A lot of customers have expressed curiosity in the growth and development of bed bugs. They sometimes have difficulty determining if a pest they find is a young bed bug or some other bug species. Bed bug education isn’t as common as it should be; with the rate of infestation as high as it is today, people should be learning as much as they can about bed bugs. Learn about every stage in the unique bed bug life cycle, from the eggs hatching all the way to a hungry adult:
The bed bug life cycle starts with an egg. It is milky white in color, and about a millimeter long, resembling a grain of rice. Pregnant females lay three or four eggs per day (though sometimes as much as five), and up to 500 eggs can be laid in her lifetime. This high volume of eggs can allow a single pregnant bed bug to form a large infestation on her own.
The eggs hatch within two weeks, and nymphs emerge. The smallest nymphs are a light yellow color and almost transparent. Anatomically, they look like very small adult bed bugs, and can even feature those fine hairs that are a characteristic of the species. To mature, nymphs must feed and pass through five molting stages. They molt in a process called ecdysis, which is just a fancy term for the way that many invertebrates shed their exoskeleton to make room for growth or to regenerate damaged tissue.
Nymphs must have a blood meal before they can progress to the next molting stage. Each molting stage is called an instar, and with each instar the young bed bug grows larger and takes on a darker brown-red color. In ideal development conditions, where the temperature is mildly cool and a human host is present, a nymph can feed weekly and mature within five weeks, quickly progressing through all four instars.
After reaching maturity, adult bed bugs typically continue to feed weekly. An adult is reddish-brown in color, and is about five millimeters long, or roughly the size of an apple seed. As they feed, their abdomen extends to accommodate their blood meal. After feeding, they scurry off to their hiding places to digest their meal, seek a mate, or rest.
Most bed bugs live for four to six months, though some can live for over a year without food by hibernating. During that short lifetime, the average bed bug fathers a family of over five generations, each spanning possibly hundreds of inbreeding bugs! This shocking rate of population expansion makes it easy to see how an infestation can get out of hand so quickly, and gives a clue to how bed bugs can spread so quickly.