Male and Female Bed Bugs – How to Tell the Difference

Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Control Technician

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Male Vs Female Bed Bug

When it comes to insects, it’s not always easy to see the difference between males and females, and a lot of the time it’s not important, except when it comes to bed bugs.

If you find a lone bed bug in your bedroom, depending on whether it’s a male or a pregnant female could determine if you might have an infestation on your hands.

Do male and female bed bugs look different? Yes, they do, but it can be difficult to tell them apart, so how do you?

How bed bugs look in general

Males and females look almost identical, and at first glance you won’t be able to tell them apart. But it is important to know how to recognize bed bugs so you don’t mistake them for another bug as a growing infestation can be hard to get rid of. 

Both sexes have the same features:

  • Brownish-red in color with oval-shaped bodies that look similar to an apple seed.
  • They have a flat body when unfed but swells, lengthens, and darkens in color when feeding.
  • They have small wing pads but are unable to fly, they can only crawl.
  • The nymphs (baby bed bugs) grow to 4.5 mm and are semi-translucent so they can be hard to see.

How to Tell if It’s a Male or Female Bed Bug

photo of male bed bug vs female bug and difference in abdomen shape
Image credit: NPMA/T Myers

As can be seen from the photo above and in these pictures of bed bugs, bed bug males and females look almost the same. They both have the same identifying features: 6 legs, 2 antennae, brownish-red in color, and roughly the same size at 5-7 mm in length and between 2.5-4 mm wide (the female is slightly larger than the male).

Where the difference between male and female bed bugs is obvious is at the end of the abdomen and this will tell you if it is a male or a female. The male bed bug has a pointed abdomen, more like a v-shape, and the female bed bug has a rounded abdomen, more like a u-shape.

Do Female Bed Bugs Need a Male to Reproduce?

Bed bugs are gonochoristic, which means there are two distinct sexes, so the male and female reproductive organs are different. Therefore, the female needs to be fertilized by a male to reproduce.

A common question is whether male bed bugs can lay eggs? and the answer is no, they are not able to as they do not have the reproductive capacity.

Once the females have reached adulthood they are able to reproduce, and they can only do this if they have had a blood meal. In fact, both Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus adults must have regular access to blood to keep reproducing.

After feeding, the male is keen to mate and will seek out a recently fed female. The mating process is called traumatic insemination. This takes place by the male basically piercing the female’s abdomen with a needle-like intromittent organ and inseminating her abdominal cavity where the sperm travels to her ovaries for fertilization.

The eggs hatch in 7-10 days and the juvenile bed bugs mature in approximately 5 weeks or so. When they become adults they will repeat the cycle and mate and reproduce causing a growing infestation.

Each adult female can lay between 200-500 eggs during her lifetime!

Do Both Male and Female Bed Bugs Bite?

Both male and female bed bugs need blood to live and reproduce, so both will bite and feed when hungry.

Male and female nymphs go through five growth stages before they reach adulthood. However, before they reach each stage, they must take a blood meal so will actively seek out a host.

Once they become adults and as long as they have access to a blood meal, both will feed repeatedly throughout their lifetimes.

How can you tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug? Telling the difference between a bed bug bite and a bite from another insect is nearly impossible. But one tell-tale sign is upon waking you notice red welts on areas of skin that are exposed and not covered when in bed.

Although some people don’t react to the bites at all, so looking for other signs of bed bugs will need to be carried out.

The good news is that bed bugs do not spread disease and their bites are not contagious.

Male or Female Bed Bugs – Which Is Worse?

As both sexes need each other to continue the species, you could say that neither one is worse than the other, except for when you find a solitary bed bug in your room.

If you identify it as a male, then once you’ve killed it and thoroughly inspected the room to make sure there are no eggs or other bed bugs hiding on the bed or nearby furniture, then you haven’t got much else to worry about.

But you’ll want to know how the bed bug got there in the first place, and if you click on the link you’ll hopefully get a good idea.

On the other hand, if you’ve identified it as a female, then this is when the female bed bug is worse to have than a male.

Why? The female could be pregnant, she might have already laid her eggs on your mattress or bed and/or is actively seeking a blood meal so she can continue with her egg-laying process, which in turn, leads to the eggs hatching and becoming an established infestation.

Of course, this isn’t something anyone wants, so here’s some further information on what it could mean if you only find one bed bug.

Bed Bug Proof Your Room

Where these blood-sucking pests are concerned, you don’t want to leave anything to chance so make it difficult for them to find any hiding spots by clearing any clutter from beneath the bed and in the room.

Buy some interceptor traps for each bed leg and monitor them to see if they trap any bugs.

Put your mattress, box spring, and pillows in protective encasements specifically designed for bed bugs. These will trap any bugs inside that are already on your bed and stop new ones from being able to get in and infest it.

Read the in-depth guide to bed bug removal for step-by-step advice.

Either way, you now know how to tell the difference between a male and female bed bug, and finding either in your home can be worrying, so always take measures to find out where it came from to prevent a future infestation.

If you’ve inspected your bed area and are still unsure whether there might be more hiding away, then put your mind at ease and contact a reputable pest control company to come and take a look.

FAQs

u003cspan class=u0022has-inline-color has-vivid-red-coloru0022u003eIs there a queen bed bug?u003c/spanu003e

No, there isn’t a queen bed bug. Bed bugs don’t live in a colony where a queen would be protected. They are not social insects like bees or ants, but they do congregate in groups and they can also be found on their own.

u003cspan class=u0022has-inline-color has-vivid-red-coloru0022u003eDo bed bug eggs bite?u003c/spanu003e

No, you cannot be bitten by a bed bug egg. The eggs are hidden away in dark cracks and crevices until they hatch. You can get bites from newborn bed bugs.

You might also be interested in:

What do bed bugs look like? 65 bed bug images and pictures
How to permanently get rid of bed bugs in 9 steps
What you should not do if you have bed bugs
How long does it take for an infestation to show?
Interceptor traps for bed bugs
How to choose a mattress encasement

Peststopsolutions.com

Anthony O’Neill, Licensed Pest Control Technician

Peststopsolutions.com is owned by Anthony O’Neill. I’ve been in the pest control industry helping people get rid of their unwanted pests for over 20 years, both in the UK and Canada.

As a licensed pest control technician I’ve seen and treated just about every common household pest, insect or rodent, you can think of. I’ve seen the damage caused when an infestation has been left too long and has become hard to get rid of. But what is more concerning to see is the effect and hardship caused to the homeowner, when this could have been avoided.

For this reason, peststopsolutions.com was created. I understand how stressful it is for you when you find a pest invading your home. By having honest advice and the right guidance to hand, along with scientific evidence to back up claims, you are given information on the best eradication methods, as well as how to get rid of most pests yourself.