Identifying bed bug: 7 typical signs of bed bugs

In this post, you will learn how to recognize a possible bed bug infestation. Because before you take drastic measures to control bed bugs, you should first make sure that they are actually bed bugs. There are a number of different indications for this that you can check relatively easily.

In addition to the typical signs that speak for a bed bug infestation, there are also typical bed bug hiding spots. So the (dark) places where the annoying bloodsuckers feel particularly comfortable. These are presented according to the description of the signs further down this page. This will also help you know where to look for bed bugs.

If you are actually bed bugs, you will also find some links to articles to help you find out how to proceed.

How do I recognize a bed bug infestation?

a) Recognize bed bug bites

Many people first become aware of bed bugs when they spot a few suspicious bites next to each other. If more and more supposed “mosquito bites” appear over the course of several days or if there are actually no mosquitoes in the room, then the search for the real culprit begins. After that, it usually doesn’t take long until you find out about bed bugs on the Internet or in conversation with another hostel/hotel guest.

When Bed bugs usually bite people

Bed bugs usually bite people when they are sleeping. They are attracted by the heat and CO2 emissions of the people. Once they get to their victim, they usually bite in several places until they hit a suitable blood vessel. As a result, the bite marks are often in a row and are referred to as “bedbugs street”. Important: It doesn’t have to be that way. The bed bug bites can also look like they can hardly be distinguished from other insect bites.

Sometimes it takes a few days for the reactions to the bites to be seen on the skin. This makes it difficult to assess where it actually happened when traveling with stopovers in different accommodations.

Everyone reacts differently to bed bug bites

It must also be taken into account that everyone reacts differently to bed bug bites. So, a person can show very strong reactions to bed bug bites that go beyond being very itchy. Another person may have no reaction to bed bug bites at all. It doesn’t always have to be bed bug bites, as other insects trigger similar skin reactions. These include mosquitoes and fleas.

In addition, sting-like skin reactions and rashes can also have completely different causes. In this context, side effects from medication, other allergies, and hormonal imbalances could play a role.

Perhaps you’ve also seen someone itch and talk about bites or stings in connection with bed bugs or other insects, and suddenly you start to itch yourself. This form of imagination also plays a role and is known as autosuggestion. Therefore, the bite marks are an important indication of a bed bug problem, but not necessarily the most informative.

b) Detect live bed bugs

Bed bugs are very small, brown, oval-shaped insects. Despite their small size, adult animals can be seen with the naked eye. Before they eat, they are very flat. After they have sucked blood, they can enlarge by a few millimeters.

In my introductory part about bed bugs, I compared them – based on my first experiences – with the size of ladybugs. Maybe that helps one or the other to imagine the size dimensions.

Most adult bed bugs are approximately 0.5 to 0.6 cm in size. However, some bed bugs can even reach a body length of almost a full centimeter when fully soaked.

Other characteristics of adult bed bugs:

  • A flat oval, red-brown body,
  • the color becomes more red than brown when sucking blood,
  • they look similar in size and shape to an apple core,
    but have legs,
  • the body shape is slightly different depending on gender,
  • Females: slightly rounder body shape,
  • Males: body shape is slightly more oval and they have
    an additional small tip (sexual organ) at the lower end,
  • Bed bugs have lines across the main body so it
    looks a little ladder-like.

But you can’t fly (luckily). In return, they move very quickly and are able to climb walls and ceilings in order to fall on their victim.

Smooth and slippery surfaces, on the other hand, cause them difficulties. Since bed bugs are nocturnal, they hide during the day and are difficult to find. Before a bed bug is fully grown, it has to go through various stages.

c) Manure tracks

The bed bugs’ droppings digest the blood that they excrete. They potentially leave their excrement wherever they go. You can check your bed linen to see if you can find small black to dark red stains. Also, look at the bed box and the underside of the mattress.

When I check into a new accommodation while traveling, the first thing I do is look to see if I can find small black dots on the mattress. The closer you are to a potential hiding place for the bed bugs, the more frequently the traces of excrement appear.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a picture that I am legally allowed to use on this page. I have not yet taken a photo of such a mattress myself – but it doesn’t look so nice either. Anyway, here you will find a plentiful selection of pictures.

d) Recognize nymph skins or dead bed bugs

In addition, to live bed bugs, you can of course also recognize shed nymph skins or dead bed bugs. Bed bugs go through several stages from the larva, through a few nymph stages, to the “adult” bug. If you look closely, you could see shed bed bug skins on or under your bed.

