The best way to find out if you’re dealing with bed bugs is by doing a little investigating. This page will help you do just that by going over the 5 symptoms of bed bugs.
Table of Contents
- Where To Look For Bed Bugs Signs
- Bed Bug Symptoms
- How to Find Live Bed Bugs
- Do Bed Bugs Smell?
- Weird Places Bed Bugs Hide
- Stages of Bed Bug Infestations
- Hiring A Professional to Check
- I Can’t Find Bed Bugs Anywhere!
- Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs
- Environmental Bed Bug Imposters
- Can Bed Bugs Jump or Fly?
- I Found Bed Bug Signs, What Now?
Where To Look For Bed Bugs Signs
It’s important to know where to look for all the signs we’ll go over.
Knowing where to look will also help you check for bed bugs while traveling. Travel is one of the most common ways to end up with bed bugs after all.
You’ll get a feeling for where to search in any room once you know what bed bugs are looking for in a home.
They like to hide in:
- The creases of mattresses
- Corners, cracks, spaces between slats and joints in your bed frame
- Inside box springs
- Between the creases of bed linens
- Behind headboards and backboards
- Small spaces between all the above
- Nearby any places of rest (Bed, couch, sofa, etc.)
- Space behind loose wallpaper
- Gaps where carpet meets wall
- Corners and joints of desks, dressers, closets, drawers, etc
We host a gallery of pictures of bed bugs hiding in different places to give you a better idea of what to look for.
Bed bugs are looking for tight spots to squeeze. Spots that are out of sight but near your favorite places to sleep are ideal.
Keep in mind that bed bugs are will live wherever you take extended periods of rest. If you like to nap on the couch or in a recliner, they will find their way there.
Sleeping on the couch or recliner once you’ve found bed bugs will only spread them.
They have no problem making living on wood, metal, plastic, or cloth though.
Bed Bug Symptoms
Bites are the first symptom most people notice, but they aren’t enough to be 100% sure that bed bugs are the culprit.
It’s important to know exactly what you’re dealing with before starting treatment. You don’t want to end up wasting time and money on the wrong pest.
If you’re interested in preventing bed bugs, check out the page dedicated to doing that.
Bed Bug Bites
Your sensitivity to bed bug bites determines whether you will be able to pick up on that first symptom.
Certain habits and bite patterns are associated with bed bugs, like:
- Bites appearing grouped in lines of two or more
- Bites appearing after periods of rest (naps, sleep, reclining, etc)
- Bites appearing every 3 days to 5 days early on
- Bites appearing on skin exposed during sleep
- Bites typically found on areas with less hair
- Symptoms vary but are generally described as:
- flat or slightly raised red welts, bumps, or rashes
- A deep persistent itch, worse than mosquito bites
For some, it takes several hours or even days before signs of bites start to show. Others do not react to bites at all, which can be both a blessing and a curse.
A reactive person might wake up with a row of bites one day and begin treating their bed bug problem right away. Someone that does not react won’t notice until the infestation has become serious.
For more on bites and how to stop them, see the bed bug bites page.
For those dealing with bites now, how to treat bed bug bites exists to help stop the itching.
Stains Caused By Bed Bugs
These stains are fecal matter and undigested blood meals left behind by bed bugs. They’re gross, but they can’t run and hide which makes them useful.
Bed bugs sometimes get squished while biting by unconscious itching, turning, and swatting.
Smears or spots of blood on bedding can show you where that may have happened.
Bed Bug Eggs
Bed bugs aren’t tidy. Eggshells stick around and don’t get cleaned – leaving another convenient sign for you to look for.
You can find eggs almost anywhere, although bed bugs prefer to lay them in cracks on rough surfaces. The cloth inside the seams of your mattress is a favorite spot, for example.
Left Behind Bed Bug Molts
Molts are priceless to professionals and amateurs alike. They look just like bed bugs and are easy to take a picture of.
You can find pictures of these remnants to compare in the picture gallery.
Molts and eggshells will slowly pile up in the same corners and crevices where bed bugs like to live.
How to Find Live Bed Bugs
The most definitive evidence you can find is a live bed bug.
Here’s what to look for.
- Bed bugs have six legs.
- Adults have flat bodies about 1/4 of an inch in length.
- Their colors vary from red and brown to rust colored.
- Young bed bugs are tiny with bodies about 1/16 of an inch in length.
- Young bed bugs are almost translucent.
- After feeding, bed bugs, swell up and becomes bright red.
- They can look like a different insect after feeding. See the image below.
- Bed bugs cannot fly.
- Bed bugs try to stay hidden and only bite once you’re asleep.
- Bed bugs live for about 10 months on average.
- Bed bugs grow to adulthood in about 21 days.
You are much more likely to find a dead bed bug than a living one. They’ve learned to be great at hiding from us over thousands of years.
