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Life Cycle Natural Predators of the Bed Bug
Pesticide Resistance
Bed bugs move quickly
Courtesy of the National Pest Management Association

Bed Bugs are small parasitic insects known to feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals.  The name "bed bug" is derived from the insect's preferred habitat of houses and especially beds or other areas where people sleep.  Bed bugs, though not strictly nocturnal, are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding unnoticed on their hosts.

Bed bugs are fairly cosmopolitan.  Cimex lectularius is most frequently found in the northern temperate climates of North America, Europe, and Central Asia, although it occurs sporadically in southern temperate regions.  The tropical bed bug, Cimex hemipterus, is adapted for semitropical to tropical climates and is widespread in the warmer areas of Africa, Asia, and the tropics of North America and South America. In the United States, Cimex hemipterus occurs in Florida.

Bed bugs occur around the world.  Rates of infestations in developed countries, while decreasing from the 1930s to the 1980s, have increased dramatically since the 1980s.  Previously, they were common in the developing world, but rare in the developed world.

 Adult bed bugs are light to reddish-brown, flattened, oval shaped, and have no developed wings.

The increase in the developed world may have been caused by increased international travel, resistance to insecticides, and the use of new pest-control methods that do not affect bed bugs.  The decline in bed bug populations after the 1930s in the developed world is believed to be partly due to the use of DDT to kill cockroaches.  The invention of the vacuum cleaner and simplification of furniture design may have also played a role.  Others believe it might simply be the cyclical nature of the organism. 
  • Adult bed bugs are light brown to reddish-brown, flattened, oval shaped, and have wing pads but no developed wings.
  • Bed bugs have segmented abdomens with microscopic hairs that give them a banded appearance.
  • Adults grow to 4–5 mm in length and 1.5–3 mm wide.
  • Newly hatched nymphs are translucent, lighter in color, and become browner as they molt and reach maturity.
  • Bed bugs use pheromones and kairomones to communicate regarding nesting locations, feeding, and reproduction.
  • Bed bugs can survive a wide range of temperatures and atmospheric compositions.  Below 16.1 °C (61.0 °F), adults enter semi-hibernation and can survive longer.
  • Bed bugs can survive for at least five days at -10 °C (14 °F) but will die after 15 minutes of exposure to -32 °C (-26 °F)
  • The thermal death point for Cimex lectularius is high: 45 °C (113 °F), and all stages of life are killed by 7 minutes of exposure to 46 °C (115 °F).
  • Bed bugs apparently cannot survive high concentrations of carbon dioxide for very long.
Bed Bug Biology - Cimex LectulariusThe common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is the species best adapted to human environments.  It is found in temperate climates throughout the world.  Other species include Cimex hemipterus, found in tropical regions, which also infest poultry and bats, and Leptocimex boueti, found in the tropics of West Africa and South America, which infest bats and humans.  Cimex pilosellus and Cimex pipistrella primarily infest bats, while Haematosiphon inodora, a species of North America, primarily infest poultry.
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