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How Do You Check For Bed Bugs?

Are you feeling itchy or noticing small, dark bugs around your home? It may be time to check for bed bugs!

Learning how to identify the signs and prevent bed bug infestation is essential for every homeowner. I’m going to share everything you need to know about checking for bed bugs and how to protect yourself from bed bug bites…

looking for bed bugs along the seams of your mattress and mattress topper

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Identifying bed bugs is key in detecting an infestation. Adults are reddish-brown, similar in coloration to an apple seed.

They are small, wingless insects, which contributes to their stealthy nature. When unfed, they’re flat and oval-shaped but become swollen and elongated after feeding.

Live bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye, especially adult specimens. They grow to about 5 millimeters in length.

Despite their small size, their distinct color and shape make them recognizable upon close inspection.

Nymphs, or juvenile bed bugs, are smaller and can be harder to spot due to their size and paler color before they have fed.

After feeding, however, they may become a brighter red. Monitoring for these nymphs is essential, as their presence indicates an ongoing or burgeoning infestation.

Eggs are another aspect of bed bug identification. They are tiny, about 1 millimeter in size, and are pearly white, making them challenging to detect, especially on light-colored surfaces.

Here’s a quick reference table to help you identify bed bugs at various stages:

Stage Size Color Features
Egg 1mm Pearly white Oval-shaped, difficult to see
Nymph < 5mm Pale, reddish-brown post-feed Smaller, translucent
Adult ~5mm Reddish-brown Flat, wingless

You may also find shells—these are the exoskeletons that bed bugs shed as they grow. These yellowish skins are often left behind in and around bed bug hiding places.

Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?

Bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers and are not a sign of uncleanliness. They can come from various places, but travel is often the most common factor in their spread.

When you visit hotels, there is a risk of encountering bed bugs which can then latch onto your clothing or luggage. From there, they can travel back to your home.

Public transport such as buses, trains, and even cruise ships are not immune to bed bug occurrences.

These environments see a high turnover of travelers, which increases the likelihood of bed bug transmission. Always check seating areas for signs of these pests.

Common Hiding Places for Bed Bugs:

  • Furniture: Check the seams, crevices, and folds.
  • Clothing: They can cling onto fabric, especially if items are left on the bed or floor.
  • Luggage: Always inspect your luggage after travel.
  • Bedding: Bed bugs are named for their preference for beds, including the mattress, box spring, and bed frame.

Bed bugs are opportunistic and can be found in the cleanest of environments.

They are primarily nocturnal and typically hide during the day in places close to where people sleep, making bedrooms a prime target for infestation.

bed bug scurrying along the top of a bed frame

How Do You Check For Bed Bugs?

When checking for bed bugs, you need to be thorough and methodical. Start by examining your bed frame for any signs of these pests.

Look closely at headboardsbaseboards, and any cracks or crevices where bed bugs could hide.

Steps to Inspect Mattresses and Sheets:

  • Strip the bed: Remove all bedding and check for tiny, dark spots that may indicate bed bug excrement.
  • Examine the mattress: Pay special attention to seams, tufts, and edges. Rusty or reddish stains on the mattress could be a result of crushed bed bugs.

Tips for Other Hideouts:

  • Peek behind headboards: Bed bugs love to hide in small, dark spaces, so use a flashlight to inspect behind headboards.
  • Inspect baseboards: Look along baseboards for any signs of bed bugs or their droppings.

Bed bugs can fit in spaces as thin as a credit card, so your inspection must be fine detailed.

Area to Check What to Look For
Bed frame Cracks, crevices, joints
Sheets Blood spots, dark excretions
Headboards Hidden bugs, tiny black spots
Baseboards Live bugs, shed skins
Mattresses Stains, live bugs, casings

Always wear gloves for protection during inspection, and use tools like a flashlight and a flat-edged object, such as a credit card, to probe and lift areas where bed bugs may be concealed.

Signs You Have A Bed Bug Infestation

When checking for a bed bug infestation, you will need to be thorough and look for specific indicators. These parasites are stealthy, but they leave behind distinct signs:

  • Bites: You may notice itchy welts on your skin, typically in a line or cluster, which are often the first sign of an infestation. These bites can lead to rashes or even allergic reactions in some people. The presence of bed bug bites, especially after sleeping, should prompt an immediate investigation for other signs.
  • Blood Stains: Small blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases can indicate that bed bugs have been feeding. It can happen when you squash an engorged bed bug in your sleep.
  • Excrement: These pests leave behind dark or rusty spots of excrement on mattresses, bedding, and walls. Look for these telltale spots, especially in the seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in the cracks of the bed frame and headboard.
  • Eggs and Shells: Tiny bed bug eggs and shed skins are another sign. These are often found in places bed bugs hide during the day, such as mattress seams and other crevices.
  • Live Bugs: Seeing live bed bugs is a clear indicator. These reddish-brown insects, about the size of an apple seed, may be found hiding in and around your bed, within furniture, or behind wallpaper.

