The History of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are one of the most persistent and annoying pests known to man. They have been a nuisance throughout human history, even in the earliest civilizations. Bed bugs have been around for centuries, and their biology and behaviour have been studied extensively. In this article, we will explore the history of bed bugs and their impact on human society.

bed bugs
bed bugs

Origin of Bed Bugs


Bed bugs are believed to have evolved from bat bugs, which are parasites of bats. They likely arrived in human dwellings by hitchhiking on clothes, furniture, and bedding. It is likely that bed bugs were present in ancient civilizations, as evidence of their presence has been found in Egyptian tombs.


Bed bugs were first mentioned in Ancient Egyptian writings dating back to the 16th century BCE. They were known to be a pest of both humans and animals in ancient times. Since then, their presence has been documented in cultures around the world. Bed bugs were a major pest in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and they were a problem in homes, hospitals, and other public places.


First Scientific Description Of Bed Bugs


The first scientific description of bed bugs was written by Swiss physician and entomologist Johann Kaspar Lavater in 1767. He described them as small, black, flat insects that lived in houses. Over the next few decades, more detailed descriptions of bed bugs were written by other scientists.


By the late 19th century, bed bugs had become a major problem in Europe and North America. People tried various methods to control them, including fumigation, chemical sprays, and dusting with pyrethrum powder. However, these methods were often ineffective, and bed bugs continued to be a problem.


In the early 20th century, DDT was developed and used to combat bed bugs. This chemical was highly effective at killing bed bugs, and its use led to a significant decrease in infestations. However, the overuse of DDT led to the development of resistance in some bed bug populations, and the chemical was phased out in the 1970s.


Since then, more advanced methods of control have been developed, such as the use of heat treatments and integrated pest management strategies. Bed bugs are still a major problem in many parts of the world, but improved control methods have made it much easier to keep them in check.


In conclusion, bed bugs have been a problem for humans for centuries. Despite numerous efforts to eradicate them, they have proven to be a resilient and persistent pest. However, with improved control strategies, it is possible to keep bed bug infestations under control.

Biology and Morphology of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flightless insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. People often find them invading their homes and businesses in nearly every corner of the world, causing extreme nuisance. Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of because of their size, ability to hide, and resistance to some common insecticides. Understanding the biology and morphology of bed bugs can help people better identify and fight infestations.


Biology of Bed Bugs

bed bugs and their eggs under the fabric in the corners of the sofa in the clients house
bed bugs and their eggs

The life cycle of bed bugs consists of five stages: egg, nymph, adult, and two phases of moulting. The cycle begins with a female bed bug laying up to five eggs per day, which hatch in 6-17 days and then develop into nymphs. Nymphs must feed on blood at least once during each of their five stages of development in order to moult and grow into adults. Adult bed bugs can live up to one year and feed every 5-10 days.



Morphology of Bed Bugs


Bed bugs are small, oval-shaped insects that range in size from 1-7 millimetres in length. They have an elongated head and three body segments that are reddish-brown to a darker brown colour. The underside of the bed bug is a lighter yellow-white colour. They also have six legs with two claws on each, and two antennae that are visible to the naked eye.



Signs of an Infestation


Bed bugs can be difficult to detect because they are small and nocturnal, meaning they are active at night and hide during the day. However, there are a few signs of an infestation that can help people identify the presence of bed bugs. These include small, dark spots (bed bug excrement), rusty or reddish stains on sheets or mattresses (bed bug blood), and a sweet, musty odour.


Control and Prevention


The most effective way to prevent and control bed bug infestations is to practise good sanitation and housekeeping. Regularly cleaning and vacuuming can help reduce the number of bed bugs in an area, as well as catching and disposing of any bed bugs that may already be present. Additionally, using insecticides or other chemical treatments can help to eliminate bed bugs.


Bed Bug Reproduction


Bed bugs reproduce by laying eggs, which are white in colour and about the size of a pinhead. The female bed bug will lay up to five eggs per day and up to 500 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs will hatch in about a week, and the nymphs will go through five moults before reaching adulthood.


Bed bugs reproduce through a process called ‘oviposition’, in which the female bed bug lays her eggs in a safe location. Bed bug eggs are approximately 1 millimetre in size, oval in shape, and whitish in colour. The female bed bug can lay up to five eggs per day and up to 500 eggs in her lifetime.


After being laid, the eggs take around seven days to hatch. The newly hatched nymphs will then go through five moulting stages, or instars, before reaching adulthood. During the moulting process, the nymphs will shed their exoskeleton and emerge as a larger bed bug. Upon reaching adulthood, the bed bug will be able to reproduce and lay eggs.


Prevalence of Bed Bugs Throughout History


Bed bugs have been a problem throughout human history. They were known to cause plague-like symptoms in Europe during the Middle Ages, and were so prevalent in Europe in the 1600s that they were mentioned in literature and even referenced in the Bible. Bed bugs have also long been a problem in the United States, where they spread rapidly during the early 1900s.


