How Do You Tell If U Have Bed Bugs

US EPA

Bed Bugs

How to Find Bed Bugs

If you have a bed bug infestation, it is best to find it early, before the infestation becomes established or spreads. Treating a minor infestation, while an inconvenience, is far less costly and easier than treating the same infestation after it becomes more widespread.

However, low-level infestations are also much more challenging to find and correctly identify. Other insects, such as carpet beetles, can be easily mistaken for bed bugs. If you misidentify a bed bug infestation, it gives the bugs more time to spread to other areas of the house or hitchhike a ride to someone else’s house to start a new infestation. Learn about identifying bed bugs.

Bites on the skin are a poor indicator of a bed bug infestation. Bed bug bites can look like bites from other insects (such as mosquitoes or chiggers), rashes (such as eczema or fungal infections), or even hives. Some people do not react to bed bug bites at all.

Looking for Signs of Bed Bugs

A more accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs. When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for:

  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
  • Dark spots (about this size: •), which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
  • Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
  • Live bed bugs.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places. Around the bed, they can be found near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard.

If the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs:

  • In the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains.
  • In drawer joints.
  • In electrical receptacles and appliances.
  • Under loose wall paper and wall hangings.
  • At the junction where the wall and the ceiling meet.
  • Even in the head of a screw.

How to Tell If You Have Bed Bugs

Where to check for bed bugs and how to spot signs of infestation

Knowing the type of pest problem, you have can help you clear an infestation more quickly. Since bed bugs are tiny, only about the size of an apple seed, and leave bite marks that can easily be mistaken for other insects, such as mosquitoes or spiders, you need to know where to look for these insects and how to tell them apart from other pests. Learn how to tell if you indeed have bed bugs.

Where to Look for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs love to make their home in cracks and crevices. When you are looking for an infestation, you must, therefore, examine every inch of the object so that you do not miss them. When examining any of these pieces, you should also look underneath the piece.

Search for bed bugs in any holes that may exist in the piece. Check-in any seams or other folds. You can use a credit card and glide it along seams to help unearth the presence of bed bugs or bed bug casings.

Check for Signs of Bed Bugs In:

  • Mattresses
  • Box Springs
  • Headboards
  • Sofas
  • Chairs

Inspect areas within 10 to 20 feet of mattresses, sofas, and chairs- including furniture, curtains, electrical outlets, picture frames, clusters of objects, door and window casings, moldings, wall cracks, as well as cracks in the flooring. You can extend this search from 20 feet to your entire home if you are concerned you may have a serious infestation.

When to Look for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are most active at night, and in particular, about an hour before the sun rises. If you are looking for a live bed bug, this is the time you are most likely to see them.

5 Ways to Tell if You Have Bed Bugs

Although they are small in size, bed bugs do leave behind some distinct signs that they have made a home in your property. Some of these signs are more obvious than others, but they are all helpful in identifying the little pests. You should look for these signs in your actual property and on your actual person.

Live Bed Bugs

The most obvious sign that you have a problem is spotting an actual bed bug. These insects are not very large. Their eggs measure less than 0.1 inches, and full-size bed bugs come in at under 0.2 inches.

They have six legs and are oval in shape and rather flat unless they have just eaten, in which case they will become engorged. They range in color from a deep reddish to a brown.

Bed Bug Casings

Another sign that you have a bed bug problem is that you discover bed bug casings. These are the shells that the bed bugs shed when they are going through their life cycle, from nymph to adult.

Bed bugs go through five life cycles and will shed their casing at the end of each cycle. The casing will be reddish or brown in color, will be hollow and the size will vary based on the age of the bed bug. The larger the size, the older the bed bug.

Bed Bug Droppings

The third sign of a bed bug infestation is seeing bed bug droppings. Bed bug droppings will look like little black pen marks. The bed bugs will release these droppings after feeding. They are easiest to see on cloth, such as on bedding or mattresses.

Reddish/Brown Stains

Another sign you may notice, are reddish or brown stains on the fabric. It is dried blood where the bed bugs have been crushed.

Bed Bug Bites

A final way you can tell if you have bed bugs is, you have bites. It can be difficult because bed bug bites resemble bites of other insects, such as mosquitoes and spiders. Also, some people have no reaction when they are bitten by a bed bug, or it looks more like a rash than a bite.

