How To Check for Bed Bugs: The Ultimate Guide

Bed bugs can enter your home undetected through used bedding, clothing, furniture and other items. Before you start taking steps to control a bed bug infestation, it’s important to confirm exactly what you’re dealing with. It takes time and effort, but bed bug infestations can be eradicated. Here’s what you need to know about how to check for bed bugs.

Because they are small, they can hide in tiny spaces and they tend to come out and feed at night. It can take anywhere from minutes to days the symptoms of a bed bug bite to appear, but if you wake up covered in red lesions, it’s a safe bet you have a bed bug infestation.

how to check for bed bugs

Where Do Bed Bugs Hide?

Bed bugs are aptly named because they like to hide in and around the bed. After all, they like to feed on their human hosts overnight, so they hide nearby. Outside of the bed itself, however, bed bugs can often be found hiding in other areas.

Here are some of the places bed bugs like to hide:

  • Under the mattress or on the box spring
  • In cracks in the bed frame or headboard
  • In the seams of upholstered furniture
  • In between couch cushions
  • Under loose wallpaper or in wall hangings
  • In the junction of the ceiling and wall
  • Around the baseboards near the floor

An adult bed bug is only about the size of an apple seed and has a flat body, so they can squeeze into some pretty tight spaces. Bed bugs don’t build nests like some insects, but they do tend to hide in groups. In the early days of an infestation, they’re most likely to stay close to the bed but, over time, the infestation can spread to nearby rooms or even other dwellings in the same building.

Signs of Bed Bug Infestation

The most obvious means of identifying a bed bug infestation is seeing the bed bugs with your own eyes. Bed bugs have a distinct appearance, though they are somewhat similar to other small insects like booklice and carpet beetles. An adult bed bug is 4 to 5mm long, brown in color and oval-shaped with a flat body. As bed bugs feed, however, they often swell in size and turn a dark red.

You don’t necessarily need to see bed bugs to identify an infestation. Bed bugs leave behind signs that you can use to confirm an infestation before you seek help or take action yourself.

Here are some of the most common signs of bed bug infestation:

  • Reddish-brown spots (blood stains) on the mattress or bedding
  • Small, itchy bites on your arms and legs after sleeping
  • Evidence of molting – shed skins from bed bug nymphs
  • Small, white eggs or empty pale yellow egg shells

It can be challenging to identify a low-level infestation, especially in the early days. In many cases, bed bug bites don’t develop visible signs until a few days later which gives the bed bugs time to reproduce. Some people don’t react to bed bug bites at all. Widespread infestations, however, are fairly obvious, though they can still be mistaken for infestations of other insects like carpet beetles.

How to Check for Bed Bugs

If you suspect a bed bug infestation, it’s a good idea to contact a professional exterminator to schedule a thorough inspection. Misidentifying a bed bug infestation, even for a few days, gives the insects time to reproduce which makes it that much harder to eradicate them. Though bed bugs are often best left to the professionals, you can perform an inspection yourself.

Here’s how to check your home for bed bugs:

  • Use a flashlight and a credit cards to check common bed bug hiding places
  • Swipe the credit card along the mattress, box spring, and bed frame to check for evidence
  • Look in electrical receptacles (such as outlets), behind picture frames, and in the drapes
  • Check the junction where the ceiling meets the wall and where carpeting touches baseboard
  • Look in the seams of cushions or upholstered furniture in the bedroom

Bed bugs are attracted to warmth, so they are most likely to congregate in mattresses and bedding. Look for dark, reddish stains and evidence of eggs or molting nymphs. If you have upholstered furniture in your bedroom, check the cushions and areas where the fabric meets the legs. Do a thorough sweep around the perimeter of the room as well, especially if your bedroom is carpeted.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you see bed bugs with the naked eye?

Yes, adult bed bugs are visible to the naked eye – bed bugs look like small, flat, oval-shaped insects and are usually brown in color until they fill with blood and turn red. Eggs are only about the size of a pinhead but can be visible. Nymphs start very small but grow in size and darken in color with each molt.

How do you get bed bugs out of hiding?

Bed bugs are attracted to heat, so you may be able to draw them out of hiding with a source of low-level heat. They are also attracted to carbon dioxide (CO2) which yeast produce as they feed on sugar. You can easily find commercial bed bug traps on the market or make your own.

How do you make a homemade bed bug trap?

You can make a homemade bed bug trap by mixing 10 tablespoons granulated sugar with 2 tablespoons yeast and 1 ½ quarts of water. Fill a bowl with the mixture and place it in an upside-down dog bowl. This solution will trap bed bugs, but it won’t kill them, so it is best used to confirm a bed bug infestation.


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