DON’T IGNORE THESE EARLY SIGNS OF BED BUGS

Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Control Technician

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How Do You Know If You Have Bed Bugs?

The early signs of bed bugs at the beginning of an infestation often go undetected as there are few bugs or eggs to find.

It also doesn’t help that they are nocturnal pests, feeding mainly at night and staying hidden during the day. But they do leave behind evidence of their existence.

Because of this, spotting the start of a bed bug infestation can be easily missed…unless you know EXACTLY what evidence to look for and where to look!

And you’ll start by carrying out a visual inspection of where you sleep, the bed. Bed bugs feed on human blood and they like to stay close to a host, so the bed is where you will first find signs of them.

Cluster of immature bed bugs on mattress seam
Immature bed bugs on a mattress seam

What Are The First Signs Of Bed Bugs?

So, how can you tell if you have bed bugs early? Most people have no idea what the signs and symptoms of a growing bed bug problem are at first.

There are lots of ways bed bugs get into your home. For example, if you have recently stayed in a hotel then they might have got into your luggage.

Another way is if you’ve brought some used furniture into your home, then they may have been hiding in cracks, especially if the item of furniture is made of wood.

However they got in, there will be several common tell-tale early signs to look for, and if you find ANY evidence of the following, steps must be taken immediately to get rid of them:

Small dark brown/black fecal stains on the sheets, pillowcases, and mattress

  • Bed bug fecal matter is the size of a small dot and usually bleeds into the fabric and looks like smeared ink. 
  • As horrible as it sounds, these dark spots are your blood the bed bug has taken for a meal, digested, and excreted!

Red, Itchy bites/welts

  • Itchy red welts may appear on exposed skin areas, such as the face, arms, shoulders, hands, back, or anywhere else on the body not covered when in bed. 

    You might not realize you have bed bugs until you or a family member is actually bitten and swelling around the bite marks appear.  However, not everyone reacts to bed bug bites or develops itchy and inflamed skin.[1]

    It also isn’t uncommon when two people share a bed and only one shows signs of bites.

    Unfortunately, it’s not possible to say for definite if the welt is caused by a bed bug as bite symptoms vary in reaction from person to person, and also because of how similar their bites look to other insect bites, such as mosquitoes.

    Some skin conditions and infections can also be mistaken for insect bites. Keep this in mind if you don’t find any other evidence of bed bugs or other pests.

Bloodstains on your PJs and sheets

  • The bloodstains are due to the insect being crushed when you roll onto it in your sleep and they haven’t had time to digest their blood meal.
  • There could also be stains on your PJs if you bleed at the bite area after the bed bug has finished feeding.

Cast/shed bed bug skins and shells 

  • Look for eggshells and shed skins (exoskeleton) that nymphs leave behind when growing through the 5 molt stages before they mature.
  • The shed skins look like the bed bug except they are translucent and will be different sizes according to their growth stage.

Tiny, flat, reddish-brown bed bugs and their eggs

  • And of course, check for any live bed bugs you might see crawling around, which will be unlikely during the day or in the early stages of an infestation.

    The eggs can be hard to spot as they are extremely small at only 1 mm in size and a pearly white color. They are laid in clusters but can be laid singularly. They are usually found on mattress seams, the box spring, and behind the headboard.

    One of the questions asked a lot is whether bed bugs crawl on walls and ceilings. The answer is yes they do, but not usually until the infestation has become more established.

    As bed bugs like to stay close to their food supply, always start with a visual inspection of the corners of the mattress seams and along the edges of mattress piping for evidence of fecal matter and bloodstains, and also for bed bugs and their eggs.

Knowing where to look and what the common warning indicators are will help you to stop the bed bug population from growing and getting out of control.

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like To The Human Eye?

Identifying and knowing what bed bugs look like is essential for treatment methods as there are many bugs that look like bed bugs

You don’t want to be paying for treatment for the wrong pest as this will allow the bed bug infestation to grow and could make it harder to eradicate.

We’ve got a great range of pictures of bed bugs that will help you accurately identify them throughout their life stages

It’s always best to get a positive identification from a Pest Management Professional that will also go through effective types of treatment.  

