Identifying bed bugs

Making a positive identification is the first step in tackling a bed bug problem.

November 15, 2012 - Author: Cathy Newkirk, Michigan State University Extension

The first step in addressing a bed bug infestation is making sure that you are actually dealing with bed bugs. Bed bugs are small, brownish insects. They’re about 1/8 of an inch long, the size of an apple seed. They are distinguished from other similar insects by their very flat backs, lack of wings and reddish-brown color after feeding. The flat backs become bloated in bed bugs that have fed. Bed bugs don’t jump but they can crawl quickly, about as quickly as an ant. Michigan State University Extension has partnered with the Michigan Department of Community Health to address the bed bug issue.

After hatching from an egg, bed bugs go through five developmental stages before molting to an adult. They require at least one blood meal at each stage. Adults will feed about every three to seven days if a suitable host is available. Females require a blood meal in order to produce eggs. Females who have mated produce three to five eggs per day, totaling 100-500 eggs in her lifetime. Adult bed bugs live for six to nine months but under ideal conditions may live for more than a year. Adults can also survive without feeding for up to a year.

 Bed bug eggs are white, oval shaped and about the size of a grain of rice. Clusters of 10-50 eggs can be found in crevices. Once they hatch they look like adults, except they are colorless and smaller. They must have food within several days of hatching or they die. In ideal conditions they will reach maturity in about five weeks. It is possible to find eggs, young and adults in the same place.

For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit the Michigan Department of Community Health website,

Tags: family, msu extension

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