how to identify
bed bugs will help any home owner or apartment tenant avoid an infestation. All it takes is one pregnant female to produce a population.
Bed Bugs do resemble other bugs, so a close inspection is
Bed bug appearance will change based on where they are in
their life cycle, as they pass through 5 nymph and 1 adult stage. Color
and shape can also vary if the bedbug has just had a blood meal and if
that meal has been digested. They will appear flat and light
brownish if they haven't just eaten and will become reddish after
Actual Size Picture and Magnified View of Bed Bugs
Photo Credit: R. Naylor
Bed bug infestations are increasing across the globe. Reports
in many U.S. cities show a 2x increase in complaints over a 2 year
period. Reports in Ontario Canada have increased 100%, while
Germany has seen a year to year increase of 5 reports to 76 reports.
In its earliest stages bed bugs may be difficult to detect
since red bumps on the skin and skin itch, the typical symptom, can
causes. As an infestation grows, repeated bites and stains on
the mattress make it obvious that bed bugs are the problem and
indicates that you should bring in an expert to identify bed bugs in
your home or apartment.
Bed bugs change in appearance depending on where they are in the bed
bugs life cycle. A bed bug will pass through five stages
before reaching the sixth stage which is adulthood. Baby bed
bugs are referred to as nymphs.
How to Identify Bed Bugs
Bed Bug Life Cycle Before and After Feeding
The bugs are also difficult to detect since they tend to only
leave their hiding places at night, with the only sign being mattress
or furniture stains. When an infestation is small, must bugs can be found
on or near a bed, hiding on a box spring, backboard on in cracks on a
bed frame, particularly wood frames. Always look for light to
dark spots which can be shed skins and feces .
bed bug actual size
At birth they are about 1/16
of an inch and have a light straw color appearance. After a
blood meal they will redden in color and appear to be larger.
As they get older they become darker in color, taking on a
reddish/brown appearance and grow to 1/4 inch.
Bed Bug Picture on Penny
If you think you have bed bugs, but want to be sure, then you
can send a bug you capture to the Cornell Insect Diagnostic Laboratory. The service costs $25.
Instar Nymphs (Young Bugs) and Adult Bed Bugs Feeding
Bed bug hiding places
Bed bugs tend to hide in many places around a room, with most
hiding near or around the mattress. The following diagram
shows common bed bug hiding places. It is possible to see a solitary bed bug that isn't near the
location of the larger infestation.
Bed Bug Hiding Places in Bedroom
When trying to identify bed bugs, look in the following places
in the typical room:
- Top Part of a Curtain (valance)
- Bed frame (particularly wood, bed bugs dislike metal)
- Ironing board
- Edges of carpet
- Corners of walls
- Torn Wallpaper
- All electrical appliances near the bed
- Around electrical and cable plates
- Door and window frames
- Newspapers, magazines, items near the bed
bed bug identification tips
Here are some bed bug identification tips:
1. Bed Bug
Bites: The most telling way to determine if you have bed
if you experience bites while sleeping. Bites can vary from
just puncture marks on the skin to large red bumps. The bites
themselves are an allergic reaction and vary from person to person.
It is possible for the allergic reaction to worsen after each
biting episode. When a person is being bitten they may only
feel a slight tickle. Bed bugs tend not to bite the face or bottom of the feet.
Picture of Bed Bug Bites on Arm
2. Spots on the
Mattress: Red blood smears, brown
spots, or pale colored
spots (fecal spots) on the
mattress along the seams or on sheets, bed sheets or the head board.
Look for clusters of spots, particularly on the head board,
where the bugs might hide or rest.
Picture of Bed Bugs and Fecal Matter on Mattress
Picture of Bed Bugs Hiding on Boxspring Mattress
3. Look for Bed
Bug Eggs; A female will lay clusters of Bed bug eggs along the seams of the mattress and
parts of the room.
These are white pin sized specs that will be glued on to
the mattress as the eggs are sticky when laid by a female bed bugs.