If you do decide to hunt down a live one, we recommend bringing clear tape. Once you find a bug, simply trap it between two sticky sides of tape.
Knowing what each stage of bed bug growth looks like is helpful. Each stage actually looks very different.
Interceptors are great! They’re cheap, prevent bites, and don’t need any upkeep once installed.
Living in an apartment, condo, or other multi-unit type building? We recommend installing interceptors .
Bed bugs, if they ever come around, get trapped in interceptors on their way to bite you in your sleep. Checking for bed bugs becomes as simple as taking a peek in the traps every couple of weeks.
Click any product name or picture to go to the corresponding review:
|Bait||You||You||You||You, Optional Lure|
|Trap||ABS Pitfall||Powdered Pitfall||Comfy Harborage||Pitfall|
|Rating||100 / 100||92 / 100||92 / 100||74 / 100|
|Price||$$||$||$$||$$ - $$$|
Do Bed Bugs Smell?
It will already be very obvious that you have bed bugs by the time you can smell them.
There are many professional services that use dogs to sniff out bed bugs though. They do definitely have a smell – just not enough of one for us to notice in trace amounts.
Bed Bug Signs Printable
We made this printable as part of an ebook that has everything you need to know in one place.
Print and carry it with you as you search your home for stains and eggs so you don’t have to touch or carry your phone!
Click here for more information on the ebook.
Weird Places Bed Bugs Hide
In their hunt for a safe hiding spot, bed bugs can end up hiding in some surprising places.
Bed Bugs in Electronics?
We get asked a lot whether electronics are safe from infestations.
Unfortunately, bed bugs are happy to live in electronics.
In an heavy infestation, bed bugs will shack up in your speakers, television, computer, or what have you.
This is why bringing home used electronics can be dangerous just like used furniture.
At the same time, electronics aren’t a bed bug’s first choice because they are difficult to travel over. They prefer homes where they can easily climb – like bed sheets and upholstery.
Bed Bugs In Leather Furniture?
Bed bugs have no problem living in leather furniture. Leather upholstery, like electronics, simply isn’t the bug’s first choice.
Leather-covered couches and sofas are often smooth and difficult to climb. But, they are also typically covered in cloth on the underside.
The same is true of vinyl furniture.
If you’ve found bed bugs in your furniture, don’t throw it away yet!
There are heaters of every size for any budget these days.
Click any product name or picture to go to the corresponding review:
|ThermalStrike Ranger||ZappBug Heater||ZappBug Oven 2||PackTite Closet||ZappBug Room|
|Volume||3.6 cubic feet||13.6 cubic feet||25.3 cubic feet||25 cubic feet||286 cubic feet|
|Heating Method||6-sided Conductive||1 Convective Air Heater||2 Convective Air Heaters||1 Convective Air Heater||4 Convective Air Heaters|
|Setup Time||Under 5 min||About 5 min||Under 10 min||Under 15 min||Under 20 min|
|Rating||96 / 100||90 / 100||92 / 100||60 / 100||96 / 100|
By helping you save expensive furniture, heaters can save you thousands. Bed bug heaters can even treat sensitive belongings that you can’t put in the dryer, steam, or spray with chemicals.
Click any product name or picture to go to the corresponding review:
|Amico||Steamfast||Primo||Vapor Clean II|
|Pressure||43.5 PSI||44 PSI||58 PSI||65 PSI|
|Water Capacity||0.8 Cups||1.4 Liters||1.6 Liters||1.7 Liters|
|Steam Time||5 to 10 min.||40 min.||60 min.||Over 60 min.|
|Rating||84 / 100||80 / 100||100 / 100||96 / 100|
Getting rid of your furniture the right way stops neighbors from bringing it back in. Many infestations in multi-unit buildings seem to have no end because of things like this.
Stages of Bed Bug Infestations
Bed bug infestations do not happen overnight.
If you’ve made it this far, you know exactly what to look for.
Bed bugs are a fast multiplying pest. All it takes is a single egg laying female for an infestation to start. Their numbers can explode as each female bug produces 200-500 eggs.
Their ability to hide and work at night lets them slip under the radar for months. Five weeks isn’t that long!
It’s even easier to miss the signs if you aren’t reactive to bites.
You will almost never see a bed bug during the day unless you have an advanced or severe infestation.
Interceptors take away the guessing and are the best way to catch infestations early.
A Single Bed Bug
Even if only one bug is present, that bug has to eat, so a bite has to happen. Bugs can’t produce eggs and maturing is impossible without blood meals.
It’s strange, but you could consider yourself lucky if you are highly reactive to bed bug bites.
Imagine you wake up one day with a single row of two to three bites in a row. You begin looking around but don’t turn anything up.
