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All about the Different Types of Bed bugs, Life Cycle, Biology, Identification, Facts & Other Bed bug Information
What are Bed bugs?
Bed Bugs are very small insects that feed on the blood of animals, specifically warm-blooded animals. While only about a quarter of an inch in size, Bed bugs can easily be seen by the human eye. Because they don’t fly, you will generally find them packed up together in some kind of nest, which is why they like people’s beds.
Bed bugs come from the family Cimicidae. This family is comprised of over 100 species worldwide. The bed bug is an ectoparasite that chooses to feed primarily on humans. The nature of an ectoparasite is to feed on the external surface of a host skin and in this case the human skin. Bed bugs do in some instances of desperation choose to feed on the pets and animals that share the home. This insect species shares a long and disturbing history with human-kind. Much of the focus and efforts to understand this species are among top priorities in IPM or integrated pest management solution studies.
Where do bed bugs come from?
Bed bugs derive from one of the three lineages of the Heteroptera suborder that have all adapted specifically as blood feeders. This adaption to require a blood meal is called hematophagy, haematophagy, or hematophagia.
The cimicids began as a family primarily feeding on bats or birds as hosts. Research speculates that the transition from birds to bats then to bats and humans took place in the era of humans dwelling in caves. The human time frame of inhabiting caves dates back to the Paleolithic period. It is said to have taken place anywhere from 2 million to 10,000 years ago during the Stone Age. The extension of the Cimex lectularis to bats and primarily humans is said to have occurred somewhere is the range of the Indonesian areas.
Bed bugs are introduced in literature as far back as the historical Roman and Greek ages when writing techniques where perfected. This dates back to around 405 to 400 BC, over 2,500 years ago.
The history of bed bug and human relationship is reflected in both language and legend. The Indo-European, African, and Oriental languages all have names for bed bugs. These unpopular companions are mentioned throughout Greek literature. Bed bugs are even mentioned in the Talmud and New Testament.
This insect is also feature in works by many famous scientist and physicians like Aristotle, Pliny, and Guettard. The bed bug was said to aid in curing many ailments like bites and infections. Though they could have been written about long ago in the times of the Phoenicians, Babylonians, and Assyrians, no record of them has survived.
Between the 11th and 19th centuries it was said that bed bugs where introduced into the European civilizations in wood shipments to rebuild London after the Great Fire’s destruction. Bed bugs where repelled and killed it many unique ways. The people would use anything from oils, plants, fungi, peppers, insect juices, tobacco, and other herbs. The later centuries used smoked plant fires to produce a fumigant. They also used diatomaceous earth and other soil types as well to repel the bugs. All of the early techniques took a long time to affect the bed bugs. The use of plants with micro hooks, like bean leaves, proved to be a helpful form of trapping the bed bugs then the leaves where burned! During these centuries it was said that bed bugs thrived in the warmer seasons. It is suspected that the invention of heat and temperature systems aided in the survival of the species year round.
The use of DDT came into effect and all insects where halted by this pesticide. The bed bugs were then forgotten throughout the years. Bed bugs have appeared to have come out of thin air. The resurgence of bed bugs into the center stage has been quite a shock after spending over 50 years in the dark. Just over a decade ago, the bed bug was below the top insect pest charts. In recent years bed bugs have risen to generate about 90% of pest management issues. Humans have deemed the bed bug as one of the most successful and hardy ectoparasite in the world.
After the use of DDT in the 1940s to 1970s the species was thought to lose its place in the pest control world. Over the years, bed bugs have grown resistant to common pyrethroid insecticides. Due to the other pests lack of vigilance it has allowed the beg bug to reach epidemic proportions.
The bed bug travels worldwide with free tickets to any country it can hitch a ride to. Today, travel is at an all-time high, which allows bedbugs to shipped anywhere.
It is said that the bed begs come from the old world. The old world is made up of the European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indonesian areas. This is where the bed bug gained free travel through various trade routes and expeditions. The bed bug is flightless, so this mode of transportation was perfect for being introduced to new habitats. The adult bed bug is hardy and could survive long periods of time without blood meals. This allowed it to move from location to location perfectly undetected. When the adult females did feed, they release maximum amounts of egg volumes to increase the numbers of the populations.
Where do bed bugs naturally reside?
