Everyone has ever heard of, or had to deal with, bedbugs. These tiny animals used to be called wall lice or scale lice. The bedbug is an ectoparasite that feeds on blood. For this reason alone, people abhor the idea that bedbugs are present in bedding and mattresses. The bedbug has existed for thousands of years and has spread from South America to all continents. After the Second World War, this half-winged insect seemed to have been eradicated. This was partly due to improved living conditions, but also due to the use of pesticides. Since the nineties there has been a worldwide increase of this little creature.

Species of bedbugs

There are different types of bedbugs all over the world. Some only live in temperate regions such as the Netherlands and Western Europe. Others thrive best in warm and humid habitats. However, some of these creatures travel across an entire continent on clothing or bedding with their hosts and therefore survive.

Cimex lectularius

The most famous species of cimicidae, or family of bedbugs, is the Cimex lecularius in the Netherlands. This half-winged animal is only 5 to 6 mm long. The body of a bedbug is flat and wide in shape. The bedbug is originally descended from conspecifics that had wings. Over the centuries, however, these have largely disappeared. Only behind the neck two small wings can still be seen. The colour of the Cimex lectularius is predominantly brown to reddish brown, during shedding an ordinary bedbug is light brown for a short time. After a meal, which consists of sucked up blood, they are dark red in colour for some time. Because the bug has hairs on its abdomen, it looks as if it is striped.

Cimex hemipterus

Cimex hemipterus occurs in tropical areas. This type of bedbug sucks up the blood of humans, but also of bats and birds. This species is about 8 mm large and reddish brown in colour.

Other bedbug species

The cimex lectularius and the hemipterus are the two main species that use human blood as a meal. Of course there are several species that belong to the bedbug family, but they only feed on birds and bats. They will only feast on human blood in extreme distress.

Living area of bedbug

Bedbugs can be found all over the world. They are guests in hotel rooms and guesthouses, move about in buses, aeroplanes, subways and trams and quietly wait for their meal in bird nests, houses and caves. The species have adapted to the weather conditions over many years.

Bedbug in the Netherlands

The bedbug in the Netherlands lives up to its name, because here you find it mainly in and around the bed. This can be in your own bedroom, but of course also bedrooms in hotels, holiday parks and guesthouses. On the mattress, in the bedding and around the bed he patiently waits for his meal, man, to arrive.

Characteristics of a bedbug

The bedbug as we know it in the Netherlands has a flat and broad body with six legs and very small half wings. It is brown or reddish-brown in colour and only half a centimetre big. From a superficial point of view, the bedbug looks most like the seeds of an apple.


The head of a bedbug is a lot smaller than the body. It consists of four segments and an antenna. The jaw has two razor-sharp blades with which they bite and which are connected to the inner parts of the jaw. The part on the inside also has two blades. One of them sucks up the blood and the other injects saliva into the wound.


The bust resembles a shield. It is oval in shape and at the neck shield there are two remnants of wings.


The abdomen of the bedbug is covered with hairs placed vertically behind each other. This makes it look as if the bedbug is striped, but that’s just an illusion. By the way, the female has a wider abdomen than the male. The stink glands on the abdomen leave an oily sweet smell.

Comparable insects

An insect that is very similar to the bedbug is the locust. This 4 mm large insect also prefers to feed on human blood. It prefers to attach itself to clothing, to strike later on.


Because of their flat construction, bedbugs can hide in the smallest cracks and holes. The seams and cracks of beds are a very popular hiding place, but bedbugs can even be found in light switches. They hide during the day, to look for a meal at night.

What does a bedbug eat?

A bedbug feeds on blood. After this, an adult can go for months without food without dying. The best known species in the Netherlands, the Cimex lectularius, only needs human blood to survive.

Enemies of the bedbug

A bedbug does not have so many enemies. The only natural enemy it has to look out for is the cockroach. It loves the eggs of the bedbug.

Planting and lifespan

Reproduction is done in a rather sinister way. The male drills a hole in the body of the female to plant the sperm. After this the female lays up to about ten eggs a day. In total she can lay about 200 eggs. After a maximum of ten days the new bedbugs are born. A bedbug can become 1.5 years old on average.

Nuisances and illnesses

The stab wounds of the bedbug look like mosquito bites. They cause itching and swelling of the skin. Sometimes you can see rows of wounds that look a bit like stretch marks. This is caused when the bedbug is disturbed during stinging. Although the wounds heal quickly, red spots may still be visible for a few weeks. Biting a bedbug can cause irritation and skin infections.

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