A bed bug's life starts as a tiny egg, barely noticeable to the human eye. But in just days, this tiny, blood-sucking insect will hatch and be searching for its next blood meal in you.
Don't believe this myth about bed bug eggs
You may have already read on some websites that bed bugs can lay up to 500 eggs in a lifetime. That's something to freak out about—if it were true. Thankfully, it's not. Virginia Tech entomologist Dini M. Miller, PhD, says that number is from dated research but still circulates today. The reported 500 eggs were based on one bed bug in a lab that was very fertile. Here's something you can believe—the real causes of bed bugs.
How many eggs do bed bugs lay?
Dr. Dini Millers' research lab at Virginia Tech says the more meals the female gets, the greater the number of eggs she will produce. So, if she is able to feed every week, she could produce five to 20 eggs. But she might not get to feed every week, in which case she would produce fewer eggs. According to Dr. Miller's research, bed bugs can lay up to 113 eggs in a lifetime, which can be around a year.
Male bed bugs get frisky after a blood meal
After female and male bed bugs get their fill of blood from you, they head back to the harborage (their home) to digest their blood feast and mate. Dr. Miller's research tells us male bed bugs are particularly interested in mating after a blood meal. Afterward and for the next several hours, their sperm will migrate to the female's ovaries and fertilize her eggs. Check out what bed bugs look like after they eat and when they mate.
Bed bug eggs are dropped
Bed bug eggs are cream-colored and have an elongated shape that measures a tiny one millimeter in length. The female can lay her eggs singly or in groups. "Bed bugs can 'glue' their egg to a surface and it can remain there until it hatches if in an undisturbed location such as a crack or crevice. They can be dislodged though, so they can be found on the floor if scraped off," says urban entomologist Jody Green, PhD, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The eggs are usually pretty safe unless a human comes along with a scraper or strong vacuum to suck them up. Vacuuming is one way to stay on top of bed bugs. Here are some other things you should be doing to keep bed bugs out.
Bed bug eggs are tough
You would think something as small and seemingly frail like a bed bug egg wouldn't have much of a chance, yet Dr. Miller's research says that under optimal conditions, just about 97 percent of the bed bug eggs hatch. Insecticides sold at the local hardware store can't penetrate the protective eggshell, says Green. Even diatomaceous earth, one of the home remedies for bed bugs, only kills nymphs and adult bed bugs—not the eggs. Here's what's lethal to the eggs: Temperatures above 120 degrees, or below 0. Green says some professional products may be successful at wiping out the eggs but only with precise and proper application techniques.
A new generation of bed bugs will hatch between nine and 12 days of optimal room temperatures—around 72 degrees—Green says. Hatching takes longer under cooler conditions. Once the nymphs emerge, they immediately start searching for a blood meal. "Literature has suggested that nymphs require a blood meal soon because they may desiccate. A blood meal will help them with moisture, but they can also survive by hiding out in crevices in optimal temperatures of 70 to 90 degrees," says Green. Even without a blood snack, nymphs may live for two to four months. Check out some more secrets bed bugs don't want you to know.