Male vs Female Bed Bugs: Can You Tell Them Apart?

Like most animals, bed bugs exist in two sexes: male and female. However, male and female bed bugs are similar in appearance to the human eye, and most people can not tell them apart.

Does it matter? What is the difference between male vs female bed bugs?

This article discusses them in depth to give you a good understanding of male and female bed bugs. But first, here are a few highlights:

  • Male and female bed bugs have the same color, body layout, and size.
  • Their main difference lies in the shape of their abdomen
  • They need each other to mate (unlike some insects like cockroaches)

Anatomy of Male vs Female Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small, brown oval-shaped insects that look a lot like apple seeds at first glance. Their body has golden-colored hair that makes their back and abdomen appear stripped. Unlike other insects, they lack wings and thus do not fly or jump.

Instead, they crawl very fast.

They are blood-feeding insects, and thus, their mouths are modified to allow them to pierce and suck blood from their host.

Newly hatched nymphs have light-colored bodies of about 1.5 mm long. Adult bed bugs, on the other hand, are dark brownish and have a size ranging from 5 mm to 6.3 mm long. Similar to other insects, they have an open circulatory system and reproduce by laying eggs. 

The eggs then hatch to produce nymphs which will take six weeks to become adults. During this time they molt several times as their shell gets larger. It is at the adult stage that breed bugs reproduce.

A female bed bug will lay eggs between week four and week 9 of its adulthood. Bed bugs are sexual creatures and thus have unique sexes, female and male.

Similarities Between Female Bed Bugs and Male Bed Bugs

Male and female bed bug bears share many similar characteristics that sometimes make it difficult to tell them apart. Some of the key similarities they have include:

1. Color

One key similarity between the two is color. Both have a brown color that turns dark brown after feeding on blood. This explains why it is difficult to tell the bugs apart at a glance.

2. Body Layout

Both male and female bed bugs have flat, oval-shaped bodies with tiny heads. They are wingless and have six legs, two that project forward and four that project back. In addition, they both have mouth structures that are modified for piercing and sucking.

3. Abdomen Pattern

Another similarity between the two is the pattern of their abdomen. Both have golden hair on their abdomen that appears like strips running from left to right.

4. Body size

Both female and male bed bugs have similar body sizes. In their adult stage, the two measure about ¼’’ long, while newly hatched nymphs of both are 1/16’’ long.

Apart from their physical similarities, they feed on blood and bite with the same intensity. Unlike mosquitoes, where only the females feed on blood, both male and female bed bugs are vampires and feed on blood.

They love hiding in dark places near where you sit or sleep. You will find them in crevices and cracks in your furniture and walls, and often on your mattress. They are both nocturnal and mainly attack at night when you are asleep.

Differences Between Female and Male Bed Bugs

So, what sets female and male bed bugs apart? The first thing to look at is the shape of their abdomen. A female bed bug has a round abdomen, while a male bed bug has a pointed abdomen. But again, it’s awfully hard to see any difference with the naked eye.

Additionally, if you take a closer look at the lower abdomen of an adult female bug, you will see some stabs resulting from traumatic insemination.

A female bed bug has a round abdomen, while a male bed bug has a pointed abdomen.

Another difference is that a female bed bug lays eggs while a male counterpart does not. Unlike their female mates, the male bed bugs lack ovaries and thus do not lay eggs. Instead, they produce sperm for fertilizing the eggs.

Do Bed Bugs Need to Mate to Reproduce?

The answer is yes.

Bed bugs have two unique sexes, male and female, and for the latter to lay eggs, it has to receive sperm from a male bed bug. However, a female bed bug can store the sperm and draw it to lay an egg many days after mating. 

How Do Bed Bugs Mate?

So, now that it is clear that bed bugs are sexual, how do they mate? The mating process of bed bugs is unique and intriguing and involves a sexual act referred to as traumatic insemination.

Ideally, a male bed bug stabs through the right side of the female abdomen to reach a dark spot referred to as hemocoel. It then releases sperm into the body cavity of its mate.