The bed bugs species that feeds on humans are never found in nature. They exist primarily in fabrics, luggage, furniture, and in cracks of wood. They have evolved to become discrete hitchhikers. They are known to flourish in countries where pest control is unaffordable or nonexistent. Though there are some subspecies within the family Cimicidae that primarily are the parasites of bats or birds, they are also known to bite people. These species are similar in appearance but there are distinct differences from the wild species that feed on wild animal hosts
Bed bugs indoors
Bed bugs can survive extremely lengthy durations in hiding in clothing or on the host until they find a proper area to sustain a population. Part of bed bugs’ particular skill set of going unnoticed has made it easily transported by luggage, clothing, beds, furniture, and other items they can tuck away in. Another way bed bugs enter homes and are transported is in used beds, couches, and other used furniture.
This makes frequently traveled and lodging areas highly problematic areas for bed bugs. The most problematic areas are like hotels, apartments, and dormitories. Due to frequent traffic in these areas, it increases the chance for bed bugs.
Unlike other insects that are provoked and drain to dirty and filthy settings, it is not the case with bed bugs. The cleanest homes, buildings, rooms, furniture, and fabrics can be infested. The fact that the bed bugs solely feed on blood, any location they are introduced can be at risk.
Today, bed bugs are known to inhabit 100% of the temperate regions in the world. The spread of the bed bug has become so prevalent due to methods of modern transportation via train, car, plane, and boat. The bed bug has been allowed access to every terminal and port on any continent traveled. It has primarily gained the biggest foothold in some of the most frequently traveled cities, specifically in their hotels. Bed bugs can be found in any location human’s visit or inhabit on the planet. This invasive species has spread to all regions of the world.
Example of Bed bug Nymph up close:
This nymph picture of a bed bug is noticeably more transparent and lighter colored than the adult forms.
Example of bed bug probing human skin up close:
This is an adult female bed bug on the surface the skin, take special notice to the dark rust color and circular abdomen region.
Bed Bug (Cimex lectularius)
Colorado Bed Bug (Hesperocimex coloradoensis)
Swallow bug (Oeciacus vicarious)
Bloodsucking Conenose (Triatoma sanguisuga)
Western Bloodsucking Conenose (Triatoma protracta)
Commonly mistaken species:
The most common mistake is that people assume that other ectoparasites are bed bugs! Though the body anatomy and colors from afar with the naked eye makes for a compelling comparison, but up close and by nature these external parasites are all completely different. Some refer to these common species as black bed bugs, but bed bugs are not black. They are a rusty brown red color.
The tick practices hematophagy, or the requirement of a blood meal, like the bed bug. Ticks are wingless and bear two primary or distinct sections of the head and body regions. The species also locates its potential hosts much like the bed bug with CO2 and heat levels. Ticks are actually small arachnids related closely to spiders. Through development and life cycle, ticks remain very tiny in size in nymph stages. This is where ticks may be commonly confused with bed bugs. The tick species is predominately an outdoor ectoparasite. They also will parasitize most wild life and animals with an occasional human case. Ticks have eight legs and are dark brown to black in color. When the tick is engorged it becomes extremely pale to a tan color and is almost three times its normal size. The life cycle of a tick is usually spent on the host, while bed bugs will discretely feed and leave to a hiding place.
The mites, like ticks, are found in the arachnid class. They are wingless like bed bugs. Mites and bed bugs tend to occupy similar habitats. Mites are extremely small and hard to see with the naked eye. They have a head and body region much like bed bugs, but bed bugs have three body regions. Bed bugs and mites often share a common characteristic to cause allergic reactions in humans. The mite species as a whole is most commonly known to parasitize plants and outdoor species of animals. There are chances that some species can become introduced into homes. Dust mites and some bird mite species are known to occupy homes like the bed bug. In most cases, bed bugs are often preyed upon by the mite species. Mites do not solely feed on blood. The species can survive on soil and water if needed. It is most common for mites to feed on the dead skin and hair of mammals which includes humans.
Louse or Lice
Louse, or in the plural form, lice, are insects like bed bugs that have adapted to base the species’ life cycle around a preferred host by parasitism. Lice and bed bug eggs have an adhesive that is produced naturally when they are laid to secure the egg in place when laid. Some species of louse feed on skin, while others feed on secretions and blood. Both crab lice and head lice are a particular problem in humans. Lice are commonly dark gray, but once fed with blood become a dark brown. They have similar life cycles to the other ectoparasites, having nymph stages looking like miniature adults. Though lice are extremely small in comparison to bed bugs, they inhabit more outdoor habitats and outdoor species.
How do bed bugs reproduce?
