Bed bug identification can be accomplished via pictures of the insects themselves along with other signs such as mattress markings and skin bites.
It is easy to confuse bed bugs with similar looking insects, so look for multiple signs before concluding that you have an infestation. You can also bring an insect for confirmation to a local cooperative extension or send a sample to the Cornell Diagnostic Laboratory.
This page shows bed bugs pictures at every stage of development and provides multiple methods for identifying bed bugs.
Adult Bed Bug Actual Size
Bed Bug identification: Appearance
Bed bugs change in appearance at different stages of the life cycle. They pass through 5 infant stages after being hatched. Baby bedbugs are called nymphs. They then pass into a 6th adult stage. They also change in appearance before and after feeding on a host.
Male Bed Bug
Female Bed Bug
Bed bugs have a 3 segment beak with a 4 segment antennae.
How to Identify a Bed Bug - Checklist
Bed Bug Adult Identification
Bed Bug Juvenile Identification
Bed Bug Egg Identification
tips for identifying bed bugs
Adults are approximately 3/16 inches long, nymphs are smaller and start life about the size of a sesame seed.
Bed Bug Nymph on Side of Penny
Adult Bed Bug on Penny
Bed bugs are flat and covered with golden hairs.
insects confused with bed bugs
Left to Right: Bat Bug, Bed Bug and Swallow Bug
It is easy to confuse bed bugs with other common insects found in homes. If you find a bed bug, be sure to save it so that an entomologist or exterminator can properly identify the sample. Bugs that are similar or often confused with bed bugs include:
Swallow Bug Identification: Swallow bugs are found in beds and bite humans.
Swallow Bug Compared to Bed bug
Swallow Bug Picture
Bed Bug Picture
Bat Bug Compared to a Bed Bug
Assassin or Kissing bugs
Assassin or Kissing Bugs
Bed Bug Illustration
Photo Credit: U of Nebraska
Baby or young cockroaches are similar in appearance to bed bugs. Eggs are rectangular instead of the oval or pear shape found with bedbug eggs. Insects are closer to brown than red.
Carpet and Warehouse Beetle Adults
Other Insects Confused with Bed Bugs
- Tropical bed bugs
- Mexican Chicken/Poultry bugs
- Stink bugs
- Wheel bugs
use a professional to identify bed bugs
There area several ways to have a sample insect correctly identified:
- Contact Your Local Cooperative Extension Office. Many offices have a staff entomologist that can do bed bug identification for free.
- Call a local University and ask if they have a staff entomologist or a department of entomology.
- Call your local health department and see if they provide insect identification services.
- Send a sample to the Cornell Diagnostic Laboratory, which specializes
in insect identification.
- Check our local bed bug resources page
- Call a professional from our database or that is listed with Home Advisor (provides free extermination quotes)
other bed bug signs
Bed bugs leave behind signs that they are present. This includes:
Odor or Smell
At times a bed bug infestation will give off a musty or raspberry type odor. There are other scents given off that are detected by trained bed bug sniffing dogs.
Bed Bug Bite Images
Bed bugs tend to bite just before dawn and in some individuals will cause an allergic skin reaction. Bed bug bites can appear immediately to as late as 14 days after being bitten, depending on the sensitivity of the individual. Since bed bug bites are an allergic reaction, those that do react vary in severity. Bites can appear as a single bite, or in clusters, patterns or groups. Bites have clear centers, unlike flea or mosquito bites which have red centers.
Bites are one form of bed bug identification.
Photo of Immediate Reaction to Bed Bug Bite
30 Minute Bed Bug Bite Reaction
Photo: H.J. Harlan
Symptoms 48 Hours After Bed Bug Bite
Bed Bug Bite Compared to Scabies
bed bugs and mattress signs
Bed bugs leave behind egg shells,
blood stains and fecal matter on the mattress and sheets. They position themselves as close to the host (human) as possible. As the seams fill with bed bugs they spread to the box spring, head board, nearby furniture and then appliances and walls.
bed bug eggs
Bed bug eggs are white, pear shaped and about
the size of a poppy seed. They are laid in groupings of 3 to
5 eggs and are stuck to rough surfaces with a sticky substance.
Eggs can be removed with packing tape, or killed with steam
or low cost bedbug sprays such as Sterifab (not all sprays kill bedbug eggs, check the label if buying a different brand).
What to do after discovering bed bugs
Once you confirm that you have bed bugs, your next steps are as follows:
Apartment Renters or Owners
Contact your building management immediately in writing as
several apartments will probably need to be treated. Some municipalities require that building managers pay for treatment. Other do not,
so if this is the case, see if you can split the cost. Other
options are to organize tenants, or contact a local health department. See our resources section for specific State (U.S.) or country information.
Contact a local experienced bed bug professional. Since
treatment can cost $1,000 or more and companies use different methods,
at minimum contact 2 companies. A good place to start is the Home Advisor Network (1.877.233.1145) which certifies that
members are pre-screened, and are insured and licensed. They
will also provide up to 4 free quotes. You can also search
of local contractors.
If you prefer to treat a bed bug infestation yourself, it requires a combination of products which can be economically purchased in a bed bug kit. For example, kits contain a knock down spray to kill bed bugs and eggs on contact, and another spray applied after the first to provide lasting protection. Kits have the added advantage of providing bed bug treatment instructions.
Ask a question or share your experience
Ask a Question or Share Your Bed Bug Experience With Others
Do you have a question or great story about bed bugs? Share it!