Table of Contents
- 1 Checking for Bed Bug Symptoms
- 2 Signs of Bed Bugs
- 3 Bed Bug Symptoms
- 4 Bed Bug Signs Printable
- 5 Stages of Bed Bug Infestations
- 6 Where do Bed Bugs Hide
- 7 I Found Bed Bug Signs
- 8 Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs
- 9 Other Bed Bug Imposters
- 10 Thanks for Reading!
- 11 References
Checking for Bed Bug Symptoms
If you’ve arrived at this page, you like dealing with some invisible pest that’s been biting you.
Whether or not that something turns out to be bed bugs, I hope that you find the cause and solution quickly! While time is of the essence when it comes to pest control, treating for the correct pest is even more important.
Choosing to educate yourself about bed bugs is a long-term investment that costs only a little time.
How do you know if you have bed bugs? The best way to zero-in on them is through a properly conducted diagnosis.
If you’re interested in preventing bed bugs, the page on the very subject is full of information; the Integrated Pest Management page is also brimming with information crucial to bed bug prevention and should be considered required reading.
Signs of Bed Bugs
This page will focus on where to look for bed bugs, as well as how to verify telltale symptoms and signs.
While I cannot promise 100% accuracy on your diagnoses, if you follow all the steps advised, you will be much better equipped when reaching out to a professional at the very least. After all, knowing the enemy is half the battle!
Keep in mind that bed bugs are highly mobile; it is best to verify and share your discovery with unit neighbors if you do find them or have a strong suspicion, lest they come back to you after professional treatment for vengeance.
Once bedbugs have been found in a room, it is safest to assume that more may be hiding throughout the home or in tangential units.
Be deliberate and thorough, and this too shall pass.
In the search for bed bugs, it is certainly helpful to have a description of what they physically look like at all stages of life.
This portion from the ultimate bed bug guide will serve you well for that.
The Pictures page is a valuable resource as well that will help you see exactly where and what to look for when on the hunt for bed bugs and their signs.
Bed Bug Symptoms
When looking for bed bugs, your relative sensitivity to their bites really determines whether or not you will be able to pick up on that most obvious of symptoms earlier or later on.
It would be excessive and undue if you were to take any mysterious bite in the night as proof of bed bugs, however, there are certain feeding habits and bite patterns that are considered likely signs of bed bugs.
There are a few tools that will help you diagnose bed bug symptoms much more easily.
Namely, bed bug monitors and traps have the potential to save you thousands by helping to detect bed bugs early. They’re very affordable – I’d even consider them cheap compared to the potential savings and longevity!
I recommend bed post interceptors to anyone living in apartments or other multi-unit building because they’re effortless and highly effective. All there is to it is placing dishes with pit traps in the on your bedposts.
Bed bugs, if they ever do come about, will have to crawl into the pitfalls on their way to you as you sleep. They won’t get further than the traps if you’ve got them.
Here’s a bite from the bed bug traps page that you can use to easily compare passive bed bug monitors.
|Bait||You||You, Optional Lure||You||You|
|Trap||Comfy Harborage||Pitfall||ABS Pitfall||Powdered Pitfall|
|Rating||4.6 / 5||3.4 / 5||5.0 / 5||4.0 / 5|
|Price||$$||$$ - $$$||$$||$|
Bed Bug Bites
Anecdotally, bed bugs prefer to feed where there is less body hair. This may help in determining if your problem is a different bug should your bites be somewhere hairy and well-covered during sleep.
In some people, it takes several hours to days before bed bug bite symptoms manifest themselves. This makes bites a less reliable symptom to watch out for.
Others do not react to bites at all; a blessing and a curse. Where one person could wake up with a single row of bites and begin taking preventative action, a person that does not react is much less likely to catch on until an infestation is much worse.
If you find that there does not seem to be any connection between bites that you’ve found and sleep, it is unlikely that bed bugs in your home are the actual perpetrators.
You may be exposed to them somewhere else; workplace infestations are increasingly commonplace in recent years.
They might get in your home soon should that be the case.
Bed Bug Stains
Outside of signs found directly on your body, you can look to the typical spaces that bed bugs like to inhabit for symptoms.
