With the ongoing bed bug outbreaks around the country, one of the most commonly asked questions is: What do bed bugs look like? This post will provide a detailed description of these bothersome bugs as well as some of the signs and behaviors they’re known for.

what do bed bugs look like under a microscope

Bed bug under a microscope in NYC

Identifying Bed Bugs – What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

If you’ve asked yourself “what do bed bugs look like?” then consider these factoids:

  • Bed bugs are wingless insects.
  • They are flat and oval in shape.
  • Their color is a rust or reddish brown.
  • Bed bugs that have just fed appear almost as red as the blood they just fed on.
  • They are covered in microscopic hair.
  • Their average size is 4mm to 5mm in length.
  • A bed bug mouth resembles a beak, which is what they insert into the skin to draw out blood.
Bed bug exterminator found bed bugs at NYC apartment

Bed bug exterminator found bed bugs at NYC apartment

Did You Know?

  • The Centers for Disease Control have noted about 92 sub species of bed bugs that have been found around the world.
  • They report that the most common species of bed bugs found among today’s infestations is known as Cimex lectularius – the species best adapted to human environments commonly found in temperate climates throughout the world.
  • They were identified as far back as the 1600’s in Europe and were thought to have not been found in America until settlers arrived, bringing them over on ships.

closeup of bed bug in nyc

Signs and Behaviors of Bed Bugs – What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Because of their minuscule size, it is also important to know about the signs and behaviors of bed bugs should they make their way into your domicile or hotel room. Here’s what to look for:

  • On bedding, look for red or black dots, which can be blood or feces, or little white spots, which may be bed bug eggs.
  • The newly hatched bed bugs, known as nymphs, are translucent in appearance and grow to the darker color as they mature.
  • Bed bugs are parasitic in nature like mosquitoes, so inspect any bites on your skin in the form of a large, red welt that comes with intense itching.
  • These insidious insects tend to come out more at night.
  • Bed bugs also feed on pets, rodents, and other warm-blooded animals.
  • They do not move very quickly and can only crawl; they do not jump like fleas and ticks.

Bed bugs do not live that long in the grand scheme of things but, while they are alive, they tend to thrive – multiplying at a rapid pace and creating a national crisis in the process.

Lifecycle of Bed Bugs

The average bed bug lifecycle is anywhere from ten months to just over one year. During that time, they can create up to three new generations of bugs from three to eight eggs that are produced at one time. In total, a bed bug can produce up to 500 eggs in their lifetime, not all of which will lead to a new life but does illustrate just how fast and big the bed bug problem can get.

The gestation period of the eggs is about 12 days. The hatched eggs produce nymphs, which are beige until they start feeding on blood. Over the course of the next 32 to 48 days, they will go through five more developmental stages before reaching maturity.

An adult bed bug is flat and oval but, due to their small size, are often difficult to see with the naked eye. They do not have wings and tend to be brown or reddish-brown in color. Younger bed bugs are often colorless until they feast on their first meal. Signs of bed bugs can include shed skins as well as dark spots on bedding that is actually bed bug excrement.

Lifestyle of a Bed Bug

Bed bugs are hardy creatures as they can live up to seven months without a meal. In identifying their food source, they can detect exhaled carbon dioxide as well as sense warmth and moisture from warm-blooded hosts. It pierces the skin of its host and injects salivary fluid to keep the blood from clotting.

In terms of habitat, these pests prefer to live in mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, clothing, cracks and crevices. Nighttime is their favorite time for feeding. It is somewhat of a nomad, moving from place to place for its meals. Bed bugs have been found all over the world, specifically Europe, North America, and Central Asia.

In Review

In reviewing answers for the question, “What do bed bugs look like,” here is an at-a-glance summary:

  • They are hard to see with the human eye, but bed bugs move slow and are either dark red or black spots often seen on bedding, beds, clothing and furniture.
  • Their eggs and young (nymphs) are white or translucent in color.
  • They do not have wings and do not jump.
  • They tend to be livelier at night and tend to leave spots of blood or feces behind – a telling sign they have taken up residence.
  • They multiply quickly due to the large number of eggs they live in their short life, which can be anywhere from seven months to just over a year.
  • The lifecycle includes numerous developmental stages until they become an adult.
  • The number of eggs – up to 500 – can produce up to three new generations of bed bugs.
  • They prefer warm-blooded hosts and prefer to dine at nighttime.
  • Bed bugs are nomadic and set up house in bedding, mattresses, clothing, and dark, hard-to-reach areas of a building.
  • They are found all over the world.

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