How to Identify Bed Bugs?


What are the symptoms?

Think you were bitten by bed bugs? Take a look at these pictures to identify it.

  • Similar in look and feeling to a mosquito bite…
  • but MUCH more itchy
  • in fact you won’t stop scratching it
  • and depending on your skin and body, it might create large bumps, like mosquito bites but much bigger, similar to an allergy
    • “bigger” – larger bump than mosquito
    • “wider” – a much wider redness and slightly raised disk (sometimes as big as a quarter)
  • most people don’t feel it when they are bitten, only after when the skin itches

What do bed bug look like?

Bed bugs are pretty small and can hide in any small cracks around where you sleep or listen to TV or relax. They may live without feeding for up to 18 months so sleeping at someone else place will NOT help.

It is very important to know what bed bugs look like. The adults can easily be seen with the naked eye. Adult bed bugs are reddish brown in color, wingless, and are about the size of an apple seed. Immature bed bugs (there are 5 immature or nymphal instar stages) can also be seen with the naked eye but they are smaller than adults, and translucent whitish-yellow in color.

The most difficult life stage to see is the first instar nymph. This is the youngest life stage that hatches out of the egg. These nymphs are so small that they are difficult to see unless they are moving or have recently fed (bright red when full of blood). Bed bug eggs are also tiny, about the size of the head of a pin. The eggs are a pearl-white color and have obvious eyespots if they  are older than 5 days.

Bed bugs can look somewhat different depending on their feeding status. If an adult bed bug has not fed recently, it is approximately 3⁄16″ long and oval in shape. In fact, an unfed bed bug can look like a flat disc. However, once it takes a blood meal the body blows up like a balloon. The bed bug elongates so that it looks more like a torpedo than a disc. The color also will be a bright red if the bed bug has fed within the last couple of hours. The bed bug will darken and flatten again over the next couple of days as it digests the blood meal.

Bed bug nymphs also change in their appearance after a blood meal. A hungry bed bug nymph is almost completely pale white or yellowish. However, once it is fed it plumps up, becomes brilliant red, and looks like a plump raspberry seed. Nymphs are the easiest to see when they have recently eaten.

How to find bed bug?

The easiest way to find bed bugs is to find their “fecal spots”. Bed bugs feed every 5-7 days if a host is present. On the days they are not feeding, they are spend their time digesting their previous meal. Blood contains a lot of water so the bed bugs must condense their meal right away and excrete some of the excess liquid as waste. This digested blood is then deposited wherever the bed bugs happen to go after feeding.

The excreted waste comes out in a semi-liquid from and can be easily seen on the surfaces of mattresses, bed frames and other locations where the bed bugs travel or aggregate. These fecal spots are black in color (not red because the blood has already been digested) and are often seen in groups of 10 or more. However, if the infestation is low, and the bed bug was just passing through the area, there may be only one of two spots in a particular location. Fecal spots can be found anywhere in a large infestation, but when the infestation is small, there are some places
where fecal spots are more likely to be found.

Where to look:

  • Along mattress seams
  • Behind head boards
  • In ceiling/wall junctions
  • Along baseboards
  • Stuck to personal belongings
  • Along the mattress seams and on the tag
  • On the wood frame of the box springs
  • Behind the head board
  • Along the tops of baseboards or the edge of carpeting
  • Ceiling/wall junctions and behind pictures on the wall
  • At electrical outlets
  • In curtain seams where they gather at the rod

What NOT to do

Here are a few DON’T DO:

