Bed bugs are true bugs. They belong to the Order Heteroptera and family Cimicidae. They have piercing mouthparts that they use to suck blood out of its prey. Sometimes they get a little excited and will climb on the back of another bed bug who is engorged with blood, pierce it and suck out the blood from that bug. The bottom bug will keep sucking on the person as if nothing is going on and both bugs will let go when they are both engorged, although the bottom bug may leak a little. Like most blood-sucking insects, bed bugs inject an anti-coagulant into the bite site during feeding to prevent the blood from clotting while they are dining.
They are attracted to sleeping people by the warmth of the person and the carbon dioxide given off. They almost always feed at night and hide during the day, but they will feed during the day if they are starving. They are a secretive insect and will hide in areas close to the food source, mostly where people sleep but sometimes in furniture. They will live under mattresses, in voids in wooden floors, behind paintings, along baseboards under the carpet, various cracks and crevices in walls, behind pictures hanging on walls, in furniture near the bed and behind loose wallpaper. They do like to congregate and you will often find several or more together depending on the size of the infestation. You will also see small black specks on the mattress (fecal matter) or blood spots on the sheets.
Bed bugs are wingless, oval in shape and 4-5 mm long when grown. They are brown in color but change to a deeper reddish brown after feeding. They are flat from top to bottom which makes it easier for them to hide in cracks and crevices in your home or hotel room. They are fairly prolific in that the female will lay 2-3 eggs every day after mating for the rest of her life. The cream-colored eggs are attached to rough surfaces and will hatch in about 10 days of room temperature. Usually many eggs are laid in the same area as a cluster. There are five nymphal stages they go through before reaching adulthood. Each nymphal stage requires at least one blood meal in order to molt to the next stage. It takes less than 10 minutes for a bed bug to complete a meal. The entire five juvenile stages take 6-8 weeks and the adult bed bugs will live between 6 months to a year, depending on food.
These interesting insects rarely travel far from their food source, but if they haven’t fed in about two weeks, they will migrate somewhere else. If they are in an apartment complex, condominium, hotel or motel, they will work their way to adjacent rooms in search of food. They can go without a blood meal for about six months, depending on the humidity (longer with higher humidity, shorter when dryer conditions exist).
They have few natural predators. Several species of ants, including the pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis) and the Argentine ants (Iridomyrmex humilis) are known to feed on bed bugs and the American cockroach (Periplaneta Americana) is said to like them although that hasn’t been proven.