How to Tell If You Have Bed Bugs

Where to check for bed bugs and how to spot signs of infestation

Mattress infested with bed bugs
Won Kim Photography / Getty Images

Knowing the type of pest problem, you have can help you clear an infestation more quickly. Since bed bugs are tiny, only about the size of an apple seed, and leave bite marks that can easily be mistaken for other insects, such as mosquitoes or spiders, you need to know where to look for these insects and how to tell them apart from other pests. Learn how to tell if you indeed have bed bugs.

Where to Look for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs love to make their home in cracks and crevices. When you are looking for an infestation, you must, therefore, examine every inch of the object so that you do not miss them. When examining any of these pieces, you should also look underneath the piece. 

Search for bed bugs in any holes that may exist in the piece. Check-in any seams or other folds. You can use a credit card and glide it along seams to help unearth the presence of bed bugs or bed bug casings.

Check for Signs of Bed Bugs In:

  • Mattresses
  • Box Springs
  • Headboards
  • Sofas
  • Chairs

Inspect areas within 10 to 20 feet of mattresses, sofas, and chairs- including furniture, curtains, electrical outlets, picture frames, clusters of objects, door and window casings, moldings, wall cracks, as well as cracks in the flooring. You can extend this search from 20 feet to your entire home if you are concerned you may have a serious infestation.

When to Look for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are most active at night, and in particular, about an hour before the sun rises. If you are looking for a live bed bug, this is the time you are most likely to see them. 

5 Ways to Tell if You Have Bed Bugs

Although they are small in size, bed bugs do leave behind some distinct signs that they have made a home in your property. Some of these signs are more obvious than others, but they are all helpful in identifying the little pests. You should look for these signs in your actual property and on your actual person.

Live Bed Bugs

The most obvious sign that you have a problem is spotting an actual bed bug. These insects are not very large. Their eggs measure less than 0.1 inches, and full-size bed bugs come in at under 0.2 inches.

They have six legs and are oval in shape and rather flat unless they have just eaten, in which case they will become engorged. They range in color from a deep reddish to a brown.

Bed Bug Casings

Another sign that you have a bed bug problem is that you discover bed bug casings. These are the shells that the bed bugs shed when they are going through their life cycle, from nymph to adult.

Bed bugs go through five life cycles and will shed their casing at the end of each cycle. The casing will be reddish or brown in color, will be hollow and the size will vary based on the age of the bed bug. The larger the size, the older the bed bug. 

Bed Bug Droppings

The third sign of a bed bug infestation is seeing bed bug droppings. Bed bug droppings will look like little black pen marks. The bed bugs will release these droppings after feeding. They are easiest to see on cloth, such as on bedding or mattresses. 

Reddish/Brown Stains

Another sign you may notice, are reddish or brown stains on the fabric. It is dried blood where the bed bugs have been crushed.

Bed Bug Bites

A final way you can tell if you have bed bugs is, you have bites. It can be difficult because bed bug bites resemble bites of other insects, such as mosquitoes and spiders. Also, some people have no reaction when they are bitten by a bed bug, or it looks more like a rash than a bite.

A typical bed bug bite will appear as an itchy red welt on your body. These bites will often occur on your upper body, usually on your arms and shoulders. The bites are often in a straight line.