Bed Bug Life Cycle
You hear horror stories of bed bugs hitching a ride across the country, infesting dorm rooms and hotels, and making their homes in walls and nightstands. But how do these tiny insects make such huge journeys, and how long can they survive without eating? Knowing the bed bug life cycle and the biology around their habits can help you stay prepared and prevent an infestation.
Bed bugs date back to prehistoric times when they lived in caves and fed on bats. When humans moved in, they then fed on humans. They stuck with the humans as they moved out of the caves and into agricultural homes. So it is that the bed bug was a hitchhiker from the start.
Bed bugs go through five developmental stages called nymphs or instars, each stage requiring a blood meal to get to the next stage. They shed their exoskeleton as they grow and move on up. In fact, this molting is what people often find when they suspect bed bugs. At the adult stage, the final stage, bed bugs then need a blood meal to reproduce. From nymph to adult can take about 37 days, depending on how often they feed and the environmental temperature (they like it warmer than 70 degrees Fahrenheit).
Meals and Mating
Bed bugs actually spend most of their lives hiding, when they are not feeding or mating. They are nocturnal, coming out of their hiding places usually between 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Humans are most likely to be fed on in this short time frame. The bugs are attracted to the CO2 that humans emit as they breathe out and their body heat. They can travel several yards to find their meal. Once found, they probe the human’s skin with mouthparts looking for capillary space to feed quickly. The same bug may bite several times before feeding, which is why a collection of small bites can be an indication of bed bugs. They feed for five to ten minutes every three to seven days.
Male bed bugs like to mate after feeding, and bed bug mating is particularly traumatic for females. They are stabbed through their body wall, leaving a scar. Females will actually leave an aggregation of bugs after being mated with a few times to avoid any further damage. The more the female can feed, the more eggs she can lay. On average, a female bed bug can produce up to seven eggs per day for 10 days after only one feeding. So one female bed bug can produce about 113 eggs during her life. 97% of eggs hatch, usually when they are six to nine days old. With these numbers in mind, a bed population can essentially double every 16 days.
The Mature Bed Bug
Once a bed bug reaches adult status, he’ll live between 99 and 300 days. This refers to bed bugs studied in laboratories at room temperature, however it’s not yet known how long bed bugs live in domestic settings. Since domestic settings are much more challenging for bed bugs than a controlled lab, it’s thought that they live at least a couple of months but likely not much more than that. Starvation and dehydration will also negatively affect a bed bug’s life span. A bed bug cannot survive longer than approximately 70 days without a meal.
Stop Bed Bugs in their Tracks
Bed bugs are notoriously resistant to typical insecticides and chemicals. With some creative thinking and testing, Maine Bed Bugs and Pest Control has come up with a safe solution to bed bug infestations. We use heat to kill the bugs AND their eggs, stopping them in their tracks when it comes to your home and your family’s safety. No tenting, no chemicals. If you suspect you have a bed bug infestation, call us today at (207) 650-8654 or request a quote online.