How To Spot Bed Bugs In Your Home and Office

Overview: How to spot bed bugs

The first sign of bed bugs is usually finding unusual red swelling, bumps or welts on skin areas that are exposed when sleeping. These skin reactions are an allergic reaction to the bite vary from person to person.

Bed Bug bites have a small white center where the bed bug inserted a stylet to extract a blood meal. Since bed bug bites can look like other allergic reactions, the next step to confirm an infestation is to look for signs of actual insects such as black fecal stains or red marks along the edges of furniture or a mattress.

how to find bed bugsMany ask the question how to find bed bugs after experiencing an unexplained bite or bites during sleep. The bed bug bites have a white center surrounded by a red allergic reaction. Bedbug bite symptoms range from no symptoms to pronounced red skin areas.

Whatever the cause, bedbugs either pass from an adjacent apartment or are carried in by an unsuspecting person when traveling from an infested area. It has nothing to do with cleanliness or in most cases being a careless traveler.

how to spot bed bugsOne of the keys to how to spot bed bugs are finding black or brown fecal matter, molten skin and actual insects on furniture or along mattress seams.

If you are experiencing a bed bug infestation in your home, it is best to treat the problem as early as possible. Treating a minor infestation is far less expensive than treating a similar infestation after it turns that the insects are in multiple rooms and the walls. 

Bed bugs are visible to the human eye. The challenge is in differentiating bed bugs from similar looking insects and finding them in the tight thin cracks and crevices where they like to hide.

Just be sure not to disturb them to keep the insects from scattering.

Can you See Bed Bugs With the Human eye?

Yes. Bed bugs are visible to the naked eye, but are easier to spot with a magnifying glass and flashlight. 

Bed bugs start as an off-white colored egg. Eggs are laid in clusters and stuck to the surface where they are laid with a glue like substance. The eggs have a small red eye spot after 5 days.

The bed bug lifecycle has 5 stages starting in an egg and then hatching into a small off-white colored insect. They are difficult to spot since they are about the size of a sharpened pencil tip.

Bed bugs get larger and red after feeding. If a bed bug has not eaten an adult is about 3/16", long and oval.  It is also has a very flat profile.  After eating the bed bug blows up in size and turns bright red.

signs of bed bugsSigns of Bed Bugs Change Based on Where They Are In The Lifecycle, Adult (right), Numph - baby bed bug (top left), Bed Bug Eggs (bottom left). All pictures are magnified.

How to identify a bed bug

Questions to ask when identifying a bed bug.

  1. Is the bug yellowish white or reddish brown in color?
  2. Is the bug flattened with obvious folds on its body?
  3. Is the bug no bigger than a pencil eraser?
  4. Is the bug oval or round in shape?
  5. Is the bug wingless?
  6. Does the bug have 6 legs and short thick antennae?
  7. Does the bug have well defined, protruding eyes?
  8. Does the bug have a leathery skin with small fine hairs?
  9. Does the bug have a round end with no tail-like appendages?
  10. Was the bug found in the sitting or sleeping area of the home or apartment?

Actual size of bed bugs

Actual Size of Bed Bugs, Adult and Baby (nymph)

Characteristics

Adult:

Oval body

1/5" long

Apple  seed sized

Rusty red color

Wingless

6 legs, not longer than body

2 antenna

Dark area on back

Swells after eating

Baby Bed Bug

Oval body

1/25" to 1/5" long

Poppy seed sized

Translucent tan color

Small protruding eyes

6 legs

2 antenna

Eggs

Elongated

1/25" long

Size of sugar grain

Yellow-white color

Hatches in 2 weeks

Glued to surface

bed bug inspection tools

A Bed Bug Inspection Kit Such As This One Includes Everything You Need to Detect Bedbugs at Home, When You Travel, and In Hotels.
Shown: Kit Under $20 From Bed Bug Supply

While bed bugs are seen with naked eye, it helps to have a:

  • magnifying glass
  • tweezers
  • flashlight
  • jar to collect any insect samples

These items are available at low cost in a bed bug inspection kit. The kit includes all of the information needed to learn how to inspect any room.  It is also filled with tips for checking a room and how to get rid of bedbugs.

Signs of bed bugs

A more precise approach to find a bed bug infestation is to search for signs of bed bugs. When changing bedding, cleaning or staying away from your home, search for: 

  • Black fecal matter on your bed sheets or linens from to crushed bed bugs. Bed bugs also excrete some of the blood meal that they consumer. The black color is because the blood is already digested. The insects feed about 1x a week if they have access to a host (every 5 to 7 days).

    Note that cockroaches leave similar feces marks.  Confirm that the problem is from bed bugs by looking for other signs such as molted skins or eggs.

  • Eggshells and eggs, which are small (around 1 mm) and light yellow skins that sprites shed as they grow bigger.
  • Molted skins. Bed bugs shed skins as they grow. They shed 5 times on the way to adulthood.  If an infestation is large you will see a large number of molted skins. Shedding stops as an adult. 

