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Cicadas True Bugs and Relatives: Hemiptera - Bed Bug (cimex Lectularius): Species Accounts

human feed live larvae

Physical characteristics: A bed bug has a body that is rusty brown to dull red, flat, oval to round when not fed, and much fatter and longer after a meal. They measure 0.16 to 0.19 inches (4 to 5 millimeters) in length. The mouthparts are short and beaklike. The antennae have four segments. The front segment of the thorax or midsection is expanded so that it surrounds the back of the head. The legs and wings of these flightless insects are short. The larvae resemble small adults.


Geographic range: Bed bugs are found on all continents, except Antarctica. They are rare or absent in large areas of Asia.


Habitat: They prefer to live in human dwellings and usually find shelter in the narrow spaces found in bedrooms, bed frames, and mattresses, or under wallpaper.


Diet: They feed on human blood but will also attack chickens, dogs, and bats.

Cimex lectularius prefer to live in human dwellings and usually find shelter in the narrow spaces found in bedrooms, bed frames, and mattresses, or under wallpaper. They feed on human blood but will also attack chickens, dogs, and bats. (©Sinclair Stammers/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Behavior and reproduction: Adults and larvae hide during the day and emerge at night to feed. They walk across bedding and clothing to look for sleeping people. When they find a human host they use their mouthparts to pierce the skin and suck blood from the wound. They will suck up four to five times their body weight. In cold climates they can live without food for more than a year but are unable to reproduce during this time.

Males and females mate while they are hidden in their shelters. Males use their reproductive organs to puncture the female's abdomen and place sperm in her body cavity. The sperm eventually finds its way into the female's reproductive organs. Eggs are attached to any surface on or near beds. The larvae start feeding as soon as they hatch.

Bed bugs and people: Bed bugs have been considered pests since the time of ancient Egypt and classical Greece. Their populations expand rapidly among humans living in crowded conditions. Bed bug bites are painless, but their saliva does cause itching. They can spread some parasites with their bites.


Conservation status: This species is not endangered or threatened. ∎

Cicadas True Bugs and Relatives: Hemiptera - Sea Skater (halobates Micans): Species Accounts [next] [back] Cicadas True Bugs and Relatives: Hemiptera - Giant Water Bug (lethocerus Maximus): Species Accounts

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