How Bed Bugs Bite Looks Like

What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like? Here’s Exactly How to Spot the Symptoms

If you wake up with a line of three to four itchy, swollen bumps, it could be due to bed bugs.

Waking up with a fresh set of itchy bug bites can bring on its own set of worries. What, exactly, was biting you in the middle of the night? Was it a spider? Mosquito? Or—possibly theworstcase scenario—could it have been bed bugs?

Although bed bugs might not be the first thing we think of when we wake up with a bite, the crittersdoget their food source from our blood—and will leave a little red bump in their wake after getting their fill.

But the trouble with identifying a bed bug bite—as is true for a lot of insects, including mosquitoes—is that it can be hard to identify the source of the bite, as everyone reacts differently to being bitten based on what their body’s immune response is. “Everybody’s going to respond differently,” saysTimothy Gibb, PhD, a clinical professor of entomology at Purdue University. “Same thing’s true with a mosquito bite. Some people are going to swell up and it’s going to itch. That same mosquito could bite someone else and it’s hardly noticeable.”

In fact, Gibb says some people may have no response when being bitten by a bed bug at all, based solely on how their immune system handles the bite. That’s why it can be difficult to determine whether your bite is the result of a bed bug just by looking at it.

But therearea few things that can tip you off to the fact that bed bugs are the culprit of your bites. Here’s what to know, including bed bug bites pictures to help you visualize the symptoms.

What do bed bug bites look like?

The key bed bug bite symptom to look for is a red, raised bump, says Gibb, similar in appearance to what you would get when bitten by a spider or a mosquito. But what sets bed bugs apart from other insects is that oftentimes,their bites will present in a line on one part or side of your body. This is the result of what’s called “probing.”

⚠️ Bed bug bites show up in a line, most often in a cluster of 3 to 4 bites.

“They probe the skin in several different places, I think probably to find best access to draw blood,” says Gibb. In fact, if you have screens on your windows—thereby keeping out other insects that might bite—but are still waking up with aline of 3 or 4 bites on your arm, it’s safe to suspect that bed bugs might be to blame, saysEdwin Rajotte, PhD, a professor of entomology at Penn State University.

Another way to determine if your bites are a result from bed bugs is to look for the insects themselves. They naturally like to hide in on your mattress, especially in the corners, near the head end, and in the cord that goes around it. They also like to camp out behind the headboard, behind any pictures on the wall, and in any electrical sockets.

Adult bed bugs are about the the size of an apple seed and are very flat from top to bottom—almost as thin as a piece of paper—with a brownish color, says Rajotte. Baby bed bugs are also brownish in color, but pinhead-sized. Another key identifier? Look for black spots on your sheets, mattress, and mattress cover, which could be bed bug feces.

Where do bed bugs bite, exactly?

Bed bug bites willmost commonly occur on the arms, neck, or trunk of the body, says Gibb, although they’ll bite anywhere they can find exposed skin. And—as their name suggests—bed bugs will bite you at night while you’re sound asleep.

“We’ve found it’s most active when people are most sound asleep, and that’s usually from about 2:00 to 4:00 in the morning,” says Gibb. “That’s natural for a parasite like that to do that because it’s going to protect it. People won’t see it, they won’t feel it. It makes their survivorship much more probable.”

Are bed bug bites itchy? Do they hurt?

Although some people will say a bed bug bite hurts somewhat—though not as intensely as the sting of a bee, for example—most complaints are due to the itching the bites cause, says Gibb. And that itching is due to the chemicals the bed bug inserts into your body during the bite, adds Rajotte.

“They’ve become what I consider the perfect parasite, because their mouthparts are kind of interesting,” says Gibb. “They will inject an anesthetic prior to biting, so people won’t feel it. And then they inject an anticoagulant that allows the blood to run easier for them to suck that up.” So while that system works great for thebugs, those left-over chemicals will usually lead to some uncomfortable itching on your end.

How long do bed bug bites last?

Although the duration and intensity of a bed bug bite will hugely vary from person to person, you typically won’t feel the effects of a bed bug bite—like itching and those raised red bumps—until mid-morning after a bite due to the anesthetic the bug injects, says Gibb. “So they certainly don’t feel it when the bite is occurring, but shortly after, probably within a day, for sure,” he adds.

