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Bedbugs

Bedbugs, known scientifically as Cimex lectularius and C. hemipterus (Cimicidae) are small wingless insects that feed exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals, which is why they are such a problem for humans for they are ideal hosts. Chickens are also ideal hosts, and this is why bed bugs can become a problem in chicken coops.

Bedbugs do not remain permanently on their host, and similar to the red poultry mite, will hide in cracks and crevices of chicken coops and nestboxes during the daytime hours, waiting until night to feed on the blood of their hosts.

Bedbugs can cause chickens a great deal of stress as well as potential allergic reactions and blood loss. Heavy infestations can cause chickens to develop anemia, and ultimately increased morbidity and mortality rates, especially in younger birds. In addition, bedbugs are known to harbor over 40 different infectious pathogens including viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa.

What bedbugs look like
Adult C. lectularius and C. hemipterus are reddish-brown, flat, wingless, oval-shaped insects that resemble the appearance of confetti (typically being between 5-7 mm in length). After consuming blood from their host, the bedbug changes and appears more balloon-like and elongated. Young C. lectularius and C. hemipterus are much smaller than adults, and are a different color--they have a white-yellowish or translucent appearance and are barely visible to the naked eye.

Bedbug behavior
Bedbugs are mainly nocturnal, hiding during the day in cracks and crevices and feeding on the chickens at night. They feed by piercing the chicken's skin with their beak-like mouthparts, which allow them to withdraw blood. They will generally feed for 5 to 10 minutes, after which they return to their hiding spot to digest their meal. Bedbugs will usually feed on chickens every 3 to 7 days.

Female bedbugs lay their eggs in the crevices, where they hatch in 4 to 12 days. One female bedbug can lay up to 540 eggs in her lifetime. Under the right conditions, bed bug populations can eventually double every 16 days. When disturbed, Bedbugs let off a distinct, offensive odor similar to what stink bugs let off; this odor is the result of the oily secretion produced by special glands. Bed bugs can survive and remain active at temperatures as low as 7°C (46°F), but they die when their body temperatures reaches 45°C (113°F).

Bedbugs Vs Red Poultry Mites Vs Sticktight Fleas

BedbugRed poultry miteSticktight Flea
Adult Appearance   
 BedbugRed poultry miteSticktight flea
Size4-12 mm (0.15-0.47 in)1-1.5 mm (0.04-0.06 in)1.5-4 mm (0.06-0.16 in)
ColorReddish brownGray to blackDark brown
Turns redYesYesNo
WingsNoNoNo
Body typeOval and flatOvalFlat
SpeedQuick-movingSlow movingSlow moving
Visible to the naked eyeYesYesYes
Feeds onBloodBloodBlood
Where they are foundHide in crevices, cracks, behind floorboards, in walls, and behind wall outlets during the day, feed on chickens at nightHide in crevices and cracks during the day, feed on chickens at nightBare skin on the head - comb, wattles, near eyes
TransmissionContaminated equipmentWild birds, rodents, wildlife, dogs, cats, humans, contaminated equipmentTurkeys, wildlife, wild birds, dogs, cats, horses, pigs, people, soil, litter
Where eggs are laidTiny, microscopic whitish, sticky eggs that adhere to surfaces in secluded areasLays their eggs in their hiding spotsLay their eggs around the eyes anad wattles of chickens, causing nodules. Once the flea larvae hatch, they drop off the chicken to live in the soil for 2 weeks.
Average Life cycle4 weeks2 weeks1-2 months
How you can tellLook around the premises for the presence of bugsLook for them at night on the birds Visible during the daytime, found in clusters on unfeathered areas, such as the bird's eyes, comb, and wattles.
TemperatureTemperate regionsWarm weatherWarm and humid weather
Clinical signsExcessive feather loss, vent irritation, lesions on breasts and legs, anemia, reduced egg productionRestlessness at night, dermatitis, anemia, may cause chickens to alter where they roost at night.dark brown spots face, anemia, restlessness, swollen eyelids, crusted lesions, ulcerations, blindness
ZoonoticYesYesYes
Carry diseasesYesYesNo
Bed bugs are difficult to control, especially while chickens are on the farm. The problem is that beg bugs have developed a resistance to insecticides, and therefore they no longer work. Another problem is that some of the products used to control bed bugs require high levels of the product to be used, which is harmful to the birds. Prevention is the best method.

Symptoms

Pale comb or wattles
Weakness
Irritable behavior
Feather loss
Vent irritation
Lesions on breasts and legs

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Inspection of premises
  • Insect identification

Treatment

Insecticides: Treat areas of the coop that bed bugs might be hiding at.

Prevention

  • Biosecurity measures
  • Regularly clean and disinfect coops
  • Seal off any cracks or crevices

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Risk Factors

  • History of bed bug infestations on the premises