There is a common misconception, that bed bugs are only found in filthy or dirty areas and homes. Not true.
Bed bugs can be found in any home or dwelling and most climates in the US provide adequate living conditions for them. Early bed bug detection is critical to avoiding a large infestation that can be costly and time-consuming.
In some cases, the presence of bed bugs is obvious, and bed bugs can be seen crawling on the bed itself or on the sheets, pillows or furniture. Unfortunately, in many cases, bed bugs are difficult to see and find. Given they are generally only active at night while you’re sleeping, finding bed bugs is often difficult.
BUT DON’T DESPAIR! There are some proven effective techniques you can use to help find them if you think you’re home might be infested.
- Visually detecting bed bugs
- Mattress Covers, Box Spring Covers and Pillow casings
- Pitfall Traps
- Bed bug dogs
Visually detecting bed bugs
Generally, you won’t often see the bed bugs themselves, as they are incredibly good at hiding. BUT, you might. If you do see what you think is a bed bug, use our What does a bed bug look like
guide to help you determine if the insect you’ve found is actually a bed bug.
>> Be sure to visit our new guide: What are Bed Bugs? for more information on bed bugs.
While the bed bugs themselves might be difficult to see, they leave behind clues of there presence that are easy to see with the naked eye. Here are a few visual signs to look for to help with finding bed bugs:
- Tiny black spots (excrement) on beddings when wet turn red, semi-transparent light brown or red skin casings, live bed bugs crawling around. Bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed.
- Look for dark fecal spots or even the bugs themselves on bed sheets, in the seams of your mattress, between the mattress and box spring, in the crevices of a box spring, in the corners of the mattress by the headboard or in the carpet below the bed. If you store items under your bed, you will want to check those as well.
- Any furniture near your beds, such as nightstands or dressers should be emptied and completely examined inside and out. You will also want to inspect the bottom and undersides of drawers. Bed bugs will often be hiding in cracks, corners, and recesses.
- If you have lights or pictures hanging on walls near your bed, you will want to remove those and check them inside and out.
- The most common way of knowing that you have bed bugs is from actual bites on your body. For comparison, view our bed bug bite pictures.
Here’s the proper and safe way to detect possible bed bugs in your home or office:
- Do not remove anything from your room. Every single item will need to be treated/inspected first.
- Put a pair of disposable white gloves on. White gloves allow you to easily see any blood or fecal matter from items in your home on your hands as you inspect the items. They’ll also make you feel a little more sanitary.
- Remove all clothing from your drawers and closet. Additionally, remove any bed linens and curtains. Immediately place these items in heavy duty black trash bags and tie them in the same room you removed them from. Do not take them into another room until they are bagged and tied!
- Take the bags immediately to your laundry room, place the bags into your dryer, and rip the bag open. Empty the clothes into the dryer, paying attention to the floor to be sure no bed bugs or items drop onto the floor if they do put them in the dryer immediately.
- Turn the dryer on it’s hottest cycle for at least 2 hours. Dispose of the ripped bags into an outside trash container.
- Inspect items – While the clothes are in the dryer, spread out a white tablecloth or bed sheet onto the floor or bed. Place items one at a time onto the bed sheet, giving them a few good shakes before putting them down. Thoroughly inspect them using an LED Flashlight and Magnifying Glass for either bed bugs or signs of bed bugs.
- If you see bed bugs or signs of bed bugs, place the items into a black trash bag. If the items are free of bed bugs or signs of bed bugs, take it into another room of your home.
- Continue this process for everything in your room. This includes books, magazines, knick-knacks, photos (even ones on the wall), alarm clocks … EVERYTHING. Skipping just one item, and missing bed bugs on it can cause a whole infestation to start again.
- Using the flashlight and magnifying inspect each item. Pay attention to hidden and hard to reach areas of furniture, photos, lamps etc. For electronics and items, you can visually inspect inside, we recommend you throw them away and replace them.
- Continue this sorting process until all items in your room have been visually inspected. You can leave any large furniture items in the room.
- For items in the black bags, where you found bed bugs or signs of bed bugs – You’ll need to make some tough choices. The best option is to throw them away and replace them. But if you can’t or it’s not financially feasible, you’ll want to treat those items. If you do decide to throw the items away, make sure they are in a sealed trash bag and immediately take them to an outside trash container.
If you found bed bugs or signs of bed bugs, visit our treatment page immediately and decide on a treatment strategy and begin treatment as soon as possible.
Until you do, do not bring any items back into your room. You’ll want to inspect all rooms of your home, unfortunately, bed bugs travel, so if you have them in one room, chances are they are in other rooms too.
Mattress Covers, Box Spring Covers and Pillow casings
Bed Bug proof zippered mattress encasements are designed to keep bugs from getting in your bed where they are difficult to get to and remove. Unlike regular mattress covers, these mattress covers are specially designed to not allow bed bugs in or out. Traditional covers allow bugs to find their way in and out through the zipper.
These mattress covers not only help with bed bug prevention, but they additionally help with bed bug detection by allowing you to see bedbugs on the mattress easily, as most mattress covers are a bright white. The dark brownish/red bugs show up easily on these bright covers.
Getting rid of bed bugs is difficult, using mattress covers combined with Pillow Covers, and box spring covers are one of the single most important steps you can take to avoid a bed bug infestation in your bed.
Pitfall traps can be placed under furniture legs and are designed to allow bugs to climb up, but then they become trapped in the device.
Since the device is white, bed bug detection is easy since the bugs are visible in the trap itself. A piece of dry ice or a heat pack can also be placed in the device to further attract the bed bugs which are naturally attracted to heat and Carbon Dioxide.
Pitfall traps can be a highly effective first line of defense and not only make you aware that you have a bed bug problem but prevent them infesting in your bed or furniture.
Bed bug dogs
If the above methods still don’t help you detect bed bugs, but you’re still pretty sure you have them, it might be time to call in a “pro”. Bed bug dogs are specially trained dogs that can quickly pick up the smell of bed bugs and when they do, alert their trainers.
While not the most inexpensive method, hiring a bed bug dog is currently one of the most effective ways to confirm for sure whether or not you have bed bugs in your home. Using a bed bug dog also has the advantage of showing you exactly where they are hiding as well.