling.
While bed bugs are most commonly found in bedrooms, infestations can occur in other rooms including bathrooms, living rooms and laundry rooms.
Look for spots or smears
Bed bugs will sometimes deposit fecal spots (digested blood) while they are feeding. These are seen as dark (dark reddish or brownish) spots or smears found on bed sheets, pillowcases and mattresses, or in nearby areas.
- Dark blood spots on sheets and bedding may indicate bed bug feeding.
- In severe infestations, bed bugs may be more noticeable.
- A combination of bugs, cast skins (empty shells of bugs as they grow from one stage to the next) and fecal spots will be very obvious when closely seen.
These insects are small (1/16" to 1/4") and very flat, so they can move into very tight corners and cracks. They have been found under picture frames between the glass and the frame.
Bed bugs can be found behind electrical outlets and other wall plates.
- Inspect all areas closely and, if in doubt, contact a pest control service.
- If you find a bed bug stop inspection and begin control activity.
- Bed bugs will move from their hiding places once disturbed. All further inspections should be accompanied by control measures.
How to avoid bringing bed bugs into your home
Traveling and bed bugs
Inspect your personal items before packing and when you unpack
You can only confirm that bed bugs are present by carefully inspecting each item. Pay attention to cracks, crevices, seams and folds of material.
If you find bugs, then you have to be careful in containing the infestation.
Bed bugs do not travel on people
Bed bugs may hitch a ride on clothing, but they are not like lice and will not travel directly on a person.
If you are concerned about bed bugs on clothing remove suspect articles and put them into a plastic bag.
- Remove clothing in a place with a non-carpeted floor so bed bugs will have to travel before finding a hiding spot.
- A wet cloth wiped over the floor will help contain any bed bugs that try to escape.
Tips for reducing the risk of bringing home bed bugs
If you think there might be bedbugs on your items seal everything in plastic bags until they can be laundered, washed by hand, heated or frozen.
There is no need to throw away luggage and clothing after discovering an infestation.
Before leaving the location, sort anything that can be washed and place in plastic bags.
- Separate the laundry as you would if you were normally laundering items.
- This will prevent escaping bed bugs as you try to sort the laundry at home.
Items that cannot be washed may be heated or frozen.
- A two-hour core exposure at 120°F (45°C) is considered a minimum target temperature for heat treatments.
- For freezing, a minimum of 23°F (-5°C) must be maintained for at least 5 days.
- The exposure time can be reduced if the articles are flash frozen at a temperature of -15°F (-26°C), which would freeze the eggs instantly.
- Most household freezers will have temperatures between 30°F and 20°F.
- A 2-week freeze time is recommended if you are uncertain of the freezer temperatures.
If you heat or freeze items, these conditions must reach the core of the articles being treated.
Bed bugs on used furniture
Used furniture is another potential source of bed bugs.
- Do not pick up beds and furniture that have been left by the curb for disposal or behind places of business.
- Bed bug infestations can be found on tables, drawers and even electronics if these items were located in a bedroom or another place that was infested.
How to get rid of bed bugs
Hire a professional exterminator
We recommend that you seek assistance from a professional pest control company.
- An exterminator uses specialty equipment to move furniture, take it apart and control the infestation.
- They perform careful inspections along with non-chemical controls (heat treatments, vacuuming and steam treatments) and insecticide treatments.
- The insecticides used are commercial products requiring special equipment and training.
- Pest control services use heat treatment (118°F maintained for at least 70 minutes) in target areas.
- All stages of bed bugs are killed when this is done properly.
- Heat treatment does not prevent bed bugs from coming back into a home and reinfesting it.
- Sometimes furniture is removed and heat treated in a container. But, it is not necessary to move or throw away your furniture or belongings, especially from an apartment or condominium.
It is important to cooperate with a pest control service.
To find a professional belonging to the National Pest Management Association, go to the Pest World website and type in your zip code in the search box under "Find a Professional."
What you can do to help control an infestation
When working with a pest management company there are some additional things you might have to do to help get rid of bed bugs.
You can use your washing machine and dryer to kill bed bugs infesting clothes and other washable items.
- Clothes laundered in hot water and/or dried in temperatures hotter than 122°F for 20 minutes will kill all stages of bed bugs.
- This is typically the medium-high setting. If you are not sure what temperature your drier can reach, ask a professional to test it for you.
- You can also heat curtains and other fabrics, rugs, shoes, backpacks, stuffed animals, toys and similar objects by drying them at medium-high for about 30 minutes for a full load.
Cold temperatures can kill bed bugs if they are exposed to it long enough. All stages of bed bugs will be killed on objects left in a freezer at 0°F for 3 days.
- Putting infested furniture outdoors during winter may kill some bed bugs.
- Outdoor freezing temperatures will not always kill all of the bed bugs infesting an object. But, you can use the cold treatment to disable bed bugs until you decide what to do with the object.
An encasement is a fabric covering that looks like a very large sack with a zipper and that completely fits around a mattress or box spring.
They are useful when you want to protect a mattress you know is free of bed bugs (it has been heat treated or you have purchased a new mattress).
- You can also use encasements on infested mattresses and box springs to trap the bed bugs inside them; you can keep using your bed as long as the encasements are not ripped or torn.
- Buy encasements (from professional pest control services) that are specifically designed for protecting against bed bugs.
Bed bug interceptors
Bed bug interceptors are small plastic trays with an inner and outer ring. You can place them under the bed legs.
Bed bugs that try to climb up from the floor to the bed become trapped in the outer well. Any bed bugs that try to climb down will become trapped in the center well.
- Bed bug interceptors not only help to reduce the number of bed bugs that can reach the bed but also help determine whether bed bugs are present.
- You can buy bed bug interceptors online, from pest management companies, or from retail stores.
- Do not try to treat bed bugs yourself. The insecticides available in over-the-counter products are not effective in controlling bed bugs.
- Bug bombs (total release foggers) are not effective when treating bed bugs.
- These products throw insecticide into the air and very little product comes in contact with bed bugs hiding in cracks and behind and under objects.
- Bug bombs are potentially flammable if used incorrectly. It is easy for people to misuse or overuse bug bombs, and can result in unnecessary pesticide exposure.
CAUTION:We strongly discourage you from trying to treat bed bugs yourself. But, if you decide to use a pesticide, it is very important to carefully read and understand the label before using and to follow all label directions. The product you use should be labeled for bed bugs.
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.
244 of 253 people found this article informative and helpful.
Was this article informative and helpful to you? Yes | No
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:
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.