A further indication of bed bugs could therefore be found directly under the bed frame with the cost traces shown above: a dead bed bug/bed bug skin. I collected them with adhesive tape so that I could take a photo of them afterward:

A look under the bed or near a suspected hiding place can provide (the feared) certainty. Photo: Bettwanzenproblem.de

Due to their adapted survival skills, you might be surprised to hear, but bed bugs also die naturally at some point: on average, they live between six and twelve months.

It is also impressive that it is practically the same time as bed bugs are supposed to survive without food ( up to 40 weeks according to Wikipedia ).

e) Traces of blood on the bed linen

Under certain circumstances, traces of human blood as a result of bed bug bites can also found on the bedding. However, there is still a very high risk of confusion, since bed bugs are not necessarily to blame, but many other insects are also possible. Bloodstains on bed linen can be an early indication of a possible bed bug problem.

You shouldn’t use this clue as to your main piece of evidence. If the alarm bells are ringing for you right away, definitely check out the other signs of a bed bug infestation. If it turns out to be true, then you can act quickly and fight the problem from the beginning. That can be a huge benefit. You can see here what this can look like on the bed linen.

f) odor

Especially with an advanced bed bug infestation, a disgusting, sweet smell is a typical distinguishing feature of infected rooms and buildings. This is a secretion that bed bugs weed out to attract each other. The more bed bugs there are in a (poorly ventilated) room, the more noticeable this smell is.

g) bed bug eggs

Even if the eggs, like the bed bugs, are difficult to find, they are still a further indication of both the existence of bed bugs in a room and the hiding places actually used.

A female bed bug lays up to 12-bed bug eggs in one day and up to 200 during her lifetime. However, females also observed who have laid over 500 eggs.

These have an approximate size of 1mm, are slightly transparent and white, and are cream-colored. Finding the hiding spots for bed bug eggs is essential to get rid of the bed bug problem thoroughly.

Characteristics of bed bug eggs

  • Creamy white,
  • approximate size of 1mm,
  • slightly transparent,
  • sticky.

The most likely place for bed bug eggs is on or near the bed in the bed bug hiding places (more on this below). Take a close look at the seams and edges of the mattress and the bed box. They are also very popular to hide behind the bedside cabinet when it is directly on the wall.

Detecting the bed bug eggs is essential to get rid of the bed bug problem thoroughly.

g) bed bug eggs

Even if the eggs, like the bed bugs, are difficult to find, they are still a further indication of both the existence of bed bugs in a room and the hiding places actually used.

A female bed bugs lays up to 12-bed bugs eggs in one day and up to 200 during her lifetime. However, females also observed who have laid over 500 eggs.

These have an approximate size of 1mm, are slightly transparent and white, and are cream-colored. Finding the hiding spots for bed bugs eggs is essential to get rid of the bed bug problem thoroughly.

Characteristics of bed bug eggs

  • Creamy white,
  • approximate size of 1mm,
  • slightly transparent,
  • sticky.

The most likely place for bed bug eggs is on or near the bed in the bed bug hiding places (more on this below). Take a close look at the seams and edges of the mattress and the bed box. They are also very popular to hide behind the bedside cabinet when it is directly on the wall.

Detecting the bed bug eggs is essential to get rid of the bed bug problem thoroughly.

What are typical bed bug hiding spots?

Because of their small size, bed bugs can hide pretty much anywhere. Still, there are some places where they are more common than anywhere else. In a bedroom in your own house, it is often about the mattress or the bed frame. In a hotel room, on the other hand, it is more furniture and objects at the head of the bed than around the mattress itself.

This is because bed bugs prefer undisturbed hiding places and bedclothes are changed more frequently in a hotel. A bedside table offers a quieter hiding place and is still pretty close to the next meal. You can see other items and places where you might find what you are looking for in the following table.

Tip: To be able to recognize bed bugs, it also helps to imagine where a bed bug would hide. It should be as dark as possible, difficult to access, and yet close to the next meal. Even the smallest crevice or crack in the wall can serve as a place of retreat.

The best bed bug remedies in comparison

Table: Identifying typical hiding spots for bed bugs (exemplary)

    • Bed frame
    • covers
    • Picture Frame
    • Books
    • computer
    • Cover
    • Electrical appliances
    • Baseboards
    • Luggage
    • pillow
    • clothing
    • suitcase
    • Mattresses
    • Bedside table
    • Plush toys
    • poster
    • smoke detector
    • shelves
    • Rucksacks
    • cabinets
    • Shoes
    • armchair
    • sofa
    • Sockets
    • Bags
    • keyboard
    • Carpet edges
    • Door frame
    • Clocks
    • laundry basket

Is it bed bugs? The next steps…

Of course, if your case really is bed bugs, you want to know what happens next. I can fully understand that because unfortunately, I know the problem only too well.