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
5 Reliable 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. Bed bug bites typically show up as itchy red bumps in rows of three or more.
Bed bugs leave stains wherever they go. Their stains are made of fecal matter and undigested blood. They’re gross but useful for identification as these stains are unique to bed bugs.
A single bed bug can lay hundreds of eggs in its lifetime. Their eggs look like small grains of rice. Bed bugs don’t bother cleaning up hatched eggs, which gives us another reliable sign to look out for.
Bed bugs must shed several times as they mature. Their left behind molts, husks, shells, or whatever you want to call them are the next best evidence after a live bug.
5. Live Bugs
A live bug is the most definitive proof you can find. They are also the hardest to find. Luckily, there are tools that make the hunt easier.
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?
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?
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
According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), bites are the symptom most people first report.
Habits and Bite Patterns Associated With Bed Bugs
- Bites appearing 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 in an infestation
- Bites appearing on skin left 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 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
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 Bug Egg Facts
- 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 in color and look like small grains of rice.
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
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
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
- 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 prefer to bite while you’re asleep.
- Bed bugs live for about 10 months on average.
- Bed bugs grow to adulthood in about 21 days.
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.
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
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
Where Do Bed Bugs Like to Hide?
- The creases of mattresses
- Corners, cracks, inside spaces between slats and joints in your bed frame
- Inside and on box springs
- Between the creases of bed linens
- Behind headboards and backboards
- 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.
- Inside small spaces between all of the above
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.
Can’t find anything in any of the above spots but are still getting bitten? Try a passive bed bug monitor or consider bringing in a professional.
Weird Places Bed Bugs Hide
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?
Unfortunately, bed bugs are happy to live in electronics.
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?
Leather-covered couches and sofas are often smooth and difficult to climb. But, they are also typically covered in cloth on the underside.
If you’ve found bed bugs in your furniture, don’t throw it away yet!
You can treat your furniture many ways. Fumigation, steam treatment, large bed bug heaters, and vacuuming can help manage or even get rid of bed bugs in furniture.
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|
Stages of Bed Bug Infestations
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.
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 haven’t already taken preventative steps, now would be a good time to put encasements and interceptors on your bed. This traps the bug in your encasement, ending your “infestation.”
If you’re interested in more preventive steps, check out the page dedicated to prevention.
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.
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.
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.
You are more likely to move out and abandon all your belongings before it gets to this point.
Bed Bug Impostors
They’re the reason why you should find several signs of bed bugs before committing to treatment.
Treating for the wrong pest or an environmental factor will get you nowhere.
Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs
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.
Common Bed Bug Impersonators
- Any biting bug
- Anything that makes you itch
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.
Take the time to learn how to use your bed bug tools.
These chemicals and powders are meant to kill after all.
Environmental Bed Bug Impostors
Environmental conditions like allergies and dry weather can create bed bug like symptoms.
Household Products That Cause Itching and Irritation
- Cleaning agents
- Beauty products
- Certain fabrics
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.
Environmental Factors That Cause Itching and Irritation
- Stray fibers from insulation
- Rug fibers
- Upholstered furniture
- Certain fabrics
- Dry air from excessive air conditioning
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 a good thing either way!
We always recommend taking preventative action either way.
Hiring A Professional to Check
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.
For a detailed checklist that will help you select a pest control operator, check out the link here.
There’s a printable and guide for any issue you’re facing in the ebook.
Bed Bug Detecting Dogs
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
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.
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
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.
Now that you know what to look for, you can go into treatment confident that you aren’t wasting time or money.
Summary of Bed Bug Symptoms
- 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, 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.
Thanks for pointing out that bedbugs will usually hide in places that you sleep in because they’re dark and tight. My son woke up this morning with a bunch of little bite marks on him, and then the same thing happened to my daughter. So, I think that we may have a bedbug problem. I’ll have to use your advice to check to make sure then find someone who can get rid of them.
Sorry to hear about that Amanda. It’s rough having children go through the ordeal but you’ll certainly get through it. Hopefully you caught them early on!
Be sure to ask for proof of bed bugs from your exterminator/PCO’s inspection. You don’t want to be paying the premium for bed bug extermination when all you have is fleas.
Wishing you all the best and Happy Holidays.
How can I possibly get even one of your listed bed bug products in Canada. The prices are reasonable but the shipping costs are horrendous.
I’ve been looking for bedlum plus or cimexa or Temprid
I can only recommend looking for products available on Amazon if in Canada. Unfortunately, the vendors I have partnered with who specialize in bed bugs don’t have a branch in Canada. I checked Amazon and noticed most products are missing. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is available though – alternatively you might consider calling your local pest control professional and seeing if they will sell you Cimexa or Temprid as I prefer them as well. Best of luck.
Considering how dangerous bed bugs can be it really pays off if you know how to spot them. I particularly love the article’s suggestions about where you can actually look on the bed and in the room in order to find these bed bugs. I’m personally glad that it brings up corners and cracks in the bed frame since they can very easily hide there.
Appreciate the feedback Callum!
Thanks to you I found the bug and sent the article to my landloard requesting he follow the law to protect myself and my daughter from further bites..
Thank you so much
Toni & Eva from Long Beach
Thanks for your comment Toni, hope it gets handled quickly for you and your daughter.
Bed bugs are became big headache for me. I have been suffering from this problem since 2 months. someone suggest me get Bed Bugs Heat Treatment, I hope it will work because I want permanent solution.
Heat treatment will work if conducted by a professional. Many exterminators provide guarantees, in fact. For help finding an exterminator, check out the exterminator page under “Treatment”.
As far as a permanent solution goes, taking steps to prevent bed bugs (https://debedbug.com/prevent-bed-bugs/) is your best bet. There are unfortunately no guarantees when it comes to staying away from bed bugs.
Hope this helps!