Bed bugs do not need to stand on your skin in order to feed (photos)

by nobugsonme on February 25, 2013 · 9 comments

in bed bug bites, bed bug photos, bed bugs, photos of bed bugs

Bed bugs don’t actually need to stand on your skin to feed.

These images from entomologist Lou Sorkin (who feeds a colony of bed bugs kept for research purposes) show bed bugs can “reach out and bite someone,” so to speak.

1. Cimex in a vial

Lou Sorkin describes this photo as follows:

1. Cimex in a vial

Bed bugs being attracted to the warmth of my skin. The vial is horizontally situated on the top of my hand so as not to use gravity as a variable. The photo series moves from top left to lower left to right. Note that the feeding bed bugs are basically standing on the paper and from that position extending their proboscis in order to push the stylets (the stylet fascicle) into the skin and finally into a small blood vessel in order to suck blood. The red mark on the skin is a birthmark, a nevus flammeus, and not a result of bed bug feeding. The next image is a close-up of the feeding bugs.

2. Cimex in a vial, close-up

And Lou’s description of this image:

2. Cimex in a vial, close-up

A close-up view of feeding bed bugs to show that they basically crawled along the paper and when arrived at the skin surface began to feed by extending the proboscis and pushing the stylet fascicle in to locate a small blood vessel. They don’t bother to crawl onto the skin in order to feed…. This behavior creates a curved row of feeding due to the shape of the paper touching my skin. Bed bugs will stay on bed coverings next to your skin and depending on the shaping of the fabric against your skin, the shape of a series of bites will be left. This behavior is one reason for finding bed bug bites in clusters or lines.

Although keep in mind, as Lou often reminds us, bed bug bites can appear as singles or in pairs, lines or clusters.  There’s no single “bed bug bite pattern” as is commonly thought.

And then there’s this image:

Jar & feeding, mostly nymphs, labium straight

And Lou’s description of it:

Jar & feeding, mostly nymphs, labium straight

Not the typical position, bed bugs stretching and feeding and basically feeding while lying down on their backs. See close-up insert of whole bug, front legs not holding onto substrate. They haven’t used their front legs to hold onto the skin so stylet fascicle not deeply inserted into skin and labium is not bent. Red skin color is basically a birthmark, a nevus, but small red dots are from previous feedings by other bed bugs.

This feeding posture does not fit that described by Usinger (1966) Monograph of Cimicidae, Chapter 3- Bites, page 34 and figure 3-1 on page 35.

jar & feeding, mostly adults, labium straight

And the description from Lou:

Jar & feeding, mostly adults, labium straight
Atypical feeding position. Bed bugs stayed on the cardboard and when moved away from skin, would not move forward onto skin but back up and retreat into corrugations. Front legs not used to assist in pushing stylet fascicle into skin, labium not bent, so feeding here must be shallow. See close-up insert.

(Lou notes this feeding posture also doesn’t fit Usinger’s description; see previous image description.)

Click the photos above for the option to see a larger size image.

Many thanks to Lou for sharing his wonderful photos and knowledge of bed bugs with us!

Photo Credits: Louis Sorkin (and you can see more photos by Lou on his Flickr photostream); images above used under a Creative Commons license.

1 TAOT February 25, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Thanks, Lou. In honor of the Oscars, you just won Best Picture that made my skin crawl.

2 AshamedandScratching February 26, 2013 at 12:18 am

Best Short Film – Horror

3 nobugsonme February 26, 2013 at 6:17 pm


4 TAOT February 26, 2013 at 7:55 pm

AshamedandScratching: Come back to the forum! We miss your humor…

Remember we told you were funny and your response was something like:

Ladies and Gents, I’m here every night…with flashlight and magnifying glass 🙂

5 Amee February 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm

I am staying at a motel and I noticed bites all over my neck and back I have seen them before so I knew what the bugs looked like and so I started looking on the bed and I found 2fully grown bed bugs I called the motel office and they laughed at me and said there is nothing they can do I am very pissed off I payed for this room and they are not even going to do anything about it the motel is in Mansfield Texas the certacey inn room 113

6 Lou Sorkin March 1, 2013 at 11:02 am

You should post this info on the bedbugger forum
to get an answer or more discussion on the subject. Go to topic add new

7 Winston O. Buggy March 4, 2013 at 9:38 am

AS always great and sacrificing work by Lou. Still biting after all these years.

8 Realbad March 6, 2013 at 12:37 am

I can get ride of them had exterminator since Dec 2012. They leave for a few weeks then they are back I can’t get any help out of money spent 1200 so far. I am clean no clutter at all NONE… I did every thing I was told yet hear they are. HELP ME!!!

9 Lou March 6, 2013 at 9:36 am

You should post this info on the bedbugger forum
to get an answer or more discussion on the subject. Go to topic add new

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