Table of Contents
- 1 How Do You Know If You Have Bed Bugs
- 2 Where To Look For Bed Bugs Signs
- 3 Bed Bug Bites
- 4 Stains Caused By Bed Bugs
- 5 Bed Bug Eggs
- 6 Left Behind Bed Bug Molts
- 7 Finding Live Bed Bugs
- 8 Do Bed Bugs Smell?
- 9 Weird Places Bed Bugs Hide
- 10 Stages of Bed Bug Infestations
- 11 Hiring A Professional
- 12 I Can’t Find Bed Bugs Anywhere!
- 13 Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs
- 14 Environmental Bed Bug Imposters
- 15 Can Bed Bugs Jump or Fly?
- 16 I Found Bed Bug Signs, What Now?
How Do You Know If You Have Bed Bugs
The best way to find out if you’re dealing with bed bugs is by doing a little investigating.
We’ll get into 5 bed bug signs on this page:
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 be sure of what you’re dealing with before starting treatment so you don’t 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 just that.
Where To Look For Bed Bugs Signs
It’s important to know where to look for all the signs we’ve gone over.
Knowing where to look will also help you check for bed bugs in hotels while traveling, which is useful because travel is one of the most common ways to get bed bugs.
You’ll quickly have a feeling for where to search in any room once you know what bed bugs are looking for in a home.
In a few words, they don’t want to get caught, but they do want to be close to dinner.
- 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 of 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 basically looking for tight spots to squeeze into that are out of sight but near your favorite places to sleep.
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.
Thankfully, bed bugs do not burrow or penetrate materials when making their homes.
They have no problem making living on wood, metal, plastic, or cloth though.
Bed Bug Bites
When looking for bed bugs, your sensitivity to their bites decides whether you will be able to pick up on that most obvious of symptoms.
A study from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) shows that bites are by far the most common symptom people first report.
Certain habits and bite patterns are associated with bed bugs, like:
- Bites appear grouped in lines of two or more
- Bites appear after periods of rest (naps, sleep, reclining, etc)
- Bites appear every 3 days to 5 days early on
- Bites appear 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.
Where one person might wake up with a single row of bites and begin looking for and treating their bed bug problem, a person that does not react probably won’t notice until an infestation becomes serious.
According to professionals, bites are one of the least reliable signs you can find when it comes to bed bugs. We have entire pages on bed bug bite symptoms and pictures of bed bug bites on real people to help.
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 was created to help stop the itching.
Stains Caused By Bed Bugs
Dark brown and black stains found on or around mattress seams, sheets, behind headboards, beneath or in box springs, or beneath night stands are the first signs experts look for.
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.
Sometimes, bed bugs get squished while feeding in the middle of the night by unconscious itching, turning, and swatting.
Smears or spots of blood on bedding can show you where that may have happened.
Bed Bug Eggs
- Each female bed bug can lay one to five eggs every day.
- A female bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs in its lifetime.
- It takes about a week for a single egg to hatch.
- Bed bug eggs are off-white and look like small grains of rice.
Bed bug aren’t very tidy. After hatching, eggs stick around and don’t get cleaned – leaving another convenient sign for you to find.
Eggs can stick almost anywhere, although they prefer to lay them in cracks on rough surfaces like on the cloth like inside the seams of your mattress.
Left Behind Bed Bug Molts
As bed bugs grow from baby to adult, they leave behind eggs, hatched eggs, stains, and molted skins. All of these are useful for identification.
Molts are really useful to professionals and amateurs because 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.
Finding 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 though. They’ve learned to be great at hiding from us over thousands of years.
If you do decide to hunt down a live one, I recommend bringing clear tape. Once you find one, simply trap it between two sticky sides of tape.
Tape will help you easily take a focused close-up picture to post on the web or share with a professional for a second opinion.
Having an idea of what each stage of bed bug growth looks like is helpful because they actually look very different.
Bed bug interceptors and monitors are your best chance at catching a live bed bug early on.
Interceptors are great because they’re cheap, prevent bites, and don’t need any upkeep once installed.
If you live in an apartment, condo, or other multi-unit building you should have 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.
|Bait||You||You||You||You, Optional Lure|
|Trap||ABS Pitfall||Powdered Pitfall||Comfy Harborage||Pitfall|
|Rating||5.0 / 5||4.0 / 5||4.6 / 5||3.4 / 5|
|Price||$$||$||$$||$$ - $$$|
Do Bed Bugs Smell?
