Have you ever been curious how bed bugs can reproduce so quickly, burgeoning from just a few bugs to a full-blown infestation in minimal time? Part of the reason is their bizarre mating habits. Read on to learn more but be warned, their mating habits are just as terrible as these pests can be.
The Male Bed Bug’s Unique Mouth
The mouth of the male bed bug serves a dual purpose. It can be used to suck up blood and feed but it also boasts a highly evolved penis that injects sperm into the female’s blood system and hijacks a ride in her circulatory system to the ovaries.
No Romance Here
There is no romance involved in the mating habits of the bed bug. In fact, the very act is referred to as a ‘traumatic insemination.’ The male stabs the female’s abdominal wall multiple times to successfully inseminate her, which often proves fatal as infection sets in. Theories exist that this violent method evolved to guarantee insemination by completely bypassing typical intercourse.
The Female's Defense
If you’re feeling sorry for the female bed bug you should also know she has an ace in her back pocket. The male’s copulating position often causes him to enter a region on the female’s right side that holds spermicide which effectively terminates the insemination. This defense enables her to live longer by producing fewer eggs. Male bed bugs are familiar with this defense mechanism and avoid females who don’t want to mate.
The Differences Between Male and Female Bed Bugs
Male and female bed bugs look remarkably similar and are hard to tell apart if you are not an entomologist. The male bed bugs have a more prominent and pointed abdomen. Also, the exoskeleton shell of the bed bug is opaque, so males and females have different patterns that are visually discernible due to their differing internal organs.
The Egg-Laying Practices of the Female Bed Bug
The female bed bug lays white oval eggs that measure about 1/16th of an inch long. During her lifetime, she will lay from 200 to 250 eggs, ranging from one to five per day. The eggs are placed safely in crevices and cracks where they are nearly undetectable, either in a single line or a cluster.
Bed Bug Nymphs
Bed bug eggs hatch into nymphs six to 10 days after being laid. When the nymphs emerge, they require nourishment and immediately seek out blood. Nymphs will shed their entire exoskeleton five times before reaching adulthood - with adequate food and temperature, this process should take around 5 weeks.
In a thriving colony, about three generations of bed bugs are produced every year. As the colony grows and thrives, it will include bed bugs of all age and size. Young nymphs are a yellow-white color while the older nymphs appear more red.
Nymphs can survive for months without eating, but they will not molt until they receive adequate sustenance. Older nymphs and adults can live up to a year if they do not have a blood meal. The entire lifespan is around ten months unless they enter dormancy due to freezing weather or lack of food.
Despite their violent mating habits, bed bugs are true survivors that have managed to evolve to withstand a variety of conditions.
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