What exactly is a bed bug?
A bed bug is a tiny insect which ranges from 1-5.5mm in size, depending on what stage of the cycle it is in. It is a nocturnal insect which – unfortunately for us – feeds solely on blood. An adult bed bug is a dark reddish-brown colour and oval-shaped. Although it has wings, it can’t actually fly. It is covered by tiny hairs which can’t be seen by the naked eye.
What are the stages of a bed bug’s life cycle?
A bed bug goes through seven phases. It begins as an egg which is only 1mm long and off-white in colour. It will look like a poppy seed or, if you look very closely, like two small grains of salt stuck together. These eggs are found where the infestation has taken place, which is often under a mattress.
A bed bug will then go through its nymph phase and will reach 1.5mm in length, At this point it is a yellowish-white colour. It will need to have its first blood meal so that it can moult its skin and prepare for growth.
In its next phase it becomes a larva. During this stage it can reach 2mm in length. It will now begin to change in colour. Although its head will remain yellow, its body will change to a reddish-brown. It will need to feed once again to moult and move on to the next stage.
Its fourth phase sees another growth spurt of 0.5mm, making it now 2.5mm long. Another blood meal will be required to move on to its next phase.
In its fifth phase, a bed bug darkens and reaches 3mm in length. It will start to look more like an adult. The more it feeds, the redder it will become, which may explain a variation in its shading.
The sixth phase of a bed bug’s cycle is its last stage of being a larva. It will complete its final molt during this phase and reach 4.5mm in length.
During its final phase, a bed bug obtains its optimal size (up to 5.5mm long) and reaches sexual maturity. It can now feed repeatedly. After feeding for 3-10 minutes a bed bug will swell up and become even longer, reaching as much as 6mm.The adult female bed bug can lay up to five eggs a day.
Bed bug eggs are incredibly small but may be picked up by the naked eye. However, using a torch and magnifying glass will increase your chances of seeing them. You may notice a small dark mark on the eggs (especially through a magnifying glass). This means the egg is more than five days old.
Although larger than the egg, a bed bug may still be difficult to spot without suitable lighting or a magnifying glass. It may also be difficult to tell if what you are seeing is indeed a bed bug or rather some other kind of insect, such as a flea. Bed bugs have some distinguishable features you should look out for:
- A bed bug that has just fed will look long and swollen and have a distinct reddish colouring.
- a ‘beak’
- antennae with four parts
- six legs
- Cone-shaped eyes