The musky sweet “buggy” smell that lots of people talk about is only noticeable in severe infestations.
By the time that you can smell bed bugs, it’s probably already very obvious that you have them…unless you have an especially gifted nose.
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 small amounts.
Bed Bug Signs Printable
To better help you in your search for bed bug signs, we’ve developed this printable and a thorough ebook with pictures for you to print out and carry for reference during the hunt.
Carry it with you as you search your home for stains and eggs so you don’t have to touch or carry your phone!
Interested in full-resolution versions? Check out the comprehensive Debedbug ebook.
It comes with useful printables, and a bunch of condensed information.
Click here for more information.
Weird Places Bed Bugs Hide
Bed Bugs in Electronics?
We get asked a lot whether or not electronics are safe from infestations.
Unfortunately, bed bugs are happy to live in electronics since.
Although electronics are not their first choice, if infestations reach a certain point and need more space, you might find molts, eggs, and all the other signs in your speakers, television, desktop computer, or any other electronic.
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 things 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 is similar to electronics in that it isn’t the bug’s first choice, but definitely isn’t off the table.
Leather-covered couches and sofas tend to be smooth and difficult to climb, but are typically covered in cloth on the underside.
The underside of couches and sofas aren’t solid either and have plenty of nooks and crannies for bed bugs to make their home in.
The same is true of vinyl furniture.
If you’ve found bed bugs in your furniture, don’t throw it away just yet!
There are heaters of every size for any budget these days.
|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||4.8 / 5||4.4 / 5||4.6 / 5||3.0 / 5||4.8 / 5|
Like steamers, heaters have the potential to save you thousands you’d otherwise spend replacing furniture and anything else that’s too sensitive to be tossed in a dryer or doused with chemicals.
|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||4.2 / 5||4.0 / 5||4.6 / 5||4.8 / 5|
If you find that you’ve got no choice but to toss furniture, be sure to dispose of it properly by both marking it and a packing it into a furniture storage or disposal bag!
You wouldn’t want bed bugs finding their way back to you after a neighbor takes your buggy furniture off the street and back into the building.
Stages of Bed Bug Infestations
Bed bug infestations do not happen overnight.
The days and weeks leading up to a full-fledged infestation give off signs if you know what to look for. If you’ve made it this far, you know exactly what to look for.
Bed bugs are a fast multiplying problem. All it takes is a single egg laying female for an infestation to start. Their numbers can quickly explode as each female bug produces 200-500 eggs.
Under perfect conditions, bed bugs can go from just hatching to fertile and egg laying in as little as five weeks.
Five weeks might seem like a long time, but their ability to hide and work at night lets them slip under the radar for months before most people notice.
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. Eggs can’t be produced, and maturing is impossible without a blood meal.
This is one of those weird times where you could consider yourself lucky if you are highly reactive to bed bug bites.
If, for example, you were to wake up one day with a single row of two or more (typically three) bites in a line, you could start preventing bites right away.
If that same bite pattern was to appear overnight three to five days later, your suspicions might be confirmed seeing as the pattern fits the normal feeding habits of bed bugs.
Several rows of three could tell you that there’s more than one bed bug.
As infestations grow, symptoms get easier to find and you might be able to find a couple bed bugs with some searching.
Bites become more frequent and more bites appear at once to the point where new ones show up every morning. Dark spots of feces gradually become larger collective smears and molted castings and eggshells pile up until they are easy to find.
They will continue to wait in hiding during the day. If you happen to sleep during the day and be up at night, they will match your sleeping pattern and bite 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 dig 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.
Once competition near your bed gets to be too much, bed bugs will branch out to nearby rooms and neighboring units.
They do not mind commuting at this point and competition may get so fierce that a few bed bugs even make attempts to bite during the day while a host is relaxing in a bed, couch, or recliner.
Comprehensive professional treatment on a large scale is now necessary, efforts to treat the problem yourself will be a waste of time and money.
If nothing is done, bed bugs will completely overrun a home.
You are more likely to move out and abandon all your belongings before it gets to this point.
You will be able to smell them, see them in broad daylight, and will absolutely need a pest control operator specializing in large-scale treatment.
Hiring A Professional
Getting a professional to track down your problem is a surefire way to figure out if you’re actually dealing with bed bugs.
You pay a premium for peace of mind and the opportunity to have your infestation taken care of before it becomes unmanageable and more expensive.
When selecting a firm or service, it is important to check for proper certification, up-to-date methods, and guarantees of service.
