How are bedbugs characterized?

Updated: Mar 26, 2020
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Arthropod assaults on humans can have many manifestations clinically, histologically, and immunologically. Hemiptera is an order of insect species of "true bugs" that has piercing-sucking mouthparts and includes the family Cimicidae (bedbugs), which are blood-sucking ectoparasites of mammals or birds.

All Cimex species organisms are reddish brown insects. Cimex lectularius is 5-7 mm in size, with the females slightly larger than the males. Cimex hemipterus organisms are approximately 25% longer than C lectularius organisms. Females deposit fertilized eggs in cracks or crevices, with newborns emerging in 4-5 days. Note the images below.

The bedbug is a flat, oval, reddish brown insect t The bedbug is a flat, oval, reddish brown insect that turns violaceous after feeding. Courtesy of Colonel Dirk M. Elston, MD (from Elston, 2000).
Bedbugs are parasitic arthropods from the family C Bedbugs are parasitic arthropods from the family Cimicidae. They are typically less than 1 cm in length and reddish brown in color. Bedbugs can be found in furniture, floorboards, peeling paint, or other small spaces, most commonly in areas of clutter. These insects come out at night in search of prey upon which to feed, with peak feeding times just before dawn. Bedbugs are typically attracted to body heat, carbon dioxide, vibration, sweat, and odor. The image of a Cimex lectularius is shown courtesy of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

See When Bugs Feast: What's Causing that Itch?, a Critical Images slideshow, to help identify various skin reactions, recognize potential comorbidities, and select treatment options.

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