Identifying a Bed Bug Infestation

Last Updated: December 30, 2016

infestationFinding a Bed Bug Infestation

So you think you might have Bed Bugs but you aren’t sure? How can you be sure that you have bed bugs and not fleas, mosquitos, or any of the other million bugs that might be plaguing your home? Well, for starters, you can’t just get bed bugs out of the blue. A bed bug infestation can only be started when the bugs are brought into your home on you or a friend’s clothing, luggage, used furniture, etc. In addition, due to the varying reactions people have to bed bug bites (read below), and due to the fact that often reactions to the bites aren’t noticed for up to several days (some people even have no reaction to the bites whatsoever!), waking up with some red marks may not necessarily mean you have an infestation. Because bite marks are a good first indication, but do not necessarily mean you have bed bugs, you must look for several other indicators before reaching this conclusion. Identifying an infestation early, however, is crucial as a large infestation is much more difficult to deal with than a small one.

The first, and most important, thing to know when trying to spot an infestation is what exactly bed bugs look like. The bugs are easy to spot as adults can reach the size of about half a fingernail and are a reddish-brown color. Younger bed bugs are smaller and a clear white-yellow color and baby bed bugs (nymphs) are so small that they are barely visible. Bed bugs are flat if they have not fed for a while but once fed, their bodies blow up like a balloon and they become bright red. Bed Bugs cannot fly, however they can move very rapidly over walls, floors, and other surfaces in the home. In addition, they tend to gather in large groups and live together, however they don’t have nests.

Bed bugs go through several stages in their lifecycle. Between each stage, they take a large meal and then undergo a process of molting their exoskeleton. During this process the bed bug essentially ‘sheds’ its ‘skin,’ leaving behind a molted skin that looks like a clear bed bug ‘shell.’ In a large infestation there may be thousands of these lying around.

If it is able to, a bed bug will feed about once a week. When digesting their meals, the bugs excrete excess liquid and waste. This fecal matter comes out as a black liquid and leaves spots that can be seen easily on mattresses, wooden frames of beds, curtain seems, and wherever else the bugs may have passed through. In a sizeable infestation these spots will be seen in clusters of generally at least a dozen, though single spots are a possibility.

If you have seen molted bed bug skins, spots of excrement, and/or of course, the bed bugs themselves, then it is quite likely you have an infestation and you may be able to find the actual colony of bed bugs. The bugs, their skins, and the spots of waste can be tricky to find, but will generally be found where bed bugs like to gather:

  • Mattresses
    • Seams
    • Tufts
    • Under Tags
  • Beds
    • Behind the headboards and baseboards
    • In drawers built into the bed
    • In holes and cracks in the wood
    • In the bed frame
    • Box Springs
  • Walls
    • In openings between walls and the ceiling or floor
    • Behind chipped paint or wallpaper
  • Closets
    • Interior Frames
    • Near the hinges of the door
    • Where hanger rods connect to the sides
    • On clothing
  • Heaters
  • Curtains

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