A typical bed bug bite will appear as an itchy red welt on your body. These bites will often occur on your upper body, usually on your arms and shoulders. The bites are often in a straight line.

9 SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS OF BED BUGS

Bed bugs are a nasty and uncomfortable problem. Signs and symptoms of bed bugs can be hard to detect at first, and even trickier to treat. To the untrained eye, bed bug bites can be confused with those of other biting insects.

Here are nine easy signs help you know if you have a bed bug problem.

RED, ITCHY BITES

People don’t often consider bed bugs until they’ve left their mark. The appearance of flat, red welts in zigzag lines or small clusters is a key sign of bed bugs on humans. Bed bugs can also leave their bites in straight rows and, while they don’t spread diseases to humans, their bites are quite irritating and scratching them can lead to bleeding and infection.

UNCOMFORTABLE NIGHTS

Bed bugs are most often found in the bed, where humans spend most of their nights. It makes logical sense for bed bugs to be most active at night while humans are in bed with them. Should you find yourself developing those itchy welts while laying in bed sleeping (or trying to sleep), it’s likely bed bugs are the problem.

MARKED ARMS AND SHOULDERS

Bed bugs tend to feed on exposed skin such as that on your arms and shoulders, which you may tend to leave uncovered while sleeping. This is different from, say, fleas and chiggers, which tend to bite around the ankles.

A BUGGY BED

The first sign of a bed bug problem is obvious: the bed. After bed bugs feed on humans, they’ll leave behind blood stains resembling small rust spots. These will usually be found near the corners and edges of the bed. Bed bugs also shed their skin, or molt, several times as they mature, so you may find their oval brown exoskeletons during your search.

THE NOSE HAS IT

A strong, unpleasant, musty odor like that of a wet towel is another common bed bug symptom. Bed bugs release pheromones, and when in large numbers, the smell can be quite strong. Should you find your bedroom smelling like a dirty locker room, you may want to perform an inspection.

Remember, bed bugs aren’t confined to your home. They can be found wherever you sleep, including hotel rooms.

Here are some quick inspection tips to help you avoid a serious problem, whether on the road or at home:

INSPECT THE BED

Strip the mattress and box spring and thoroughly inspect the corners and seams. Use a magnifying glass and a flashlight. You’re looking for rust-colored, reddish-brown blood stains and/or small brown ovals (molted bed bug skin).

INSPECT THE ROOM

After searching the bed, it’s time to move to the rest of the room. Check anything upholstered, including chairs, couches, curtains and the edges of the carpet. Look in and behind dressers, underneath the bed and if possible, behind the headboard. Always be on the lookout for the signature reddish-brown spots.

OPEN THE CLOSET

Bed bugs can also cling to clothing, which is how they can travel and spread so adeptly. Be sure to look in your closets and check your clothing thoroughly. Bed bugs on clothes means bed bugs on humans.

USE YOUR NOSE

As stated above, one way detect bed bugs is their smell. The scent of their pheromones can be quite strong. It’s often described as a musty odor.

Since it’s possible for people to go for long periods without being aware they have a bed bug infestation, knowing the key bed bug symptoms and how to find these pests will go a long way in combating them.

Bedbugs

In this Article

In this Article

In this Article

Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.

Bedbugs do not fly, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime.

Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.

Although they are a nuisance, they are not thought to transmit diseases.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.

Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.

Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.

When Bedbugs Bite

Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.

Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.

People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves.

Continued

Signs of Infestation

If you wake up with itchy areas you didn’t have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:

  • Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
  • Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
  • Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
  • An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands

If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and check it carefully for signs of the bugs or their excrement. Remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box springs and examine the seams in the wood framing. Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame.

Also, check the area around the bed, including inside books, telephones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet, because bedbugs can attach to clothing. If you are uncertain about signs of bedbugs, call an exterminator, who will know what to look for.

If you find signs of infestation, begin steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return.

Bedbug Treatments

Getting rid of bedbugs begins with cleaning up the places where bedbugs live. This should include the following:

  • Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Place stuffed animals, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed in the dryer and run on high for 30 minutes.
  • Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
  • Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place in garbage can outdoors.
  • Encase mattress and box springs with a tightly woven, zippered cover to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bedbugs may live up to a year without feeding, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
  • Repair cracks in plaster and glue down peeling wallpaper to get rid of places bedbugs can hide.
  • Get rid of clutter around the bed.

