The common bed bug (cimex lectularius) is becoming increasingly widespread throughout the country, so proper identification and early intervention is vital. Bed bugs are insects with six legs, 3 body parts, and 2 antennae. They are light brown to reddish-brown in color, and adults range in size from about 5-7 mm long. A bed bug’s size and color are often compared to an apple seed. Unfortunately, bed bugs are commonly confused with many other insects like carpet beetles, immature cockroaches, and fleas, so a closer examination may be needed.
Bed Bug Adults
The shape of a bed bug will depend on how recently it has fed. Bed bugs feed exclusively on blood, so if they have recently taken in a large blood meal, they will appear swollen and balloon-like in shape. If they have not eaten recently, bed bugs will be flat and oval in appearance. Bed bugs do not jump or fly, but instead crawl relatively slowly to their desired destination. They have vestigial wing pads on their backs, but no actual wings. Bed bugs may also appear striped because they have segmented abdomens that are covered in microscopic hairs.
An adult bed bug in the process of taking a blood meal
Bed Bug Nymphs
Immature bed bugs are called nymphs. Bed bug nymphs go through a series of molts until they reach adulthood. While nymphs are similar in shape to adult bed bugs, nymphs are much smaller (only the size of the head of a pin) and are nearly translucent in color. They can be very difficult to see. As they molt, nymphs will become more tan and then brown in color. If a nymph has just fed on blood, its abdomen will be bright red until the blood is digested.
Bed bug nymph ingesting blood
Bed Bug Eggs
Anywhere there are adult bed bugs, there will most likely also be bed bug eggs. These eggs are extremely small and very difficult to spot. The eggs are only 1 mm long and creamy white in color. They are elongated in shape and may look similar to a grain of rice. Bed bug eggs may be stuck to surfaces in groups or as a single egg. Common places where eggs are found include: small cracks, furniture, in bedding, and along the seams of mattresses.
If you think you may have bed bugs, time is of the essence. Tackling the problem quickly will save you a lot of time and money. Proper bed bug identification is the first step, and PF Harris is your trusted source for DIY bed bug control.