When looking for a bed
bug egg, use a magnifying glass and a bed bug detection flashlight.
Picture of Bed Bug Egg Shells and Light and Dark Fecal Matter
4. Bed Bug Odor:
Bed bugs sometimes, but not always give off a distinct odor
coriander. The alarm pheromone is not always produced so bugs or rooms
infested by them don't always smell like this. However, bed
dogs can pick up odors that humans cannot.
5. Seeing the
bugs themselves on the mattress: 90%
will be near or around the bed.
6. Create Your
Own Bed Bug Trap: Rutgers University Scientists
have devised a simple make at home trap that can help you identify bed
bugs (Science News,
Jan. 16, 2010).
Start by putting 2.5 lbs. or dry eyes in a 1/3 gallon
jug. A cooler (eg; Coleman type) with a flip top will be best. Leave the spout open a bit, so that as carbon dioxide is released,
it leaves the container. Put the cooler in the
center of a bowl such as a pet food dish. Tape a piece of
paper to the outside of the dish.
The bed bugs will be attracted to the carbon dioxide, climb
up the side of the dish or bowl and then get trapped inside.
Place some talcum powder into the dish, which will kill the
bed bugs when it sticks to the insect's back. This home
made bed bugs trap should work within 12 hours if you have bed bugs.
As an alternative, you can buy a Climbup Interceptor (pictured
below), and place one under each leg of the bed. This will
work the same way, and trap any bed bugs heading toward the bed and the
how to identify bed bugs by appearance
Bed bugs are oval in appearance and can look like a tick or
small cockroach. They follow a life cycle where they change
appearance. They appear to be flat if unfed or far on in
digesting a blood meal. At first, Instars are
yellowish or straw-colored and nymphs (young bed bugs) will be plump
and red if they have taken a blood meal. They are not so red
color if digesting the meal.
After a meal a bed bug will become
enlarged by approximately 30%.
Picture of Adult Bed Bug Before and After Feeding
Bed Bugs compared to other insects
There are 92 species of bed bugs in the world, with 16 of the
92 found in the United States. Sometimes it is very
difficult to identify bed bugs vs. other bugs.
- Assassin Bugs
- Bird-Feeding Cimicid
- Swallow Bugs
- Poultry Bug
- Chimney Swift Bug
- Pigeon Bug
- Western Bat Bugs
- Tropical Bed Bugs
- Eastern Bat Bug
Bugs vary by their natural host and where they are found.
Several bugs need to be collected and examined by a pest
control specialist in order to confirm that an infestation exists.
Bed Bug (left) Compared to Bat Bug (Right)
Pictorial key to Bed bugs and other bugs that bite people
Biting Insect Comparison Chart
get a professional inspection
A pest control expert will have the experience for how to
identify bed bugs. We suggest starting with a call to Home Advisor. You can also call (877) 673-2704 for recommendations regarding an experienced exterminator near you.
Whether you search online or via phone, local pest
control experts that are pre-screened by the network before being recommended. They certify that each member is licensed and insured.
You can also search our database of
local bed bug experts here.
frequently treats bed bugs infestations will know where in a home or
apartment to look for hiding bugs. Expect to pay $50 to $500
for an on site inspection ($500 is a dog is used) plus the cost of the
treatment which can cost $750 or more.
As an alternative, a do it yourself kit, containing the
multiple products you need, such as the one offered by Naturasil
for Bed Bugs (uses organic methods) or Bed
(insecticide based) will
cost $160 for everything you need (spray, steamer, fossil dust,
Each of these free brochures provide additional information on how to identify bed bugs in your home or apartment.
How to Identify Bed Bugs
Tips on how to identify bed bugs in your home, office or when traveling..
Written by: Dini M. Miller, Ph.D.
Available in a free
Bed Bug Identification and Inspection
One page summary of how to identify bed bugs and inspect your home, apartment, office or hotel room.
Written by: Illinois Department of Public Health
Available in a free
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