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NPS Arrowhead National Park Service
US Department of the Interior
Office of Public Health 1201 Eye Street, NW
Room 1131
Washington, DC 20005

Phone: 202-513-7215
Fax: 202-371-1349
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Office of Public Health - General Bed Bug Factsheet
Points Of Contact
(202) 513-7217
Assistant to Director for Science
(202) 513-7097
(505) 248-7806
Assistant to Director for Field Operations
(202) 513-7056
National Capitol Region
Northeast Region
(215) 597-5371
Southeast Region
(404) 507-5730
Mid-West Region
(402) 661-1718
Intermountain Region
(505) 988-6040
Pacific West Region
(510) 817-1375
Alaska Region
(206) 220-4270

All members of the bed bug family, Cimicidae, feed on the blood of birds or mammals. The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius L., attacks man and can infest homes. Several other species found in the United States are reported to bite man and can infest homes and/or other manmade structures. They are: Eastern bat bug, Cimex adjunctus; Western bat bug, Cimex pilosellus; Tropical bed bug, Cimex hemipterus; Swallow bug, Oeciacus vicarius; Poultry bug Haematosiphon inodorus; and the Chimney swift bug, Cimexopsis nyctalis. There are ten additional species found in the United States that feed on birds, bats, and/or other mammals. Worldwide, there are over 90 species of bed bugs.

In recent years, many urban pest management specialists have recognized an increase in the number of bed bug infestations in buildings. Possible contributing factors in this increase could include: an increase in the use of second-hand furniture; the use of furniture and bedding delivery vehicles to remove replaced mattresses and furniture, thereby infesting the vehicle and subsequently delivered furniture; the European habit of storing opened suitcases under the bed in hotel rooms; an increase in the number of poultry facilities with bed bug infestations and facility employees carrying bed bugs home on their clothing; an increased tolerance for bat infestations roosting in residential buildings; incorrectly identified bed bug species; and, improperly applied pesticides.

LIFE HISTORY (C. lectularius)

Common bed bugs are oval, chestnut brown insects, and are flattened from top to bottom. The adult bed bugs measure about 1/4 inch in length. The mouthparts are shaped into an elongated proboscis which, when not used, is held directed backwards underneath the body. When a bug is ready to feed, the proboscis is extended forward and the stylets within are thrust into the skin of a host. Mated females deposit eggs in their resting places. One female will produce about 345 eggs during her life span.

Bed bugs grow by molting several times. Nymphs look very much like the adults except they are smaller and not sexually mature. There are five nymphal molts and each nymph must have a blood meal to be able to molt to the next size. Adults feed once a week on the average, but feed many times during their four months or longer life span.

Common bed bugs often come into a home via second hand articles and furniture. They many also migrate between homes via wires, plumbing or rain gutters. In addition, since warehouses, trucks and railroad cars may be infested, common bed bugs can infest homes by stowing away on new furniture stored or shipped from these places.

While bed bugs are not considered to be important vectors of zoonosis, they have been found to contain various disease organisms and have transmitted diseases in some laboratory studies. At the least, their bites can produce irritating, itching and burning sensations. Bed bug nymphs can become fully engorged with blood within three minutes of feeding initiation and adults can take 10 to 15 minutes for engorgement. The act of biting is usually not felt, but later there is an allergic reaction to proteins found in the bed bug's saliva. A colorless wheal or lump develops at the bite location; in contrast, flea bites have reddish centers. Discomfort from bed bug bites may last a week or more. Occasional bites indicate a beginning light infestation of adults; many bites result from a heavy, long standing population of nymphs and adults.


Catalog of the Heteroptera, or True Bugs, of Canada and the Continental United States. Thomas J. Henry and Richard C. Froeschner, Eds. 1988. E.J. Brill, New York. 958 pp.

Handbook of Pest Control. Arnold Mallis. 1997. Mallis Handbook and Technical Training Company. Eighth ed. 1453 pp

How to Know the True Bugs. J.A. Slater and R.M. Baranowski. 1978. Wm. C. Brown Company. 256 pp.

Monograph of Cimicidae. Robert L. Usinger. 1966. Entomological Society of America. 585 pp.

S.B. JACOBS (2003)

If you have any questions, please contact the nearest Point of Contact, park sanitarian or the Washington Office.

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