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Guide to Bed Bug Information

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Adult and Juvenile Actual Size Bed Bugs
Adult (left) and Juvenile (right) Actual Size Bed Bugs


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.

Magnified picture of bed bug - example 2Magnified View of Bed Bug on Skin
Bed bug actual size - example 1Bed Bug Actual Size

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.

pictures of bed bugs at each lifecycle stageBed Bugs at each stage of the life cycle. Pictures is Magnified
Male bed bug picture - example 3Male Bed Bug
female bed bug picture - example 4Female Bed Bug

Bed bugs have a 3 segment beak with a 4 segment antennae.

Picture bed bug - dorsal viewBed Bug Dorsal View
Picture bed bug - ventral viewBed Bug Ventral View

How to Identify a Bed Bug - Checklist

Bed Bug Identification ChecklistBed Bug Identificadtion Checklist: If you answered "yes" for any of the questions 1 - 10, please refer to detailed descriptions & pictures below.

Bed Bug Adult Identification

Bed Bug Identification - Features List and PictureList of Bed Bug Adult Features

Bed Bug Juvenile Identification

Bed Bug Juvenile Characteristics and Picture

Bed Bug Egg Identification

Bed Bug Egg Identification ChecklistBed Bug Egg Identificaiton Checklist

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 actual size nymph on pennyBed Bug Nymph on Side of Penny
bed bug on pennyAdult Bed Bug on Penny

Bed bugs are flat and covered with golden hairs.

bed bug picture - side viewBed Bug Side View

insects confused with bed bugs

insects that look like bed bugs - 3 picturesInsects Similar to 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 - for bed bug comparisonSwallow Bug Picture
bed bug picture next to swallow bugBed Bug Picture

Bat Bug Compared to a Bed Bug

bed bug comparison to bat bug - side by side pictureBat Bug vs. Bed Bug
bat bug pictureBat Bug
bed bug pictureBed Bug

Assassin or Kissing bugs

assasin bug - illustrationAssassin or Kissing Bugs
bed bug illlustrationBed Bug Illustration

German Cockroaches

picture baby cockroachesGerman Baby Cockroaches are often Confused with Bedbugs
Photo Credit:

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

carpet adn warehouse beetles and larvaeCarpet and Warehouse Beetles and Larvae are found in beds. The beetles can shed hair that can cause skin itch. Beetles do not bite.

Spider Beetles

spider beetles - magnified pictureSpider beetles are often confused with bed bugs. Like the carpet and warehouse beetles, they do not bite humans.

Other Insects Confused with Bed Bugs

flea and earwig picture - side by side comparisonFlea (left) and Earwig (Right) Are Confused With Bed Bugs
  • Tropical bed bugs
  • Mexican Chicken/Poultry bugs
  • Earwig
  • Fleas
  • Stink bugs
  • Wheel bugs
  • Ants

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

bed bug bites on arm - example 1Picture of Bed Bug Bites on Arm - Immediate Allergic Reaction

Mild skin reactions will heal in 2 to 3 days.  Bites result in skin itch which can be treated with an over the counter topical such as Aveeno or a product made specifically for bed bug bite itch.

30 Minute Bed Bug Bite Reaction

bed bug skin rashPicture of bed bugs bite reaction 30 minutes after bite

Symptoms 48 Hours After Bed Bug Bite

bed bug bite skin rash 48 hours after bitePicture of Bed Bug Bite 48 Hours After Being Bitten

Bed Bug Bite Compared to Scabies

Bed bug bites and scabies identification are often confused.  Read more about causes of body itch.

scabies bite on armPicture of Scabies Bites

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 mattress signsBed Bug Signs on Mattress
bed bug mattress stains - example 2Bed Bug Signs and Stains on Mattress
bed bugs mattress stains - example 3Bed Bug Fecal Stains on Mattress
bed bugs on mattress - example 4Live Bed Bugs on Mattress

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).

large bed bug infestation on mattress - example 5Picture Bed Bug Eggs, Feces and Live Bed Bugs on Mattress
bed bug eggs on surfaceBed Bug Eggs on Surface

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.

Home Owners

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.  You can also call 1.877.673.2704. 

Exterminators are pre-screened and should be  insured and licensed.  You can also search our list 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.


Each of these free brochures provide additional information on bed bug identification and treatment. (click on title to download each bed bug identification brochure).

Advice from leading Bed Bug expert on how to identify a bed bug infestation
Available in a free Ebook

University Guide to bed bug identification.
Available in a free Ebook

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University of Nebraska Department of Entomology

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