From there, a bed bug bite will stay with you for typically at least 24 hours, though theycould last three to five days after the initial bite, says Gibb. At that point, the bite will then start to slowly dissipate.

How to treat bed bug bites

If you’ve received a bed bug bite (and the itching that comes along with it), chances are, you’re going to want to speed up the treatment process. But unfortunately, the best way to do that is also thehardestway to do it: not scratching the bite, says Gibb, which will just further irritate the area.

If you’re having trouble keeping your fingers away from the bite, you can also try using an antihistamine—think Benadryl or Allegra, which are meant to curb allergy symptoms—to help mute that itchy feeling.

And if bed bugsarethe cause of your bites, realize there’s no urgent need to panic. Yes, they might cost you a pretty penny and can be a pain to get rid of, but bed bugs can’t do any serious damage to your body.“They don’t kill people,” says Gibb. “A parasite would have a hard time surviving if it killed its host, and these do not.”

In fact, they don’t even transmit anything dangerous to you.“They’ve never been shown to transmit any diseases,”says Rajotte. “Unlike mosquitoes and ticks and things, which can transmit some pretty bad diseases, bed bugs do not. And so while they’re annoying and all that, they’re not going to harm your children or anything like that. They’re just annoying and you need to get rid of them.”

Ready to banish them from your home? Here’s our expert-approved, step-by-step guide to getting rid of bed bugs for good.

Are There Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs?

We receive many questions from our readers about bed bugs and other bugs that look similar to bed bugs. Most commonly asked question is‘I have tiny bugs in my bed that aren’t bed bugs but look a lot similar, and what should do about them?’. The fact is that indeed there are many bugs that look similar to bed bugs. Let us discuss some of them.

Book louse

Book lice are also called psocids. While they do not transmit any diseases, they can be extremely annoying when present in large numbers. Booklice can also be present in cereal boxes and other moldy areas with food grains. The best way to eliminate book lice and lice bites is to treat the environment. A book louse prefers warm and moist areas, so avoid these.

Bat bugs

The bat bug or Cimex pilosellus is a close relative of the bed bug or Cimex lectularius. The name ‘bat bug’ comes from colonies of bugs that are found around bat nests in abandoned buildings, attics etc. Eventually, the bugs move to human populations to bite and feed on human blood. The good news is that the bat bug populations die off in absence of hosts to feed upon. This is a huge difference from bed bug behavior which can survive for months without a blood meal. Similarity includes the fact that both species, bat and bed bugs, have short broad heads that are attached to the prothorax and an oval shaped body.

Spider beetle

Spider beetle is very similar in appearance to a bed bug. It has a shiny brown body which measures about 1/7 th inches and has a humpbacked appearance. Like bed bugs, spider beetles prefer the dark and are most active at night. During the day, they hide in cracks and crevices as well as in areas with food grains. They usually do not bite humans.

Cockroach nymph

Small cockroaches are similar to bed bugs in appearance. They are dark brown to mahogany colored and measure about 2 inches long. Immature cockroaches are especially similar to bed bugs. Cockroaches do not bite humans but they can contaminate food. They typically hide in kitchens and other areas with food and debris.

Carpet beetle

Carpet beetles do not much resemble bed bugs since they have round, solid brown or blackish hairy bodies. They even have irregular patterns on their body. The only similarity is that carpet beetles also have antennae and a hard exoskeleton covering their wings, just like bed bugs. Also, both species hide in carpets, rugs beds, mattresses and box springs. Immature beetles are covered with tufts of hair.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs are reddish brown, flat and oval. They measure about 1/5 th of an inch, have protruding eyes and short thick antennae. They also have wing like structures on either side of their head. Bed bug control is rather difficult and needs an integrated pest management approach. All infested sites have to be treated properly and at the same time.

As can be seen, there are many tiny bugs that can be present in your bed but they may or may not be bed bugs.