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 green solution to bed bug detection.
Make sure you get physical proof of an infestation before signing up for additional treatment services. There have unfortunately been cases of dogs being trained to give false positives.
Professional inspections aren’t cheap and spending money on inspections every time a bug bite shows up wouldn’t be easy on the bank.
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!
If you can’t seem to find anything in all the spots we went over, it is totally possible that you do not have bed bugs at all. It’s also possible that you’ve caught on to an infestation early on.
It’s a good thing either way!
I would personally still take preventative action, especially if bites are appearing over night as went over earlier. A little spent on prevention could save you thousands in treatment costs down the line.
Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs
Every so often an unexplained itch, the feeling of something crawling on your leg that is never found, or irritations caused by some mystery of bug shows up.
These bites and itches are a normal part of life that can be incorrectly blamed on bed bugs. Lots of media attention and have made bed bug paranoia a common thing.
Frequent bed bug impersonators include:
- Any biting bug
- Anything that makes you itch, really
Mosquitos and fleas are sneaky biters that leave itchy bumps and rashes that can easily be mistaken for bed bug bites. This is a big reason why we recommend finding signs other than bites before starting treatment.
It’s also normal for people to misdiagnose the other way – believing they have fleas when they actually are dealing with bed bugs.
Either way, blindly jumping into treatment often does more harm than good.
Bed bug stuff is expensive and potentially unhealthy, especially when pesticides are applied without understanding proper application and without pesticide protection.
Environmental Bed Bug Imposters
Outside of random bugs giving you grief that looks like bed bugs, things that aren’t even insects could also be the cause of mystery itches and rashes.
Environmental conditions like allergies or dry weather can create symptoms easily mistaken for bed bug signs.
Many household products can irritate and cause itching, like:
- Cleaning agents
- Beauty products
- Certain fabrics
There are plenty more genetic and circumstantial factors that could cause rashes and itching.
The stuff that we fill our homes and buildings with can also cause itching, or the impression of insects crawling on the skin.
- Stray fibers from insulation
- Rug fibers
- Upholstered furniture
- Certain fabrics
- Dry air from excessive air conditioning
Any of these can put you on the hunt for imaginary bed bugs.
People undergoing stress and victims of insect phobias are more suspect to ghost irritations and are more likely to blame bed bugs reflexively.
Take the time to look for proof before jumping in to treatment and paying professionals for services you might not need.
Can Bed Bugs Jump or Fly?
Thankfully, bed bugs cannot 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 have fleas or mosquitoes for example.
Flea infesting beds aren’t out of the ordinary. Seeing one jump tells you 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.
Not communicating with neighbors is dangerous.
It can lead to bed bugs hiding out in a neighbor’s unit while you undergo treatment. They will eventually get back to you after treatment is finished and you think everything is taken care of.
Once bed bugs have been found anywhere, it is safest to assume that more are hiding around the house and potentially in next door units.
If you are unsure if the signs you’ve found are from bed bugs, there are services that accept mailed-in samples for a price.
Your best chance is likely contacting your local university’s entomology department to see if they offer such a service.
Get Ready for Treatment
Once you’ve verified that you’re dealing with bed bugs, it is important to act quickly.
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.
It is important to go in with a plan, though.
To help with that, our page on how to get rid of bed bugs will help you put together a step by step strategy that takes luck out of the equation and attacks bed bugs on every front.
It’ll get you results while going at it randomly will only push infestations 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.
Now that you’ve gone over this page, you can start treatment feeling confident that you aren’t wasting your time and money treating for the wrong pest.
Here’s a quick rundown of symptoms for review.
- Bites in rows of 3 that appear over night
- Off-white eggs, like tiny grains of rice in crevices near bed
- Small or cumulatively large dark stains along mattress seams, headboards
- Reddish-black splotches on sheets from crushed fed bugs
- Tan colored molts littering bed bug hotspots
- Live bed bugs themselves at all stages – use tape to capture one
For more pictures of the all of the above, you can visit the Bed Bug Pictures page.
Understanding bed bug symptoms is the first step to take in finding, preventing, and stopping them.
Being able to identify a potential infestation early is the best way to protect yourself from a bed bug problem ever getting serious.
While I do hope that this section has helped you conclude that your pest is not bed bugs, if you have joined the club of bed bug fighters, we’re here to help.
For information on preventing bed bugs, steps to take immediately following a suspected diagnosis, and what not to do after finding bed bugs, the bed bug prevention page will show you the way.