Bed bugs may be waging a nightly war on your family, so you’d better know your enemy. Learning about bed bug behavior is your first line of defense, even before you call in pest management professionals. Discourage these creepy home invaders by getting inside their heads. Here’s how.
INTERESTING BED BUG BEHAVIOR
Feeding patterns are mostly nocturnal and often occur in the “breakfast, lunch and dinner” bite pattern. This means the bed bug will first feed where your exposed skin meets the bedding and then move up for “lunch” before moving again and drawing their third bite, thereby creating a distinctive line of bites. You can also receive a singular bite or even develop a larger cluster of bites as dozens of bed bugs feed on your blood while you sleep.
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THE BED BUG DINE AND DASH
Thanks to an anesthetic in their saliva and an extremely sharp, straw-like mouth they use for piercing your skin and sucking your blood, you won’t wake up during a bed bug feeding. The saliva also contains an anticoagulant, which prevents clotting, so a typical meal only takes between three to 10 minutes before the bed bug is gorged with your blood.
After eating, the bed bugs will scurry back to hiding spots in your room’s baseboards, floorboards, box springs, carpeting, picture frames, crevices, books, etc. Studying bed bug behavior tells us that they typically hide within eight feet of their victims, digesting your blood, mating and laying eggs before heading back to your bed for another feeding in about five to 10 days.
Oddly enough, it’s not the smell of humans that makes these pests drool as they gravitate from all corners of your home toward your bed. High doses of human aldehydes actually repel bed bugs. Instead, the CO2, warmth and moisture your body emits can lure these bloodthirsty bed bugs to your bedside, all of which they can sense from three feet away. Beyond that, they search for blood meals in random patterns.
GUESS WHO ELSE IS COMING TO DINNER
Bed bug behavior is based around invading, multiplying and completely taking over your bed. After feeding, they return to their hidden trenches to digest the blood meals and begin the vicious bed bug mating process.
A single female lays between one and 12 eggs each day and between 200 and 500 eggs in a lifetime. Guess where all those offspring will be feeding? Now, multiply that reproduction rate by each bed bug in your home, and it’s clear why the pros say it’s never just one bed bug.
After hatching, bed bugs require a meal of blood between each of their five nymph stages. Molting occurs after each phase, which makes exoskeletons (i.e., bed bug shells) a telltale secondary sign of infestation. Immature bed bugs continue to become darker and larger as they feed between each phase until they reach adulthood. An egg can fully mature into an adult in as little as a month and a half if conditions are right (between 70°F and 90°F). The average lifespan of an adult bed bug ranges anywhere from four months to over a year with the right conditions. They spend this entire time feeding, mating and expanding the infestation.
What we know about bed bug behavior tells us this feeding and mating cycle will continue relentlessly. That is why you need a professional. Bed bugs are very difficult to control for several reasons. They can go a whole year without feeding, can survive any temperature between freezing and 122°F and are even evolving to resist standard pyrethroid insecticides.
UNMISTAKABLE SIGNS YOU MAY HAVE BED BUGS
Don’t rely on bites as a reliable sign of bed bugs. Bed bug bites can be hard to differentiate from other insect bites. Instead, look for secondary signs of bed bug infestation as well, such as shed skins, rust-colored spots on the mattress and bedding (bed bug feces), blood spots on your sheets and pajamas and a musty, sweet-smelling odor.
Physically spotting these insatiable insects is the gold standard for diagnosing a bed bug infestation. Unfortunately, bed bugs are nocturnal so catching one is difficult. If you get lucky, place captured bed bugs in a sealed container and show them to an expert.
Be sure to call Terminix® at the first sign of bed bugs. We understand bed bug behavior and will provide a free bed bug inspection for your home and a battle plan to win the war against bed bugs.