An adult bed bug is about 1/5 of an inch long and 1/8 inch wide. It's reddish-brown to mahogany colored body is greatly flattened and oval-shaped. After feeding, the bug’s body enlarges considerably, becoming longer and much less flat. Although the body is covered with tiny hairs, these hairs are so small that they are almost invisible to the naked eye, so the general body appearance is shiny. Bed bugs have piercing, sucking mouth parts that enable them to pierce the skin and suck blood from their hosts.
Bed bug eggs are elongated and usually attached to any available surface when laid. Each female bed bug lays about two eggs per day until she has laid approximately 200. At normal room temperature these eggs will hatch in 6 to 17 days, producing small, almost colorless nymphs that have the general appearance, body-wise, of the adult.
Bed bugs are very hardy insects. Both adults and nymphs can survive prolonged periods without food or under adverse temperature conditions. Adults can live for a year or longer without feeding, and can survive over the winter in an unheated building. Nymphs are not as hearty as adults but they can survive for considerable periods under adverse conditions.
Humans are the preferred host for the common bed bug, but it will feed readily on other animals. In laboratory tests, bed bugs have been found to carry the causative agents for several diseases such as anthrax, plague, tularemia, yellow fever, relapsing fever, and typhus. However, there is little evidence that they carry these disease organisms under normal conditions, so they are not considered an important factor in disease transmission.
Bed bugs generally hide in cracks and crevices during normal daylight hours. Typical hiding places are in the folds and tufts of mattresses, coils of springs, cracks and hollow poster bedsteads and upholstery of chairs and sofas. However, they are not restricted to these places. In heavy infestations, bed bugs are frequently found in places such as behind loose wallpaper, behind pictures on the wall, under door and window casings, behind baseboards, and even light fixtures and medicine cabinets. Bed bugs may also be found in seemingly unlikely places, such as in cracks in the floor, under carpeting, behind electric switch plates, folds of draperies, in unused ovens or boilers and in motor compartments of electric refrigerators. When inspecting for bed bugs one must look into any place that offers darkness, isolation and protection. For these reasons they are extremely hard to control.