They leave nasty looking stains, their bites are incessant and they are a nightmare to get rid of; Bed Bugs are a problem that few can tolerate. And unfortunately, bed bug infestations are on the rise—especially if you live in a big city.
While bed bug adults are the ones that inflict the most damage because of their need to feast on blood, if you are looking to carry out a control program to tackle these bloodsucking pests, you should make sure not to ignore the rest of the bed bug life cycle. Bed bug eggs and bed bug nymphs (otherwise known as baby bed bugs) should also be addressed or else you will be dealing with a new generation of bloodthirsty biters before long.
In this article, we will cover the bed bug life cycle, the different phases that bed bugs go through during their development and why it is important to address all phases of the life cycle so you can totally eliminate an infestation. We will also cover the best ways to approach bed bug control that is affordable and effective.
How Bed Bugs Operate
Before we can get into the different phases of the bed bug life cycle, it is important that we first discuss how bed bugs infest a home. The more that is known about their habits and tendencies, the better prepared you will be to take precautions and protect your home from future bed bug problems after eliminating the current invasion.
Adult bed bugs like to hang around areas where there are lots of humans around and lots of traveling and transfer of people and goods. This makes hotels, airports, bus stations, theaters, apartments and other such places hot spots for bed bug presence. These bed bugs wait patiently for the right opportunity to present itself–a piece of luggage, a jacket or scarf, a suitcase or box–and then they will crawl onto the item and be taken to their desired destination, inside a person’s home.
Bed Bugs, as you may already know, are parasites that feed entirely on blood. The blood is not only nourishment for them, it serves as fuel for reproduction and multiplying their population. 5 to 10 minutes is all they need to get their fill of blood, and they do this when we are at our most vulnerable—in the middle of a deep sleep.
Recommended Read: Finding Bed Bugs in Your Mattress What To Do?
Once they have gained access inside a home, they will crawl to the areas where people are the most: beds, couches and lounge areas. Here they will lie in wait, using their flat bodies to hide in the tiniest nook or cranny undetected. When a person has fallen asleep, they will crawl out of their hiding places and sink their mouth-parts into us suck out blood.
We usually don’t feel the bite right away or stir up from the sleep because bed bugs have a clever mechanism, their saliva, which contains a numbing substance which they inject as they are feeding to make the area that’s being bitten numb so we don’t feel the bite until later. By the time we stir awake and notice red, itchy welts on our body, the bed bugs have already had a satisfying meal and safely returned back to their hiding spot.
This is what you are up against when it comes to bed bugs, sneaky, clever, conniving bugs that will feed upon you when you least expect it. And the more blood they are able to consume, the worse off you will be because the blood is fuel for them to multiply their numbers exponentially, if there is no intervention.
Even a few bed bugs can turn into a full blown infestation due to bed bugs having a relatively quick development cycle. Once a female bed bugs receives a blood meal, they will proceed right into laying bed bug eggs. A single female bed bug can produce 200 to 250 eggs during their lifespan.
Bed bugs eggs are tiny and translucent, about 1 mm long. These eggs are deposited with a sticky substance so they aren’t able to move around, often between the tufts of mattresses and other cracks and crevices where bed bugs are hiding.
Within 6 to 10 days, the egg hatches and a bed bug nymph (or bed bug baby) comes out. The bed bug baby looks similar to an adult bed bug but is just smaller in size. Nymph go through 5 stages of development before reaching adulthood, and during each stage they will need a blood meal to molt, or shed their skin, to the next stage.
Each nymph stage lasts about a week or longer and after about 10 weeks, the bed bug nymph becomes a full grown reproducing adult. If the bed bug is female, they will get a blood meal to start laying eggs and starting the cycle all over again. This continues for about 6 to 12 months, the average life span of an adult bed bug.
What This Means When You Want Bed Bugs Gone
You may be someone that may not care too much about learning the life cycle of bed bugs and just want to kill them and be done with them terrorizing your home. While that is understandable, the reason we are sharing with you the details of the bed bug cycle is to let you know what you can expect with a bed bug infestation if you want to tackle killing them the DIY way.
What this life cycle of bed bug tells you is that bed bug control is not a one and done job. You cannot just spray bed bug pesticides or perform a focused vacuuming just once and expect the bed bug problems to all be gone because you may just be addressing one small segment of the population. Adult bed bugs cover only about 6 to 20 percent of the infestation population. That means most of the bed bugs you will be dealing with are the bed bug eggs that are yet to hatch and nymphs.