Male and Female bed bugs mate by what is called traumatic insemination. The traumatic insemination takes place by basically stabbing the female’s abdomen with a specialized hardened reproductive organ. The fertilization can take place at any location on the abdomen and the male’s gametes will travel to her ovaries or reproductive gametes. Once fertilization occurs the female contains viable eggs for 5-7 weeks. After three or so days of feeding, the female begins to lay eggs. As the female lays eggs, she continues to feed. She can produce an average of 3-8 eggs a week. The eggs hatch and immediately feed.
Female bed bugs are capable of laying as many as twelve eggs each day after being fertilized and having a proper blood meal. They are deposited in small cracks and crevices along bed frames, baseboards, and carpet linings. The female lays the eggs with an adhesive layer to assure that the eggs will stay in place. The baby bed bugs will hatch from the eggs in around six to seventeen days. The young emerge and immediately begin to feed or search for food. Nymphs and adults are able to survive long periods of time without food. Bed bugs usually live for a year to a year and a half. Three or more generations can occur each year.
Image source: cisr.ucr.edu/bed_bugs
Life cycle or Life Stages:
Bed bug eggs are white to a pale creamy color. The bed bugs eggs are barely visible to the naked eye. They are anywhere from a millimeter or shorter in length. When they emerge from the egg stage they are around one to one in half millimeters. So can you see bed bugs? The answer is that they are difficult to spot at any stage. Baby bed bugs or young bed bugs emerge and go through five nymph or larva stages.
It is more specifically called “gradual metamorphosis,” meaning they will grow progressively larger with each stage only requiring a blood meal to molt into the next nymph stage. After the fifth stage, the bed bugs reach adulthood. The entire life cycle can take between five weeks to four months, depending on conditions and food sources available. Adult bedbugs can live anywhere from 12 to 18 months. Females will reproduce as long as they are able and can lay up to 500 eggs in a lifetime. They lay eggs in the same place they harbor.
What do bed bugs do?
Bed bugs like to feed on human blood. The blood is necessary to complete its life cycle which is split up into five nymph stages each stage requiring a blood meal. The need for a blood meal is also necessary for females to reproduce and lay eggs. The bed bugs like to stay near the hosts and will travel long distances to get to them.
Bed bugs like to hide during the day time hours in the smallest corners, cracks, crevices, and other holes. They usually congregate by day on rough dry surfaces in dark recesses of beds, bedding, clothing, and furniture. They are active at night and will crawl considerable distances to reach sleeping human hosts for a blood meal. Most people develop lumps or swellings when bitten, an allergic reaction to the saliva the bugs release as they feed. Bed bugs do not transmit diseases to humans.
Bed bugs do not burrow under your skin to feed, but use piercing, sucking mouthparts to gain access to blood. When they feed, they inject their saliva into skin, causing allergic reactions and skin irritation, much like mosquitoes. However, their bites are often not felt at the time.
Bed bugs are attracted to the heat, moisture, and carbon dioxide emitted from their chosen hosts. They feed every three to four days, and one feeding can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Bed bugs can survive a few months without food, remaining dormant until they find a host. While they are often associated with dirty places and disease, bed bugs have not been found to carry or transmit any diseases.
Image source: citybugs.tamu.edu
Throughout history, the climate range of bed bugs used to be more prominent in the temperate regions or warmer regions. In the past, records throughout the 11-19th centuries showed that bed bugs used to be a seasonal pest of humans. In the winters, the bed bugs were unable to stay warm during travel and even in homes. An increase in bed bug activity came with modern heating systems. The advances in heating and air have allowed the bed bug to invade dwellings at any time or place throughout the year.
What eats bed bugs?
The Masked Hunter Insect or Masked Bed Bug Hunter
There are many bed bug registries that exist to give travelers and renters can have reliable information in reporting bed bug encounters. Bed bugs are spreading extremely fast across North America. Once a bed bug gains access to a location they will spring up populations very quickly. Due to this factor, bed bugs are a problem for hotels, dorms, hospitals, movie theaters, libraries, and other public spaces.
Image source: bedbugpictures.org
Eiseman, Charley, Noah Charney, and John Carlson. Tracks & Sign of Insects & Other Invertebrates: Guide to North American Species. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2010. Print.
Evans, Arthur V. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America. New York: Sterling Pub., 2007. Print.
Resh, Vincent H., and Ring T. Cardé. Encyclopedia of Insects. Amsterdam: Academic, 2003. Print.
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