How Do Bed Bugs Reproduce?

​​How Do Bed Bugs Reproduce?

Have you ever wondered why bed bugs seem to spread so quickly, or why they show up in such big numbers once they form a colony in a home or building? It has everything to do with how bed bugs reproduce, and that’s exactly what you’re going to learn about in this article.

First, you’ll find out how soon bed bugs reach adulthood and when they can begin reproducing. Then you’ll discover precisely how reproduction works for these insects. Finally, you’ll get in depth information about bed bug eggs, including how many a female bug lays at once, how long the eggs take to hatch, and how often eggs are laid by bed bugs.

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Once you have this information, it will be easy to see how bed bug colonies grow and spread so quickly. You’ll also understand why bed bugs need to be treated swiftly and efficiently in order to prevent a full infestation. Continue reading to find out what you need to know about bed bug reproduction and eggs.

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

At What Age or Stage Do Bed Bugs Begin To Reproduce?

Counting bed bug age isn’t really like human age. Individual bed bugs don’t typically live for more than a single year, so their age is more commonly counted in days. That being said, each bed bug takes a slightly different amount of time from others in its colony in order to reach the various stages that lead up to adulthood.

That’s because, for bed bugs, reaching the next stage in life depends upon getting a meal. A bed bug nymph, which is the stages of life that are equivalent to childhood and adolescence, goes through five stages before it becomes an adult. At each stage, it molts, or sheds its skin, and in order for that to happen, the bed bug must have a blood meal.

A baby bed bug feeding - CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

Bed bugs cannot reproduce until they reach full adulthood, and that means going through all five nymph stages. The sixth and final stage is the age when they are fully mature and able to reproduce.

A mature bed bug - CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

What does that translate to in terms of time? On average, a bed bug, whether nymph or adult, feeds about once per week under ideal conditions. Given that molting schedule, a nymph can reach adulthood and begin reproducing in about 5 or 6 weeks. In reality, the time to adulthood can vary greatly.

Some nymphs feed often enough to reach reproductive age in as little as 3 weeks. This usually occurs in their ideal conditions, which include a relatively warm environment and easily accessible human blood. In less than ideal conditions where the temperature is cooler or meals are less frequent, the nymphs can survive quite a while in between meals, stretching out their time before full maturity. In this case, it may take 4 months before a nymph is fully mature.

How Do Bed Bugs Reproduce?

Female bed bugs are fertilized by males and lay eggs. Male bed bugs take their cue to mate whenever they recognize that a recently fed bed bug is nearby, regardless of whether the passing bed bug is female. Nymphs and male bed bugs secrete a pheromone that attempts to prevent mature males from penetrating them. The occasional non-fertilizing mating session, however, does not stop the massive explosion of an established bed bug population, thanks to the female ability to lay multiple batches of eggs once fertilized.

The actual reproductive process is called traumatic insemination, or hypodermic insemination. The male pierces any location on the abdomen of the other bed bug with a hardened sex organ and then releases sperm into the abdomen.

CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

How Many Eggs Do Bed Bugs Lay At Once?

Each fertilized female bed bug can lay about 3 to 7 eggs a day, usually 1 at a time, and most lay around 250 eggs in their short lifetimes. A quirk of bed bug reproduction is that females that are mated more frequently, especially in a short period of time, develop scar tissue that makes it difficult to lay eggs. The result is that these females lay fewer eggs at a time.

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

To prevent this, the fertilized females usually leave their original colony and find a new location with access to food. Once there, they will lay their eggs and start a new colony.

After fertilization, the female insect can lay eggs for up to 7 weeks and usually lays multiple batches during this time. Even if she left for a new location, she can be fertilized by any of her male offspring after they reach maturity, which takes anywhere from 3 weeks to 4 months.

How Long Do Bed Bug Eggs Take To Hatch?

The exact amount of time it takes for bed bug eggs to hatch varies depending upon the environment, especially the temperature. On average, eggs hatch in about 1 to 2 weeks, though it can sometimes take a little longer. Eggs will hatch sooner in warmer environments.

The bugs usually lay their eggs somewhere hidden so they are safe. Additionally, each egg has a sticky, natural adhesive substance on its exterior, which keeps it in place and undisturbed. Bed bugs usually have a colony close to the host they feed from, and they will lay their eggs nearby, but in a place that is unlikely to be moved or disturbed.

Bed Bug Eggs

CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

How Often Do Bed Bugs Lay Eggs?

Unlike many larger egg-laying animals, such as birds, bed bugs do not need to tend their eggs once they have lain them. What that means for your home is that they do not have to wait 2 weeks for one set of eggs to hatch before laying more. It also means that even if you get rid of all the living bugs, your infestation will return if you did not destroy all of the eggs. This can be quite a task given that the eggs are smaller than sesame seeds, often well-hidden in a dark space, and may be in a different location from the original colony.

The eggs may also be somewhat spread out because of the habit of this bug to lay eggs one at a time. You cannot count on physical removal techniques, like vacuuming, to get rid of bed bug eggs.

Female bed bugs that seek out a new location after fertilization have a greater chance to lay more eggs because they escape the trauma of further mating sessions. Additionally, female bed bugs need to have eaten recently in order to be appealing for a male to mate with, and they must continue feeding in order to lay the eggs they carry. It is possible for a fertilized female to lay 1 or 2 eggs every day.

Summary

How bed bugs reproduce seems somewhat haphazard, given the varying ages of maturity for bed bug nymphs and the lack of mate discrimination among males, as well as the damage caused by insemination. Despite all of this, bed bugs reproduce at an incredible rate, swiftly and silently taking over a home. Now that you understand just how easy it is for them to increase their numbers and spread to multiple colonies, you can see how important it is to destroy all bed bugs, including the eggs, if you intend to defeat an infestation.

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