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DPDx

DPDx is an education resource designed for health professionals and laboratory scientists. For an overview including prevention and control visit www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs.

Bed Bugs

[Cimex hemipterus] [Cimex lectularius]

Close up of adult Cimex lectularius, collected in a hotel in urban Georgia.

Close up of Cimex lectularius, collected in a hotel in urban Georgia.


Nymph of C. lectularius. The blue marks represent 1 mm.

Nymph of C. lectularius. The blue marks represent 1 mm.

Causal Agents

The two species of bed bugs (Insecta: Hemiptera: Cimicidae) usually implicated in human infestations are Cimex lectularius and C. hemipterus. Although rare, humans may become incidental hosts of Cimex species of bats and birds.


Life Cycle

Life cycle of Bed Bug

Adults and all nymphal stages of Cimex spp. need to take blood meals from warm-blooded hosts, which are typically humans for C. lectularius and C. hemipterus, although other mammals and birds can be utilized in the absence of a human host. Female bed bugs lay about five eggs The Number 1 daily throughout their adult lives in a sheltered location (mattress seams, crevices in box springs, spaces under baseboards, etc). Eggs hatch in about 4-12 days into first instar nymphs The Number 2 which must take a blood meal before molting to the next stage. The bugs will undergo five nymphal stages (The Number 2, The Number 3, The Number 4, The Number 5, The Number 6 ), each one requiring a blood meal before molting to the next stage, with the fifth stage molting into an adult The Number 7. Nymphs, although lacking wing buds, resemble smaller versions of the adults. Nymphs and adults take about 5-10 minutes to obtain a full blood meal. The adults may take several blood meals over several weeks, assuming a warm-blooded host is available. Mating occurs off the host and involves a unique form of copulation called ‘traumatic insemination’ whereby the male penetrates the female’s abdominal wall with his external genitalia and inseminates into her body cavity. Adults live 6-12 months and may survive for long periods of time without feeding.

Geographic Distribution

Cimex lectularius is cosmopolitan in distribution; C. hemipterus is distributed in the tropics and sub-tropics

Clinical Presentation

Although bed bugs have been found naturally-infected with blood-borne pathogens, they are not effective vectors of disease. The primary medical importance is inflammation associated with their bites (due to allergic reactions to components in their saliva)

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  • Page last reviewed November 29, 2013
  • Page last updated November 29, 2013
  • Content source: Global Health - Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria
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