Bed bug shells: Appearance, Size, Skins, and Casings

The thought of a bed bug infestation makes most people shudder with fear. The truth is, bed bug infestations can leave people with depression, anxiety, and paranoia, according to research.

Understanding the lifecycle of bed bugs is the first step to effective bed bug control and prevention.

Unfortunately, most homeowners are uninformed about bed bug shells, skins, and casings. Unbeknownst to many, the presence of bed bug shells in your home is one of the most obvious signs of a possible infestation. Yet, this tell-tale sign is often ignored or missed because many don’t know much about bed bug shells.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about bed bug shells, including their appearance, size, skins, and casings.

{tocify} $title={Table of Contents}

bed-bug-shells

The Lifecycle and Stages of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs, also known as Cimex lectularius, are small brownish insects nearly the size of an apple seed. These wingless parasites have a flat oval shaped body that tends to swell up after feeding on blood. Their color also changes to red while they suck blood, which can take up to 10 minutes.

Besides their dorsoventrally flattened shape, bed bugs’ ability to survive for a very long time without food makes it hard to see and eradicate them. Generally, bed bugs live for four to six months. However, some of these hardy critters can live up to one year under ideal conditions, even without food.

  • Bed Bug Eggs

The life of a bed bug begins with a small milky white egg. A female bed bug can lay anywhere between 1-5 eggs per day and about 500 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs, each measuring about the size of two grains of salt, are often placed in tiny cracks and crevices. It only takes about two weeks for bed bug eggs to hatch. The newly hatched bugs start seeking blood meals immediately.

  • Bed Bug Nymphs

Nymphs are young bed bugs about the size of a pinhead. They are straw-colored, and they molt five times before reaching maturity. During the molting process, nymphs shed off their skin in order to increase in size and mature. At this stage, you may start to notice scaly skins and droppings on your mattress.

As the nymphs mature, their color changes to white-yellow, and when they molt the fifth (and last) time, they adopt a red-brown color. A possible infestation is best exterminated when you begin to see nymphs as they are not able to reproduce yet. You can vacuum and treat the infested area or contact a pest control expert.

  • Adult Bed Bug

Once they reach maturity, bed bugs become vicious little critters. They are skilled at hiding and will only appear at night to suck your blood while you’re fast asleep. Though they have not been found to spread diseases, bed bug bites can cause an irritating allergic reactions. 

What Are Bed Bug Shells and Casings?

The terms bed bug shells and bed bug casings are often used interchangeably to refer to the same thing. Bed bug shells refer to the skin or exoskeleton shed by bed bugs during the molting process in order to grow. Bed bug casings typically refer to the protective casing or capsule left behind when the eggs hatch.

Molting is not unique to bed bugs. Many other insects also molt in order to continue growing. An insect exoskeleton is rigid and can’t expand much. That’s why it must be shed for a new and larger skeleton to grow. The shed exoskeleton is replaced with a large one when the nymph enters the next instar stage. As such, bed bug shells and casings usually vary in size.

What Do Bed Bug Shells Look Like?

This is a commonly asked question by most homeowners, and rightly so. Bed bug shells and egg casings are the main sign that your home has been infested. The shells typically look like the bed bug itself, but without the body inside. In fact, they are easily mistaken for bed bugs until after a closer inspection.

Bed bug shells are as small as the nymphs, but are visible to the naked eye. As mentioned above, the actual size of the shell depends on the instar stage the nymph was in when it shed the skin. Unlike adults, which have a reddish-brown exoskeleton, nymphs have a lightly colored exoskeleton. However, it grows darker and darker after each stage, often ranging from translucent, whitish-yellow, and light brown.

Technically, bed bug shells are hard to the touch- they are made to protect the insects. Because bed bugs are true bugs, their shells will feature a segmented body, small head, antennae, and six legs. But some of these body parts may be removed as time goes by. Bed bug shells are commonly found in bed bug hiding spots like in the seams of the mattress. In fact, it’s easier to find the shells than it is to find the bed bugs themselves.

The size of a bed bug shells depends on the stage of the nymph as follows:

  • 1st stage nymphs are approximately- 1.5 mm in length
  • 2nd stage nymphs are approximately- 2 mm in length
  • 3rd stage nymphs are approximately-2.5 mm in length
  • 4th stage nymphs are approximately- 3 mm in length
  • 5th stage nymphs are approximately- 4.5 mm in length

What About Bed Bug Casings?

