Below you’ll see the bed bug life cycle which typically takes about 40 days when well fed. The growth cycle can take longer if the food source is limited. In the photo of the life cycle below, you can see the beginning stage starts with the egg (which looks like rice) and is approximately 1/4 mm in length.
The next stage is the first instar nymph, also about 1.5mm long and almost transparent until the first feeding. They are very difficult to see at this stage of development.
The third stage of the bed bug’s life cycle is the second instar nymph at 2mm long. Third stage is 2.5mm, fourth is 3mm, fifth is 4.5mm and the final molting shows the bed bug reaching the final stages of the cycle.
Life Cycle of Bed Bugs by Stephan Doggett
Another example of a bed bug’s life cycle is provided by Stephen Doggett at the Department of Medical Entomology, ICPMR in Australia; his bed bug fact sheet covers the lifecycle of the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius:
The egg which looks like a grain of rice is about 1.5mm long and usually attached to a mattress tag or in the crease or fold of fabric (see our bed bug pictures for examples). The eggs is beige in color due to lack of blood and turns red as it starts to hatch, which takes around two weeks. From first instar nymph and into adulthood, the developing bedbug needs a good supply of blood before moving into the next stage.
An adult bed bug can produce eight eggs per time and as much as 500 eggs during her lifetime! Studies show that a adult male can live up to a year without blood at 50F and only a month at 80F concluding that when starved, they die faster in warmer temperatures.
*Based on study by Mac Dubbed Gobs
Shown below is a bed bug at different stages of development (Egg, 5 nymphal stages, and 2 adult bed bugs). This entire image is the size of a penny (19mm) and gives you an idea of the size at each stage. This picture is from Dong-Hwan Choe, University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program on bed bugs.