zoomed in look at a bed bug walking along the top of a bed sheet

Where To Check On Your Mattress To Find Bed Bugs

When inspecting your mattress for bed bugs, you should closely examine the following areas:

  • Seams and Edges: Pay special attention to the seams along the edges of your mattress. Bed bugs often hide within these crevices during the day.
  • Corners: Check both the top and bottom corners of the mattress. Their snug shape provides an ideal hiding spot for bed bugs.
  • Tags and Labels: Although often overlooked, the tags or labels affixed to your mattress can serve as a refuge for these pests.
  • Handles: If your mattress has handles for rotation or moving, examine around these areas thoroughly, as bed bugs might conceal themselves there.
  • Beneath the Mattress: Bed bugs might be lurking underneath the mattress, so lift it and inspect the bottom surface.
  • Box Spring: If your bed has a box spring, dismantle it if possible and inspect all corners and recesses.
  • Bed Frame and Headboard: While not part of the mattress, make sure you also inspect the bed frame and headboard, especially if they have cracks or crevices.

Use a flashlight for better visibility during your inspection, and consider using magnification for a more detailed examination when looking for bed bugs. Here’s a quick checklist:

Inspection Area What to Look For
Seams and Edges Small dark stains, bed bug feces, and tiny white eggs
Corners Live bed bugs, which are brown and oval-shaped
Tags and Labels Translucent eggshells or yellowish skin sheds
Handles Reddish-brown stains indicative of bed bugs nearby
Underneath the Mattress Live or dead bed bugs, particularly in seams or torn areas
Box Spring Visual cues include black fecal spots, live bugs, and eggshells
Bed Frame and Headboard Look for bed bugs in cracks, joints, and screw holes

Regular inspections can help you catch an infestation early and take appropriate measures to eradicate bed bugs from your sleeping area.

How to Check Your Carpet for Bed Bugs

To check your carpet for bed bugs, start by thoroughly vacuuming to remove any loose debris.

Use a flashlight to inspect the carpet fibers, focusing on areas near walls and furniture, as bed bugs often hide in darker, less disturbed spots.

Look for small, reddish-brown bugs, tiny white eggs, or dark spots from their droppings. Pay attention to carpet edges and under rugs.

Use a stiff brush to agitate the carpet fibers, making any hidden bed bugs more visible.

little bed bugs on a bedside table

How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs In Your Mattress

Bed bugs are active at night and can infest your mattress, making swift treatment essential. Here’s a methodical approach to eradicating bed bugs from your sleeping area.

Step 1: Identify the Bed Bug Infestation First, inspect your mattress, focusing on folds and crevices. Look for live bed bugs, reddish-brown stains, or translucent eggshells.

Step 2: Containment via Vacuuming

  • Thoroughly vacuum the mattress, bed frame, and surrounding area.
  • Use attachments to reach tight spots where bed bugs hide.
  • Seal and dispose of the vacuum bag immediately in an outdoor trash bin.

Step 3: Apply Heat

  • Wash bedding and clothes in high heat (at least 120°F) to kill bed bugs.
  • Put items in the dryer on the highest heat setting for 30 minutes.

Step 4: Steam Treatment

  • Use a steamer to treat your mattress, being meticulous along seams and fabric folds.
  • Temperature should reach at least 160-180°F to be effective.

Step 5: Encase Your Mattress

  • Invest in a bed bug-proof mattress encasement to trap any remaining bugs.

Step 6: Consult Professionals

  • If infestation persists, contact a professional exterminator.
  • They may use targeted pesticides or comprehensive heat treatments.

Prevention Tips

  • Regularly inspect for signs of bed bugs.
  • Maintain a clutter-free environment to reduce hiding spots.
  • Consider pest control measures if you frequently experience infestations.

signs to look out for with bed bug infestations


Bed bugs can be challenging to detect and eliminate. But by following the right steps, you can check for bed bugs, identify signs of infestation, and take appropriate measures to get rid of them.

Start with inspecting your mattress for any telltale signs such as blood spots, excrement, eggs or shells in seams and labels.

Also investigate surrounding areas such as headboards, bed frames, baseboards, and furniture.

As I mentioned above, bed bugs are expert hitchhikers, so limit their transmission through regular inspection after travel or when visiting public spaces. Finally, take preventive measures to reduce the risk of infestations.

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