How to Check For Bed Bugs


One of the surprising facts about bed bugs is that they are very difficult to find and detect.  Many people assume that they just openly crawl around on your mattress and in your bedroom.  While they can sometimes be seen crawling around, it's not common.  If you think you have bed bugs, you'll want to confirm that by actually finding them.  This guide will teach you how to check for bed bugs.

How to Check for Bed Bugs

WHY Check for Bed Bugs?

Never assume that you actually have bed bugs, here's why:

By actually checking your home thoroughly for bed bugs, you'll not only confirm that you have them but also understand how significant your infestation is as well.  The benefit of actually having a captured bed bug will help your doctor diagnose your bites, and will also help a professional bed bug exterminator as well.

How to Check For Bed Bugs

How to Check for Bed Bugs

So you think you might have bed bugs?   But how do you know?  

The most common reason people think they have bed bugs is due to waking up with bed bug bites on their body after sleeping.  Remember though, that "bites" can often be other things, such as bites from other insects, allergic reactions, and even heat rashes that can occur while sleeping.

The best way to confirm you have bed bugs, is to bring in a professional.  A professional bed bug exterminator has the equipment and experience to inspect your home, and determine if you have bed bugs.

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The next bet way to confirm that you have bed bugs is to find one in your home yourself and have it confirmed by a doctor or bed bug exterminator, or comparing it to photos of actual bed bugs.  Finding other signs of bed bugs, including finding eggs, fecal matter, stains, and shed skin are also excellent signs you may have bed bugs.

The following detailed sections will walk you through the process of how to check for bed bugs in your home.

Supplies Needed to Check for Bed Bugs:

  1. Protective Gloves (white are better)
  2. obmwang 3 LED Light 3x 45x Handheld Magnifier Illuminated Reading Magnifying Glass Lens Jewelry Loupe Ideal for Reading, Crafts, Hobby, Black and White stitching
  3. LED Flashlight
  4. Inexpensive White Sheet
  5. Bed Bug Mattress and Box Spring Covers
  6. Bed Bug Traps

What are we looking for exactly?

Bed Bug On Mattress

During our inspection process, we'll be looking for one of three things:

  1. Signs of Bed Bugs - These include old molted skin, bed bug poop, or stains
  2. Actual Bed Bugs - While rare, you'll want to keep an eye out for actual bed bugs.  If they are in the open, they are easy to see as they'll be moving.
  3. Bed Bug Eggs - Bed Bugs Eggs are sticky, and often found it difficult to reach, and dark areas.

Finding one or more of these three signs is a sure indicator that you have bed bugs.  If you do find a bed bug, capture it and place it in a ziplock bag.

How to Check for Bed Bugs - The Basic Steps:

How to check for bed bugs

Below are the steps for checking your home for bed bugs.  During your first inspection, you may not find anything right away.  The steps recommend two key items: Mattress and Box Spring encasements, and bed bug traps.  

Both of these items will help you watch for bed bugs ongoing.   The encasements are white, making it incredibly easy to see both bed bugs and signs of bed bugs.  

Bed Bug Traps will catch and hold any bed bugs crawling around in your room, and in particular trying to crawl up your bed to feed on you.  Again, this will protect you from being bitten.

If you do have bed bugs, the mattress and box spring encasement will not only help you sleep at night, but will also often kill a large portion of your bed bugs living in your box spring.

Perform these inspection steps for each room in your home where you think you may have bed bugs.  Get your white sheet ready, put on your white gloves, and have your LED Flashlight handy! 

Mattress Covers

Check for Bed Bugs on your Mattress and Bed:

  1. Remove your mattress and box spring from your bed (keep them in your room) and remove any sheets on them.
  2. Using your magnifying glass and LED Flashlight, inspect your bed frame and headboards thoroughly.  Be sure to check inside any holes or cuts, especially where the frames and the headboard connect.
  3. Next, inspect your box spring.  Pay particular attention to the inside of the box spring, and areas facing away from the outside.  Box springs are a very common hiding area for bed bugs.
  4. Whether or not you found bed bugs or signs of bed bugs, install your box spring encasement and place it back onto your bed frame.
  5. Next thoroughly inspect your mattress.  Surprisingly, bed bugs are often not found on mattresses, but you'll want to check anyway.  On the mattress, in particular, focus on looking for signs of bed bugs.  Once done, install your mattress encasement and place your mattress back on your box spring.
  6. Inspect the sheets on your bed along with pillows and pillow cases for bed bugs or signs of bed bugs.
How to check for bed bugs furniture

Check for Bed Bugs on your Furniture:

