In order to effectively wage any war, it is extremely important that you know and understand what you’re up against. Knowledge of your enemy can prove to be a huge advantage and you will be much more likely to win a war against an enemy that you know thoroughly than against an adversary that you know nothing about.  With that in mind, take a few minutes to read the below briefing of the enemy that you are here to eradicate. With this knowledge, you will be much better equipped to learn how to kill bed bugs yourself.

Common Name: Common Bed Bug

Scientific Name: Cimex lectularius

Lifecycle: Incomplete metamorphosis (egg, nymph, adult).  Nymphs undergo 5 molts or “instars” before becoming adults.

Lifespan: 6 to 12 months.

Physical Characteristics: Adults are the size of an apple seed (5-7mm or 3/16-1/4 inch long), nymphs are 1.5 to 4.5 mm long; reddish brown, oval, and very flat in most life stages, although eggs and newly hatched nymphs are a pale white and almost translucent in appearance.  Fortunately for us, the enemy is wingless in all life stages.

 

Bed Bug Life Cycle

 

Habits and Behavior: As you may know, bed bugs are mostly nocturnal: they come out at night to feed on us while sleeping, too vulnerable to resist their attacks. They are attracted to our body heat and the carbon dioxide given off from our breathing.  Because of their small size, they are able to employ superb stealth and can crawl directly onto us without us noticing.  When they find the right spot, they drill their sharp needle like mouthparts or rostrum into our skin into an area rich in blood vessels.  They then extract our lifeblood for 5-10 minutes, after which they hide away like the little bloodsucking cowards they are.  Different people react differently to the bites: some experience itchy red welts while others have no reaction at all and may not realize they’ve been bitten at all.  The enemy we are dealing with here greatly prefers human blood, although they will feed on other species if no humans are present.  In extreme situations where no hosts are available, bed bugs will go into a state of hibernation called diapause.  In this state, their bodily functions decrease dramatically, and can survive without feeding for up to 18 months.  Bed bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide emitted from breathing, and upon detecting it, they reawaken and will attempt to feed once again.

During the day, bed bugs tend to hide in secure locations near where we sleep, hence the name. They also tend to congregate in groups in their hiding spots. These locations are known as harborage areas.  Due to their small size and creepy near-paper flatness, they are capable of hiding in any location that can easily be overlooked.  They prefer to hide right under our noses, usually in our bed box springs, mattresses, headboard, and frames.  Small, early infestations tend to be almost exclusively in such areas, but in the case of a full scale infestation, they can and will hide in any nook and cranny in the home, possibly infesting an entire home.

The enemy’s method of reproduction is savage and brutal in comparison to that of ours.  The male’s sex organ is sharp, much like a bayonet and is used in a similar fashion.  He simply climbs onto any female and stabs her in the abdomen with his genitalia, depositing his sperm directly into her body cavity.  This horrifying method is known as traumatic insemination. Once mated, females will lay up to five eggs a day throughout the rest of her life, which can be up to a year, significantly increasing enemy forces.  The eggs are white, the size of a pinhead, and are carefully placed in concealed locations like tiny landmines.  They hatch within 1-2 weeks into first instar nymphs: tiny white ghostly horrors thirsting for your blood from day one. If left unchecked, the enemy can spawn a large army of insect vampires quite rapidly. Each enemy unit takes 5 to 6 weeks to reach the adult stage, at which point each unit is ready to reproduce and spawn more bed bugs. Each female has the potential to lay over 500 eggs in her lifetime: multiply that by the number of female bugs and it’s easy to see how they can reach plague proportions in record time.

The enemy army grows and grows….

What to look for: The enemy can be notoriously difficult to find due to their small size and nocturnal nature, but if you carefully check your bed, you may be able to observe signs of bed bug activity.  These signs include:

Dark stains caused by Bed Bug fecal matter.

 

Skin sheds
Shed exoskeletons from growing nymphs.

 

Itchy red bites that often occur in clusters usually found on the back and arms but can occur elsewhere on the body.

 

Bed bug Harborage
And of course, the bed bugs themselves. In large numbers, they give off an odor that can be compared to rotten raspberries.

 

Hiding Spots Pie Chart
Here is a useful chart showing where the enemy is concealed and the chances of finding them in a given location according to a study by the University of Kentucky.

Weakness: The most effective killer of bed bugs to date is HEAT.  Studies have shown that exposures to temperatures from 117 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit has a guaranteed lethal effect on all life stages of bed bugs within three minutes. This is knowledge we can and will use to our fullest advantage.

So there you have it:  all of the vital information about our enemy that we need to know.  Now that we have this knowledge, we can move on the next phase: how can we kill off the little bastards for good? Stay tuned to find out how!