Bed bugs thrive because they reproduce quickly, and in huge numbers. If it were possible to stop them from doing so, we could control their population, and perhaps get rid of them for good. That’s why it’s so important to understand how they mate, and where and how they lay eggs.
It’s important to understand how bed bugs reproduce. Their reproductive cycle is key to how they establish new infestations, and how they can double, triple and quadruple in size within weeks.
The Bed Bug Reproduction Cycle
Here’s a basic guide on the bed bug reproduction cycle:
Bed bugs begin life as eggs, about as big as a grain of rice.
The eggs hatch into a nymph, which looks like a smaller version of an adult bed bug.
The nymph goes through five stages called instars, after which it’s a fully mature adult. At each stage, it molts its shell.
Once the nymph becomes an adult, it can start to mate. Bed bugs reproduce through a process called traumatic insemination, where the male breaks through the female’s shell and injects sperm into a body cavity. The sperm travels through the female’s body and fertilizes her eggs.
Over the next six to eight weeks, the female will lay roughly an egg a day. She can mate again, and continue laying eggs.
This whole process happens over the course of about two months, and each female can lay more than two hundred eggs in the right conditions. Infestations can snowball.
Can Bed Bugs Reproduce Asexually?
Asexual reproduction refers to reproducing without ever mating. Some species of reptile only reproduce asexually, never having developed the need to mate.
Without exploring in too much depth how it works, the female can essentially split and recombine her genetic material to create something new each time.
So, do bed bugs have to mate to lay eggs? Bed bugs lack any biological way to reproduce asexually. They need both sperm and eggs, i.e., genetic material from a male and female.
It’s a good job that bed bugs can’t reproduce asexually. If that were possible, then infestations would spread far more easily than they do already.
Can Bed Bugs Reproduce Without a Mate?
There are two different ways to reproduce without mating. The first is asexually. This is where the insect fertilizes its eggs. But there’s another way which some species rely on.
It will mate at a particular time of year say in the spring, which is breeding season for many species. However, the female’s eggs won’t be fertilized.
Usually, this is due to a problem with the male perhaps their sperm isn’t healthy. But in this case, it’s because the female is storing it up rather than ‘using’ it straight away to fertilize her eggs.
She can then choose to fertilize her eggs later in the year, perhaps if no better mate has come along. So, while bed bugs can’t reproduce asexually, is this something they can do?
Bed bugs only need to mate once every six to eight weeks, at which point they’ll need to mate again to create fertile eggs. They don’t need to mate every time she wants to lay eggs.
This allows a female bed bug from an existing infestation to move somewhere new, and start a new infestation from scratch. Because bed bugs don’t have social structures like humans, that female will happily mate with her offspring.
Do Male Bed Bugs Lay Eggs?
Males lack the organs necessary to be able to create and lay eggs, which the female has. In the same way, the female lacks the organs that she could use to fertilize eggs.
While it’s quite difficult to spot the differences between male and female bed bugs, they’re different on the inside.
If you bring just one of them home, and it happens to be a male, then you won’t get an infestation unless he finds a female somewhere.
Learn more about bed bug eggs >>>
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