  1. Spread the white sheet on a flat surface, preferably the floor.  You'll be placing your furniture items, and other items in your room onto this sheet for inspection.
  2. Place the furniture item on the white sheet.  
  3. Remove all drawers and open all doors. 
  4. Use your fingers, or preferably a credit card, run the edge of the card over the furniture’s surface.  Then use your fingers or the edge of the card through any creases, cracks or grooves in the furniture.  Remember, bed bugs like to hide in small tight spaces, so running the card through these areas is critical to performing a thorough inspection.  Watch for signs of bed bugs on your gloves or on the white sheet.   Signs can include feces (which will be dark red stains), old skin, or bed bugs themselves.  Use the magnifying glass to inspect anything remotely questionable.
  5. Use the flashlight to highlight and inspect any hidden or dark areas of the furniture.  Again, these are the locations where bed bugs like to hide.  They are generally not out in the open where bed bugs are easily seen.
how to check for bed bugs

Check for Bed Bugs on Non-Furniture Items:

  1. Place the item on the white sheet.
  2. Using your fingers and your LED Flashlight, inspect the item thoroughly.  If it opens, open it, and inspect the inside as well as the outside.
  3. If it's a book, thumb through the pages, and look for bed bugs or signs of bed bugs.  Bed bugs like to hide in magazines and books.
  4. For electronics, you'll want to open them up if possible, so you can inspect inside them.  If you can't open them, either throw the item away or use heat treatment on it (see below).
How to check for bed bugs room

Check for Bed Bugs in the Room itself:

With the bed, furniture and other items in the room all inspected, it's now time to check for bed bugs in the room itself.   Again, Bed Bugs love to hide, so you'll want to pay particular attention to any cracks or gaps where bed bugs could potentially get in and hide-out.

  1. Using your flashlight begin checking or bed bugs at a particular point.  Work your way around the room until you again reach the starting point.
  2. As you work your way around the room, look for cracks or gaps in your molding, and signs of bed bugs there.  If you know what you're doing, pull the molding back so you can look behind it.   Pay particular attention to where carpet meets the molding.
  3. For electrical outlets, you'll want to cut power to them, pull off the socket or light switch cover, and use your flashlight to look into the electrical outlet or switch.  BE SURE the power is off, and if you are not comfortable doing this, call a professional.
  4. Next, go over your carpet and flooring.  If you have holes in your carpet or floor, do your best to look up in them.  Holes can be a popular hiding spot.

What to do if you find Bed Bugs

Signs of Bed Bugs

First off, don't panic.   You need to stay calm and focused.  

If you do find bed bugs (and we hope you don't), you'll want to begin treatment as soon as possible.  The longer you wait, the more severe your bed bug infestation will become.  Bed bugs multiply rapidly, so quick treatment is critical.

Signs of Bed bugs on your Bed

If you found bed bug eggs, bed bugs or signs of bed bugs on your bed or mattress you have a few options:

  1. For head and foot boards and rails, you can treat these directly using heat, steam or a bed bug spray.
  2. For your mattress or box spring, you can either throw them both away or encase them.  If you elect to get a new mattress and box spring, encase them BEFORE bringing them into the room.

Signs of Bed Bugs on Furniture

Furniture, like your bed, can either be thrown away or treated.  Given the expense of furniture items, you'll generally want to try to keep them.  But, certain items can often be very difficult to treat, so trashing them may be your best option.

What do bed bugs look like

For furniture items without cloth, like dressers, nightstands, tables, chairs, etc, using heat, steam or a bed bug spray is often highly effective.   Treating these furniture items thoroughly isn't difficult.

However, items like couches, easy chairs, futons, and ottomans, treatment is more difficult and often not fully successful.   This is a tough call, but if you want to be safe, you'll want to trash any of these items that have signs of bed bugs.  

If that isn't an option, you'll want to use heat or steam to treat these items, multiple times over the course of a month.

Signs of Bed Bugs on Non-Furniture Items

For non-furniture items with signs of bed bugs, we recommend throwing the items away if you can.  Anything that you don't really need should be tossed.   If you need to keep it, utilize heat, steam or a bed bug spray to treat it.   Heat or Steam is best on cloth items.

For electronics, you'll want to use heat treatment.  Both steam and sprays can permanently damage the items and put you at risk of electrical shock.

Signs of Bed Bugs in your Room

If you find signs of bed bugs, bed bug eggs or even bed bugs themselves in your room, you have a few treatment options:

  • Diatomaceous earth - Works excellent on floors, carpets and inside walls and crevices
  • Steam - Highly effective in your entire room - Just be careful on painted or finished surfaces.
  • Bed Bug Sprays - Works great carpets

Heat treatment is highly effective as well, but heating up an entire room or home is just not a feasible or safe option for a homeowner.   Heating an entire room or house to the temperatures required to kill bed bugs requires a professional that knows what they are doing, and who has the right equipment.   Many homes have been caught on fire by homeowners trying to heat treat themselves.  It's just not worth the risk.

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Wrapping Up

Regardless of whether you know, you have bed bugs, or just think you may, performing a thorough inspection of your home to check for bed bugs is a critical step for early detection.  Bed bug inspections should be done monthly by most anyone, as everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs.

We hope our how to check for bed bugs guide has helped you, and we encourage you to follow these steps often to keep bed bugs out of your home.

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