Understanding the bedbug life cycle is vital if you want to get rid of bed bugs! Get quick facts about bed bug eggs, nymphs and adults; watch the video to see what they look like in real life; and learn what you need to know about all life stages to successfully identify and kill them.
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While you may not be all that interested in their biology and behavior, here are 8 quick facts about the bedbug life cycle you should know:
For a look at live bed bugs in all stages of their life cycle, click on the video below. You can jump down to the full discussion of the key things you should know about the bedbug life cycle in order to get rid annoying little buggers successfully by clicking here.
I love this video because it show all stages of bed bugs (including eggs) in real life so you can get a better idea of what they look like. It also shows what cast skins look like which is important because they are one of the 9 symptoms you should look for to figure out if you have a bed bug infestation. One note though, the nymphs (baby bed bugs) in this video still have remnants of a blood meal in them so they look darker that they would if they had not been fed. For more photos of baby bed bugs, check out our bed bug picture gallery.
The video does start out a little goofy and may not seem that serious at first, but entomologist Mark “Shep” Sheperdigian knows his stuff. Its actually jam packed with useful information about what bed bugs look like in all stages of their life cycle. Definitely worth the 2 minutes it takes to watch!
This video is shared via the Bed Bug Answers Channel on YouTube. For more helpful videos, visit (and like!) us on YouTube :)
What do bed bug eggs look like? Believe it or not, even bed bug eggs are visible to the human eye although they can be hard to see.
Personally, I think bed bug eggs look like little pieces of rice. But they can be compared in size to a large grain of salt as shown in the video above. They are tiny (about 1mm long) and are very light in color – ranging from translucent (almost clear) to a milky sort of white color.
This is why a magnifying glass can be
helpful when you are looking for signs of bed bugs. They have a
sticky film which gives them a kind of shiny appearance and helps
them stick to surfaces until they hatch. More photos of bed bug eggs...
It takes about 6-10 days for a bed bug egg to hatch. The hatched egg looks clearer in color and kind of like tiny deflated balloon. Once an egg has been hatched is not shiny any more and has a dried out appearance.
Its important to note that many of the treatments that will kill bed bugs will not kill their eggs. The only things that are known to effectively kill eggs are heat and gas fumigation. This is something to keep in mind when choosing bed bug pest control options.
Fear not. If you can kill the babies before they reach adulthood and reproduce...you can stop the bedbug life cycle in its tracks!
The first thing a newly hatched baby bed bug does is search for a blood meal. Baby bed bugs (technically called “nymphs”) go through 5 stages of development instars. So a 1st instar nymph is a “newborn” and a 5th instar nymph is a “bedbug teen”, so to speak.
What do baby bed bugs look like? Well, basically they look like mini versions of adult bed bugs, but they are very light in color – almost clear.
Like the eggs, they start out very tiny (approx. 1mm), about the size and color of a sesame seed and grow to about 5mm (¼ inch) as adults.
The blood is clearly visible in a nymph that has just fed. They look like tiny swollen purple balloons!
As baby bed bugs develop toward adulthood, they do
get darker in color.
They can feed as often as once every day and they have to have a blood meal to grow from one stage to the next. They can also survive months without feeding, but they basically get stuck at whatever developmental stage of the bedbug life cycle they're in until they get their next meal.
They develop through a process called molting. Baby bed bugs literally “crawl out of their skins” as they move from one stage to the next. Cast skins (some people call them bed bug shells) are one of the key symptoms of a bed bug infestation. You can also see more pictures of cast skins here in the bed bug picture gallery.
Adult bed bugs are about ¼ inch long, about the size and shape of an apple seed. They are extremely flat like a business card or a credit card, which allows them to hide in very surprising places.
They are brown to reddish-brown in color and become more shiny and purple-ish red after they've fed. As they feed, they swell up into a capsule like shape – kind of like little blood balloons. (Okay, I know that's gross – but its an accurate description). See more adult bedbug photos here.
On average, they feed about every 3-10
days. Again the estimates vary, but it most experts agree that it
takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes for an adult bed bug to fill up on
blood at one feeding. They must have a blood meal to reproduce.
Female bed bugs can lay an average of 3-5 eggs per day. The jury seems to be out on exactly how many bed bug eggs an adult female can lay in her lifetime, but the estimates range from 200 – 500!
The full growth cycle from egg to reproducing adult can
range from 1 month to 4 months. Two factors that affect the time-table of the bedbug's life cycle are temperature and the availability of food (blood).
In warmer conditions bed bugs bed bugs mature more rapidly and are likely to feed more frequently if there is a source of blood. In cooler temperatures, bed bugs can go into semi-hibernation allowing them to live much longer - even without feeding.
In the absence of a host on which to feed, bed bug nymphs can still live for a few months. But they can't develop from one stage to the next. Basically their growth is “stunted” until they can get another meal.
Adult bed bugs can be surprisingly hardy. Under the right conditions, they can survive up to 18 months without feeding. That's right, a year-and-a-half!
This is why sleeping somewhere else, like a friend or relative's house, will not solve your problem. When you return, they will still be there waiting...and hungry.
Want to explore the bedbug life cycle further? This fact sheet from the Medical Entomology Department of the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research has lots of useful info including a great photo infographic of the the bed bug life cycle by Dr. Stephen Doggett.
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