How To Detect Bed Bugs

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Have you asked yourself this question: do I have bed bugs?  You are not alone.  Many people have asked themselves this question when they have unexplained bites after a night of sleeping.  While bites are a good sign that you may have bed bugs, you may not even feel like you have been bitten.  One-third of the population does not react to the bed bug bite.  This was true for our family.  Unbeknownst to us, our son had a rather large infestation of bed bugs in his room. . . because he never reacted to the bites.  On the other hand, our daughter had been getting bit in her bedroom for a month before we determined that she had bed bugs. Read OUR STORY.

So, where do they come from? Bed bugs are usually transmitted by people that have bugs on them.  If there are a lot of people around, there could be bed bugs. Bed bugs have been found in Ubers, taxis, and other forms of public transportation.  They are often discovered in hotel rooms, items found on the side of the road, or even thrift stores. For a more comprehensive history of bed bugs, click HERE.

Also, bed bugs can be transferred by being on people after they sleep.  If the bug stays on the person or their clothing, they can be transported to a new location, such as a friend’s home or public place, and then to a new host. Creating a whole new bed bug problem.

Do you ever wonder, “Where do bed bugs live?” Just because they are called bed bugs, this does not mean that they limit themselves to only living on your bed.  Bed bugs will live wherever you spend the most time.  That is why they are typically found in bedrooms, as you sleep for 8 hours each night. This provides a quiet, calm atmosphere and opportunity for feeding.

Check For Bugs

The bed bug develops through five immature stages before reaching the adult reproduction stage. Therefore, you may see bed bugs in several different forms and sizes.

  1. Eggs – may be laid in clusters.  Hatched eggs resemble grains of salt. They are difficult to see, are pearl white, translucent in color and display obvious eyespots of the nymph inside when 5 days or older (see pictures).
  2. Stages 1 through 5 – the immature bed bug (nymph) is approximately 1/16″ (1.6 mm) and translucent. They tend to stay in clusters, may be whitish in color and become slightly darker as they reach maturity. Although the young nymph isn’t always easy to see it will become plump and red after a feeding because the blood inside shows through their pale skin. The bed bugs will look similar to each other but a little larger at each stage (see pictures).
  3. Adults – adult bed bugs are about the size of a small tick and are reddish-brown in color. Females have a more rounded rear end while males have a more pointy rear end (see pictures)

Life Cycle

Adult Bed Bug

Bug Feeding

Bug Feeding

Bug Gathering

Bug Gathering

Bug Gathering

Check For Evidence

There are several types of evidence that may indicate that you have bed bugs. They are:

  1. Fecal stains – these are small dark round spots the size of a pin head. Because bed bugs like to hang out next to each other, fecal stains are often found in clusters or within a small common area. The larger the infestation, the greater amount of these fecal stains will be found. The stains resemble that of mold and some materials are “impervious to moisture” and the dropping may “bead up” on the surface.
  2. Blood stains or smears – these spots may be recognized as rusty spots on sleepwear, sheets, furniture and surrounding walls. This occurs when a bed bug is squished after it has eaten.
  3. Skin casings – this is when the bed bug grows out of its skin and leaves the old one behind. They are normally a paper thin opaque duplication of the entire bed bug. Depending on how long you’ve had an infestation, you may find different “sizes” as each stage of growth to maturity is a little larger than the last.

Fecal Matter on Bed Frame

Fecal Matter on Mattress

Fecal Matter on Mattress

Fecal Matter on Wall

Blood Stain

Blood Stain

Blood Stain

Bug Casing (Skin)

Check Your Body

You may be getting bites.  They can look very similar to other bug bites.  Bed bugs prefer hairless areas so many times bites will be on inner arms.  Also, you may see several bites in a row – this could indicate bed bugs are nearby.  However, keep in mind that around 30% of people have no reaction to bed bug bites.  It is virtually impossible to tell if you have bed bugs simply by looking at the bites, but this is a good place to start.

 

Bites on Foot

Bites and Bugs on Hand

Bites on arm

Where to Look

Bed bugs are commonly associated with areas where we sleep or relax so they can be in a variety of locations such as:

  • bedding – particularly the corners and pleats
  • mattresses – the seams, piping, pleats and tags
  • box springs and bed frames – check the fabric around the staples that hold the bottom covering on the box spring. If you have a wooden bed frame, check screw holes and any cracks or spaces between pieces of wood.
  • headboards – wooden and fabric covered headboards provide lots of places for bed bugs to hide. Check in seams, screw holes, pleats, staples, etc.
  • nightstands
  • boxes and booksbed bugs like tight, cozy spots.  So, if your room is filled with books (near your bed or couch) or boxes of paperwork, there is a high likelihood that the bugs will squeeze in there in between feedings.
  • sofas and chair cushions – If you spend a lot of time in the family room on the couch or a recliner, bugs will find you there!  For example, we recently treated the home of an elderly woman with limited mobility.  She spends most of her time in either her bed or recliner.  Any guesses where we found the highest quantities of bed bugs in her home? You got it…on the recliner and bed.  In addition, bed bugs can often be found in between cushions or on the fabric flaps in the lower back portion of couches or recliners.
  • electrical outlets and baseboards – It is not uncommon to find fecal matter on the edges of outlets and around baseboards and moldings.  They enjoy hunkering down in tight little crevices near your bed or couch.
  • carpet – check under carpet edges and carpet tack strips. They typically will NOT be under the carpet in the center of the room.
  • wall fixtures, wall paper or picture frames – check wallpaper seems, wooden picture frames and other items hanging on the walls especially near beds and couches
  • in or under any clutter or objects near a bed or lounging area
  • ceilings, lamps, and drapes – don’t forget to look up! Sometimes they travel to higher spots like the top of your drapes or the corner of the ceiling.

Bed bugs like to live in wood as it is easy for them to grip. They don’t do well on slippery, smooth surfaces such as laminate or metal.

Mattress Corner