Bed bugs are small, parasitic insects of the Cimicidae family. They have been documented as human pests since ancient times, and can be found in many countries around the world. Bed bugs feed exclusively on human blood and can cause discomfort and ill health, including allergic reactions and skin rashes. They are also capable of transmitting a number of pathogens, including the bacteria that cause Chagas disease and the protozoan that causes Trypanosoma cruzi infection.


Industrialization in the 19th century accelerated the spread of bed bugs throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. In the United States, bed bugs had become a major public health problem by the early 1900s, with infestations occurring in homes, hotels, and other public spaces. Despite increased efforts to control their spread, bed bugs remain a problem in many parts of the world today.


Human Reactions to Bed Bugs


Humans have long been aware of the presence of bed bugs and have developed a number of strategies for dealing with them. Early on, people used smoke, heat, and insecticides to try to control the pests. In more recent times, people have used a variety of chemicals and pesticides to try to eradicate bed bugs.


Bed Bug Control and Eradication Strategies


Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of, as they can hide in small cracks and crevices and are resistant to many common insecticides. The most effective approach to bed bug control is a combination of chemical treatments and vacuuming. Vacuuming can help remove bed bugs and their eggs, while insecticides can help kill any remaining bugs.


5 Facts About Eradication Strategies


  1. Bed bug control typically involves the use of insecticides such as pyrethrin, deltamethrin, and imidacloprid.


  1. Control of bed bugs can also involve physical removal of the bugs and their eggs, such as vacuuming, steam cleaning, and trapping.


  1. Bed bug control may include the use of insect growth regulators (IGRs) such as novaluron and hydroprene, which prevent the maturation of bed bug eggs and larvae.


  1. Bed bug control may also involve the use of insecticide bait systems, which deliver targeted treatments to areas where bed bugs are likely to be hiding.


  1. The most effective bed bug control strategies involve a combination of chemical and non-chemical control methods.


Bed Bug Resistance to Pesticides


Over the years, bed bugs have developed a resistance to many popular insecticides. This is due to their long reproductive lifespan and their ability to quickly adapt to new environments. As a result, it is important to use the most effective insecticides available to ensure the successful eradication of bed bugs.


Bed bugs are highly adaptable and have evolved over time to become resistant to many insecticides. This is due to their rapid reproduction rate, short generation time, and ability to develop cross-resistance to multiple classes of insecticides. 


Bed bug resistance is a growing problem, and it is important to use insecticides with multiple modes of action in order to achieve successful eradication. It is also important to use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) strategies such as insecticide rotation, sanitation, and exclusion. These strategies can help reduce the risk of resistance development and further spread of infestations.


Recent Trends in Bed Bug Infestations


In recent years, bed bug infestations have been on the rise. This is due to a number of factors, including increased global travel, a decrease in the effectiveness of insecticides, and the ability of bed bugs to quickly adapt to new environments. As a result, it is important to remain vigilant in order to reduce the risk of a bed bug infestation.


In order to reduce the risk of a bed bug infestation, some preventative measures include regularly vacuuming, using mattress covers, and using a vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool to clean cracks and crevices in furniture. Additionally, it is important to inspect second-hand furniture before bringing it into the home.


Furthermore, when travelling, it is important to inspect hotel rooms for signs of bed bugs before settling in. Notify the hotel manager immediately if any signs of bed bugs are found. If an infestation is suspected, call a professional pest control company. Keep bed bug infestations to a minimum with the right prevention and control measures.


Bed Bug Health Hazards

Bites of bed bugs can be a source of irritation and discomfort, but they can also pose serious health risks. Bed bug bites can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, and even anaphylactic shock in some people. In addition, bed bugs can carry and transmit a number of diseases, including Chagas disease, which can be fatal.


In addition to physical discomfort, bed bugs can also cause psychological distress. People who have been exposed to bed bugs often experience anxiety, depression, and insomnia due to their fear of these pests. In extreme cases, people can develop a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can have a long-lasting impact on their mental health. 


Bed bugs can also cause issues in the workplace, as they may be spread from one employee to another. This can lead to decreased productivity and a negative work environment. In addition, businesses may face costly treatments and repairs if the infestation is not taken care of quickly.

Finally, bed bugs can be a source of financial burden for families and individuals. Not only do they require costly extermination services, but they can also damage furniture and other items, leading to additional expenses.


Bed Bug Vigilance and Prevention


The best way to avoid a bed bug infestation is to remain vigilant and take a proactive approach to prevention. Regularly check for bed bugs in areas such as beds, furniture, and carpets where they are likely to be found. It is also important to regularly inspect items brought into the home, such as clothing and luggage, as this can help reduce the risk of bringing bed bugs into the home.



Bed bugs have been a problem for humans for centuries, and their prevalence has been steadily increasing in recent years. It is important to remain vigilant and take steps to prevent and control bed bug infestations, as these pests can pose serious health risks. By understanding the history of bed bugs, we can better protect ourselves from these persistent pests.

Karin HarndenKarin Harnden
17:14 05 May 24
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