Dark brown or black stains found on or around mattress seams, sheets, behind headboards, beneath or in box springs, or in night stands are given byproducts that experts look for first. Such stains are a result of fecal matter and undigested blood meals being inevitably secreted.
Small, dark, and well-secluded spots near the bed are all prime real estate for bed bugs.
Spots of blood found on bedding are good indicators and can signify where a bug has been crushed shortly after or during feeding.
A few wayward bugs being squashed is typical when infested as a side-effect of itching and turning during sleep.
As discussed in the information section, 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.
Bed Bug Eggs and Molts
Physical remnants like eggs, eggshells, and molted skins are left behind during the natural life cycle of bed bugs. These immobile and non-hiding pieces of evidence can be very valuable in identifying your problem.
Professional and amateur pest professionals are able to connect molted castings to the bugs that left them.
You can find pictures of these remnants to compare with in the picture gallery.
Molts and eggshells will slowly amass in the same corners and crevices that bed bugs typically live.
The “Where to Find Bed Bugs at Home” section will go into more detail about where to look for these symptoms.
Live Bed Bugs
The most definitive form of evidence is, of course, an actual bed bug! You are much more likely to find a dead bed bug than a living specimen.
The dead bug is completely usable for identification purposes.
If you do embark on the quest to capture a live one, I recommend bringing along a strip of 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.
Bed bugs look very different during their various stages of development. Having an idea of what each looks like is highly recommended. You can learn more about these nymph stages and see picture examples here.
Keep in mind the most common risks of exposure to bed bugs before being worried about a potential infestation.
Acquiring used furniture, traveling both domestically and internationally, and contact or proximity with infested neighbors are all prime means of introduction to bed bugs.
If any of these circumstances is relevant to you and symptoms are starting to show, it is best to be on high alert and take action! You can read specifically about where bed bugs come from and preventing them at the Bed Bug Prevention page.
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 semi-translucent molts littering bed bug hotspots
- Reddish-black splotches on sheets from crushed blood-engorged bugs
- Bed bugs themselves at all stages – catch one for identification!
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 scour 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. Check it out for free – its the fast track guide to going from victim to hero!
Click here for more information.
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 telltale signs that you may be able to pick up on, given that you are paying attention and know what to look for.
Bed bugs, similar to most pests, are a compounding problem. Requiring a base population as small as a singular egg laying female to begin, their numbers can eventually explode as successive fertilized females produce their 200-500 eggs.
Under optimum conditions, bed bugs are able to develop 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 well before you catch on.
A Single Bed Bug
Even if only one bug is present, a bite has to occur. 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 three to five days later, your suspicions could be enforced given that such behavior follows the typical feeding habits and schedule of common bed bugs.
Several rows of three, however, might indicate the presence of more than one feeding bed bug. You will almost never see a bed bug during the day unless you have a severe infestation.
As infestations persist and advance, symptoms are amplified and made more obvious.
Bites increase in frequency, intensity, and sheer numbers; dark spots of feces gradually become larger collective smears and molted castings and eggshells pile up until they are difficult not to find.
In spite of this, they will continue to wait in hiding during the day and are capable of matching a host’s sleeping pattern should that be more advantageous.
Newly fertilized females eventually begin to move away from your bed to locations with less competition and further from danger before safely laying their eggs.
While bites are not the best way to diagnose bed bugs by any means, understanding their bite mechanisms and the marks they leave may help you diagnose them very early on.
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 grows adequately, bed bugs will find it necessary to branch out and away from crowded and filthy hiding spots to nearby spaces, or to a neighboring room or unit.
Competition may be so fierce that a few bed bugs even make attempts to feed during the day while a host is on a couch or recliner.
This stage of bed bug urban flight distinctly complicates the problem and makes them far more difficult to exterminate. At this point, treatment on a large scale becomes necessary and efforts to resolve the issue personally will be in vain.
If nothing is done in spite of the now irrefutable signs, bed bugs have the potential to completely overrun a home.
You are much more likely to move out and abandon all your belongings instead.