  • DO NOT CLEAN your home: it could SPREAD OUT the bed bug and make it a much larger problem.
  • If you apply any pesticides yourself: READ THE LABELS, WARNINGS, carefully and follow them word for word.
  • Do not try to kill bed bugs by using agricultural or garden pesticides. Using outdoor pesticides to control bed bugs can make you or your family very sick.
  • Do not apply pesticides directly to your body. This could make you very sick.
  • Do not store things under the bed. Storing stuff under the bed gives bed bugs many new places to hide. This makes it more difficult to get rid of bed bugs.
  • …that being said, DON’T MOVE stuff from under your bed (or anywhere else in the room) to another place until you are SURE that there are no bed bugs in them
  • Do not throw away your furniture. Beds and other furniture can be treated for bed bugs. Throwing away your furniture can spread the bugs and you have to buy new furniture.
  • don’t begin sleeping in another bed, on the sofa. Do not go to stay with someone else. The bugs may follow you to your guest room or sofa, and then it will be much harder to get rid of them. They may hitch a ride to your relative’s home, and you can cause them to become infested
  • Don’t assume you are the only one being bitten. Remember that some people do not react to bed bug bites at all.
  • Do not, absolutely do not release a fogger or bug bomb. Do not allow your landlord to do so. Do not allow a so-called exterminator to do so. Bug bombs / foggers do not work for bed bugs, and in fact, will spread them. Your problem will be magnified.
  • Don’t assume bed bugs are only in your bed. They can and do often hide out in sofas and other soft furniture, electrical sockets (behind plates), light fixtures, baseboards, floor crevices, and other crevices in the bedroom and living room
  • Do NOT raise the heat in your home to try to kill them: it will NOT work AND you might spread them further. Only professional heat systems that distribute heat evenly at the right temperature will kill bed bugs.
  • Do NOT turn off your thermostats and open the windows in order to freeze them. There are always spots in your home that will stay hot enough to allow them to survive: don’t forget they can hide far in cracks and small spots. Bed bugs need a -16 degrees Celsius temperature for 80 hours to die.

What to DO

If you are living in an apartment, odds are that your landlord will pay for an exterminator so give your landlord a call now and check that out. Otherwise, here is a list of what you could do:

  • Keep any dead bed bugs you find so you can show them to landlord or exterminators.
  • Contact a Pest Management Professional or your landlord
  • Want to do it yourself? Find out where they hide. One way to do that is to install bed bug coaster traps under your bed and chest of drawers to see in they are coming from inside or outside of that piece of furniture (and well, it also catches them)
  • be very careful and put your bed covers, pillows & covers and anything else on your bed in a big leak-proof plastic bag and fill your bath with the hottest water it can have and throw all that in the bath (including the plastic bag) and make sure that everything gets wet and hot (40 degrees Celsius – 104 Fahrenheit or more will kill bed bugs). If the water is really too hot, use a stick or something long to mix things around.
  • …once that’s done, you may try to find where they hide on your bed base, and kill them (squish) or use a clothing iron to steam them. Then install some bed bug proof box spring encasement and mattress encasement to seal any remaining bugs in.
  • finally, you may want to spray Diatomaceous Earth Powder around the bed (READ the label to do it properly, too much of it won’t work)
  • note: do NOT clean (broom, mop) the floor around the infested areas or otherwise you could spread the eggs around.
  • Enjoy your first night of peaceful sleep in a long while!

A few Myths about bed bugs

There are a few myths about bed bugs that need to be put to rest:

It’s impossible to get rid of bed begs yourself!

FALSE: although it is hard to do, there are things you can do that will help you get rid of them forever, but it might take you longer than say, hiring an expert. BUT, you will save money and your home will not be covered with a thin layer of pesticide on everything. You’ll need to be highly methodical, install  bed bug coaster traps, spray Diatomaceous Earth Powder (the right way), methodically clean your bed covers, look everywhere on your box spring and mattress and bed base and eliminate the bed bugs you find, etc. It take some time, but a job well done will mean you’ll sleep on your 2 ears!

Bed bugs are too small to be seen!

FALSE: they are pretty hard to see when they are in the first few stages, but not impossible. And when adult, they are very easy to see because they are up to 6.5 mm long (1/4 inch) and flat and wide and dark. It’s especially easy to spot them once you find where they hide.

Exterminators are the best way to get rid of bed bugs!

TRUE/FALSE: be very nice, but also critical with those experts: if you live in an apartment block, make SURE that they check the side, top and bottom apartments at the same time! Because what can happen is that they only treat your place but not the others and the only thing that does is send the bed bugs away to the other apartments for a while and 6 months later, they come back happy to see you! Some shady “experts” may try to do that so beware and make sure they checked your neighbors.


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