Bed bug bites

Typically, bed bug bites occur at night. Bed bugs can feed for up to 10 minutes on human hosts, before returning to their hiding place. You might notice a line of bites on your skin where several bed bugs have fed. These lines are usually present on the arms, legs, and torso and around the edge of the hem of your clothing. Many people do not immediately feel the effects of bed bug bites. Some people who are extremely sensitive may react to the protein injected by the bugs into the skin. As a result, they may develop reddish wheals which may be swollen and may itch terribly. The itchiness lasts for about a week after which, it diminishes. Bed bug bites produce variable symptoms as a result of which, it could become rather difficult to diagnose them. Regardless of these symptoms, it is very important to actually detect the presence of the bug in order to determine if it is indeed bed bug bites, dust mite bites, scabies or one of the many other possibilities.

Eradication of bed bugs

Eradicating bed bugs effectively needs an integrated bug management approach as stated above. You must dispose all infested items or at least wash them if possible. You can use insecticides but these need to contact the bed bug directly. Sometimes, bed bugs can walk across the treated surface but if they do not come in contact with the insecticide then they may not be killed.

Do visit the resources provided on this website to completely get rid of bed bugs.

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What Bedbug Bites Look Like — and How to Stop the Itch

Medically Reviewed by Ross Radusky, MD

Bedbugs, which are parasites known by the scientific names ofCimex lectulariusandCimex hemipterus, have been on the rise in the United States in the last decade or so. (1)

More on Insect Bites

As the name suggests, bedbugs bite at night when you’re asleep in bed, usually about an hour before dawn. (2) If you wake up with a bite, though, don’t immediately assume bedbugs are to blame. The bites look very similar to other insect bites. Here’s what to know to confidently identify bedbug bites and how to go about treating them.

Bedbug Bites Look Like a Swollen Red Spot — and They Often Itch

Bedbugs prefer to feed on the blood of humans (but they can survive on the blood of mice, rats, or other animals, too). You probably won’t catch the bugs in the act of biting, however, because the bedbug injects an anesthetic and an anti-coagulant to numb the area as it bites you. (3)

The bites can appear on any part of the body that’s exposed while you sleep — places like the back of your neck, shoulders, arms, and legs are common, says Steve Durham, president of EnviroCon Termite & Pest in Tomball, Texas.

For most people, bedbug bites result in itchy bumps where the bite occurred, within a day of being bitten. (4) The bites usually look like mosquito bites and will appear as a somewhat swollen red spot that might itch. (3)

But the bites will look different from person to person, and some people won’t develop any reaction whatsoever. “The same bedbug could bite two different people and one could have no reaction at all and the other can have an extreme reaction with a swollen arm or itchy rash,” says Eric Braun, a board-certified entomologist and business manager for the national pest control company Rentokil Steritech, who is based in Redding, Pennsylvania. Some people end up developing a rash that looks like eczema. (5)

It’s also possible that you won’t see a reaction the first time a bedbug bites since it sometimes can take the body a while to react. (6) Some people will have an immediate reaction, while for others it could take two weeks to emerge. Your body will likely become more sensitive to bedbug bites over time, and if you get bitten repeatedly, it could be only a matter of seconds before your body shows a response.

You may notice a single bite, while other times several bites will appear in a line. (3) “In most cases, they occur in clusters or zigzags of flat, itchy bites,” Durham says. “One bedbug will usually take more than one bite, so the severity of your infestation can have a big impact on the severity of your physical reaction to the bites.”

Bedbug bites differ from other bites in a few ways:

  • They can appear anywhere on the skin that’s exposed while you’re sleeping. Flea or chigger bites, on the other hand, usually only appear around your ankles, Durham says.
  • They sometimes bite in a zigzag pattern. (6)
  • Bedbug bites don’t normally have a red dot in the center, while flea bites usually do. (7)

Bedbug bites tend to stick around longer than mosquito bites, though they look very similar. (7)

Most of the Time Bedbug Bites Themselves Don’t Require Medical Attention

Bedbug bites don’t normally require treatment by a doctor, though there are a few precautions you should take at home. (8) Start by cleaning the area with soap and water to lower your risk of infection and to relieve itchiness. If the bites are itchy, pick up a corticosteroid cream at your local drugstore and apply it to the area. The bites generally will heal within a couple of weeks. (9)

Some people develop allergic reactions to bedbug bites, which can include a fever, difficulty breathing, hives, or a swollen tongue. Others may develop an infection where the bite starts oozing pus. If you experience either of these reactions or you develop blisters where the bites occurred, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with a dermatologist.