You will be able to smell them, see them in broad daylight, and intimately understand a torment not known to many. You will absolutely need a pest control operator specializing in bed bugs at this point.
Ask a Bed Bug Exterminator
Getting a professional to track down your problem is a surefire way to get an accurate diagnosis with little fret on your part.
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 ensure proper certification, up-to-date methods, and established parameters of service.
Where do Bed Bugs Hide
When searching for bed bugs, it is helpful to keep in mind that they prefer to make their homes close to where their host sleeps.
This, in conjunction with the knowledge that they are comfortable squeezing into cracks, folds and other tight places, creates a good heat map of where to look.
Anything touching your bed is a good place to start: the mattress itself, bed frame, box spring, the creases of bed linens, behind headboards and backboards, and the small spaces between all these things are likely to have traces of bed bugs if they are present.
Keep in mind that bed bugs are attracted to wherever hosts take extended periods of rest. If prone to taking naps on a couch or recliner, know that you’ll likely find them there if you’ve found them in your bedroom.
This also means that sleeping on the couch or recliner once you’ve found them on your bed only serves to spread the pest, rather than isolate them to your bed.
Outside of checking the bed and areas immediately surrounding it, loose wallpaper, wherever carpet meets wall, corners of hardwood desks, dressers, closets, and drawers are all potential safe harboring places for bed bugs.
They do tend towards soft places, although crowded furniture and beds are less appealing than less crowded but equally safe narrows, cracks, corners, and dark spaces nearby.
Bed bugs are willing to commute from curtains, drapes, inside walls, outlets, appliances, and underneath carpets; basically, they can be anywhere at all.
It is important to understand that bed bugs do not burrow or penetrate materials in order to make their homes.
They prefer to nest in tight and dark spaces and have no problem inhabiting wood, metal, or plastic as well as cloth.
Bed Bugs in Electronics?
I’m often asked whether or not electronics are safe from infestations.
Unfortunately, bed bugs are happy to live in electronics that provide dark and cozy nooks to hide in.
If conditions are right and populations need more space, you might find molts, eggs, and all the other consequences of harborage in your speakers, television, desktop computer, or inside any other electronic.
This is why buying used electronics is not without its danger.
At the same time, electronics aren’t high-value real estate for bed bugs due to their difficulty to travel over. They prefer things they can easily climb, like bed sheets and curtains.
Will Bed Bugs Infest Leather Furniture?
Because bed bugs do not physically burrow or penetrate into their homes, they can absolutely live in leather furniture. Leather upholstery is similar to electronics in that it isn’t the bug’s first choice, but is certainly not off the table either.
Leather-covered couches and sofas tend to be smooth and difficult to climb, but are typically filled with cloth upholstery just beneath the surface.
Bed bugs are perfectly at home after squeezing between seams into the cozy and soft inner-upholstery. You could also expect to see bed bugs colonizing beneath cushions on leather couches – 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 in replacement furniture, bed components, and anything else that’s too sensitive to be thrown in a dryer or doused with chemicals..
Take a peek at the best around right now:
|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||<5min||~5 min||<10 min||<15 min||<20 min|
|Rating||4.8 / 5||4.2 / 5||4.6 / 5||3.0 / 5||4.8 / 5|
Getting the right steamers is tricky – this is a very specific job; not all steamers are designed for it.
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 a neighbor picking your infested furniture off the street and back into the building.
I Can’t Find Them 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 that you may have caught on to them early on.
You should be pleased with either case! I would personally take preventative action immediately. Investing in very affordable prevention tools could save you thousands in treatment costs down the line.
Avoiding the problem completely would be ideal.
Bed Bug Detecting Dogs
Bed bug detecting dogs are another popular green solution to bed bug detection. You should expect to be given proof of the infestation prior to any additional treatment or services taking place.
I recommend taking a crack at it yourself when it comes to early detection, but going the professional route should you fail to find traces but still suspect bed bugs.
Spending a lot of money on inspections every time a bug bite shows up wouldn’t be easy on the bank!
I Found Bed Bug Signs
If you do find traces in the above areas, it’s time to start looking for a live specimen.
Keep in mind that bed bugs are not bound to the bed.
