If you think you might have bed bugs in your home, your car, or anywhere else, it’s important to look for the tell-tale signs they leave behind so you can deal with them before they multiply and cause a serious problem.
Carry on reading for all seven signs that will tell you there are bed bugs hiding in your home. Knowing what to look for will go a long way in helping you identify these nasty pests early.
Signs of bed bugs
You get bites on your body
Getting bitten during the night is often the first sign that you have bed bugs.
Bed bugs are nocturnal, so they come out at night to feed on human blood. But if they’re hungry or there’s a bad infestation and competition for feeding, the bugs come out during the day or whenever there are people around to bite.
Bed bugs come out of their hiding places to drink human blood about once or twice a week, then return to their hideaways until they need to feed again. If you notice that you get bite marks on your body every 7 to 10 days, you might have bed bugs.
If you’re being bitten daily, it’s more likely you have fleas. Click here for info on how to tell the difference between bed bugs and fleas.
Not everyone has a reaction when they are bitten by bed bugs. Some people, especially the elderly, show no symptoms at all and often don’t know they have bed bugs. Others have a delayed reaction, and only show symptoms after some time, when they become sensitive to the bites.
Bed bug bites are usually swollen red bites on the skin, often seen in groups or in a line. A bed bug can bite many times in one feed, so the number of bites does not tell you how many bed bugs there are.
The bites are itchy and sometimes form pustules on the skin. Like mosquitoes, bed bugs inject anesthetic into the skin before they bite so their victim doesn’t feel the piercing of the skin.
Bed bug bites are most commonly found on areas of the body that are exposed when sleeping in an infested bed or when sitting on an infested area, including the feet, ankles, legs, arms, and/or neck.
Below is a video of a scientist voluntarily being bitten by a bed bug as he talks through what’s happening in real time:
You find eggs and eggshells
Female bed bugs lay up to three eggs a day, which hatch after seven to ten days. Within four to five weeks, each of the young hatched females start laying one to three eggs a day. These eggs hatch within ten days, bringing out more females to lay eggs.
And this is how a few bed bugs quickly become an infestation.
Bed bug eggs are white and about 0.4 inches (1 mm) long. The female that lays the eggs uses a sticky substance to cement the eggs to a rough surface or inside a crack, where the eggs sit firmly until the baby bed bugs emerge.
Finding cemented eggs or broken eggshells in your bed, your furniture, or in cracks and crevices is a sign of bed bugs.
You find yellow bed bug skins
Young bed bugs that hatch from eggs are small, transparent, and called nymphs. They will grow into adult bed bugs, shedding their skin along the way as they get bigger, much like a snake.
Young bed bugs shed their skin five times before becoming adults. Each time it sheds its skin, a bed bug gets darker.
If you have bed bugs, you might find the yellow skins shed by young bugs.
You see bed bugs
You’ll probably need to catch a bed bug so you can identify it. But because bed bugs are so good at hiding, you might have a hard time finding them. Click here for a list of ways to get bed bugs out of hiding, so you can catch one and identify it.
Nymphs, young bed bugs, and adult bed bugs are all visible to the naked eye. If you know where to look and you look closely, you might be able to see bed bugs – you just need to know what they look like…
We know that newly hatched bed bugs, called nymphs, are small and transparent. But after drinking blood, they become red and swollen.
Adult bed bugs are oval, reddish-brown, and the size of an apple seed – ¼ inch (6 mm) long. They are flat when hungry but bloated and swollen with blood after feeding.
If the bed bugs look dead, they could just be in a state of hibernation, called diapause.
Finding one bed bug is usually a sign that there are more nearby. However, you might just be lucky enough to have found the one bed bug that hitched a ride back with you when no others came along. And you found it before it laid any eggs.
Looking for bed bugs is a good start, but it isn’t a surefire way to know if you have bed bugs or not.
It can be difficult for trained professionals and even their sniffer dogs to find bed bugs, so don’t count on this method to decide if you have bed bugs or not.
You find red blood spots
Blood spots are not a very common sign of bed bugs, but they do occur.
Bed bugs come out of hiding to bite people. They stop biting when they are swollen and full of blood, then they scamper back to their hiding places. But sometimes the person being bitten rolls over and squashes a bug before it gets away.
When this happens, the bug bursts and all the blood inside comes out, leaving a red blood spot on the bed or furniture.
Blood spots on pillows, linen, a mattress, or furniture are a sign of bed bugs. If there are many blood spots, there’s probably a severe infestation in the room.
There are black marks present
Bed bugs feed on red human blood. Once the blood is digested, it comes out as black feces (poop). Bed bugs leave this black poop wherever they spend time, either in hiding or when they are out feeding on someone.
If you see black marks on a mattress, on furniture, or anywhere you suspect bed bugs might be hiding, there’s a good chance the marks are bed bug poop. Professionals call these marks “spotting”.
The more bed bugs there are, the more spotting there usually is.
If you have bed bugs, you might be wondering where to sleep. Here’s the answer.
There’s a musty smell in the room
If there’s a bed bug infestation in a room, apartment, or car, there’s usually a musty, sweet berry-like, or acidic smell hanging around. The smells come from the pheromones, or chemicals, that bed bugs release to communicate with each other.
Bed bugs also give off alarm pheromones when they are disturbed or threatened.
As the infestation gets worse, some say there is also a smell of feces and decaying bugs.
How to get rid of bed bugs
There’s no single solution that’s guaranteed to get rid of bed bugs. If you suspect or know you have bed bugs, it’s best to use several methods to detect and kill the bugs. Below are some of the best methods and products from Amazon to kill bed bugs in your home:
- If you think you might have bed bugs, put these bed bug traps under the feet of your bed, your couch, or anything you think bed bugs are crawling on. Leave it there for at least a week to give the bugs time to come out of hiding for a blood meal. If there are bed bugs present, there’s a good chance you’ll find some in the traps one morning.
- Studies have found that cimexa powder is even more effective at killing bed bugs than diatomaceous earth, which many people still use. A light dusting around base boards, cracks in floorboards, and bed and furniture legs will kill bed bugs that come out from these hiding places. Whatever you choose to use, be sure to follow the instructions carefully and don’t inhale the dust.
- Don’t take an infested mattress outside. Moving the mattress could spread bed bugs throughout the apartment or house, making the infestation much worse. To save a mattress, wrap it in an encasement and wait for the bugs to die. If you want to get rid of the mattress, wrap it tightly in plastic, mark it as “infested”, and check out this blog post to find out where to get rid of the mattress safely.
- Foggers are NOT good for killing bed bugs. If you have bed bugs, even if it’s just a few, speak to the property manager or call in a pest professional to treat the property. They will probably use a combination of treatments, such as a bed bug spray, vacuuming, and/or a heat treatment to kill the bugs.
- If you think all the bed bugs are gone, put these sticky traps near the furniture where bed bugs were active. Leave the traps there to see if any bed bugs get stuck. If you don’t find any bed bugs and you don’t get bitten for 6 weeks in a row, you know that the area is most likely free from bed bugs.