How Do Bed Bugs Look Like

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Bed bugs have small, flat, oval-shaped bodies. They are wingless. Adults do have the vestiges of wings called wing pads, but they do not fully develop into functional wings.

Adults are brown in color, although their bodies redden after feeding. Full-grown bed bugs move relatively slowly and measure between 4 to 5 mm. Homeowners sometimes have the misconception that bed bugs are too small to see with the naked eye. The nymphs may be small and difficult to see, but the adults are detectable with the naked eye and may be found in the cracks and crevices they use to hide.

Newly hatched nymphs are approximately the size of the head of a pin and are white or tan until they feed. They often are described as being about the size and shape of an apple seed.

Bed Bug Control

Cimex lectularius L.

Learn what bed bugs look like, and how to detect if you have a bed bug Infestation.

Find out how bed bugs infiltrate your home and where they are attracted to.

Learn about bed bug bites. their feces and how they can impact your health.

Learn how Orkin handles bed bugs, homeopathic cures and the cost of bed bug extermination services.

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

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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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What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Bed Bug Identification Guide

Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed on blood, thus attracting them to humans. Bed bugs can bite and cause rashes. They like to hide in warm spaces, including the cracks and crevices of mattresses, furniture, and bedding.

It is important to identify what bed bugs look like before you begin treating for the pests, as there are other insects that can be mistaken for bed bugs that require a different treatment plan. The good thing is that bed bugs are visible to the human eye.

Read our guide to identifying bed bugs below, then continue reading our guide to learn how to find, get rid of, and prevent bed bug infestations in your home.

Bed bugs are tiny and vary in size based on their stage in the life cycle. Immature, or nymph, bed bugs range from 2-5 millimeters in length while fully grown adult bed bugs are a quarter of an inch long or larger, generally the size of an apple seed.

Adult bed bugs have a flat, oval-shaped body, six legs each, two antennae, and do not have wings.

Nymph (immature) bed bugs are translucent in color. After feeding, a nymph will have a bright red translucent abdomen that will fade to brown and eventually black as it digests its meal. As nymphs mature into adults, they molt and become a darker brown. Adult bed bugs are a rusty red/brown color.

Bed bug eggs are a light cream color.

Bed bugs can be found across the United States and are most prevalent in cities and large travel hubs, hence the need for bed bug control. However, bed bugs can still be found in small towns and remote locations.

What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like (And How To Get Rid of Them Faster)

It can be difficult to identify bed bug bites because the red itchy bumps caused by bed bug bites look like flea bites or mosquito bites. Bed bugs usually come out at night and feed on the blood of humans. The tiny nasty pests can leave a cluster of bite marks on your face, arms, stomach, and legs. Some people only have a mild reaction to the bed bug bites and may only have a few small red dots. However, others have more severe reactions and are plagued by large red bite marks and an irresistible urge to scratch them.

Pictures of bed bug bites show groups of red bite marks on the body. Very often, the bite marks left by bed bugs are in straight lines or in a zig-zag and very rarely is there just one solitary red bite mark.

There are many effective natural home remedies to quickly get rid of the signs of bed bug bites. You can make your own natural treatments for insect bites with ingredients like witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, and aloe vera. The natural anti-inflammatory ingredients in those home remedies help to quickly relieve itching and promote healing.

In this article, you will learn how to identify bed bug bites and find out how to get rid of them quickly. You will also see images of bed bug bites to help you to spot the tell-tale signs that you have been bitten.

What do Bed Bugs Look Like?

The Latin name for bed bugs isCimex lectularius, or common bed bug. If you’ve ever seen a close-up picture of a bed bug you will see that they look quite scary. However, in reality, bed bugs are tiny pests that lurk in corners and crevices of beds, mattresses, and furniture. They are about the size of a small apple seed and many can be seen crawling around if you have an infestation.

Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that bed bugs have flat, brown, oval bodies. They don’t have wings but can quickly scurry over floors, ceilings, and walls. The parasitic insects live in groups and love to hide in dark places. If you have a bed bug problem in your home, you should check for signs of bed bugs in corners of your bed frame, along the seams of mattresses, along baseboards, and behind pictures. In fact, they will live in any crevice that is large enough to slide a credit card into. 1

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that bed bug eggs look like tiny white pinheads. As they go through their nymph stages they shed skins and these yellowish shells are a common sign to look for when checking for an infestation of bugs. 2

Pictures of bed bugs

How to Identify Bed Bug Bites

On most people, bed bug bites look like itchy red bumps on their body. However, it can be difficult to know if the bite marks have been caused by bed bugs or not.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms of bed bug bites may not appear for a few days. Also, each person reacts differently to being bitten by these irritating pests. Some people show no signs of being bitten whereas other people have a severe reaction to the bite, and large bumps appear on the skin that itch severely. 3

However, Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that the only way to know for sure if the red bite marks have been caused by bed bugs is to look for signs of a bug infestation. That will confirm if the red spots that look like bed bug bites are in fact the result of bed bugs.

Bed Bug Bites – Signs and Symptoms

Images of bed bug bites generally show clusters of itchy red bumps on a person’s arms, neck, face, legs, and other areas of their body. Depending on the number of bed bugs that have infested your sleeping area and your reaction to them, bed bug bites also have other signs.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that more often than not, bed bug bites will be in either a rough line or in a cluster of red marks. If they cause a severe skin reaction, the itching can be very intense. In rare cases, a person who has many bites and a severe allergic reaction should visit a doctor. 4

Doctors from the National Health Service say that, in some cases, the itchy red bumps on the skin can cause a rash or start to blister and fill with fluid. 5

However, it can be difficult to tell if the bites have been caused by bed bugs or another insect. Therefore, it’s important to know how to identify the difference between bed bug bites, flea bites and mosquito bites.

Bed bug bite vs flea bite

Flea bites and bed bug bites look very similar and cause itchy red marks on the skin. Even in pictures, it is hard to tell bed bug bites and flea bites apart. However, there are some differences.

The symptoms of flea bites generally appear on the ankles, feet and around the abdomen. As with bed bug bites, flea bite symptoms can also appear in small clusters. Dr. Carol DerSarkissian says that if you look closely at a bed bug bite you won’t see a small red dot in the middle as is characteristic of flea bites. 1

Bed bug bite vs mosquito bite

Both mosquito bites and bed bug bites can leave itchy welts on the skin. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the symptoms of mosquito bites show up very soon after the bite; in fact, in only a few minutes, a puffy red bump usually appears. 6

Unlike bed bug bites that are painless, you may feel the mosquito bite and it might start to itch immediately. It is also more likely that the mosquito bite will blister and ooze a small amount of fluid.

Symptoms of Bed Bug Bites – Complications

Bed bug bite marks usually heal within 2 weeks and won’t leave any permanent mark on the skin. In some cases, there are complications associated with bed bug bites.

Of course, for many people, the appearance of red itchy welts on visible areas of skin like their face or arms is an unwanted complication of bed bug bites.

One of the most common, and potentially serious, complications that is seen with bed bug bite is a secondary skin infection. Dr. Stephanie S. Gardner on WebMD says that itching from bed bug bites can be so severe that constant scratching breaks the skin and germs get it. This can cause a bacterial infection in the bite mark. 7

Dr. Steven Doerr on eMedicnineHealth warns that some people experience severe allergic reactions to bed bug bites. Some of the signs of a serious allergic reaction include itching all over the body, tightness in the throat, chest pain, red bed bug rash that spreads from the bite area. 8

At least the good news with bed bug bites is that they don’t spread disease. The CDC states that bed bugs don’t spread disease and the most serious health threat is a lack of sleep from scratching and secondary skin infections. 3

Signs of Bed Bug Infestation

If you suspect that clusters of itchy red spots on your body are the result of pesky bed bugs, you should check for signs of an infestation.

