One of the only good things about some insects is that they do not live long. They have shockingly short life spans. Most species of ticks live around 4 months. Fleas do not last for more than 90 days. Mosquitoes die naturally after one month. And flies die of old age after 15 to 25 days.
However, does that mean that you can wait for them to die naturally? What about bed bugs? How much time are they expected to last before dying of natural causes?
The life cycle of a bed bug
The life cycle of a bed bug starts when females lay eggs. They are oval, around 1/16’’ long, and are usually found in clusters, mostly located on cervices or cracks in the furniture, walls, and other dark and sheltered locations inside your house. The typical bed bug female lays up to 250 eggs throughout her lifetime. They are 1mm in size, similar to two grains of salt, and milky white in color.
Eggs usually hatch in no more than 10 days, and the new bed bugs emerge. They are called nymphs and need blood to keep on living right from the start. Thus, eggs are laid somewhere near your bed or as close as possible to a source of blood. Even if they are not close to human blood, they can continue feeding of other mammals, and even birds.
After feeding several times, nymphs start to change. Every time they change their appearance, they shed the outer exoskeleton and leave it as an empty carcass. They repeat the same thing 5 times before they turn into adult bed bugs with a capacity to reproduce. Before that, they are not sexually mature and are smaller as compared to adult bed bugs. Their color is yellowish at first, and then, right after reaching adulthood, they are reddish-brown. This process of a nymph becoming an adult usually lasts 5 weeks.
After a nymph becomes an adult, this adult bed bug feeds around once per week. Then, the life cycle goes on, with mating and egg-laying in a never-ending cycle. The usual rate of reproduction is up to 5 new eggs every day. It is estimated that this cycle is repeated a minimum of three times every year, and throughout this time, bed bugs usually live more than 6 months. However, they can last for months under the right circumstances, and sometimes each one of them survives for more than 1 year.
Will they go away “naturally”?
Bed bugs will die off naturally, but is it realistic to think that the infestation will be over after 1 year? If you read the text above, you will see that the typical bed bug female lays a minimum of 250 eggs throughout her lifetime. According to some sources, the number goes up to 500 eggs. In other words, for each bed bug that died after one year, 500 replacements will be taking its place.
That’s why bed bugs and other insects continue living and thriving despite their short lifetimes. They are designed to live, feed, and reproduce at a very fast pace. You won’t change this by just waiting for them to die naturally. Instead, you need to actively look for solutions to the problem, because they won’t go away by themselves.
If you’re now noticing there are bed bugs in your house and decide to wait, the only thing you’re doing is letting them perpetuate their offspring and grow their nest. Instead of going away, they may start to migrate and infect neighboring houses to get additional sources of blood, and this will make the infection worse and more difficult to eradicate.
Effective methods to get rid of bed bugs
Instead of waiting for them to die naturally, there are many ways to get rid of bed bugs, and they usually start with an inspection. It is fundamental to inspect your house and look for the sources of the infestation.
They are usually found in sheltered locations in your house, such as cracks and crevices in the walls or old furniture. If you collect items or have too many books, magazines, newspapers, and clutter at home, bed bugs can make use of these favorable circumstances to find hidden places to lay their eggs and spend the day. So, every eradication attempt should start by making a thorough inspection of your house to find potential hiding places.
After you’ve located their hiding places, we recommend using one or several methods to get rid of them:
- Insecticides: They are one of the most effective methods. Most insecticides work for this purpose, but since bed bugs are usually located near your bedroom, it might not be a good idea to spread insecticides everywhere. If you have pets or small children, it is definitely not a good idea, either. But there are other alternatives.
- Diatomaceous earth: This is an eco-friendly and very safe alternative to get rid of bed bugs without harming pets or small children. Diatomaceous is usually used on a mattress when treating bedbugs. It is usually sold as a powder you want to spread in cracks, crevasses, and other sheltered locations. What it does is drying bed bugs to death.
- Heat methods: This method is very useful to get rid of bed bugs in your carpet. It is also a suitable treatment for your clothes and bedding. We can use heat therapy in the form of steam, and there are devices you can use for this purpose. Note that this is an additional method and should be used along with one of the above.
If you still have problems with bed bugs and do not know what to do or where to start, another alternative is getting some professional help. Pest control professionals have the appropriate tools to get rid of bed bugs, and they know how to use them and which method that will be more effective in your particular case. That’s why they are the most reliable method to get rid of bed bugs.
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Reinhardt, K., & Siva-Jothy, M. T. (2007). Biology of the bed bugs (Cimicidae). Annu. Rev. Entomol., 52, 351-374.
Studdiford, J. S., Conniff, K. M., Trayes, K. P., & Tully, A. S. (2012). Bedbug infestation. American family physician, 86(7), 653-658.