How to Check for Bed Bugs?

Bill Swank
First Published: | Updated: February 27, 2024

Checking for bed bugs involves a thorough inspection of sleeping areas, furniture seams, and cracks where they may hide. Look for live bugs, rust-colored stains, eggs, and shed skins. This article provides step-by-step instructions on how to conduct a detailed search and what signs to watch for to detect a bed bug presence.

  • Bed bugs are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed on human and animal blood, causing itchy, red bites on the skin. Early detection is essential to prevent widespread infestations and reduce stress, discomfort, and health risks.
  • Regular inspection of your sleeping areas and belongings for signs of bed bugs (e.g., fecal spots, molted skins, eggs) is crucial for early detection, as these pests can be hard to spot due to their size, color, and nocturnal nature.
  • Thorough inspection should include the bed, mattress, linens, furniture, and other personal items, as well as unusual hiding spots like curtains, electronics, or wall decorations.
  • Consult a pest control professional if you find signs of bed bugs, experience worsening symptoms, or are unsure of the cause of any potential infestation. Professionals can help confirm the presence of bed bugs, treat the issue, and advise on prevention.
  • To keep your home bed bug-free, actively maintain vigilance through regular inspections, cautious behavior when traveling or acquiring used items, vacuuming your living space, and using bed bug-proof encasements for your mattresses, box springs, and pillows.

Table of Contents

What are Bed Bugs and Why is Early Detection Important?

What are bed bugs and what do they look like?

Bed bugs are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. They are reddish-brown in color, oval-shaped, and about the size of an apple seed (approximately 4-5 millimeters in length). These pests are nocturnal, making them difficult to spot during the day.

For a more detailed understanding of their appearance, read our article on what do bed bugs look like.

Why is it crucial to identify bed bugs in early stages?

Detecting bed bugs early is crucial for several reasons. First, early detection can help prevent a more widespread infestation, which can save time, money, and effort in managing the problem. Second, ignoring a bed bug issue could lead to increased stress, sleepless nights, and potential health risks associated with the bites and the resulting itching. Lastly, identifying the issue early means that you can take appropriate action, such as contacting a professional pest control company, sooner.

Can you see bed bugs with the naked eye?

Yes, adult bed bugs are visible to the naked eye. However, their small size, flat bodies, and nocturnal nature can make them difficult to detect. In addition, bed bug nymphs (juveniles) are smaller and almost translucent, making them even harder to see. Despite this, closely inspecting your living environment for signs of their presence can help you detect an infestation.

Understanding the Signs of Bed Bug Infestation

What are the first signs of bed bugs?

The first signs of bed bugs are typically physical evidence of their presence. This may include:

  • Reddish or rust-colored stains on sheets and mattresses from crushed bugs
  • Small, dark fecal spots on sheets, mattress seams, or nearby walls
  • Tiny, white bed bug eggs or eggshells, usually found in mattress seams or hidden spaces within furniture
  • Moulted bed bug exoskeletons, which are shed during growth phases
  • The presence of bed bug bites on the skin, usually small, red, and itchy welts

What are the early signs of bed bugs on a mattress, sheets, and walls?

Early signs of bed bugs include:

  • Small, reddish stains on sheets or mattresses caused by crushing bed bugs
  • Fecal spots, which are small, black or dark brown stains, typically found along mattress seams, behind headboards, or on nearby walls
  • Bed bug eggs, which are tiny, white, and found in hidden areas, such as mattress seams

Inspecting these areas regularly can help you identify a potential infestation early on.

How do bed bug signs differ in early and later stages?

In early stages, bed bug signs may be less noticeable and concentrated in one area, such as around the bed. As the infestation grows, signs become more obvious and widespread, with fecal spots, molted exoskeletons, and bed bugs themselves found in different areas of the room or home. The number of bed bug bites on the skin may also increase, potentially causing more noticeable skin reactions.

What are the common symptoms of bed bug bites?

Bed bug bites often result in small, red, itchy welts on the skin. These welts usually appear in a zigzag or linear pattern and can be found on areas of exposed skin during sleep, such as the face, neck, arms, and hands. Some people might not experience any symptoms, while others may develop an allergic reaction, causing more severe itching, swelling, and even blisters.

The Step-by-Step Guide to Inspecting Your Home for Bed Bugs

How do you check for bed bugs?

To check for bed bugs, follow these steps:

  1. Gather necessary supplies: a flashlight, a magnifying glass, gloves, and a plastic bag for potential evidence.
  2. Strip the bed of all linens and carefully inspect them for signs of bed bugs, such as stains, fecal spots, or shed skins.
  3. Examine the mattress and box spring, paying close attention to seams, crevices, and any folds or tufts.
  4. Remove and inspect the headboard and bed frame, including joints and corners.
  5. Check upholstered furniture, such as sofas and chairs, especially in seams, cushions, and folds.
  6. Examine other areas of the room, including baseboards, behind picture frames, and in cracks or crevices in walls or floorboards.
  7. Inspect any items stored near or under your bed, such as books, clothing, or suitcases.

What supplies are necessary for a thorough bed bug inspection?

For a thorough bed bug inspection, you will need:

  • A flashlight, to better illuminate dark or hidden areas
  • A magnifying glass, to help identify small signs of bed bugs (especially nymphs or eggs)
  • Gloves, to protect your hands during the inspection
  • A plastic bag or container, to collect any evidence of bed bugs

How should you inspect your bed and other furniture for bed bugs?