First, you don’t have to worry that having bed bugs is a sign of uncleanliness or dirtiness. The CDC says that bed bugs only feed on blood and aren’t attracted to dirt. Bed bugs have been found in the cleanest of 5-star hotels. 3

To check for signs of bed bugs, you should look in areas where they tend to live. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that tell-tale signs of bed bug activity are tiny rusty-colored stains on bed linen from bug feces or dried blood. You may also notice tiny yellow shed skins around your bed and sleeping area. 9

The next step to confirm if itchy red marks on your skin are from bed bugs is to find where the critters are hiding. You should check all joints and screw holes in your bed frame, around mattresses and box springs, and around the headboard. Other places where you might find evidence of a bed bug infestation are in the folds of drapes, in drawer joints, behind loose wallpaper, and at baseboards.

If you find feces, dead bed bugs, or bed bugs crawling around, it is time to take drastic action to get rid of the bed bugs quickly. This is the only way to prevent getting more bed bug bites in the future. Some effective ways to kill off infestation of irritating insects include using bed bug powders that destroy populations of bed bugs as well as bed bug sprays.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bug Bites Fast

Fortunately, there are many great home remedies to get rid of bed bug bites quickly. Here are a few of the best ways of treating bed bug bites at home.

Cold compress

To quickly get rid of an intense itch in a swollen bump caused by a bed bug bite, you can use a cold compress. One excellent way to make a compress is by using a cold tea bag. Cold helps to relieve irritation from your skin by calming nerve endings, and tea helps to relieve itching and promotes healing.

A study from 2012 into the healing effects of tea found that compounds in black and green tea have an astringent effect. This helps to reduce itching in irritated, inflamed skin. 9 However, you don’t just have to use black or green tea bags. Research has also found that chamomile has soothing properties and is just as effective as hydrocortisone creams (often prescribed by doctors to reduce itching in insect bites). 10

How to use:

To quickly get rid of the irritation that bed bug bites cause using a cold tea compress, this is what you should do:

  1. Put a tea bag in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes. Remove the bag and cool it in the refrigerator.
  2. Place the tea bag on the red itchy bumps to relieve discomfort and irritation.
  3. Apply the cold compress 2-3 times a day for fast relief from bed bug bites and bed bug rash.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera also has properties that reduce itching and help to speed up the healing time of a bed bug bite. Aloe vera contains many properties to nourish your skin and relieve inflammation and irritation.

One study into the healing properties of aloe vera found that it has a soothing effect on irritated skin. It was found that aloe vera was just as effective as hydrocortisone creams in reducing itching and inflammatory responses in the skin. 11

How to use:

Aloe vera gel is great for helping bed bug bites to heal faster. This is what you should do:

  1. Use aloe vera gel with as few added ingredients as possible and liberally apply some gel to the bite marks.
  2. Massage the gel into the area around the bed bug bites to soothe the skin and stop itching.
  3. Apply the natural remedy 2-3 times a day to help your skin heal quicker and get welcome relief from the constant itching.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil will help to treat the itch in bed bug bites and help prevent secondary infections making the skin worse. Tea tree oil contains powerful antimicrobial compounds as well as properties that help to reduce inflammation and itching.

One of the benefits of using tea tree oil to quickly treat bed bug bites is that it helps soothe allergic skin reactions. For example, theBritish Journal of Dermatologyreported on a study into the antihistamine effect of tea tree oil. Histamine is released by the body as a response to allergens. It was found that applying tea tree oil to skin inflammation helped to soothe the allergic response fast. 12

How to use:

You can use tea tree oil as a spot treatment on one or two bed bug bites or you can mix a couple of drops of tea tree oil with coconut oil to apply to clusters of bed bug bites. This is what you should do:

  1. Put a drop of tea tree oil on the end of a cotton bud and apply to the itchy bed bug bite.
  2. Apply 2 times a day to help stop itching in the bite marks and prevent bacterial infections affecting the skin area.

For large clusters of bed bug bites, you can get relief by adding 2-3 drops of tea tree oil to a tablespoon of coconut oil. Apply 2-3 times a day to help your skin heal and treat any bed bug bite blisters that have formed.