One morning three to five days later, you find the same bite pattern. This is when you get suspicious – this fits the timing and pattern of normal bed bug feeding habits.
Several rows of three could tell you that you’re dealing with more than one bed bug.
You might be able to find a couple bed bugs with some searching.
Bites become more frequent and several bites appear at once. New ones begin to appear every morning. Stains become large smears while molted skins and eggshells pile up until they are easy to find.
They will continue to wait in hiding during the day.
Bugs eventually start to move away from your bed to locations with less of a crowd. At this point it becomes even harder to get rid of them as they dive deeper into your home.
This is why bed bugs are much easier to deal with if diagnosed within the first two months of infestation. You can read more about early detection and prevention here.
Bed bugs will branch out to nearby rooms and units once competition around your bed gets heavy.
At this point, bugs will commute to get to your bed. A few may even make attempts to bite during the day while you relax away from your bed.
If nothing is done, bed bugs will completely overrun a home. You would be able to see and smell them in broad daylight.
You are more likely to move out and abandon all your belongings before it gets to this point.
Hiring A Professional to Check
Getting a professional opinion is the best way to figure out whether you’re dealing with bed bugs.
Infestations get much harder to treat as they grow.
Early intervention can save you a lot of headache.
Professionals aren’t cheap, but many find the price reasonable for peace of mind. A pro will be able to handle everything if signs are found.
We have a guide to choosing an exterminator here to help make sure your money is well spent.
Bed Bug Detecting Dogs
Bed bug detecting dogs are a popular and effective solution to bed bug detection.
Professional inspections aren’t cheap. Spending money on inspections every time a bug bite shows up wouldn’t make much sense.
At the same time, it is better to be safe than sorry. It’s ultimately up to you to decide what you’re willing to spend and how strong your hunch is.
I Can’t Find Bed Bugs Anywhere!
It’s also possible that you’ve caught on to an infestation early on.
It’s a good thing either way!
We always recommend taking preventative action either way.
Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs
We’ve all get unexplained itches – the feeling of something crawling on your leg that’s never found. is very normal
Mosquitos and fleas are similar sneaky biters. They leave itchy bumps and rashes that can be mistaken for bed bug bites. This is why we recommend finding signs other than bites before starting treatment.
People also misdiagnose the other way. Many believe they have fleas when they actually are dealing with bed bugs.
Bed bug treatment is expensive and dangerous if performed incorrectly. Applying pesticides the right way while wearing pesticide protection clears that risk.
Take the time to learn how to use them.
Environmental Bed Bug Imposters
Things that aren’t even insects could be the cause of mystery itches and rashes.
Environmental conditions like allergies and dry weather can create bed bug like symptoms.
There are plenty more genetic and circumstantial factors that could cause rashes and itching.
The things we fill our homes and buildings with can also cause itching. The irritation can even give the impression of insects crawling on skin.
Any of these can put you on the hunt for imaginary bed bugs.
Look for proof before jumping into treatment that could be a big waste of money
Can Bed Bugs Jump or Fly?
Knowing this is useful since it can help eliminate some many pests you thought might be bed bugs. If your pest jumps or flies, you could be dealing with fleas or mosquitoes, for example.
It’s not unusual for fleas to infest beds. Seeing one jump tells you that you’re at least not dealing with bed bugs.
I Found Bed Bug Signs, What Now?
It is best to share your discovery with neighbors if you do find them or have a strong suspicion.
It’s all too common for bed bugs to hide out in a neighbor’s unit while you undergo treatment. The bugs will come back to you once you think everything is taken care of and treatment is “finished.”
If you find bed bugs in any significant number, assume there are more. Whether they’re in another room or next door, it’s best to take preventative steps.
Contact your local university’s entomology department for the best chance at this.
Preparing for Treatment
If you decide to go with a professional and hire an exterminator, be sure you know what to look so you can hire a great one.
Dealing with an infestation yourself will require a little planning.
No matter what, it is important to go in with a plan.
Our page on how to get rid of bed bugs will help you put together a step by step strategy. It takes luck out of the equation and attacks bed bugs on every front.
A plan gets you results. Going at it randomly will only push bugs deeper into your home and complicate things.
Our ebook also contains a great planner and tracking printout that will help you keep your ducks in a row.
Thanks for Reading!
While starting treatment as soon as possible is key, treating for the right pest is just as important.
Here’s a quick rundown of symptoms for review.
For more pictures of the above, you can visit the Bed Bug Pictures page.
Knowing bed bug symptoms is the first step to take in finding, preventing, and stopping infestations.
Knowing where to look for them is the best way to protect yourself from a bed bug problem ever getting serious.
I do hope that this section has helped you conclude that your pest is not bed bugs. If you have joined the hundreds of thousands taking on bed bugs, we’re here to help.
The bed bug prevention page can be your road map towards a bed bug free future either way.