Table of Contents
- 1 How Do You Know If You Have Bed Bugs
- 2 Bed Bug Symptoms
- 3 Where To Look For Bed Bugs
- 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 Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs
- 13 Environmental Bed Bug Imposters
- 14 Can Bed Bugs Jump or Fly?
- 15 I Found Bed Bug Signs, What Now?
How Do You Know If You Have Bed Bugs
If you’ve arrived at this page, you probably dealing with some invisible biting pest. While starting treatment as soon as possible is crucial, treating for the right pest is just as important.
How do you know if you have bed bugs? The best way to find proof is by doing a little investigating. All there is to it is knowing what signs and symptoms to look for and where to look for them.
We’ll dig into the 4 bed bug signs you need to know about on this page:
If you’re interested in preventing bed bugs, check out the page dedicated to doing just that.
Bed Bug Symptoms
Bed bug interceptors and monitors can help you find bed bug symptoms early and are hassle free once you’ve installed them. They’re downright cheap compared to the cost of treating an advanced infestation.
I recommend bed post interceptors to anyone living in apartments and other multi-unit buildings because they just work.
Bed bugs, if they ever come around, get trapped in interceptors on their way to bite you in your sleep. Checking for bed bugs is as simple as taking a peek in the traps every couple of weeks.
Here are some of our favorite bed bug traps.
|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||$$||$||$$||$$ - $$$|
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 actually be both a blessing and a curse.
Where one person could wake up with a single row of bites and begin looking for and treating their bed bug problem, a person that does not react is less likely to catch on until an infestation is advanced unless they have interceptors installed.
For more on bites, we go over when and where bed bugs like to bite as well as how to stop the biting on the bed bug bites page.
For those dealing with bites, we also cover how to treat bed bug bites.
Where To Look For Bed Bugs
Before we get into the next categories of signs, it’s important to know where to look for them.
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 get a feeling for where to search in any room once you know what bed bugs look for in a home.
In a few words, they don’t want to get caught but they do want to be close to you.
- 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.)
- Under loose wallpaper
- Where the carpet meets the wall
- Corners and joints of desks, dressers, closets, and drawers
We host a gallery of pictures of bed bugs hiding in different places to give you a better idea of what to look for.
You get the idea. 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 attracted to wherever you take extended periods of rest. If you like to nap on the couch or in a recliner, know that they’ll find their way there.
Sleeping on the couch or recliner once you’ve found bed bugs will only spread them.
It is good to know that bed bugs do not burrow or penetrate materials in order to make their homes.
They have no problem making living on wood, metal, plastic, or cloth.
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. 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 happened.
Bed Bug Eggs
- Each female bed bug can lay one to five eggs in a every day.
- A female bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs in its lifetime.
- It takes about a week for each egg to hatch.
- Bed bug eggs are off-white and look like tiny grains of rice.
Bed bug aren’t particularly tidy. The hatched eggs stick around and don’t get cleaned – leaving another convenient sign for you to look for in the typical hiding places.
Eggs can stick almost anywhere, although they prefer to lay them in cracks on rough surfaces like 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, and molted skins. All of these are useful seeing as they can’t hide.
Molts are particularly useful to professionals and amateurs alike because they look just like bed bugs.
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 form of evidence is, of course, a live bed bug! You are much more likely to find a dead bed bug than a living specimen though since they’re master hiders.
If you do decide to hunt for a live one, I recommend bringing clear tape. Once you find one, simply trap it between two sticky sides of tape.
While you can easily see bed bugs with the human eye, this method will allow you to 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 recommended because they actually look very different.
You can see more about these nymph and adult stages here.
Do Bed Bugs Smell?
The musky sweet “buggy” smell that some sources recommend looking out for typically only manifests in severe cases of infestation.
By the time that you can detect bed bugs by smell, it is likely already very obvious that you have them, unless you have an especially gifted nose.
Here’s a quick checklist of bed bug symptoms!
- Off-white eggs, like tiny grains of rice in crevices near bed
- Small or cumulatively large dark stains along mattress seams, headboards
- Tan colored molts littering bed bug hotspots
- Reddish-black splotches on sheets from crushed fed bugs
- Live bed bugs themselves at all stages – use tape to capture one
For pictures of the all of the above, you can visit the Bed Bug Pictures page.
Bed Bug Signs Printable
To better help you in your search for bed bug signs, I’ve developed the following printable.
To print this file:
- Right click the image
- Select “save image as”
- Open the file wherever you saved it
- Print it as usual!
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 or black and white versions of this printable? Check out the comprehensive Debedbug ebook.
It comes with four more crucial 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 they provide hard to see cozy nooks to lay eggs in.
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 inside 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 curtains.
Bed Bugs In Leather Furniture?
Bed bugs can live in leather furniture. Leather upholstery is similar to electronics in that it isn’t the bug’s first choice, but is certainly isn’t off the table.
Leather-covered couches and sofas tend to be smooth and difficult to climb, but are typically covered in cloth upholstery on the underside.
The underside of couches and sofas aren’t solid either and provide plenty of nooks and crannies for an infestation to make its home it. 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 these days. They have the potential to save you thousands replacing furniture and anything else that’s too sensitive to be thrown in a dryer or doused with chemicals.
Getting the right steamers is tricky – this is a very specific job and not all steamers are designed for it.
|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||Under 10 min.||40 min.||60 min.||Over 60 min.|
|Rating||4.2 / 5||3.6 / 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 infested furniture off the street and back into the building.