Once the sperms are in the bloodstream of the female bed bug, they are transmitted to sperm-storing organs, referred to as seminal conceptacles. The sperm remain in the conceptacles for up to 50 days after mating. After that, they are released into the oviducts to fertilize eggs whenever the female bed bug wants to reproduce.

Can A Single Bed Bug Cause An Infestation?

For some people, it is very difficult to understand how a single bed bug unknowingly brought into a home can lead to an infestation. Don’t you need at least two?

Can a single bed bug multiply to cause an infestation? The answer is yes.

A female bed bug has a unique reproductive system that allows it to store sperm and draw it to lay eggs for up to 50 days in sexual isolation. So, if you pick up an impregnated female bed bug from a movie theater or an Uber, it will lay eggs!

And if it lives long enough, it will interbreed with its offspring to form a colony.


Is A Female Bed Bug Worse Than Male Bug?

One would ask which is a worse, male or female bed bug. This question is only relevant when dealing with one solitary bed bug. Otherwise, in an infestation, it does not matter. 

In solitary, a female bed bug is worse than a male bed bug. This is because a male bed bug in solitary cannot reproduce, and thus, if you kill it will not leave any offspring behind.

However, a female bed bug continues to lay eggs months after mating. And so, even if you kill it, there will be eggs left behind that could eventually form a colony.

However, this is not to say there is a sex that is better than the other as both are blood-feeding; and both will happily dine on your tasty, tasty blood. In addition, they both need each other to reproduce, at least at some point.

Where Do Female Bed Bugs Lay Eggs?

It is important to note female bed bugs do not need to mature the eggs to hatch. Once done laying, the bug will keep moving, and the eggs will hatch by themselves. And so, it is important to know where they are likely to lay eggs to eliminate them.

Female bed bugs love laying eggs in dark and hidden areas in the house that are near the feeding ground. Some of the places you are likely to find them include:

  • Inside bed frames
  • Crevices in the furniture
  • Seams of mattresses
  • Crevices on the wall near your bed or sofa
  • Under the chairs

What Do Bed Bug Eggs Look Like?

While managing bed bugs, destroying their eggs is critical to ensuring that they do not multiply. But how do you know these are bed bug eggs? 

Bed bugs are oval white substances that almost resemble the head of a pin. They have a sticky substance that makes them adhere to where they are laid.

They are usually in batches in secured places where bed bugs hide.

Signs of Bed Bugs in Your home

When your home has a bed bug infestation, it will not matter whether they are female or male. Both sexes bite and can make your house a living hell. So how do you know your home has bed bugs? What are the signs to look out for?

1. Bed bug bites

If you wake up in the morning and have red or pinkish swellings on your skin that resemble pimples, this could be a sign of bed bugs in your house. Unlike pimples, bed bug bites are irritating and usually appear in a straight line or zig-zag pattern.

However, it might be difficult to tell them apart from flea bites. You want to look for further signs to affirm that they are bed bug bites.

2. Bed bug eggs and shells

Another way to tell the presence of bed bugs in your house is to look out for their eggs or shed exoskeleton. Their eggs are small and white, and you will mostly find them in the frames of your bed and furniture. On the other hand, discarded bed bug exoskeletons are brown and also found in dark, secluded places where bed bugs hide.

3. Bed bug feces and blood on your bedding

Another way to know that you have bed bugs in your home is if you find bed bug feces or/and blood on your bedding. Their poop is usually dark brown and turns red in the water.


Male and female bed bugs have a lot of similar characteristics that make it difficult for most people to tell them apart. However, these two are not completely similar. Instead, they have distinct characteristics that differentiate them from each other.

For one, they vary in shape. a female bed bug has a round abdomen, while its male counterpart has a pointed abdomen. 

Unlike its male counterpart, the female bed bug lays eggs, and in solitary, it can create a new colony. However, male bed bugs still play a critical role in reproduction.