No, bed bugs do not have long antennae. Instead, they have quite short and thick antennae. The two antennae stick out from both sides of their small head. Each antennae has four segments and are about as long as half of a bed bug’s body.
Bed bugs use their antennae as sensors to guide them towards their sleeping host so they can feed on its blood.
Bed bug anatomy
It is not true that one cannot see a bed bug with the naked eye. Yes, they are quite small, but with a sharp eye they can be spotted easily. But a flashlight and a magnifying glass can be very helpful in seeking them out.
Being able to identify bed bugs by looking at them is important in catching an infestation in its early stages. The quicker you recognize that you have a bed bug problem, the easier it is to control and eradicate.
The bed bug’s head is small, short, and broad. They have eyes on each side of their head. These eyes are composed of segments called ommatidia. Their eyes are sensitive to movement which helps bed bugs stay hidden from danger.
The bed bug has two antennae, protruding from both sides of their head. The antennae are short and thick and are about as long as half their body or their first pair of legs.
Bed bugs have a proboscis, or a straw-like mouth, that they keep tucked under their bodies when not in use. They use this small tube to pierce through the host’s skin and drink their blood.
The bed bug’s saliva has anesthetic qualities that keep the host unaware while the bed bug feeds. The saliva also has anticoagulant properties that keeps the blood flowing and prevents it from clotting for uninterrupted feeding.
The bed bug’s thorax connects its head to the rest of the body. It is also where its legs attach to its body.
The bed bug’s abdomen looks round from above and flat from the side if it has not yet fed. If the bed bug is full, it will expand and look rounder when viewed from the side. The eleven segments that create the bed bug’s abdomen will aid in the expansion to accommodate all of the blood it has ingested. This allows the bed bug to drink plenty of blood which is how they are able to survive for weeks on a single blood meal.
6. Wing pads
Bed bugs have wing pads but they are unable to fly. This is because they only have vestigial wings, meaning they are simply remnants of the wings their ancestors once had. Bed bugs have evolved to no longer have any use for wings, but they are still traces on their bodies.
Bed bugs have six legs which they use to crawl. Crawling is the only means of travel bed bugs have. They cannot fly nor can they jump. Despite this, they have developed the ability to cover relatively great distances efficiently. They can crawl three to four feet per minute.
Bed bug legs have claws at the tips which allow them to climb vertical surfaces such as the sides of furniture or bed room walls. The claws make climbing textured surfaces easy, but the lack of suction cups makes scaling smooth surfaces challenging.
How can I tell a male and female bed bug apart?
The main difference between a male and female bed bug is the abdomen. The male bed bug’s abdomen has a pointed tip because that is where their sexual organ is. Female bed bugs’ abdomens are smoother and rounder.
What does a baby bed bug look like?
When a bed bug egg hatches, it comes out as a baby bed bug, or a nymph. Nymphs are around 1.5mm long and are translucent to off-white in color. They have thin shells, making it easy to see their stomach. Their stomach is a dark spot when they have not fed, but becomes engorged and red after a blood meal.
Nymphs look just like their adult counterparts except for their color and size. Their bodies are the same shape, the same number of legs and antennae.
Bed bugs have five stages, or instars. Before they progress to the next stage, they need to take a blood meal so they can shed their exoskeleton to have room to grow. After each instar, the nymph will become bigger and its color will become gradually darker.
What insects are often mistaken for bed bugs?
Booklice are pale brown insects that measure between 1-6mm in length. They may resemble bed bugs but they look more like termites with their soft bodies and long antennae. They have segmented bodies and their heads and bodies are separate. Booklice are often found in areas with high humidity, such as damp books, hence their name. Booklice do not bite but their dead bodies plus dust may be able to trigger asthma attacks.
Spider beetles have oval-shaped bodies and have long legs and antennae. They measure between 1-5mm in length. Their color ranges from yellowish-brown to black. They do not bite humans. They are often found in wooden furniture or structures.
Bat bugs are very difficult to differentiate from bed bugs. Their bodies and the structures on their heads are almost identical. You have to look up close to note the hairs on the bat bug’s head. They are also the same size as a bed bug. They are known to bite humans, but only if their main source of food, bats, are not around. Much like bed bugs, they do not live on their host’s body, instead they just live where their host also lives.
No, bed bugs do not have long antennae. Their antennae are short and thick and can be found on both sides of their head. They use their antennae to seek out their hosts in order to feed.
Bugs that are often mistaken for bed bugs are booklice, spider beetles, and bat bugs.
Image: istockphoto.com / marcouliana