Bed bugs are notoriously hard to spot. Many victims have a hard time confirming whether or not they have a bed bug infestation. Bed bug bites don’t always leave marks, and when they do the marks are often mixed up with spider bites or skin rashes. But if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that everybody poops — even bed bugs.
Bed bugs live, grow, and reproduce by feeding on mammal blood. Each bug feeds every 5-10 days, biting multiple times and using an anesthetic in their saliva to numb the pain. Some times, bed bugs begin dropping feces from earlier blood meals just after they’ve finished feeding. Bed bug feces are left behind as the bug flees for a nearby hiding place.
If you find a dark spot or streak on your bedding, you might be worried that it’s from a bed bug. You may also be concerned that the feces left on your bed can get you sick. But how can you be sure that you’ve found bed bug feces? And what are the feces doing for your health? Let’s dig in and learn what we need to know… even though we don’t want to know.
Identifying Bed Bug Feces
One of the most reliable ways to confirm a bed bug infestation is to find and possitively identify bed bug feces. But since the fecal matter can look similar to other types of markings, it’s important that you be sure of what you found.
Bed bugs leave their feces everywhere, from pillowcases and sheets to sofa cushions, baseboards, and outlets. Bed bug poop is made up of digested blood. When wet, it’s still dark red like blood would be. When it dries, the mark turns into a very dark rust shade, and will usually appear black in most lighting.
Like many animals, bed bugs poop while they walk. It’s gross, but it’s efficient when you’re constantly on the move in the wild. Since bed bugs walk with their bodies flat and close to the ground, their droppings tend to drag along their tail on release. This results in bed bug feces looking more like thin, black streaks rather than what we would consider characteristic of poop.
Not sure if that black smudge, spot, or streak is from a bed bug or not? A reliable way to confirm that a mark is made of bed bug fecal matter is to dab it with a wet cloth or paper towel. Bed bug feces will smudge when wiped, and the previously black mark will stain red when wet. While the red color may not appear on the surface that the fecal matter was found on, it should show up on the damp cloth that you used.
Can Bed Bug Feces Impact Your Health?
A common concern when finding bed bug feces is wondering what effects it might be having on your health. While the exact health impact of a bed bug’s fecal matter is still uncertain, recent studies have pinned down certain chemicals in the feces, and it’s not all rosey:
Bed bug feces contain histamine, a component of their aggregation pheromone. Histamine is released from bed bug fecal matter along with the pheromones released when bed bugs are congregating. This is where the “sweet” odor comes from in a heavily infested area.
While humans naturally release histamine in response to an allergic reaction, it can ironically trigger allergy symptoms when we come in contact with it in our environment. People exposed to histamine may experience itching or asthma symptoms.
A study published in 2018 found that dust collected from homes with prior bed bug infestations had much higher histamine levels than dust from bed bug-free households. Long after the bugs are gone, the histamine released from their poop lingers in a home. It’s possible that the remaining histamine can still trigger symptoms in the same way that other exposures to histamine can.
Fecal Stains During Bed Bug Treatments
Inspecting for bed bug feces plays a critical role before, during, and after your bed bug treatment. Now that you know what bed bug feces looks like, it’s important to integrate it into your treatment routine.
First, bed bug droppings are a key way of identifying bed bug activity. Since droppings are released after bed bugs feed, and are left in the path of their escape from a host, you’ll find them near where they were feeding as well as where they went to hide afterwards. A positive identification of bed bug feces can also help confirm if you have a bed bug infestation if you weren’t sure yet.
An important part of your bed bug treatment, and one we focus heavily with our 4-step solution, is treating and isolating where you sleep to prevent feeding. Bed bugs need to feed in order to mature and reproduce, so cutting off this cycle is essential to getting rid of bed bugs for good. With that in mind, you’ll need to keep an eye out for new bed bug feces after you’ve treated, encased, and isolated your bed.
If you do find new fecal streaks even after isolating your bed, it’s a sign that bed bugs have been feeding despite your efforts to prevent their access to a meal. This means that the bugs can continue to develop and lay eggs once they’re sexually mature, so it’s important to address how they’re still able to feed. Go over every potential access point, such as any part of the bed still touching the walls, floor, or other nearby furniture. Check that ClimbUp Interceptors are installed properly under every leg of the bed, and that encasements are securely enclosed around the mattress and box spring. As long as the bed is fully treated, encased, and isolated, there shouldn’t be any more poop popping up.