The Life Cyle of Bed Bugs


In order to get rid of bed bugs, you have to understand the life cycle of bed bugs. Bed bugs start as bed bug eggs, hatch into nymphs, and then grow into adults.  

Understanding each of these phases, and knowing what to look for, will help you not only identify a bed bug infestation, but help you understand the steps needed to kill bed bed bugs, and get them out of your home as well. 

Bed Bug Life Cycle Facts

  • Bed bugs cast their skin as they grow.  Their skins are a key identifier that you have bed bugs in your home!
  • You can visibly see bed bugs during all stages of their life cycle
  • Bed bugs can go up to 18 months without feeding - So don't think you can starve them out!
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    It takes about a month to go from eggs to adult stage for bed bugs - They grow and reproduce quickly!
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    Surprisingly, bed bugs eggs are far more difficult to kill than baby bed bugs and adult bed bugs
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    An adult female bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime - That's ALOT of bed bugs!
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    Bed bugs require blood to grow and live.  On average, they feed 1-2 times per day.
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      Even adult bed bugs are small, with eggs and baby bed bugs (nymphs) being even smaller.  This makes them very difficult to find in your home.
Bed bug life cycle

Image by ORKIN

The Bed Bug Lifecycle

Baby bed bugs start as bed bug eggs, develop into nymphs, and then become adults.   Know what bed bugs look like at each stage will not only help you know how to treat bed bugs, but will help you identify them as well.

The Bed Bug life cycle generally runs from 1 - 4 months.  The warmer the bed bugs are, the faster they grow.  When they have consistant access to a food source, they grow faster as well.

In colder temperatures, bed bugs often go into a semi-hybernation state, allowing them to live for a months without food.  However, they cannot grow and progress through the life cycle.

Bed bugs can actually live for months even in warm temperatures and without food.  This makes starving them out, very difficult, and not generally a good option.

Bed Bug Life Cycle Video

Here is a great video from Orkin, that shows the life cycle of bed bugs, and video of live bed bugs.

Bed Bug Eggs

Photographer: Dr. Harold Harlan

Like many insects, bed bugs start off as eggs.  Bed bug eggs are very small (about the size of a pin head, white, and shaped like grains of rice.  

They can be seen with the naked eye, especially when in their typical clusters, but they can be difficult to see clearly.   A lighted magnifying glass is typically very helpful when searching for bed bugs, and especially eggs.

Bed bug eggs are very sticky, and cannot be picked up with a vacuum cleaner, however both steam and the majority of bed bug sprays will kill bed bug eggs on contact.

For linens, hot water and soap will kill bed bug eggs, along with removing them from your linens.  So your regular washer is an effective treatment for bed bug eggs on linens.

Bed bugs often return after being treated by both professionals and homeowners.  Missed bed bug eggs are the reason, as they can be difficult to find.  BUT, killing all the bed bug eggs, following by the bed bugs stops the life cycle, and completely removes bed bugs from your home.  So killing the eggs is critical!

Bed bugs hatch between 6 and 9 days, depending on the temperature and environment.  Baby bed bugs become full grown adults in about 2-4 months, depending on how often they can feed.

An adult female bed bug will lay 5 to 7 eggs per week, and up to 500 eggs over her entire lifespan.  That's alot of bed bugs ... another reason of why it is so critical to kill the eggs, and kill all of them.

Bed Bug Nymphs

Bed bug Nymph

Photographer: Dr. Harold Harlan

Once bed bugs hatch, they enter the 5 stages of being a nymph before becoming an adult bed bug.   Think of nymphs as bed bug babies.  

The five nymph "Instar" stages are named 1st - 5th Instar Nymph.  Baby bed bugs go through 5 different molts before becoming adult bed bugs.

Baby bed bugs, look very similar to adult bed bugs, especially as they approach the adult phase of the life cycle.  

Younger bed bugs are yellow and white in color, and darken up as they get older.   At the later stages of the life cycle, baby bed bugs look very much like adult bed bugs, just smaller.

Bed Bug Adults

Bed Bug

Nymphs develop into adult bed bugs in anywhere from 5 weeks to 4 months, depending on conditions, temperature, and access to a food source.  

Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed, and measure just shy of 1/4".  While bed bugs are wide for their size, they are incredibly flat, much like a tick.  This allows them to to be very effective hiders.

Color in an adult bed bug ranges from reddish brown to brown.  After they feed, they will be darker in color, and have a more reddish tint.   They also swell up, again, similar to a tick, but not the same extreme.  

A single feeding takes 5 - 10 minutes, and can result in multiple bite marks, often in a line.  Once feed, they generally don't feed again for about 3 - 10 days, depending on conditions, and in particular temperature.

How to kill bed bugs and their eggs

If you think you may have bed bugs, the first thing you want to do is confirm that.  Many different insects look like bed bugs, and bed bug bites are often hard to distinguish from other insect bites.

Once you've confirmed you have bed bugs, you can then begin the process of treating and killing them, using one or more of the most common and effective methods.

Killing Bed Bug eggs requires special care, because they are difficult to find and are sticky.  Fortunately standard bed bug treatments like sprays, steam, and heat work very well on bed bugs eggs in addition to bed bugs as well.  

With sprays, just be sure to read the labels, and verify they specifically state they kill bed bug eggs.  See our list of Top Bed Bug Sprays to be sure you get a spray that actually works.

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