Bed Bug Sex

  • By Anna Rothschild
  • Posted 04.11.13
  • NOVA

There is nothing romantic about how bed bugs mate. In this video short, learn how these insects reproduce, and discover how female bed bugs have evolved to cope with an, er, irregular form of insemination.

Running Time: 02:14


Bed Bug Sex

Posted: April 11, 2013

For many of us, bed bugs basically define the word gross. After all, what could be more repulsive than an animal that sucks your blood while you sleep? Well, let me tell you a story that is sure to exceed even your worst nightmares. It’s the story of bed bug sex.

You see, male bed bugs have saber-like penises. When a male is ready to mate, he mounts any other bed bug that has just fed and is bloated with blood. If he finds a female, he takes his penis and stabs her in the abdomen, releasing sperm directly into her circulatory system. (In fact, on rare occasions he might even stab and inseminate another male if he’s accidentally mounted one.) He wounds the female, but she does have an immune organ, called the spermalege, which protects her from infection. For the record, females actually have fully functional reproductive tracts, but they use them exclusively for egg laying.

So just think—while you’re sleeping tight, dozens of bed bugs could not only be feeding on your blood, they could also be doing this:


Goodnight bed bugs.



Producer, Editor, Animator
Anna Rothschild
Production Assistant
Allison Eck
Original Footage
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2013


(Bed Bug Penis)
© Power & Syred
(Bed Bugs Mating)
© Rickard Ignell
(Harlem Shake)
(Brahmns Lullaby Music Box)


(main image: bed bug)
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2013

Related Links

  • The Tongue-Eating Parasite

    Gross science: This parasite crawls into a fish's mouth and replaces its tongue. Enough said.

  • Bugs That Live on You

    From bed bugs to eyelash mites, a jungle of insects and arachnids thrives on and around the human body.

  • Creature Courtship

    Why do males expend such time and energy to find a mate? Because of a little force of nature known as sexual selection.

  • Five Reasons to Eat Insects

    Save room for bugs! They're the future of green cuisine.