If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but take care to rid the rest of your home of bedbugs or they will infest your new mattress.

Continued

Bedbug Extermination

While cleaning up infested areas will be helpful in controlling bedbugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.

Generally it is safest and most effective to hire an experienced pest control professional for bedbug extermination.

Sources

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: "Bed Bugs."

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: "Bed Bugs."

The New York City Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene: "Stop Bed Bugs Safely."

University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Lancaster County: "Managing Bed Bugs."

You Can Have Bed Bugs And Not Know It—Here’s What To Look Out For

It’s no secret that bed bugs are seriously freaky creatures. After all, they like to live in your bed and feed on your bloodwhile you’re sleeping. Now, scientists at Rutgers University are trying to determine where bed bug outbreaks happen, and how to prevent and control them.

In a new study published in theJournal of Medical Entomology, Rutgers researchers examined more than 2,000 low-income apartments in New Jersey for the presence of bed bugs. What they discovered: 12 percent of apartments had bed bug infestations.

Researchers also found that beds were “significantly” more likely to contain bed bugs than sofas or upholstered chairs, and women were more likely to report bed bug bite symptoms than men (although they didn’t specify whether women had worse reactions or were simply more sensitive to the bites).

And, perhaps the most disturbing finding: While 68 percent of people with bed bug infestations had symptoms, nearly 50 percent of the bed bug infestations happened in apartments where residents didn’t know they had the critters.

So, how are you supposed to know if you have bed bugs or just some skin condition? Experts say there are a few telling signs.

One of the most common symptoms is waking up with bites or finding bites on your body that you can’t explain, bed bug expert Jeffrey White, technical director for BedBug Central, tells SELF. But there’s a caveat: Everyone reacts differently to being bitten by a bed bug. “For some people, it can take up to two weeks for them to react,” White says.

The bites themselves don’t look unique to bed bugs, White says, but they do tend to show up on the arms, shoulders, neck, and face—all of which are exposed while you’re sleeping, and therefore easier to reach. Bites that show up in rows or clusters are also concerning, he says.

If you suspect that you have bed bugs, it’s time to look for them. Michael Potter, Ph.D., a professor of entomology at University of Kentucky, tells SELF that it’s a good idea to inspect your mattress and box spring, paying special attention to the area near the headboard. “Look in the seams—bed bugs love edges—and folds,” he says. If you have a box spring, flip your mattress off and look at the top part, all the way around the edge. (Adult bed bugs will be about the size of a tick, Potter says, while babies can be the size of a speck of dust.)

Found some? Experts agree that it’s a good idea to call in a professional to help, if you can afford it. But, you don’t have to twiddle your thumbs while you wait. “Any professional that tells you not to touch anything until they get there is setting an unrealistic expectation,” White says.

There are a few things you can do while waiting for help to arrive, Ron Harrison, Ph.D., an entomologist with Orkin, tells SELF. The first is to reduce clutter around your bed. “Clutter means there are hiding places for bed bugs,” he says. But, he notes, it’s important to bag clutter in your bedroom and throw it away outside your house so you don’t accidentally scatter bed bugs around your place.

You can also purchase a mattress encasement, i.e. a cover that goes over your mattress and box spring, to contain the bed bugs, Harrison says.

Potter recommends purchasing bed bug monitors. While they’re designed to help you figure out if you have bed bugs, they can be placed under your bed and catch the critters, reducing the number of bites you’ll get.

Contrary to what you may have heard, you don’t need to throw all of your stuff away. White says putting your bedding (and clothes, if you suspect they’re infested) through a hot/dry cycle in your dryer will kill off bed bugs that may be living there.

And finally, you can use a vacuum to suck some of them up. “They can live in the bag or filter, so dispose of both in an outdoor trash can afterward,” says White.

While freaky, experts say it’s completely possible to get rid of a bed bug infestation.

“If you don’t allow it to get out of control, solving bedbugs is fairly straightforward,” White says. “It’s nothing to lose your mind over.”

Photo Credit: Matto Mechekour / Getty Images

Add Comments: