Catching signs of bed bugs early can be tricky if you don’t know what to look for. Bed bugs are sneaky and most of the time they only come out to feast late at night while their victim is sleeping and defenseless.
After the bugs have had their fill they will retreat back into hiding before their host wakes up. This makes it difficult to rely solely on seeing a bed bug to confirm an infestation.
However, bed bugs are not good at covering their tracks and naturally leave clues that point to their presence.
What Does a Bed Bug Look Like?
First, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the appearance of bed bugs so you don’t mistake them for other bugs. Adult bed bugs are a rusty brown color with a small oval-shaped body about the size of an apple seed. Their bodies are very flat and they do not have any wings.
Male bed bugs have a pointed abdomen while the females is more round. After feasting on a host a bed bug’s body will swell and its color will change to a reddish brown.
Nymphs are baby bed bugs that are much smaller than their adult counter parts and are a whitish-yellow color. Their bodies are also transparent and tiny making them difficult to see. A nymph’s body will also swell and turn red after a feast making them a bit easier to spot.
What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?
Since bed bug bites look similar to those from other insects, such as mosquitoes they’re not the best indicator for an infestation. However, if you’ve been unusually itchy recently you should check yourself for bites, as they could very well be from bed bugs.
Bed bug bites can be found on your arms, legs, feet, neck or any other part of your body that is exposed while you sleep. Bites usually appear as red itchy bumps on the body that can become inflamed or blistered.
They are often clustered together in a small area and can sometimes be in the form of a line or a zigzag pattern. Symptoms from bed bug bites will not always occur immediately and you may not notice that you’ve been bitten until a few days later.
Despite these common signs not everyone will have the same reaction to bed bug bites. The size of the bites will vary upon a number of different factors.
For instance, when a bed bug bites you it injects an anti-coagulant along with its saliva as it pierces your skin and begins its feast.
This anti-coagulant is what will determine the size of the bite since people have varying degrees of sensitivity to it.
Another factor that influences the size of bed bugs bites is the number of times a person is bitten. It is also important to note that people can have no reaction to bed bug bites at all, and there are many bites that go unnoticed.
Though irritating a bite from a bed bug is usually harmless and is not known to transmit any kind of disease or cause illness. If you develop a rash from being bitten do not scratch at it, as this may cause it to become infected. If your rash worsens or gets infected seek medical attention immediately.
Where do Bed Bugs Hide?
Knowing the common places that bed bugs hide is crucial when trying to catch early signs of an infestation. Bed bugs are masters of hiding due to having small and extremely flat bodies.
The first place to check for bed bugs should be around your bed. Examine the seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, as well as the cracks in the bed frame and headboard. You can find them inside the piping of the bed frame as well.
If the bed bug infestation in a room is severe the number of potential hiding spots for these pests increases. They will hide in nightstand and dresser drawers, the seams of chairs and couches, in between cushions, and curtain folds.
Other places include electrical outlets and appliances, under loose wall paper, wall hangings, in the heads of screws, and even in the cracks of a hardwood floor.
Bed bugs may also attempt to conceal themselves in carpets, shaggy rugs and baseboard cracks.
Look For Their Poop!
As gross as it is, looking for droppings that bed bugs leave on surfaces is one of the best early signs of an infestation. Bed bug poop consists of the blood extracted from their host. It has a dark red color when it is wet.
When the poop dries it becomes a very dark rust color that will appear as small black spots, smudges, or steaks in most lighting.
Bed bugs will leave behind their droppings as they move about. Common places to find them are on bed sheets, mattresses, pillows, and along baseboards.
If you are unsure of whether a black spot, smudge, or streak was left behind by a bed bug dab it with a wet paper towel or cloth.
Should the spot you wiped smudges and turns from black to red you can confirm that it is feces from a bed bug.
Do note that the red color may not be apparent on the surface the feces was found on, but rather on the object you used to wipe it with.
What Do Bed Bug Eggs Look Like?
Finding eggs laid by bed bugs is another early indicator of an infestation. The eggs are very small being only around 1mm in size. They have a pearly white transparent color with an elongated shape comparable to an uncooked grain of white rice.
Bed bug eggs are also sticky allowing them to be laid on the sides and undersides of many surfaces. Hatched eggs are harder to identify as the shells often look like dust, or other common debris.
The amount of eggs an adult female bed bug can lay after mating depends on how often she gets to feed. If able to feed frequently she can lay 1 to 7 eggs per day, and around 200 in her lifetime.
The eggs can hatch anywhere from 6 days to 2 weeks after being laid.
Bed bug eggs are surprisingly resistant and can withstand most common insecticides found at your local general store. Despite this, more potent insecticides and extreme heat from a steamer are very effective at killing eggs.
The Hunt Begins!
You are now aware of the early signs that point to an infestation of bed bugs and can begin your search. It is always ideal to find evidence of an infestation before it gets out of control. It will be much easier and less expensive to deal with.
Remember when searching for signs of bed bugs in your bed, or in other hiding spots to look out for:
- Rusty or reddish stains on your bed sheets, mattress, or pillow.
- Small dark spots, smudges, or streaks which are bed bug excrement.
- Tiny bed bug eggs and eggshells, as well as pale yellowish skins that nymphs shed as they mature into adults.
- Live bed bugs. Even if you only find one bed bug chances are that more are probably hiding nearby.
If you discovered a bed bug infestation in your home and want to know the best way to eradicate them check out this guide.