How do I know if I have bed bugs?

With the ever-growing trend of bed bug infestations in the United States, and around the world, many people are asking the question: How do I know if I have bed bugs?    

The answer is, unfortunately, a bit complicated.  

Here are the 3 primary ways to know if you have bed bugs or not.

1 – You actually see bed bugs

Bed bugsThe most obvious way to know if you have bed bugs is to actually see them in your home.  Seeing bed bugs can often be very difficult as they are very good at hiding. 

If you do see bedbugs in your home, that is often as a sign that you have a very bad bug infestation!

If you think you may have bed bugs in your home, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with what bed bugs look like, then perform a thorough inspection of your home to try and find one or more of them.  

Be aware too, that many different insects resemble bed bugs, so don’t be fooled.

See our tips below on how to find live samples of bed bugs.  Assuming you do find one, you’ll want to take it to a physician or exterminator familiar with bed bugs for a positive ID.  If that is not an option for you, be sure to look at our bed bug photos.

If you don’t find any, do not assume you don’t have bed bugs, you may still have them, they’re just hiding.  

This leads to the next way to know if you have bed bugs, seeing the signs.

2 – You see signs of bed bugs

Your chance of seeing signs of bed bugs, rather than the actual bed bugs themselves, is much higher.   Bed bugs leave behind some very tell-tale signs that they’re around.

One of the most common signs is fecal matter on your bed, carpet or furniture.  Yes, gross but true.

Bed bug fecal matter is partially digested blood (most likely from you),  black in color and is generally in groups.   The fecal matter is soft, and when touched, will smear, leaving black streaks.  

Fecal matter is often found on your bed sheets, or on your mattress.   Bed bugs also shed their skin, so along with fecal matter, you may find leftover and dried up bed bug skins.

You may even find bloodstains, where you bled a little, the bed bug got squished, or the bed bug leaked.  All three of these are very positive signs that you have bed bugs. 

3 – You have bed bug bites

Bed bug bite treatment arm

The most common sign that you may have bed bugs is bed bug bite marks on your body.  

If you go to sleep with no bite marks and wake up with bite marks, particularly on areas of your body that made contact with your mattress, this is a strong indicator that you have bed bugs.

You must be careful though, as many other insect bites look similar to bed bug bites.

Just having bite marks on you, may not guarantee you actually have bed bugs.  Mite bites often look very similar to bed bug bites and itch like them as well.

How to catch live bed bugs

As mentioned above, the single best way to positively answer the question, How do I know if I have bed bugs? is to find actual bed bugs.   Again, this can be incredibly difficult, as bed bugs do not want to be found.   They are very good at hiding, and only generally come out when you’re sleeping. 

Bed bugs are very stealthy, and even inject you with a numbing saliva when they bite, so you don’t feel it.

BUT, they can be found.  Here are several recommended strategies for how to find bed bugs and capture them.

Install Bed Bug Traps

One of the best and most proven ways to capture live bed bugs is to use bed bug traps below furniture and your bed frame.  Traps are often placed directly under bed frame posts or footings of furniture.  When bed bugs try to climb up the furniture, they fall into the traps and cannot get out.

Bed bugs tend to move around in their infested environment.   Traps should be left out for 2-4 weeks, and inspected often for bed bugs.

Active monitors or traps are also highly effective, and utilize attractors or bait to draw the bed bugs to them and trap them.  While these are more expensive, they are also the most effective.

Perform a thorough visual inspection

Using a bright LED Flashlight and magnifying glass, thoroughly inspect the area where you think you may have bed bugs.  Focus on places you or members of your family spend time sitting or laying down.   Often this can be your bed (hence the name bed bugs) or on furniture, such as couches and chairs.

When inspecting your bed, look over all of your bed sheets, especially the fitted sheets on the mattress.   Remove the fitted sheets and inspect the mattress and box springs as well.   Pay attention to dark and hidden areas, including seams.  They’ll often be in them.

On your box spring, there are generally four corners with plastic guards.   Look under and around these.  Examine the frame closely, in particular, areas where the box spring and mattress touch it.

Use Bed Bug Mattress and Box Spring Covers

Purchasing and use bed bug mattress covers and box spring covers.  These simple, but highly effective devices not only help prevent bed bug infestations but they additional help you catch live bed bugs.  

As bed bugs climb up to your bed, they will generally climb into the mattress or box spring, or hide in a small hidden crevice or fold.   A common place for mating and egg laying is inside your mattress or box spring.   Approved bed bug covers seal both the mattress and box spring, keeping bed bugs from getting in, and removing their hiding places.

Additionally, if you have bed bugs in the mattress or box spring, a bed bug mattress cover will seal the bed bugs in, where they will eventually starve and die.  Covers are generally white and make finding bed bugs and signs of bed bugs much easier.

Bed bug mattress covers are a highly effective bed bug detection, treatment, and prevention strategy.    Use of these covers, combined with bed bug traps, is a very effective way to find and capture bed bugs.

Pro TipBe sure to use certified bed bug covers – If you don’t, bed bugs will escape through the zipper, rendering the covers ineffective.

Use a Professional

Bed bug exterminators

The most effective way to determine if you have a bed bug infestation and to find actual bed bugs is to hire a professional.   Professionals use a number of tools and strategies to determine if your home is infested with bedbugs.  

Professionals often use bed bug dogs to sniff out even the smallest of infestations, and ones that would be very difficult for people to find.   Using a professional early in the process can literally save you thousands of dollars down the road when you have to deal with a much larger and problematic bed bug infestation.

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Wrapping Up

Again, the single best way to determine if you have bed bugs is to find and capture one, so it can be examined and determined to in fact be a bed bug.   While none of these strategies is 100%, combining multiple strategies together provides the best chance to answer the question: How do I know if I have bed bugs?

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