The best way to find out if you’re dealing with bed bugs is by finding a couple of the 5 signs they always leave behind. We’ll show you exactly what to look for and where to look.
Table of Contents
Bed Bug Symptoms
Try to find at least two signs before starting treatment. This ensures that you won’t end up wasting time and money on the wrong pest.
We also have a printable on the 5 symptoms as part of our comprehensive ebook for convenient reference.
Do Bed Bugs Smell?
Some would argue that we should include smell on the list of symptoms. Bed bugs do have a smell – just not enough of one for us to notice in small amounts.
It is important to catch infestations early on when they’re much easier to deal with. By the time you can smell bed bugs, your infestation will have already become advanced.
This makes smell an unreliable and mostly useless symptom in early infestations.
The smell can be detected early by bed bug sniffing dogs. Our human noses aren’t as sensitive.
Can Bed Bugs Jump or Fly?
Knowing this is useful as it can help rule out 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.
Bed Bug Bites
Your sensitivity to bed bug bites determines whether you will be able to pick up on that most obvious symptom.
According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), bites are the symptom most people first report.
For some people, 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, the how to treat bed bug bites page is here to help you stop the itch.
Bed Bug Stains
They also recommend checking behind headboards, around box springs, and beneath night stands.
Bed bugs sometimes get squished while biting during your mid-sleep 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 a convenient sign for you to look for.
Bed bugs prefer to lay their eggs in cracks and on rough surfaces. The cloth inside the seams of your mattress is a favorite spot.
Left Behind Bed Bug Molts
Molts are priceless to professionals and regular folks for identification. They look just like bed bugs and are easy to take a picture of.
You can find more pictures of these remnants to compare your findings with 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.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 bug, we recommend bringing clear tape. Once you find a bug, simply sandwich it between two sticky sides.
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 even if you don’t have a bed bug problem yet.
Bed bugs, if they ever come around, will 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|
|Relative Cost||$$||$||$$||$$ - $$$|
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.
Where To Look For Bed Bug Signs
It’s important to know where to look for all the signs we’ve gone over.
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 simply don’t want to get caught, but do want to be close to dinner.
Bed bugs are looking for tight spots to squeeze into. Spots that are out of sight but near your favorite places to sleep are ideal.
Bed bugs will settle in 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.
We host a gallery of pictures of bed bugs hiding in different places to give you a better idea of what to look for.
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.
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 do not burrow or penetrate materials when making their homes. They have no problem living on wood, metal, plastic, or cloth though.
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. A bite has to happen. Without feeding, bed bugs can’t mature or produce eggs.
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 of two to three bites in a row. You begin looking around but can’t find any other symptom or sign.
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.
If you’re interested in more preventive steps, check out the page dedicated to prevention.
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.
Bed Bug Imposters
Itchy bumps can be caused by all sorts of things. The following examples are just a few possibilities that mirror bed bug symptoms.
They’re the reason why you should find several signs of bed bugs before committing to treatment.
Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs
We’ve all had unexplained itches – the feeling of something crawling on your leg that’s never found is very normal
These bites and itches are a normal part of life that can be incorrectly blamed on bed bugs. Media attention has made bed bug paranoia very common.
Mosquitos and fleas are similar sneaky biters. They leave itchy bumps and rashes that can be easily mistaken for bed bug bites. This is why we recommend finding signs other than bites before starting treatment.
People also misdiagnose the other way. In these cases, folks believe they have fleas or gnats 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 your bed bug tools.
Environmental Bed Bug Imposters
Things that aren’t even insects can be the cause of mystery itches and rashes.
Environmental conditions like allergies and dry weather can create bed bug like symptoms.
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.
There are plenty more genetic and circumstantial factors that cause rashes and itching.
Any of them can put you on the hunt for imaginary bed bugs.
Folks dealing with those conditions are also more likely to suspect bed bugs.
Look for proof before jumping into treatment that would be a big waste of money.
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.
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 time passes. 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.
Ask Your Local University
There are services that examine mailed-in samples for a price if you are unsure if the signs are from bed bugs.
Contact your local university’s entomology department for the best chance at this.
I Found Bed Bug Signs, Now What?
It is best to share your discovery with neighbors if you do find bed bugs 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.”
The longer an infestation is around, the harder it becomes to get rid of. Once an infestation becomes advanced, hiring an exterminator becomes necessary.
Preparing for Treatment
If you find a bed bug, assume there are more. Whether they’re in another room or next door, it’s best to start treatment fast.
That means putting together a plan, learning how to use your tools, and protecting your bed.
Our page on how to get rid of bed bugs will guide you through our proprietary 4-step plan. Having a plan takes luck out of the equation and denies bed bugs any chance of escaping.
Using these will only make your problem worse as bed bugs easily evade them by hiding deep inside your home’s foundations.
This turns an otherwise manageable problem into a big expensive issue.
If you decide to hire a professional, be sure you know what to ask so you can hire a great one. Our page on exterminators digs into exactly what you need to look for.
Once you have a plan, the rest is easy. Our ebook contains a great planner and tracking printout that will help you keep your ducks in a row.
Encasements and interceptors will stop the majority of bites. They also slow down the rate of reproduction by denying bed bugs the food they need to grow.
For the nitty-gritty on treatment, visit the treatment page.
Thanks for Reading!
While starting treatment as soon as possible is key, treating for the right pest is just as important.
Now that you know what to look for, you can go into treatment confident that you aren’t wasting time or money.
For more pictures, visit the 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.
We hope that this page has helped you conclude that your pest is not bed bugs! The bed bug prevention page can be your road map towards a continued bed bug free future.
If you have joined the hundreds of thousands taking on bed bugs, we’re here to help.
Leave a comment or send an email if you’d like to know something we haven’t covered.