The life cycle of a bedbug begins as a small, oval shaped egg which hatches into a nymph. The nymph molts five times before becoming an adult, and it must feed at each stage before it molts. The normal life cycle is approximately 11 months. An adult female bedbug can produce as many as 500 offspring in her 10-month lifespan.
Nymphs are young bedbugs that appear similar to adults, but they are not yet sexually mature. During the early nymph stages, the bedbug appears white or pale yellow. During the later nymph stages, the bug takes on a brown appearance that it maintains through its adult life. At room temperature, it takes the bedbug about five weeks to become an adult after the egg hatches. They feed on the blood of animals and humans and must feed before molting. During each of their molts, the bedbug nymphs get darker in color. Following the fifth molt, the nymph transforms into an adult bedbug.
Bedbugs live in areas where people sit or sleep for long periods of time. The move rapidly toward their victim, eat for two to five minutes and rapidly retreat to a hiding place. Some people display no symptoms when a bedbug bites them, but others get a rash. Adult bedbugs normally eat about once per week; however, they are able to survive for up to a year without eating.
In the adult stage, bedbugs are wingless, flat bugs that are 1/4 to 3/8 inches long. They are similar in appearance to ticks. While 38 different human pathogens have been discovered in bedbugs, they are not known to pass those pathogens to their victims.