What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are a nuisance parasite that is making a big comeback in America. The small, wingless insects are believed to have evolved from bird and bat nest parasites. A scourge throughout recorded history, like fleas and lice, bed bugs have fed on the blood of humans since time immemorial. In America, the widespread use of synthetic insecticides like DDT nearly wiped them out and bed bugs were virtually nonexistent in the 1990s. But the banning of DDT and increased international travel have brought the nasty critters back to our shores in droves. Last year bed bug infestations were reported in all 50 states and in growing numbers.

About the size of a grain of rice, adult bed bugs are 1/4-inch long with flat, oval, reddish-brown bodies. They mature through five nymphal stages from egg to adult, feeding on human blood at least once to develop from one stage to the next and to reproduce. Adults live 6 to 12 months, usually feeding at least every 3 to 5 days, but can survive for more than a year without feeding. Unbelievably hardy, bed bugs thrive in warm, humid temperatures of 83 to 90 degrees, but can survive in arid climates and temperatures from 5 to 120 degrees.

Click here for more information on bed bugs on the Stern Environmental website. To see pictures of bed bugs and watch a video of a bed bug feeding, click here.