They are more than willing to migrate small distances when competition gets thick.
In such cases, you should expand your efforts in search of symptoms to the entire bedroom at the very least. You should always capture a specimen or secure several other forms of evidence for the purpose of identification before committing any kind of treatment.
Many online communities host identification forums for this exact purpose. Professionals will likewise appreciate not having to search for proof once you already have it.
This could save you an inspection, as well as time consequently.
There are services that also accept mailed-in samples – at a price. Luckily, there are several proven and highly effective daily-monitoring devices and traps to help you catch bed bugs passively or actively.
Bed bugs are crafty and more than happy to wait until you to fall asleep to feed. Their attraction to the warmth exuded by the human body, as well as the carbon dioxide we exhale, are factors that can be used to our advantage with the right methods and products.
Their elusiveness means that setting traps and searching for telltale signs tends to yield the best results than staring at the bed and chasing ghosts.
Once you’ve verified that you’re dealing with bed bugs, it is important to act quickly. Time is the greatest advantage and disadvantage you have against an infestation.
If you find your infestation is in its earlier stages, you should consider yourself lucky. In this case, you’d be best off educating yourself on the modern methods of controlling and exterminating bed bugs.
Namely, creating an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan is the route to go. With an IPM you effectively take chance out of the equation and attack bed bugs on every possible front.
It’ll get you huge results and only requires a little diligence and knowledge.
Debedbug also produces a great IPM planner and tracker that will help you with the whole ordeal.
Taking Control Yourself
For some people, the sometimes exorbitant prices of Pest Control Operators (PCOs)/exterminators is simply too much.
While the task of exterminating your own bed bugs is seen as a tough job, it’s absolutely possible with the right tools and know-how.
You’ll save thousands this way and also have the privilege of knowing exactly what chemicals you are or aren’t using.
Taking bed bugs on yourself allows you to hold off on certain costs and invest more in other solutions.
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’s all in your hands. I’ll be here to help, though.
The page covers everything from green and home remedies to more proven commercially available methods of control that you can start using immediately.
It also has a section on choosing an exterminator which is great for those going that route!
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 presumably caused by some sort of bug crop up. These anomalies are a normal part of human life and are often falsely attributed to bed bugs.
Concentrated media attention as well as a general public fear and paranoia have pinned bed bugs to our collective conscience.
Some easy facts to keep in mind are that bed bugs do not jump, nor can they fly.
Common perpetrators of bed bug fraud are mosquito bites, fleas, ticks, and a host of other biting or irritation-causing bugs. Mosquitos and their bites are similar in many ways; you are unlikely to catch the bug in the act and later suffer symptoms comparable like itchy raised welts or an unexplained rash.
For pictures of bed bugs, you can visit the bed bug photo gallery.
Due to how easy it is to misdiagnose bed bugs, it is doubly important to secure solid proof before concluding that the problem you are facing is bed bugs.
Blindly jumping into treatment by pesticides or other means is often ineffective for treating the actual cause. It is also costly and potentially harmful to health when done without proper research and careful application.
Other Bed Bug Imposters
Outside the possibility of bugs similar to bed bugs giving you grief, external factors irrelevant to insects may also be the cause.
Environmental conditions, allergies, as well as generic skin irritation can yield symptoms easily mistaken for bed bug signs.
Household products that irritate and cause itching such as detergents, soaps, cosmetics, cleaning agents, beauty products, medications, and certain clothing fabrics are just a few potential causes of irritation present in every home that might be mistaken for a bed bug-caused rash or itch.
The many components that make up a home can likewise cause itching, or the impression of insects crawling on the skin. Stray fibers from insulation, rugs, upholstered furniture, certain fabrics, and even dry air from excessive air conditioning can put you on the hunt for imaginary bed bugs.
People undergoing stress and victims of insect phobias are even more suspect to ghost irritations misattributed to bed bugs.
Thanks for Reading!
Understanding the common symptoms related to bed bugs is the most important step you can take in 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 moderately traumatic 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, I’m right there with you.
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 guide will show you the way.
Good hunting and best of luck getting Debedbugged!