Insect identification > Hemiptera > Bedbugs


The bedbug (Cimex lectularius L.). - This universally distributed and well-known pest appears to have originated in Asia and has now spread wherever man is found. It is a small, flat insect, reddish brown in color, about a fifth of an inch long when adult, and wingless, only tiny stubs of wings remaining to show that it has been derived from winged ancestors. It produces a very noticeable odor.

It is a nocturnal animal, hiding during the day in any cracks and crevices it may find, in the bedstead, behind loose wallpaper or elsewhere. In these places it lays its eggs, probably about two hundred in number, these hatching in from a week to a much longer period depending upon the temperature. The nymphs are yellowish white at first, turning brown gradually with increasing age.

Nymphal life varies greatly in its length, being affected by the temperature and food supply; but when these are favorable, about 7 weeks is required to produce the adult bug. Under less favorable circumstances the nymphs may remain unchanged, but alive, for along period.

The number of generations in a year may therefore differ greatly under different conditions but in warmed houses there are probably at least four.

Where human blood is not obtainable for food, that of mice, rats or other animals where available may be taken instead, and living bedbugs in empty houses may perhaps be accounted for in this way. Without food, however, death within a year is a practical certainty.

The "bite" of the bedbug is quite poisonous to some persons but not to others and in some cases a sort of immunity is obtained by individuals continuously exposed to attacks.

Bedbugs are known to be carriers of contagious diseases of man, such as the African relapsing fever, kalaazar, and plague, but, of course, the insect must first become itself infected with the causal agent of the disease which is very rarely the case, at least in the United States. It does not appear to transmit the diseases except as the agents of them by accident get on the mouth-parts of the insect.