The adult bed bug is reddish-brown in colour with an oval, flattened body around 4-5 mm long with 3 pairs of legs – the forelegs are very close to the head and the middle and hind legs are about 1/4 of the way along the body leaving a large portion of the bed bugs abdomen ‘unsupported’. The Bed Bug has a prominent piercing and sucking mouthpart in the form of a proboscis that swings forward and then downward when feeding. There is only 3 stages and the two nymph stages the developing Bed Bug look very similar to the adult, just smaller and lighter in colour.
Bed Bugs are truly ‘bugs’ as they belong to the insect Order Hemiptera. They have no wings and unlike Fleas cannot jump.
The Bed Bug lifecycle can take as little as 45 days or depend on food and temperature as long as a year in cooler environments. The average development from egg to adult is around 50 days.
The female Bed Bug must have a blood meal in order to lay her eggs. She will deposit 1-10 eggs or more per batch in secluded places. The eggs are extremely difficult to see without magnification, they are about the size of a dust spec, white in colour and sticky, causing them to adhere to the surface on which they were laid.
The eggs will hatch after about 7 days and the nymph looks like an adult except for it’s a smaller size (about the size of a pinhead) and lighter straw colouring. Given good food sources and favourable temperatures, the nymph will moult 5 times in as little as 40 days and requires a blood meal between moults. Bed Bug nymphs and adults can survive a year without a blood meal in cooler temperatures making them one of the most resilient insects.
The adult will emerge from the final moult ready to feed and to reproduce. A female Bed Bug will lay somewhere between 200-550 eggs in her lifetime.
Bed Bugs are pretty gross. They prefer to sleep where humans sleep and due to their small flattened bodies they love to get into mattress seams, bed frames and headboards. Bed Bugs don’t have nests but some research tends to show that an aggregation pheromone may be used as they tend to congregate in the same hiding spots. You will always know if Bed Bugs have been in a mattress, folding down the edge seams you will find dark spots and staining (if not live Bed Bugs) which is excrement. The Bed Bug is quite lazy and does not want to travel metres to get a meal so will be quite close to where the person will sleep.
Bed Bugs are often found in back-packer accommodation along with cheaper motels or dormitory type accommodation. Back-packers are the perfect transport mechanism and will carry bed bugs around with them in their luggage. This is why it is recommended never to open your suitcase on a bed or leave it on the luggage rack in a lower-rated motel.
The Bed Bug is a blood feeder and it seems that temperature is extremely important to a Bed Bug and research has shown they will feed in the few hours just before dawn before returning to their hiding place.