What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (or Cimex lectularius) are parasitic insects of the family cimicidae.  Bed bugs prefer to feed on the blood of warm blooded mammals, especially humans.  The name “bed bug” was introduced because it is common for bed bugs to live in people’s beds, as they typically feed while their host is asleep.  Bed bugs generally do not carry disease, but can cause many other physical, psychological and emotional symptoms.  Skin rashes, allergies, fears and paranoia are the most commonly reported.  Bed bugs have made a comeback in the past decade with an increase close to 5000% in reported incidents.

What does a bed bug look like?

Bed bugs are oval, flat in shape and do not have wings.  Bed bugs are generally large enough to be easily seen with the naked eye.  An adult bed bug that has recently fed is often compared to an apple seed in both size and appearance.  Immature bed bugs are a light yellow translucent color, while adults are a reddish brown color.  Regardless of their life stage, they will be darker after they have fed.  As a rule of thumb, bed bugs are generally smaller than 1/4 of an inch long.

How do bed bugs feed?

Bed bugs are generally nocturnal and come out between the hours of 2-5 AM, which is when they usually feed.  Bed bugs are hematophagous (bloodsucking) insects.  They pierce the skin of their host with two feeding tubes while injecting an anticoagulant and anesthetic to prevent the host from realizing that they are being bitten.  Bed bugs usually come out to feed for a period of no more than 5 minutes and then return to their hiding places.  It has been reported that bed bugs can live up to 18 months without a meal.

What are the symptoms of a bed bug bite?

Bed bug bites are very similar to mosquito bites.  The most common way to differentiate the two is the pattern.  Bed bugs like to bite in a pattern that is a linear group of three.  This is commonly referred to as “breakfast, lunch and dinner.”  Bed bug bites are usually more itchy and longer lasting than mosquito bites.  Some people are not susceptible to the symptoms caused by bed bug bites, while others can be extremely allergic.  Bed bug bites can sometimes last up to 9 days.

How often do bed bugs reproduce?

Female bed bugs can lay up to 500 eggs in a lifetime (up to 3-4 per day).  Eggs usually hatch within 6-10 days.  Bed bugs have 6 life stages (5 immature + 1 adult).  They shed their skin during each stage until reaching adulthood.

How do bed bugs get into a home?

Bed bugs are known to “hitchhike” on personal belongings such as luggage and furniture, and are most commonly spread through travel.  Bed bugs do not typically travel on a person’s body.  Once bed bugs make their way into a home or office, their thin profiles enable them to easily travel through walls to adjacent rooms, often resulting in an infestation of the entire building.

How do I know if I have bed bugs?

Please refer to our detailed article on Identifying Bed Bugs.

How do I avoid bringing bed bugs home after traveling?

Please refer to our section on Travel Tips.


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