Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are tiny and kings of the game of hide-and-seek. Because of this, bed bugs are challenging to spot. If, for example, you repeatedly notice bites on your body in winter, sooner or later, you will inevitably suspect that bed bugs may be the cause. But what do these bloodsuckers look like, and how can bed bugs be recognized? How do bed bugs behave, what development do they take, and what effects do I have to fear in an incident?
- Bed bugs are about 4-6 mm long.
- The body shape is oval, the back and underside are flat with six solid and well-developed legs (nickname: paper flounder). The adults have scaly front flights; the larvae are wingless.
- The mouth is pointed for stabbing and sucking.
- Adult bed bugs are yellow-brown to red-brown in colour. After the blood has been sucked, the colour of the abdomen changes increasingly from red to black.
- The eggs are whitish or cream-coloured and darken just before the larvae hatch.
- Bed bug larvae are approx. 1 mm long and have a pale, transparent colour.
- The shed skins are light brown and look like scaly skin armour.
- Bed bugs are not to be confused with dust mites. Bed bugs are nocturnal parasitic insects that live in the blood of warm-blooded mammals. House dust mites, on the other hand, are microscopic spiders and feed on dead skin cells. They cannot be seen with the naked eye.
- Over two months, bed bugs lay 200 to 500 eggs in several batches of 10 to 50 pieces each, i.e. one-bed bug lays eggs every day.
- The adult female must ingest blood before laying eggs.
- The larvae must suckle blood at least once in each of their five developmental stages.
- The eggs are usually laid in cracks and crevices, but they can also stick to furniture or fixtures in lumps and surrounded by a transparent substance.
- The life cycle from egg to adult insect can range from 45 days to a year.
- Bed bugs can survive without food for weeks or months.
Way of life
- Bed bugs are light-shy and nocturnal and are therefore difficult to spot. As blood-sucking parasites, bed bugs specialize in so-called organisms of the same temperature, i.e. they usually infect mammals and birds. In the absence of these host animals, humans are also likely to be attacked. Bed bugs are attracted to (body) heat, carbon dioxide (breathing air) and body odour (sweat). When they pierce the skin, they release an anaesthetic secretion so that the bite initially goes unnoticed.
- Adult bed bugs “visit” their victims approximately every 3-7 days and suck blood. The “attack” on their victims usually happens in the early hours of the morning. The act of sucking bed bugs takes between three and twenty minutes, depending on how quickly productive blood capillaries are found. After eating, bed bugs retreat to their hiding place. They react to disturbances with quick movements and the emission of an odorous substance.
- Bed bugs can go up to seven months without a blood meal at room temperature and even up to 500 days at lower temperatures.
- Bed bugs usually only colonize individual rooms at first, as long as a potential host can be found, sought out and stung here at regular intervals. Therefore, a “move” to neighbouring premises occurs above all when bed bugs are no longer a blood host or when the colonization pressure of the bed bug population has become too high.
Bed bugs: the implications
The consequences of bed bugs are many. Bed bug bites are themselves painless, but bed bugs inject saliva into the wound when they bite. This causes severe itching in affected people and reveals red wheals or blisters, which swell to different degrees depending on the person’s sensitivity. Symptoms caused by bed bug bites can last for 7-10 days.
Sometimes people react with a disorder of their general condition, visual disturbances up to asthmatic attacks. Hives-like skin reactions (urticaria) are just as rare as eyelid swelling (eyelid oedema) or milder allergic reactions. As far as we know today, bed bugs do not transmit any infectious diseases, although hepatitis, borreliosis and HIV have been detected in bed bugs.
The longer those affected are exposed to bed bug bites, the more desensitization usually occurs, which means that, for example, in people who live longer in “bugged” apartments, the symptoms tend to decrease.
A bed bug infestation that goes undetected always carries the risk of a rapid spread of infestation (epidemic), as an infestation can spread to neighbouring rooms and the whole house, which not least reduces the costs of the Bed bug control increases quickly. Therefore, contact us immediately as soon as you can identify a bed bug infestation.