To inspect your bed and other furniture for bed bugs, follow these tips:

  • Remove all bedding and linens, inspecting them closely for any signs of bed bugs.
  • Pay special attention to seams, crevices, tufts, and folds in mattresses and upholstered furniture.
  • Check the joints, screws, and corners of your bed frame, headboard, and other wooden or metal furniture.
  • Remove any drawers or shelving from your furniture and examine the interior spaces, along with the underside and backside.

How to inspect your belongings for bed bugs?

To inspect your belongings for bed bugs:

  • Remove items from your closet, drawers, shelves, and under-bed storage, and examine them carefully for any signs of bed bugs.
  • Check all clothing, including recently worn items, and wash or dry clean them if necessary.
  • Inspect the interior and exterior of suitcases, backpacks, or other bags used for travel, paying close attention to seams, zippers, and pockets.
  • Books, electronics, and other personal items should also be inspected, especially if stored near your sleeping area.

Unusual Places: Where Else to Look for Bed Bugs

Where else should you look for signs of bed bugs in your home (e.g., walls, upholstered headboards)?

In addition to common hiding spots, you should also check for bed bugs in these unusual places:

  • Curtains, drapes, or any other window coverings
  • Wall decorations, such as picture frames, clocks, or decorative hangings
  • Electronic devices, such as computer keyboards, speakers, or televisions
  • Personal items, like stuffed animals, toys, or backpacks
  • Cracks or crevices in walls, baseboards, or floors
  • Vehicles, particularly if you transport clothing, luggage, or bedding in them

To understand more about their hiding places, you can refer to our article on where do bed bugs hide.

Are there specific spots or areas bed bugs are more likely to inhabit?

Bed bugs prefer areas close to their food source (i.e., humans), so they are often found near sleeping areas. However, they can also spread throughout a room or home if the infestation becomes severe. Focus on inspecting places where humans sleep or spend significant amounts of time, but also keep in mind that bed bugs can be found in unexpected locations.

What to look for with bed bugs in non-traditional hiding spots?

In non-traditional hiding spots, look for the same signs of bed bugs, such as fecal spots, molted skins, or eggs. Use a flashlight and magnifying glass to help identify these signs in these less common areas. Remember that bed bugs can be found in even the smallest cracks or crevices, so thoroughly inspect any potential hiding place.

Interpreting the Results: How Do You Know If You Have Bed Bugs?

What do bed bug stains on sheets, mattresses, and walls look like?

Bed bug stains can appear as small, reddish or rust-colored spots on sheets, mattresses, and walls. These stains are usually caused by a person unknowingly crushing bed bugs in their sleep or by the bed bugs’ fecal deposits. The stains may be irregular in shape and can vary in size but are often found in clusters or groups.

What do bed bug shells indicate?

Bed bug shells, or exoskeletons, indicate that bed bugs have been growing and molting in your living space. As bed bugs grow, they shed their exoskeletons multiple times, leaving behind the empty shells. These shells are another physical sign of their presence. They are light brown, translucent, and similar to the shape of a live bed bug, but can be crumpled or hollow.

How can you tell if spots are from bed bugs or something else?

Determining if spots are from bed bugs or another source requires close examination of the evidence. Compare the observed spots to the signs and symptoms of bed bug infestations mentioned earlier. Bed bug fecal spots are typically small, dark, and may appear smeared or clustered together. If in doubt, consider consulting with a professional pest control company.

How can you confirm if you have bed bugs?

To confirm if you have bed bugs, thoroughly inspect your living area for all the signs previously discussed. If you find any physical evidence, such as fecal spots, molted skins, or eggs, carefully collect samples. Contact a pest control professional to assess the situation and determine if bed bugs are indeed the cause of the evidence found.

When to Contact Professionals: Identifying When You Need More Help

When is it time to call a pest control professional?

It is time to call a pest control professional when:

  • You find multiple signs of bed bug infestations, such as fecal stains, exoskeletons, or eggs
  • You or your family members are experiencing bed bug bites or worsening symptoms
  • Your inspection efforts have not resolved the problem, and bed bug signs continue to appear
  • You are uncertain if the signs you have found are due to bed bugs or another issue

What role can pest control professionals play in confirming and managing bed bug infestations?

Pest control professionals are trained and experienced in identifying, treating, and preventing bed bug infestations. They can confirm if you have bed bugs by examining the evidence you have collected, as well as inspecting your home for additional signs of infestation. If bed bugs are confirmed, professionals can suggest and implement treatment options tailored to your specific situation, such as chemical treatments or heat treatments, and provide advice on preventing future infestations.

How to Check for Bed Bugs in a Hotel

When checking for bed bugs in a hotel, start by examining the bed. Pull back the linens and look closely at the seams and corners of the mattress and box spring for small, reddish-brown insects, about the size of an apple seed, or tiny white eggs. Use a flashlight for better visibility. Also, inspect the headboard, which can be a common hiding spot. Look for tiny black spots, which could be bed bug excrement, on sheets or mattress seams. Extend your inspection to areas around the bed, including nightstands and upholstered furniture, as bed bugs can reside within several feet of their feeding area. It’s also advisable to place your luggage on a luggage rack, away from the bed and walls, to reduce the risk of bringing bed bugs home.

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