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October 4, 2022

A Closer Look at Bed Bugs in Poultry Production

Take A Closer Look with Danny McDonald, Ph.D.bedbug_noBkgnd[82]

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are a reemerging pest in poultry breeder houses. Although the first record of bed bugs in poultry barns in the U.S. dates back to the early 1930s, lately an ever-increasing number of insect complaints from broiler breeders involve bed begs. For years they were thought to be at least close to eradication due to the use of DDT. Perhaps due to resistance to multiple insecticide classes and the increase in human population and commerce, bed bugs have made a comeback in poultry barns. 

When bedbugs infest poultry houses, growers typically complain of a mite-like creature on birds equipment, support posts, nest boxes, egg belts, under dropped curtains, and brownish red spots on eggs from bed bug excrement. Bed bugs can cause irritating white welts on the skin of chickens and large infestations may lead to excessive feather loss, cloacal irritation, lesions on the breasts and legs, and possibly anemia in severe cases. However, bed bugs are not known vectors of any poultry diseases. 

Bed bugs are nocturnal, blood-feeding, ectoparasites that feed on both birds, and mammals. Bed bugs lay their eggs in cracks and crevices. After two weeks, nymphs emerge from hatched eggs and undergo 5 molts about 1 week apart before becoming adults. Adult bed bugs are brown, oval, wingless, about the size of an apple seed, and flattened. After feeding, they become engorged, similar to a tick, and blood can be seen through the cuticle making them redder in appearance. Adults can live for 3 months without a bloodmeal. 


Scouting for and prevention of bed bug colonization may be the best tool for combating infestations so that management protocols can be implemented as soon as bed bugs are detected. Workers should be trained in bed bug identification. There should be regular inspections of clothing and other items that move between barns and homes. Bed bug traps can be placed in nest boxes, along sidewalls, and in workers homes to scout for bed bugs. 

Thoroughness is the name of the game when it comes to bed bug management. The only time that you can truly be thorough in a poultry barn is when birds are removed. During depopulation, the applicator will have the ability to apply more effective insecticides that cannot be sprayed on or over birds. A combination of neurotoxins and IGRs should be applied to all surfaces inside and outside of structures for bed bug management. 

Danny McDonald, Ph.D.

Danny McDonald, Ph.D. Tech Services Manager, Animal Health

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