You’re less likely to come across bed bug egg casings. But they do not biodegrade fast and can stay in a place for prolonged periods, up to a year or more if they’re in a low-traffic area. So, if you know where to look for bed bug casings and what they look like, you’ll spot them.

Bed bug casings have an oval shape and white color. They measure approximately the same size as a newly hatched nymph (roughly 1.5 mm long), and they’re also found in the place of refuge, i.e., in the cracks in headboard and mattress folds.

When Do Bed Bugs Shed Their Skin?

As mentioned above, bed bugs shed their skin four times in the nymph stage before becoming adults. Nymphs feed on blood only about once every week. And they shed their skin soon after the blood meal. That’s because they require the proteins and amino acids in human blood in order for their bodies to grow bigger along with their new shells.

Usually, the nymph starts growing a new exoskeleton under the ‘old’ one before it can shed it. It’s easy to identify bed bugs that just shed their skin because they usually have a white or transparent color. Comparably, bed bugs that have had their skin for several days usually have a dark brown color.

In the fifth instar stage, nymphs molt (shed their skin) to become a red-brown adult bed bug. Some homeowners assume that adult bed bugs shed their skin, but that is incorrect. Once bed bugs have reached adulthood, they no longer shed their skin. The bed bug has stopped growing at this stage, so there’s no reason to shed its skin.  

How Often Do Bed Bugs Shed Their Skin?

It takes about 10-14 days for bed bug eggs to hatch into nymphs. As mentioned, nymphs or baby bed bugs grow through five instar stages before becoming adults. At the end of each stage, the nymph must shed its skin in order to grow.

If the nymph gets a good amount of blood with the right temperatures, each instar stage can take 7 days. But cold temperatures, an insufficient amount of blood, or no host to feed on make nymphs remain longer in each stage. To answer your question, bed bugs shed their skin five times every seven days.

Where Can You Find Bed Bug Shells and Casings?

Bed bugs are not social pests like ants and termites. However, these invaders seek refuge in tiny cracks and crevices close to their host. With time, they multiply and increase their numbers to hundreds and even thousands. If you have a big infestation, you will find hundreds of molted shells and casings with much ease.

The most common place to find bed bug shells and casings are where females lay their eggs. Generally, these places are close to where you sleep or rest, including the folds of mattresses, in the seams of your beddings, and behind headboards.

Most tiny insects are surprisingly smart, and bed bugs are very high up on the list as one of the most intelligent. Though they prefer taking refuge in your bedroom, these sneaky pests can also lay their eggs in places you least expect. For instance, they can hide in smoke detectors, inside clocks, and even in your TV!

Here are other places you can find bed bug shells and casings:

  • Under upholstered furniture like couch, sofa, and chairs.
  • At the edges of the carpet
  • Crevices in wood molding
  • Under loose wallpapers and wallpaper hems
  • Behind mounted pictures and mirrors
  • In bookbinding
  • In cabinet corners and drawer joints
  • In nightstands
  • Clothes that remain unused for long
  • Around hinges and head of screws

Does Finding Bed Bug Shells and Casing Mean You’ve Been Infested?

Short answer? Yes. Bed bug shells and casings are an obvious sign of a possible infestation. Unfortunately, some assume that bed bug shells indicate that the pests are dead. However, note that bed bug nymphs shed their skin five times before becoming adults. So if you spot bed bug shells around your home, it’s time to take action. One female bed bug can produce up to 5 eggs per day. Unless controlled fast and effectively, the infestation will become widespread and even more challenging to control.

What to Do When You Find Bed Bug Shells and Casings?

Getting rid of bed bugs on your own can be difficult, but not impossible. Professional pest controllers use integrated pest management (IPM) approach that incorporates chemical and non-chemical methods to eliminate pests. They are equipped with specialized tools to thoroughly inspect your property and identify the specific type of bed bugs causing you trouble.

Contact the pros as soon as you discover bed bug shells and casings. They will inspect your home or business and customize an effective plan that will eliminate the bugs for good and minimize the chances of future infestations.

Previous Post Next Post