Stopping the spread of bed bugs can be a difficult task, although new studies on bed bug reproduction are exploring how to reduce the frequency of mating. To understand how bed bugs spread, it is helpful to understand their mating habits.
HOW DO BED BUGS REPRODUCE?
On average, female bed bugs lay about one to seven eggs per day after a blood feeding has taken place. However, the mating process can sometimes be difficult for the female bed bug. Frequent mating can cause injury. As a result, female bed bugs do not necessarily produce more eggs with increased mating sessions. Instead, a female bed bug is more likely to travel away from her original location to an area where she can guarantee a food source and a lack of mates. With lack of disruption and access to food, a female bed bug can lay many eggs.
HOW MANY EGGS CAN A FEMALE BED BUG LAY?
On average, a female bed bug with access to regular meals will lay anywhere from 200 to 250 eggs during her lifetime. Because mating causes scarring, a female that has mated multiple times during a short period will lay fewer eggs than a female who has had time to recover from the reproduction process. The need for females to protect themselves from future mating sessions has helped to increase the spread of bed bugs.
Pregnant female bed bugs are more likely to travel in an attempt to avoid being mated with again. A single pregnant female can cause an infestation of more than 5,000 bed bugs within a six-month period.
THE BED BUG REPRODUCTION CYCLE
Bed bug eggs take approximately six to 17 days to hatch. Hatched eggs are called nymphs. A nymph is not able to reproduce until it has fully matured. The length of time it takes for a nymph to mature depends on temperature. Eggs can hatch and become mature bed begs in as little as 21 days in warmer temperatures. It can take more than four months for the same process to occur in cooler temperatures. Nymphs can begin blood feeding as soon as they hatch. A single female bed bug can mate with any of her offspring after a nymph has fully matured.
REDUCING THE BED BUG REPRODUCTION CYCLE
A 2010 study conducted by Vincent Harraca from Lund University in Sweden revealed an alarm pheromone released by nymphs, and male bed bugs when approached, to prevent prowling males from attempting to mate. Mature males will attempt to mate with any bed bug that has recently fed. The fact that male mating is non-productive in propagating the bed bug population has inspired scientific research, which resulted in the discovery that immature nymphs and male bed bugs release a fear pheromone to prevent a mating attack. In the future, scientists hope to use this pheromone to reduce mating overall and lessen infestations.
Research by Warren Booth, a biologist at the University of Tulsa and a co-author of a 2015 study published in Molecular Ecology on bed bugs, has led scientists to suspect that a new species of bed bugs is beginning to emerge. According to the BBC, archaeologists have discovered fossil evidence of what appears to be bed bugs, indicating that they are as old as 3,500 years. Scientists believe bed bugs originated in bat caves and began feeding on humans as humans moved into caves. However, when humans switched to other dwellings, bed bugs followed.
Since that time bed bugs have evolved. In the 1950s, bed bugs all but disappeared. The reason for that, according to one theory, was the heavy use of a common household pesticide, DDT. Due to health and environmental impact, that pesticide was banned in the United States in the 1970s, but by that time bed bugs had built up a resistance to the chemical and it was no longer effective. Bed bugs have since made a massive comeback, causing a growing concern for households and businesses alike.
The bed bug reproduction cycle is effective due to the large number of eggs a female can lay. A pest management professional can help to determine the source of bed bugs in your home or business and provide the proper treatment to ensure that bed bugs get out and stay out.