Got a sneaking suspicion that bed bugs are sneaking around your bedroom? Perhaps you’re waking up to find itchy red welts on your skin and you’re concerned about what might be causing them. Whatever the reason you suspect bed bugs, you’ll first need to check the room for bed bugs and confirm an infestation before starting treatment.
Early detection is key in an effective treatment – the sooner you hit an infestation, the sooner you can cut off their food supply and their ability to reproduce. You’ll also be dealing with a smaller population than if you wait until weeks or months later to start treating. With that in mind, let’s jump right into how to inspect a room for bed bugs:
What Signs to Look For
While bed bugs are visible to the naked eye, it’s not likely that you’ll find any running around in the open. If you do, that’s a bad sign – it suggests that you have a high active population nearby. In most cases, you’re more likely to find inanimate signs of bed bugs than you are to find the bugs themselves. Here are some examples:
They’re dark, they’re red, they’re round. This is arguably the most common sign of a recent bed bug feeding. However, they’re not the most convincing indicator of bed bug activity, since there are other bloodsuckers that could leave these spots behind.
These thin, dark streaks are left behind as bed bugs digest their latest blood meal. These droppings are made by heavily digested blood; they’ll smear red if you dab them with a wet cloth. Bed bug feces are usually smeared in thin streaks since they poop while walking. Gross.
Like other invertebrates, bed bugs need to shed their exoskeletons as they grow. When one shell gets too cramped, they shed it and grow a new, roomier shell in its place. Since bed bugs need a blood meal to grow to their next stage, finding these skins means that bed bugs have been feeding on somebody nearby.
If you do find a live bug, pay close attention to its shape, size, and color. Bed bugs are mostly round with a pointed posterior. Their shell is a dark reddish brown, and they’ll grow up to be about the size of an apple seed. They have six legs, short antennae, and no visible (or functional) wings. Make sure the bug you find matches this description before jumping to conclusions.
Inspecting the Bed for Bed Bugs
Since bed bugs feed on you while you sleep, the bed is naturally the primary “hot spot” for bed bug activity. You can start to inspect a room for bed bugs by inspecting the sheets, pillows, mattress, box spring, headboard, footboard, and frame. Make sure to perform your search slowly and thoroughly so you don’t miss anything.
There are a couple of handy tools to have with you during your search: at the very least, you’ll want a flashlight and a stiff card like a bank card to help scrape stuff out of tight spaces. A magnifying glass also helps, as most signs of bed bugs are very small and hard to see clearly. If you need help moving your mattress or other furniture, have a friend or neighbor on hand.
Start by inspecting your sheets on all sides of the mattress, both the surface and the underside. Check the seams of the mattress and lift the seams to look under where they tend to fold over. Lift the mattress off of the box spring and check underneath, then check the seams and underside of the box spring.
Remove both the mattress and box spring from your bed frame so you can inspect the joints and edges of the frame. If you have a headboard or footboard, check both sides of them and pay close attention to any wooden seams where pieces connect. Once you’re sure you’ve checked everything, you can put the bed back together.
Checking the Rest of the Room
While their names may imply that bed bugs can only be found on your bed, that simply isn’t the case. You can find bed bugs anywhere in the room where their host sleeps. They like to tuck away in places out of sight and out of reach, such as between baseboards, floorboards, and the edge of the carpet. It’s also common to find bed bugs tucked away in nearby furniture like nightstands and dressers.
If the room has hardwood or tile floors, shine a flashlight along any cracks or spaces between floor panels. Remember, a bed bug has a very flat body that can hide anywhere a credit card can fit. Use a bank card or something similar to scrape along cracks and crevices to try and dig out anything that might be hiding in them.
As a last measure, check any hanging picture frames or other wall decorations. Pull the cushions off any sofas or love seats in the area and check their seams for warning signs. Remove the drawers from dressers and nighstands and look inside the emptied cabinets.
If you found any convincing signs of bed bug activity, the time to act is now! You’ll want to start treatment ASAP so that you hit the bed bugs in the room before they’ve had time to feed and reproduce even more than they have already. You can start by treating and isolating the bed, then move on to nearby furniture and other cracks and crevices in the room. Our 4-step solution describes how you can hit every potential hiding place with effective chemical and nonchemical methods.