bed bug

A bed bug life cycle includes all stages of a bed bugs lifespan. Bed bugs are small, blood-feeding insects that go through multiple stages of development as they mature.

Bed bugs develop in stages from the time the egg is laid, through several immature or “nymph" stages before finally arriving at the adult stage. This process is known as simple metamorphosis.

Bed bug nymphs look like smaller versions of their adult counterparts with flat, apple seed-shaped bodies. Throughout each of the five nymph stages of the bed bug life cycle, a nymph needs to consume a blood meal to grow, shed its exoskeleton and gradually mature. Typically, each stage takes roughly about one week to complete before a nymph becomes a fully matured bed bug.

How long do bed bugs live?

As far as insect life spans go, bed bugs live longer than many — tapping out at around the 10-month marker. And while that 10-month window is true for most, some bed bugs live up to a year.

Under optimum conditions, an adult bed bug will have a blood meal every 7 to 10 days. However, bed bug nymphs can go for months without feeding while adult bed bugs can live up to a year without consuming a blood meal.

Stages of the bed bug life cycle

Bed bug eggs

The first stage of a bed bug's life is the egg stage. Bed bug eggs are extremely small – the eggs are a opaque, whitish color and spherical and look more like a grain of salt than a fleck of pepper grind.

A female bed bug lays eggs in groups of 1 to 50 and they take anywhere from 6 to 17 days to hatch. By the time she dies, a female will have laid hundreds of eggs.

The eggs are small, about 1 millimeter in size, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. One millimeter is around the size of a mustard seed.

With the right conditions and temperatures, a bed bug can go from an egg to its adult stage in approximately 37 days. Warmer climates promote faster bed bug reproduction and development. Eggs can hatch and become mature bed bugs in as little as 21 days in warmer temperatures when there is a good food source. It can take more than four months for the same process to occur in cooler temperatures and even longer if there is not a steady supply of blood.

Learn more about bed bug eggs.

Bed bug nymphs

After they emerge from the eggs, developing juvenile bed bugs, or immature bed bugs, are called “nymphs." More simply, a nymph is a bed bug that hasn't fully matured into adulthood. Entomologists would not refer to a bed bug nymph as larvae, but non-experts often incorrectly assume that bed bug larva is the correct name for a nymph.

There are five nymph stages to the bed bug life cycle. At each stage of this gradual metamorphosis, a bed bug requires one blood meal in order to grow, shed its exoskeleton, and mature into an adult bed bug.

Bed bugs start life at 1.5 millimeters (the thickness of a U.S. penny) and grow to about 4.5 millimeters (the size of a medium-to-large pearl). Nymphs grow about half a millimeter with each feeding and subsequent molt.

The time it takes bed bug nymphs to mature varies based on the temperature and how often they are able to obtain a blood meal. Under proper conditions, each molt can take about a week. As adults, these bed bugs will take in blood meals every 7 to 10 days (all the while mating and producing more bed bugs). With an available host, bed bug nymphs can become adults in about 21 days at room temperature.

Bed bug nymphs can represent a large number of the total bed bugs in an established infestation. Due to their small size, they are even harder to detect than adult bed bugs.

Even in their nymph stages, bed bugs are ready to eat. They primarily feed off of people, but will also bite animals − including dogs, cats, rodents and chickens.

Nymphs grow after each feeding, leaving their shed skins in clusters. Under proper conditions, each morph can take about a week. While a nymph won't advance to the next stage without a blood meal, this doesn't mean it will die.

Spotting bed bugs in the nymph stage

While a growing infestation is never a good thing, when more bed bugs are present the infestation will be more noticeable since spotting a single bed bug may be difficult.

Nymphs look like smaller versions of adult bed bugs and have the same flat, seed-shaped bodies. Both the eggs and nymphs are nearly colorless, which makes them hard to see on light-colored bed sheets and carpets. The nymphs darken as they mature and may look red after feeding.

Because a nymph molts five times, evidence of five translucent bed bug exoskeletons can be found for each bed bug in your home.

With magnification you can spot bed bug eggs from hatched nymphs. These eggs are white and measure approximately one millimeter or smaller than a grain of rice. They are typically tucked into the piping of your mattress as well as other bed bug hiding spots.

Adult bed bugs

A bed bug can attain its adult form in as little as 37 days. Once fully matured, an adult bed bug is roughly the size of an apple seed, between four and five millimeters long.

Once a bed bug reaches the adult stage, it can reproduce – increasing their ranks exponentially in a short amount of time. A female bed bug can lay between three to eight eggs per week, and more than 300 eggs in a lifetime. Those eggs can hatch within 10 days, causing the cycle to begin again for a new generation of bed bugs inhabiting your home.

Bed bug life cycle FAQs

How long can bed bugs live without feeding?

Bed bugs have different feeding requirements depending on their stage of life. Newly hatched bed bugs can survive for at least a few weeks without feeding. Older Bed bug nymphs can last for months without feeding, while adults can survive without a blood meal for up to a year. Along with their expert hiding skills, this is why they are so difficult to kill.

How long can bed bugs live without blood after maturity?

In some instances, adult bed bugs can live for roughly five months without a blood meal, but have also been known to go as long as one year without feeding.

When living in warm conditions, bed bugs will usually try to feed at regular intervals. Once the bed bug settles on a host, it will feed for a few minutes. Length of feeding depends on the stage of development, how much it ate the last time and how long it's been since it last fed. After the bed bug is full, it will leave the host and return to a crack or crevice, typically where other bed bugs are gathered.

Bed bugs usually feed every three to seven days, which means that most of the population is in the digesting state, and not feeding much of the time. However, because bed bug infestations can spread so rapidly, it can often feel like you are waking up with new bites every morning. This can lead to high stress levels and a lack of sleep.

Get bed bug control from Terminix

The average bed bug life cycle isn't very long, but they do lead active lives, which includes aggressive mating. If you think you may have signs of bed bugs, contact a pest management professional immediately.


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