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Dr. Robert Pereira—Bed Bug Information

Bed Bug University—Pest World Conference

How Do Bed Bugs Eat?

Dr. Pereira, University of Florida, discussed feeding patterns of bed bugs. He stated that the common belief is that bedbugs eat every five to seven days. He explained how humans know their feeding schedule and we know that we will have regular meals so we tend to eat accordingly. This same thing would be true for bedbugs living inside of residences or places where they have food available on a daily basis.

If, however, the harborage is a place in which food is sporadic they will eat whenever they have a chance to eat and will also try and take a larger meal verses having a snack. They will continue to breed, but harborages will not grow as fast as those which have regular feedings.  He mentioned a guy named Reinheart who has studied bed bug feedings and that his study found that on average they feed every 2.5 days. 

More Food Means More Reproduction

Obviously, Bedbugs will increase their egg production as access to food increases. Basically, a female bedbug that has just eaten moves slower and thus can not run away from the male bed bug as easily, this allows the male bedbug to impregnate the female as well as ensuring that her eggs will be due to the recent blood meal.

A female bed bug has 2 ovaries. Each ovary has 7 ovarioles. That means both ovaries are holding 14 eggs. He states that eggs take about 3 days to mature.  If you take the 14 total eggs and divide this by 3 days to maturity you will get a maximum of 4.7 eggs laid per day.  If you take 7 days in a week and multiple the max. daily eggs laid you will get about 32.9 eggs being laid by a bed bug within one week. That shows how a population can really take off given a constant food source.  A female has the ability to lay 200 – 500 eggs in her lifetime. Basically bed bugs learn to adapt to what is available and this is what makes them so good at surviving and breeding.

Bed Bug Infestation

As the media now covers more stories about bed bug infestations, people are becoming more aware of their surroundings when they travel.  I personally know that I have friends and family in Columbia, SC, Atlanta, and Sun City that because of my expertise in bedbugs have called to ask how they can keep from getting bed bugs on their vacation.

Dr. Pereira stated that one of the problems is that people have so many different degrees of sensitivity to the bites. Some are very allergic while others (like himself) have no reaction at all. There are also those who show no initial reaction, but given time will develop a reaction to being bitten. (The reality of this first hit home when I had a young women that lived in Blythewood, SC and she had been told by a dermatologist that her bites appeared to be bed bug bites. Upon inspection of home there were no bed bugs found and she later realized it was a new medication she was taking. On the flip side I had several young ladies from a college in Charleston, SC that had been told their bite marks were not from bed bugs. It was only several months later when the bed bug population had drastically increased that one on the girls saw and captured a bed bug on her mattress and eventually we were called in to do heat remediation.) (As for myself, I live on the Isle of Palms, and I can tell you that doing my own research a bed bug bite will show up three days after I have been bitten and itch a great deal.)

Bed Bugs and Disease

Dr. Pereira went on to explain that currently bed bugs are not known to cause diseases, but that we should not underestimate blood loss. “What was that? Blood loss you say? Uh, yes, that’s exactly what I said too. I mean the idea that they could take off too much blood causing anemia or other problem seemed preposterous at first.

Bed Bugs and Blood Loss

Dr. Pereira went on to give several different examples of bed bug bites causing medical concerns. He gave an example of a residence which was highly infested with 24,000+ bed bugs and in which a small infant of 10kg was being bitten. He said that this could be significant blood loss for the very young, old or those who are medically compromised. To give another example he said that 14 bed bugs on a baby kitten or 2 bed bugs feeding on a baby mouse would be too much blood loss over a period of time. I guess we need to recognize that there are cases in which people are living with large numbers of bed bugs and are unable to eradicate them due to physical or economic reasons.

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