When you’ve got a bed bug infestation, the last thing you may be worried about is whether the bugs invading your home are male or female. Although it can be hard to tell, male and female bed bugs have a few differing traits. It might seem insignificant, but these traits can mean a world of a difference when trying to control an infestation.
One of the main differences between male versus female bed bugs is their shape. A male bed bug’s abdomen is going to be more pointed than its female counterpart. Another way to tell their gender is by looking at their organs. Because bed bugs can be transparent when they haven’t fed, you can see the internal differences as well.
Female bed bugs also have a body part known as the hemocoel in their abdomen. This is where they keep their eggs before laying them. In both male and female bed bugs, their abdomens get bigger after they’ve fed.
Why Does it Matter?
You may be wondering why all of this information is important. However, it could make all the difference whether you have found a male or a female bed bug.
A single male bed bug probably can’t do much harm aside from giving you a small rash in the spot where it has fed. A female bed bug, on the other hand, has the capacity to lay eggs, thus creating a whole new colony of bed bugs.
Female bed bugs tend to feed right before they lay their eggs. Therefore, if a female bed bug is found nearby, she’s likely looking to feed so that she can then lay her eggs. If this is the case, you should inspect your home closely for any signs of bed bug eggs.
The worst part is that female bed bugs don’t always need a male bed bug to lay eggs. They have the capability to store a male bed bug’s sperm and continue to use it to lay their eggs. There’s no knowing how many times she’s laid eggs. Once the new eggs have hatched, you’ve got an infestation.
Stages of Development
As with most insects, bed bugs look different in each stage of development. Bed bug eggs look like small grains of rice that are usually found in clumps. Once they’ve hatched, they are known as nymphs. Nymphs are going to be very small and transparent. It isn’t until they feed that they will continue to grow in size. And because they are transparent, you will be able to see once they have fed as their bodies will turn a reddish color.
A nymph can grow from being 1mm to 4.5mm. Once they are full-grown, they will be about the size of an apple seed. Once they have reached maturity, they can make through a process called “traumatic insemination.” This involves the male piercing the female’s shell in order to insert his sperm. If a nymph is not yet ready to mate, it will release a pheromone that will keep the other bed bugs from mating with it.
Bed Bug Life Cycle
Once a female bed bug is inseminated, she can continue to lay eggs for up to six to eight weeks. In fact, she may even eventually procreate with one of her offspring. After a female bed bug lays her eggs, she abandons them. Unlike most insects or animals, bed bugs don’t raise their young.
When the eggs have hatched, typically after seven to fifteen days, a young nymph can typically survive a few months without having had its first meal. However once the insect has fed, it will molt every three to seven days after feeding.
Nymphs will typically feed and molt a total of five times before becoming full-grown adult bed bugs. Then, the bed bugs will mate once again. Typically, female bed bugs can lay between two to seven eggs per week. In a female bed bug’s life cycle, she will lay around 500 eggs.
Why Temperature Matters
Believe it or not, bed bugs need their environment to be kept at a certain temperature in order for them to survive. At 98 degrees Fahrenheit, a female bed bug will survive around 32 days. In comparison, at a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, she can live up to 425 days. Males, on the other hand, live between 29 and 401 days, depending on the temperature. What temperature kills bed bugs? Bed bugs and their eggs start to die at 113 ºF.
That’s why it’s important to wash and dry your clothing at the highest temperature possible when trying to get rid of bed bugs. They have a low tolerance for heat and will die the minute that they overheat.
It doesn’t matter if your home is clean; a bed bug can still make its way inside. You can keep them from spreading by making sure that there aren’t large spots of clutter in your home and spraying your home often. Keep in mind, however, that insecticides that are meant to kill other insects that aren’t bed bugs won’t work on them.
Many insecticides that do work on bed bugs won’t actively kill their eggs. In order to get rid of the eggs as best as possible, vacuum your home, your mattress, your carpets, and anywhere that a bed bug could have laid eggs.
Even if enough time has passed since your last bed bug infestation, you should still preemptively spray your home with insecticides. Bed bugs are almost as hard to kill as roaches and they can live almost a year without feeding. As a result, some could still be lurking in the depths of your mattress even months later.
Practice good hygiene, keep your home tidy, and keep bed bug insecticide around in order to keep those nasty creatures at bay.