Hotel room infestations tend to be small and just beginning. In this case it will be harder to spot the signs of bed bugs.

spots bed bugsCollection of Bed Bug Spots including Adults, Molted Skins, Eggs and Fecal Matter

Where to look for bed bugs:

Here are some places to look for signs of bed bugs:

  • On belongings such as luggage
  • Along the baseboards of a room
  • In tight cracks such as where the ceiling meets the floor or wall
  • Mattress seams, on mattress tag, and box spring plastic corners or the wood frame. Look where bottom fabric is stapled to the box spring.
  • At the edges and behind headboards
  • Around electrical outlets
  • Curtain seams at the rod and inside the rod
  • In back of wallpaper that is loose or where paint is chipped.
  • Around window or wall air conditioners
  • Check door frames
  • Check around baseboard heaters
  • Check all items in the room such as clock radios, picture frames, stuffed animals and around book seams


Do bed bugs have a smell?

The answer is yes, however, unless you have exceptionally advanced senses, it's not likely that you'll smell the odor when it's only a couple of bed bugs. Hence, if you've come to the point where the scent is too strong, you may have an entirely extreme infestation in your home. 

A few people say that bed bugs aroma smells like coriander, some say that it smells like ruined raspberries, still others say it smells like almonds while some say it resembles mildew covered garments. Regardless, it's not a pleasant scent, particularly at higher levels.

Bed bug smell is produced by pheromones that occurs when a group of bedbugs are disturbed.  The smell can be detected by dogs trained to detect the odor.

Signs YOu have Bed bugs

Bed bugs usually leave signs where they are hiding such as fecal spots. After they feed they tend to hide together.  In the same location you should find the actual insects, molted skins, fecal matter, egg shells and eggs.

At a distance groups of bed bugs along a ceiling might look like mold. On closer inspection you will see clusters of insects.

Signs You Have Bed Bugs Include What Looks Like Mold on the Ceiling But Are Really Clusters of Bed Bugs.

Bedroom inspection

  1. Start with the bed. Pull back any sheets and mattress covers.

Look at:

  • seams
  • beading
  • under buttons
  • around labels
  • next to box spring coils
  • any bed frame joints or bolts
  • along the fabric cover at the bottom of the box spring

If the mattress isn't 100% clean, closely inspect along the seams by running a credit card or thin brush through any tight spaces.

Next check areas around the bed such as night tables and head boards. Remove any drawers and check in any credit card thin size cracks.  

Bed bugs will move out from the area where they feed, the bed, as hiding places get more crowded. Eventually they will hide around window frames, base boards and then inside walls.

Next check the closet frame if it is close to the bed. 

There is a 20% chance they will move to adjacent rooms or even apartments that share a wall.

Note that if a bed is infested it does not need to replaced. First treat the bed using a mattress safe spray and after it dries use a zippered bed bug mattress and box spring cover to trap any remaining insects and to keep new insects out.

Prevention When You Travel

How To Spot Bed Bugs In a Hotel


Video that shows how travelers can check a hotel room for bed bugs. How to prevent bed bugs during your next trip. Tips for avoiding bringing a bedbug home.

Hotels and even an airplane or whenever you are among people are prime opportunities for picking up bedbugs. Check our travel tips for how to avoid bringing them home.

When checking into a hotel ask if there has been any recent reports and if your room has been inspected.  If an exterminator has been called, was the room checked?  Avoid rooms that are adjacent to rooms where there has been a reported problem.

how to check furniture for bed bugs

Visitors to the home can inadvertently drop bed bugs into a couch or other furniture. Bed bugs are excellent hitch hikers.

To spot bed bugs in furniture, remove all cushions, being sure to check any crevices or cracks. Next look around any thin joints where there are tight cracks.  

Also check any carpeted rooms at the edge where the wall meets the carpet.

Treatment options

We always recommend a professional exterminator when exploring treatment options.  You can easily find an experienced exterminator by searching our database or calling (866) 620-9666 for a referral. An exterminator will also confirm 1) that you have a bed bug infestation and 2) the size of the problem.

If an infestation is just starting, you could try and treat the problem yourself with a Bed Bug Kit. Don't buy a single bed bug product at Home Depot or other store since multiple products are needed to both kill bed bugs and eggs on contact and to create an invisible field that kills and bedbugs you might have missed.

brochures

Each of these free brochures provides more information on how to spot bed bugs.

Pictures and descriptions you can use to spot bed bugs in your home, apartment or when traveling.
Available in a free Ebook

Use this guide to identify the places that answer the question "where do bed bugs hide."
Available in a free Ebook

Ask a Question or Share Your Bed Bug Experience With Others

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references

University of Nebraska

Identifying Bed Bugs

Bed Bug Treatment

Author biography

Lisa Jones

Lisa Jones is a blogger and writer who loves writing about health and wellness. She is very particular when it comes to sleeping and eating habits that are important for a healthy well being. When not writing, Lisa enjoys spending time with her family at home.