Unfortunately, the ones that you may find the most are the adults. So even if you were to kill or remove all the adult population, in a couple of weeks, a new generation of nymphs will arrive onto the scene with large appetites.
The best way to totally eliminate all phases of the life cycle is with consistent and persistent implementation of control methods that may need to be repeatedly done for at least a few weeks up to a couple of months.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
If you aim to tackle a bed bug invasion yourself, the most obvious sign that bed bugs are present are their bites that leave raised bumps on your body, but there are other evidences to keep in mind. Inspect your home and take note of the following signs of you know where to focus most of your attention when conducting treatment.
Blood Stains. These are usually bed bug poop. They only eat blood, so it makes sense that they are going to poop out blood. The feces are a rusty brown color and can leave hard to remove stains where left behind. Over time, the red stains become almost black in color. You will find these concentrated mostly between folds of mattresses, on box springs, and on bedding materials. A high concentration of these blood stains leaves a strong musty odor.
Shed Skins. As we noted earlier, bed bug babies or nymphs go through 5 stages of development before reaching adulthood. Each stage, they molt or shed skins. These skins are cast aside where they were crawling, moving or hiding. They look exactly like a bed bug, but hollow. These can be found where bed bugs hide most.
Bed Bug Eggs. These are a lot harder to find because they are so tiny and because they are usually placed in areas that are hidden and tucked away. Bed bug eggs are also hard to detect because they are translucent.
The Best DIY Ways To Kill Bed Bugs
While you can certainly choose to go the professional route and hire an exterminator to deal with your bed bug problem, it can be quite expensive. The smarter alternative may be to utilize some DIY methods of bed bug removal as well as a reputable bed bug killing spray or pesticide. Here is the three step plan we suggest.
Wash Infested Items – Aside from your mattress, bed bugs like to hide in your bedding, clothing and fabrics the most. Strip away your bed sheets, pillowcases and take any clothing you suspect to be infested and run it through your washer and dryer on the highest heat setting for both.
Bed Bugs cannot tolerate high temperatures and will die when temps get above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Once your fabrics are all cleaned, place them in a plastic bag for the duration of your treatment efforts or when bed bugs have been totally removed from your home.
Vacuum Everything – Your home vacuum can be your greatest tool in eliminating the bed bug invasion. You should vacuum daily to capture bed bugs that may be crawling on your carpet and rugs. Utilize the vacuum hose and crevice attachment to vacuum your mattress, box spring, dressers and cabinets. Vacuuming should remove bed bug adults and nymphs as well as some bed bug eggs if they are able to break free from the sticky grip of where they have been deposited.
Bed Bug Killing Products – Vacuuming and washing will not get all the bed bugs, so this is when you can utilize bed bug pesticides. If you were to perform an internet search or go to the pest control aisle of your local department store, you may find an assortment of different options. Go with a product that is reputable. The best options are bed bug killing aerosols that you can safely apply to furniture and mattresses that contain a residual effect. This means when bed bugs crawl onto the treated area, they will succumb to the pesticide active ingredient. We do recommend, however, that you use more than one type of pesticide to increase your chances of successfully eliminating the entire population.
Again, we want to stress that doing the above three steps just once will not guarantee successful control and removal of your bed bug problem. You will need to repeat these steps often for up to two or three months to ensure bed bugs from all phases of the life cycle are totally eliminated. Vacuum daily, wash items weekly and spray pesticides every two weeks.
Monitor the presence of bed bugs with either bed bug traps or weekly inspections of the areas where you have noticed activity or the signs we mentioned above. If you are not experiencing bites any more or have any captured bugs in traps or new signs of activity, you can safely assume the bed bugs are totally eliminated.
Controlling a bed bug infestation in your home is no easy task, but by following the above steps and recommendations, it is possible to pull off. Once you have successfully eliminated bed bugs from your home, be careful moving forward so bed bugs do not return.
Inspect and treat your belongings when traveling to a hotel or vacationing abroad, keep your home clean, inspect areas after having out of town visitors and preferably keep cover your mattress with a bed bug encasement to discourage bed bug settlement.
By being proactive, bed bugs will no longer be a problem under your roof.