In brief, bed bugs have:

  • 6 legs
  • 2 antennae
  • flat, oval-shaped bodies that look similar to an apple seed
  • no wings so they cannot fly
  • adults are a brownish-red color
  • adults grow to approximately 5 mm in length
reddish-brown color adult bed bug up close
Adult bed bug

Nymphs, which are young bed bugs, are:

  • Smaller than the adults, translucent or whitish-yellow in color but become darker like the adults as they progress through each molt.
  • Nymphs can be difficult to see if they haven’t recently had a blood meal because of their size and translucent color.  
Baby bed bugs to adults hiding on box spring seam
Various stages of the bed bug lifecycle from instars to adults

What Do Bed Bug Eggs Look Like To The Human Eye?

I took the following picture when treating an infestation as it shows all stages of the bed bug lifecycle.

This is not the beginning stage of an infestation but I wanted to show you what is found in more severe infestations where you can see the small, pearly-white oblong-shaped eggs and how well they blend into the mattress and box spring.

bed bug infestation of adults nymphs eggs image
Almost translucent bed bug nymphs with adult and fecal spots
  • Bed bug eggs are only 1 mm in size, so about the size of a pinhead, which makes them almost impossible to see because they are incredibly tiny and expertly hidden away.
  • Pearl-white in color so they blend in well against light-colored backgrounds.
Image of bed bug eggs close up hidden on cardboard
Cluster of hidden bed bug eggs Image credit: Dr. Harold Harlan/AFPMB (CC)

Where Bed Bugs Hide

As mentioned before, they like to hide in harbourage areas near to where you sleep and have many hiding places where you probably wouldn’t think you’d find them.

As well as checking the bed, be sure to look in any tiny cracks and crevices in the bed frame and headboard, in screw heads, the baseboards (especially near the bed area), and furniture items near the bed.

Also, check behind loose wallpaper and in small cracks in the walls.

You might also spot common signs of these pests in any clutter underneath the bed, such as in boxes which make ideal hiding spots but can be hard for a pest control company to treat if not removed.     

Do not start sleeping in another room or on the couch as you’ll soon have bed bugs in these areas as well – read What Should You Not Do If You Have Bed Bugs and avoid making costly mistakes.   

Can I Get Rid Of Bed Bugs On My Own?

It’s easier and far less expensive to treat an infestation in its early stages. So if you are sure you have bed bugs, then they need to be dealt with before they become established.

You now have two options: 

Option 1: do your own pest control and treat the bed bugs yourself, or;

Option 2: call in a licensed pest control exterminator who is experienced in dealing with bed bug infestations.

If you’ve just started to notice the above signs and you feel confident that you can treat them yourself, then follow our step-by-step guide to getting rid of bed bugs.  

Hiring a pest control company can be costly and not always within everyone’s budget, but doing your own pest control can be challenging and requires time and patience, so you’ve got to be prepared to put in the work.

Our guide gives you the complete process to follow, but to give you some idea of what you’ll need to do includes extensive vacuuming, steam cleaning the mattress and upholstered furniture, washing and drying bedding and clothes, and clearing out clutter, installing interceptor bed bug traps as well as mattress encasements and box spring encasements (read review to see why SafeRest is the best encasement for bed bugs).

If DIY pest control is not for you, then hire a qualified pest management professional (PMP) that has experience in dealing with bed bug infestations, which is recommended.

Commonly offered is a heat treatment that kills bed bugs immediately, or conventional pesticide treatments that can take weeks to work depending on the infestation level.  

Both are effective methods that will kill the entire infestation.

I would add that if you live in an apartment or condo, then the building manager should be informed in case of a potential infestation problem.

A pest control company will more than likely be brought in as bed bugs may be able to move between apartments and infest adjoining units. 

As a female bed bug can lay approximately 5 eggs a day, spotting any signs of bed bugs early helps prevent an infestation from growing into a severe infestation.

But whether you treat them yourself or leave it to a pest control professional, the warning signs of a potential bed bug problem must be dealt with immediately.

[1] https://www.pctonline.com/article/pct1002_bedbugs/

I’ve been in the pest control industry helping people get rid of their unwanted pests for over 20 years, both in the UK and Canada.

As a licensed pest management professional, I’ve seen and treated just about every common household pest, insect, or rodent, you can think of. I’ve seen the damage caused when an infestation has been left too long and has become hard to get rid of.

For this reason, peststopsolutions.com was created. By having honest advice and the right guidance to hand, along with scientific evidence to back up claims, you are given information on the best eradication methods, as well as how to get rid of most pests yourself.