Bedbugs are obligate blood parasites that belong to the insect family Cimicidae. Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus, the two bedbug species that feed primarily on humans, are oval, reddish-brown, flat, and wingless. Adults are typically 4 to 7 mm in length (Figure 1). Nymphs can be as small as 1 mm, and are translucent and lighter in color 5,7 (Figure 2). Adult females produce 200 to 500 eggs in a typical six- to 12-month life span.5,8 Bedbugs can withstand temperatures from 44.6°F to 113°F (7°C to 45°C).8
The best way to confirm that the bites are from bed bugs is to find other evidence of a bed bug infestation. Common telltale signs can be found on or near your mattress: pull up your sheets and check the seams and folds for thin black fecal streaks or small red blood spots. You might also find bed bugs, living or dead, and their discarded shells in various hiding places, such as the joints of your bed frame.
One bed bug will usually take more than one bite. Once a bed bug inserts its mouthparts and finds a suitable blood vessel, it will begin feeding. However, finding the right blood vessel may take more than one injection into the skin. In addition, bed bugs are very sensitive to movement by the host they are feeding on. Therefore, if a sleeping person moves, a feeding bed bug will probably withdraw its mouthparts and begin its search for a blood meal on another part of the body. It’s important to remember that the number of bites a person receives is not indicative of the number of bed bugs that feed on that person.