I Can’t Find Bed Bugs Anywhere!
If nothing is found in any of the mentioned spots, it is completely possible that you either do not have bed bugs at all, or you may have caught an infestation early on.
You should be pleased with either case!
I would personally still take preventative action, especially if bites are appearing over night as mentioned earlier. Investing in very affordable prevention tools could save you thousands in treatment costs down the line.
Avoiding future problems and not having an infestation at all can only be a good thing.
Stages of Bed Bug Infestations
Bed bug infestations do not crop up overnight.
The days and weeks leading up to a full-fledged outbreak hold a series of signs if you know what to look for.
Bed bugs are a compounding problem. All it takes is a single egg laying female to begin. Their numbers can eventually explode as each female bug produces 200-500 eggs.
Under optimum conditions, bed bugs are able to grow from egg to egg laying in as little as five weeks.
Five weeks can seem like a long time, but in many cases their ability to stay well hidden is enough to build their numbers before you catch on especially 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.
A Single Bed Bug
Even if only one bug is present, that bug has to feed so a bite has to happen. Eggs can’t be produced, and physiological development is impossible without a blood meal.
This is one of the few circumstances in which you might 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 might begin to suspect a lone hitchhiking bed bug.
If that same bite pattern was to appear overnight three to five days later, your suspicions might be doubled given that this fits the typical feeding habits and schedule of bed bugs.
Several rows of three might indicate the presence of more than one feeding bed bug.
As infestations grow, symptoms are amplified, more numerous, and more obvious.
Bites increase in frequency, intensity, and sheer number; dark spots of feces gradually become larger collective smears and molted castings and eggshells pile up until they are difficult not to find.
They will continue to wait in hiding during the day and are even known to matching a host’s sleeping pattern if you were to sleep during the day and be up at night.
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 here.
Once competition near your bed gets to be too much, bed bugs will branch out to nearby rooms and neighboring units.
Competition may get so fierce that a few bed bugs even make attempts to feed during the day while a host is in bed, on a couch, or in a recliner.
This stage complicates the problem even more. Treatment on a large scale becomes necessary and efforts to treat the problem yourself will be a waste of money.
If nothing is done, bed bugs will completely overrun a home.
You are much 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 get an accurate diagnosis.
You pay a premium for peace of mind as well as the opportunity to have your infestation taken care of before it becomes unmanageable and much more expensive.
When selecting a firm or service to trust, it is important to check for proper certification, up-to-date methods, and guaranteed services.
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 ask for and are given 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 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.
Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs
Every so often an unexplained itch, the sensation of something crawling on your leg that is never found, or irritations maybe caused by some sort of bug show up. These bites and itches are a normal part of human life but are sometimes incorrectly blamed on bed bugs.
Growing media attention and a general public fear and paranoia have stuck bed bugs in our collective minds.
Common bed bug impersonators are:
- Other biting bugs
- Anything that makes you itch, really
Mosquitos and fleas have leave bites just like bed bugs. You are also unlikely to catch the bug in the act and later suffer comparable symptoms like itchy raised welts or an unexplained rash.
It’s also common for people to misdiagnose the other way – believing they have fleas when they actually are dealing with bed bugs.
Due to how easy it is to misdiagnose bed bugs, it is especially important to find solid proof before starting the often expensive treatment.
Either way, blindly jumping into treatment often does more harm than good. It is a costly and potentially unhealthy mistake to take, especially when pesticides get applied without understanding proper application and without pesticide protection.
Environmental Bed Bug Imposters
Outside the possibility of bugs similar to bed bugs giving you grief, things that aren’t insects could also be the cause of mystery itches and rashes.
Environmental condition like allergies or as generic skin irritation can create symptoms easily mistaken for bed bug signs.
Many household products can irritate and cause itching like:
- Cleaning agents
- Beauty products
- Certain fabrics
These are just a few potential causes of irritation you can find in any home.
The stuff that we fill our homes and buildings with can cause itching, or the impression of insects crawling on the skin.
- Stray fibers from insulation
- 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 more likely to blame bed bugs reflexively.
Can Bed Bugs Jump or Fly?
Luckily for everyone, bed bugs cannot jump or fly.
Knowing this is useful since it can help eliminate some pests you’re worried might be bed bugs – like fleas and mosquitoes.
Fleas 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 as it can lead to bed bugs hiding out in a neighbor’s unit while you undergo treatment. They eventually come back to you after treatment is finished and you think everything is taken care of.
Once bed bugs have been found anywhere, it is best 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. You can contact your local university’s entomology department to see if they offer that service.
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.
While the task of exterminating your own bed bugs is a tough job, it is certainly doable with the right tools and know-how.
You’ll save thousands this way and also get to know exactly what chemicals you are or aren’t using. Don’t want to use chemical sprays? Save the money and use it on a steamer and traps.
Think that a comfortable bed encasement is more important than fancy traps? Choose cheaper traps and nicer encasements.
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.
The page covers everything from green and home remedies to more proven commercially available methods of control that you can start using immediately.
It’ll get you results where 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!
Understanding the bed bug symptoms is the most important step you can take in finding, preventing, and stopping them.
Being able to identify a potential infestation early is the best way to protect yourself from the problem ever advancing to anything more than a moderate nuisance.
While I do hope that this section has helped you conclude that your pest is not bed bugs, as many people do, if you have joined the unfortunate club of verified bed bug victims, 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.