Bed bugs are small, brownish insects that feed solely on the blood of animals. Although the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) prefers feeding on humans, it will also bite other warm-blooded animals, including dogs, cats, birds, and rodents. It has done so since ancient times; bed bugs are mentioned in medieval European texts and classical Greek writings back to the time of Aristotle.
Adult bed bugs are about 3/16-inch long and reddish-brown, with oval, flattened bodies. Their coloration is similar to an apple seed although their size is closer to a lentil. The bugs are sometimes mistaken for ticks, cockroaches, carpet beetles, or other household insects. Immature bed bugs (nymphs) resemble the adults but are smaller and lighter in color. Bed bugs don’t fly, or jump like fleas, but can crawl rapidly over floors, walls, ceilings, and other surfaces.
Bed bugs are resilient. Nymphs and adults can persist months without feeding which is unusual for most insects. The ability to survive without a blood meal is longer at cooler temperatures ― potentially up to a year or longer at 55°F or less. In temperature-controlled buildings, a more typical duration without feeding is about 1 to 4 months. Consequently, it is usually impractical to leave homes unoccupied in hopes of ‘starving’ an infestation. When infested dwellings such as apartments are vacant, bed bugs often disperse to nearby units or reduce their activity until the unit is reoccupied.