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Top 10 Pests: Bed Bug

Bed bug feeding on skin surface, seen from above
Bed bug sucking blood from human

Photo by CDC

Bed Bug

Scientific Name:
Cimex lectularius
Hemiptera (true bugs)
U.S. Distribution:
All states


This page has three tables, (1) Identification, (2) Look-alike Pests, and (3) Biology and Habits.


Match the Shape and Size Match the Color
drawing of bed bug showing shape and key characters
bed bug in profile, feeding
  • Body broadly oval shape
  • Body flattened when unfed
  • Wingless
  • 4-segmented antenna
  • Piercing/suckinng beak on underside
  • adult is 1/4-inch long (6 mm)
  • Unfed bed bug is straw colored
  • Engorged bed bug is reddish-brown
  • Covered with short, golden hairs
Illustration © Pinto & Associates Photo by CDC from WHO


Look-alike Pests

Look-alike Pest Differences

Bat bugs (Cimex adjunctus, C. pilosellus)

Difficult to tell apart from bed bugs: a bat bug has a fringe of hairs on its pronotum longer than or equal to the width of its eye; that of the bed bug is shorter than the width of the eye. Bat bugs may also bite people.
Tropical bed bug (Cimex hemipterus)
Difficult to tell apart from bed bugs: front of pronotum of the tropical bed bug is moderately excavated versus deeply excavated for the bed bug; occurs in the tropics and in Florida.


Biology and Habits

Match the Food and Site Match the Habits and Damage
bed bug on hand Bed bugs and fecal spots in mattress seam
  • Both adult and nymph suck blood; humans are the preferred host
  • Hides during the day, usually near sleeping areas in cracks in walls, behind baseboards, under mattresses, in box springs, in furniture, under wallpaper or pictures, in drapes, under rugs, under window or door frames
  • At one time, bed bugs were primarily found most often in barracks, camps, jails, rooming houses, homeless shelters, old hotels, other shared sleeping quarters.
  • Today, found in hotels, apartments, schools, private homes, and other sites
  • Also can infest hospitals, nursing homes, trains, planes, buses, cruise ships, theaters, moving vans, etc.
  • Leaves dark fecal spots on mattresses, bed clothes, clothing, and even walls, ceiling, and other surfaces
  • Scent glands emit a "sickly sweet" odor
  • Feeds mainly at night, hides during day
  • Bed bugs travel up to twenty feet to feed, and occasionally much further.
  • Can go for months between feedings
  • Often transported to new locations in luggage, used beds or bedding, secondhand furniture, or clothing
  • Can migrate from one room or apartment unit to the next through pipe and wiring runs, and in wall and ceiling voids, much as cockroaches move
  • Painless bite can leave an itchy welt
  • Feeding does not spread any diseases.
Photo from CDC Photo © Pinto & Associates

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