Cimex lectularius is wingless, flat, oval-shaped insect that feeds exclusively on the blood of humans or warm-blooded animals. It is attracted to warmth and carbon dioxide, and most Cimex species feed on humans, bats, or birds. Newly hatched bed bugs are about 1 mm long and are colorless to cream colored. Adult bed bugs are about 5 mm when unfed (about the size of an apple seed) and are a deep brown or reddish brown color. After feeding, bed bugs become engorged and are dull red in color. A female will lay approximately 200 to 500 eggs during her lifetime, and the typical lifespan is about 10 months.
Bed bugs are mostly nocturnal, and they tend to hide during the day. Their tiny, flat bodies are ideal for hiding in crevices in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards. They can move swiftly with their legs over floors, walls, and ceilings. They feed about every 3 to 7 days and do not remain on their hosts between feedings. During feedings, they generally attach to their host for about 10 to 20 minutes.
Bed bugs can spread by either active or passive dispersal. Active dispersal occurs when a bed bug uses its legs to walk a short distance to a new location. Bed bugs do not fly or jump. They are rapid crawlers, similar in speed to an ant. A bed bug may spread between rooms in infested buildings this way. Passive dispersal is when a bed bug is transported on clothing, luggage, furniture, and other objects. Bed bugs have been discovered on travelers in airplanes, cars, trains, and ships, as well as on travelers on foot.
US Pharmacist. 2012;37(8):47-50. © 2012 Jobson Publishing