To treat an allergic reaction, the doctor may prescribe an antihistamine, corticosteroid, or epinephrine injection. If the area is infected, he or she might prescribe an antibiotic or recommend an over-the-counter antiseptic. Finally, if it’s severe itchiness that you’re dealing with, applying corticosteroid or taking an antihistamine in pill or liquid form may be able to help.

In most cases, the only way to say for sure whether it was a bedbug that bit you is to search for evidence of bedbugs living in your home. "Once you start to notice the itchy bites, the second giveaway is the presence of small blood spots on your sheets or mattress, usually resembling patches of rust,” Durham says. Those spots are left behind after a bedbug has been smashed.

You’ll likely only see them in their hiding spots or crawling across the floor since, unlike other insects, bedbugs cannot fly or jump. Durham says to check along the edges of your mattress. You may see the exoskeletons that bedbugs have shed as they matured, or you may notice a musty smell, both of which indicate there could be bedbugs in the area. It can also be helpful to check your bed with a flashlight during the middle of the night (since these crawlers tend to be more active at night.)

Bedbugs Slideshow: An Informative Look at Bedbugs

Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite

As if you needed something else to worry about, bedbugs, those pests from the old bedtime rhyme are making a comeback. More of a nuisance than a health hazard, they’re showing up to suck blood from people in hotels, college dorms, and hospitals. Take an informative look at bedbugs: what they are, where they lurk, and how to spot them before they get you.

Know the Enemy

Bedbugs are small, flat, wingless insects with six legs that, like mosquitoes, feed on blood from animals or people. They range in color from almost white to brown, but they turn rusty red after feeding. The common bedbug doesn’t grow much longer than 0.2 inches (0.5 centimeters) and can be seen by the naked eye to the astute observer.В Bedbugs get their name because they like to hide in bedding and mattresses.

Am I at Risk for Infestation?

Bedbugs are most often found in hotels, hostels, shelters, and apartment complexes where lots of people come and go. Because bedbugs hide in small crevices, they can hitch a ride into your home on luggage, pets, furniture, clothing, boxes, and other objects. Bedbugs are found worldwide, but are most common in developing countries. Once rare in North America, they may be on the rise due, in part, to increases in international travel.

Feeding Habits

These nocturnal creatures can hide in beds, floors, furniture, wood, and paper trash during the day. We humans usually become their dinner during the night, with peak biting activity just before dawn.They can obtain their meal in as little as three minutes, after which they are engorged and drop off the host, then crawl into a hiding place to digest their meal. Bedbugs can live for 10 months, and can go weeks without feeding.

Signs and Symptoms of Bedbug Bites

Amazingly, these sneaky little bloodsuckers dine on you without waking you. You don’t feel their stealthy bite because they inject a numbing agent into your body, along with an anticoagulant to keep your blood flowing as they suck. The first sign of bedbugs may be itchy, red bites on the skin, usually on the arms or shoulders. Bedbugs tend to leave straight rows of bites.

Treating Bites

Bedbug bites do not usually require treatment. If a secondary infection occurs (usually from scratching), apply a local antiseptic lotion or antibiotic cream or ointment. Creams with corticosteroids and oral antihistaminesare used for the primary, unbearable symptom of itch. In these more severe cases, you may need to see your doctor.

Do Bedbugs Transmit Diseases?

Bedbugs are more of a nuisance than a health hazard. In a recent study, researchers reviewed 53 recent studies on bedbugs and their health and medical effects. The results showed that although bedbugs have been blamed for the spread of up to 40 different human diseases, there is little evidence to suggest they are carriers of human disease.

Bedbug or Imposter?

Don’t assume your bites are bedbugs. Bites can be hard to identify, even for doctors. Rule out mosquitoes, fleas, mites, and biting gnats by conducting a visual inspection. It’s best to collect and identify bedbugs to confirm bites. Look for the bugs themselves or their bloodstains, especially along the seams of mattresses. Further, look for dark spots of insect waste where bedbugs might crawl into hiding places on furniture, walls, and floors.

