Why Are Bed Bugs Hard To Kill?

Why Are Bed Bugs Hard To Kill?

Bed bugs are so hard to kill because they have evolved to know where to hide to ensure their safety, they have developed a stronger exoskeleton over the past 20 years, they reproduce quickly and efficiently, they are able to survive with no food for months, and knowing that their ancestors have been around for millenia gives you an idea as to how resilient this insect is.

Why are bed bugs hard to kill?

Bed bugs have been around for millenia

Bed bugs have been around for thousands, even millions, of years. Same as roaches, bed bugs have existed for this long due to evolutionary changes that have helped them adapt to the ever-changing world. Their ability to genetically change to further the continuation of their species is why bed bug pesticides that worked a decade ago may no longer work now.

Bed bugs are able to mutate

Studies have shown that bed bugs have genes that belong to other organisms. They have genes from bacteria in their genome. There are over 400 species of bacteria living inside and on the outside of bed bugs. The bed bug and the bacteria have a symbiotic relationship wherein the bacteria help fend off pesticides, viruses, and other substances.

Bed bugs can live without food for up to a year

In a household where the bed bugs have consistent access to their human host, bed bugs will feed once every five to ten days. They will spend the time between meals to digest the blood. But if the people in the house go on a vacation, the bed bugs are forced to survive off of their very last blood meal. Studies have shown that in a lab-controlled environment, bed bugs can survive without feeding for up to a year. While bed bugs that are in room temperature can live to around four months without feeding. This means that even if they have no access to blood, bed bugs can wait for extended periods of time until hosts wander back into their vicinity.

Bed bugs breed effectively

Bed bugs may not produce as many eggs as other insects. They are only able to lay one to five eggs a day. In this case, bed bugs value quality over quantity. Because they produce very few eggs, chances are all of the eggs are viable and are going to hatch and develop into healthy baby bed bugs, or nymphs. As long as both the female and male bed bugs are well-fed, their eggs and sperm are going to be healthy, thus resulting in healthy offspring.

Female bed bugs lay up to 500 eggs in their lifetime, meaning they can lay hundreds of eggs in a few months.

The nymphs become sexually mature adults after a few weeks, and they then go on to have their own children.

One single pregnant female bed bug that you unconsciously brought into your home will become thousands of bed bugs before the year ends. Being unable to catch an infestation in the first couple of weeks is going to result in a full-blown infestation that will be very difficult to control.

Bed bugs are tough

As mentioned above, bed bugs have been around for millenia because of how resilient they are, like cockroaches. Bed bugs are one of the toughest insects in the world. Despite their size, they can squeeze themselves into the smallest of cracks to hide away from danger. They are difficult to detect because they are experts at hide and seek. They can hide in your furniture, books, baseboards, floorboards, wallpaper, and electrical outlets.

Bed bugs have strong exoskeletons

As mentioned above, bed bugs evolve even after a few years. The bed bug exoskeleton of today is stronger than the exoskeleton from twenty years ago. This thicker shell has developed to protect the bed bug from pesticides. Their shell also contains enzymes called esterases that help break down pesticides making them ineffective.

How do I get rid of bed bugs?

Control the infestation

The first thing one must do when made aware that they have bed bugs is to control the infestation to stop it from spreading into other areas of your house.

It may seem logical to stop sleeping on your bed and to start sleeping on your couch or in another family member’s bed, but this is wrong. This is going to risk taking the bed bug’s into the couch or into the other person’s bedroom. The best thing to do is to clean your bedroom and just keep sleeping in your bed.

Remove all of your bedsheets, pillowcases, and blankets and place them in a trash bag. Wash all of the linen in your washing machine on a hot wash cycle and then place them in the dryer for 30 minutes on the highest temperature setting. The water, soap, and heat will kill the bugs and eggs.

Vacuum your bed

Vacuum your mattress, box spring, bedframe, and headboard. Concentrate on the seams, gaps, joints, and zippers. Be sure to empty the vacuum outside.

Use a mattress encasement

Place your mattress inside a bed bug-proof plastic mattress encasement. This will keep bed bugs from further entering your mattress, as well as starve the bed bugs already inside your mattress. Be sure to keep the mattress inside the encasement for over a year, because bed bugs can live up to a year without feeding.

Treat the infestation

If you can afford to, hiring professionals to do the extermination is the best way to go.

You can hire a service to do a heat treatment on your home. This is when they place industrial heaters inside your home to raise the temperature to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. They will keep the temperature stable for a couple of hours to make sure all the bed bugs and their eggs are killed.


Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to eradicate because they have evolved over several thousand years to be experts at hiding from any forms of danger, their shells have become so tough to withstand most known pesticides. They are able to survive without food for over a year. The female bed bug also lays up to five eggs a day, all of which are viable and almost guaranteed to become healthy adult bed bugs that will go on to have their own bed bug families.

All of these factors have created a prehistoric pest able to adjust to all of the changes in their environment to ensure that they continue to proliferate as a species.

Image: istockphoto.com / cerobit