You can also use tea tree oil to make a natural spray for bed bug eradication.

Other ways to get rid of bed bug bites quickly

There are many other natural ways to get rid of the visible signs of bed bug bites. Here are some more ways.

Witch hazelis a natural astringent that quickly soothes itchy skin and reduces redness. Witch hazel is perfect for treating bed bug bites and can be applied whenever your bite marks start itching.

Apple cider vinegar, when it is diluted with water in equal proportions, helps to reduce itching and kill germs in bed bug bites. Just apply diluted apple cider vinegar to the affected area to stop itching fast.

Cucumbershave an amazing soothing effect on the skin and will give you instant relief from itching and irritation. All you have to do is apply slices of cool cucumber to your bite marks.

For more information on these natural bed bug bite remedies and to find out some more effective ways to treat bed bug bite signs at home, please read my article on natural ways to make bed bug bites heal faster.

How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites

Of course, preventing an infestation of bed bugs is much easier than having to deal with the discomfort bed bug bites cause.

The CDC says that one of the best ways to prevent bed bug bites is to regularly check your bed, mattress, and bed linen for signs of bed bug activity. This can help you get rid of bed bugs before they become a major problem. 3

Also, you should be careful of buying second-hand furniture. The National Health Services warns to avoid buying second-hand mattresses and if you do buy used furniture, carefully inspect it for bed bugs. 5 Remember, that in the right conditions, bed bugs can live for many months without feeding!

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. WebMD. Bedbugs.
  2. EPA. Bed bug appearance and life cycle.
  3. CDC. Bed bugs FAQs
  4. MayoClinic. Bedbug symptoms.
  5. NHS. Bedbugs.
  6. MayoClinic. Mosquito bites.
  7. WebMD. Pictures of bed bug bites.
  8. eMedicineHealth. Bedbugs.
  9. EPA. How to find bed bugs.
  10. Phytojournal. Tannins are astringent.
  11. OWM. 2011;57(5):28-36.
  12. Skin Pharmacol Physiol.2008;21(2):106-10.
  13. Br J Dermatol.2002 Dec;147(6):1212-7.

Bedbugs

Bedbugs are small insects that often live on furniture or bedding. Their bites can be itchy, but do not usually cause other health problems.

Check if it’s bedbugs

Jeff March / Alamy Stock Photo

Bedbugs can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.

Signs of bedbugs include:

  • bites – often on areas exposed while sleeping, like the face, neck and arms
  • spots of blood on your bedding – from the bites or from squashing a bedbug
  • small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bedbug poo)

Bedbug bites can be red and itchy. They’re often in a line or cluster.

Otto Pleska / Alamy Stock Photo

Some people have a reaction to the bites. They can be very itchy and there may be painful swelling.

How you can treat bedbug bites

Bedbug bites usually clear up on their own in a week or so.

Things you can do include:

  • putting something cool, like a clean, damp cloth, on the affected area to help with the itching and any swelling
  • keeping the affected area clean
  • not scratching the bites to avoid getting an infection

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • using a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone cream to ease bedbug bites (children under 10 and pregnant women should get advice from a doctor before using hydrocortisone cream)
  • antihistamines – these may help if the bites are very itchy and you’re unable to sleep

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • the bites are still very painful, swollen or itchy after trying treatments from a pharmacist
  • the redness around the bites is spreading

You may have an infection and need treatment with antibiotics.

Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

How to get rid of bedbugs

contact your local council or pest control service – it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get rid of bedbugs yourself because they can be resistant to some insecticides

wash affected bedding and clothing – use a hot wash (60C) or tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes

put affected clothing and bedding in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer (-16C) for 4 days (alternative to hot washing)

clean and vacuum regularly – bedbugs are found in both clean and dirty places, but regular cleaning will help you spot them early

do not keep clutter around your bed

do not bring secondhand furniture indoors without carefully checking it first

do not take luggage or clothing indoors without checking it carefully if you have come from somewhere where you know there were bedbugs

Page last reviewed: 21 January 2019
Next review due: 21 January 2022

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