Bite Back Against Bedbugs

Professional exterminators should get involved right off the bat—tell your landlord, super, hospital administrator, hotel owner, or you call a professional right up front. The exterminator will locate the bed bugs (which may be found in more than one location) and exterminate as needed. YOU will have to do a lot of laundry.В

Up Next

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IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

(1) Getty Images
(2) Nigel Cattlin / Visuals Unlimited
(3) Brand X Pictures
(4) Mark Andersen
(5) В© Pulse Picture Library/CMP Images / Phototake — All rights reserved.
(6) Dr. Kenneth Greer / Visuals Unlimited
(7) Darlyne A. Murawski / National Geographic
(8) Courtesy of Orkin, Inc.
(9) Thinkstock

New York City Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene.
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet.
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Lancaster County.
Washington Post.

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on May 17, 2018

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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5 Bugs that look like bed bugs

No one wants a case of bed bugs, so spotting bugs that look like bed bugs or unidentified bites on your body often incites panic. Because bed bugs are so small and elusive, they can also be difficult to identify. Our pest specialists can help you determine your particular pest problem and craft a solution to bring you peace of mind. The following is a list of five bugs that are often mistaken for bed bugs.

1. Bat bugs

Color:Brown

Description:Bat bugs are the most similar to the bed bug of any on this list. Really the only observable difference between the two is that bat bugs have longer hairs on their heads.

Size:¼” – the size of an apple seed

Shape:Oval

Do Bat Bugs have wings?Bat Bugs have wing pads, but no functional wings.

Do Bat Bugs bite?Bat bugs will bite, but only if bats aren’t around.

Where are Bat Bugs found?Despite what their name suggests, bat bugs usually aren’t found on bats, but rather where bats live.

2. Spider beetles

Color:May range from pale brownish yellow to reddish brown to almost black

Description:Spider Beetles have long, thin legs and antennae, all covered with hairs. It has no “neck” as its head is directly connected to its body.

Size:1/32-3/16” (1-5mm)

Shape:Usually oval

Do Spider Beetles have wings?Yes, but only some species can fly.

Do Spider Beetles bite?No.

Where are Spider Beetles found?Spider beetles are often found in wooden structures and near sources of food. Poor sanitation often leads to Spider Beetle infestations.

3. Booklice

Color:Pale brown or creamy yellow

Description:Booklice closely resemble termites, with soft bodies and long, thin antennae.

Size:1/32-1/4” (1-6mm)

Shape:Segmented (head and body are separate)

Do Booklice have wings?sometimes – if present, there will be 4 held rooflike over body and rest

Do Booklice bite:No, but scientists believe their dead bodies in tandem with dust may contribute to asthma attacks.

Where are Booklice found?Booklice are often found in areas of high humidity, such as damp books, because they easily become dehydrated.

4. Carpet beetles

Color:Black with white pattern and orange/red scales

Description:The head of the Carpet Beetle is mostly hidden when looking from above, but short, visible antennae extend from it.varied carpet beetle

Size:1/16-1/8” (2-3.8mm)

Shape:Oval

Do Carpet Beetles have wings?Yes, adults fly during the daytime.

Do Carpet Beetles bite?No, but they are known to cause dermatitis in humans, due to allergic reactions.

Where are Carpet Beetles found?Carpet beetles are typically found on flowers and sometimes on fabrics (specifically carpet). They are often brought inside on fresh-cut flowers.

5. Fleas

Color:Reddish brown

Description:Fleas have long legs and round heads with a comb extending from Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), attacking also humans. Isolated opn whitethe mouth.

Size:Approximately ⅛”

Shape:Laterally flattened and segmented

Do Fleas have wings?No.

Do Fleas bite?Yes, and the bites are traditionally very itchy. Additionally, fleas are a vector for various diseases.

Where found:Fleas are often brought in from outdoors on animals.

Whether or not your infestation is that of bed bugs, Ehrlich is here to help. Call us at 800-837-5520 or contact us online to find out what our pest experts can do for you.

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