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Insect guide > Bugs > Bed Bugs
By more recent authors the family is called Acanthiidae, but the present name is preferable. Only twelve species are known but the family is notorious because it contains the disgusting parasite of human habitations. The other species are all found in the nests of birds and act and much resemble the true bed-bug. In this group the insects do not possess wings and only rudimentary wingcovers are to be seen. They are flatbodied, the ocelli are absent and the beak rests in a groove beneath the head. Aeciacus hirundinus Jenyns is common to Europe and North America and frequently occurs in this country in great numbers in the nests of the common barn swallow. It closely resembles the form found in houses, but is darker in color and has shorter antennae.
Life History of the Bed-Bug
(Cimex lectularius Linn.)
Slovenly man has carried this abominable bug to all parts of the civilized world. "Tot. orbis" is the laconic expression of its geographic range given by Lethierry and Severin. It has become a true domestic animal and has accommodated itself well to the environment of human habitations. It has lost its wings, but has acquired a flat body which enables it to hide in the narrowest cracks of beds and wails. It has gained the power of subsisting almost indefinitely without food, waiting for its meals with a patience far surpassing that of Job.
The eggs of the bed-bug are minute white oval objects each having a projecting rim around one end. They are laid in clusters in such crevices as are used by the mature bugs for concealment, and each cluster contains from six to fifty eggs. The eggs hatch in about eight days and the young bug pushes off the lid enclosed within the projecting rim at the end of the egg. At first the new-born insect is yellowish-white and nearly transparent, but becomes darker after it feeds and grows until the color of the mature and well-fed insect is brown.
The skin is shed five times and with the last molt the wing pads characteristic of the adult become apparent. The period of growth from egg to adult varies greatly with the temperature and the food supply. Marlatt has reared them under favorable conditions (feeding them upon the healthy and abundant blood of a complaisant assistant) in seven weeks, but without food they may remain unchanged for many weeks. Ordinarily but one meal is taken between molts, so that at least five full meals must be taken before maturity and at least one more by the female before she is ready for egg laying. Each female is supposed to lay several batches of eggs. The pronounced odor of this insect is also possessed by certain plant bugs and is produced by certain glands opening on the back of the abdomen with young bugs and on the underside in the metasternum with the adult. With plant bugs this odor evidently protects them by rendering them nauseous to their bird and other vertebrate enemies. It persists with the bedbug; but here it is detrimental to the species since it reveals its
presence to its greatest enemy-man.
The belief that bed-bugs breed under the bark of certain trees and that houses built of the wood of such trees will be infested with bugs, is due only to the resemblance which certain other bugs, especially the Aradidae, which normally live under tree bark, have to the bed-bug. And then, too, from the ability which the bed-bug has of undergoing prolonged fasts, it may be found alive not only in houses which have been deserted for a long time, but about old deserted damps in the woods.