You already know that bed bugs are everywhere these days. They’re popping up in hotels, trains, planes, cruise ships, and even courtrooms. But how do you know if they’ve made their way into your home? If you were unlucky enough to bring home even a single pregnant bed bug, you could be dealing with an infestation in a matter of days or weeks. The sooner you can confirm a bed bug problem, the sooner you can start treating it. Join me as I walk you through how to check for bed bugs in the right places.
Where to Look for Bed Bugs
Photo credit: Tim Collins
Before you start flipping over every piece of furniture in your home, you’ll need to know where these critters are going to be hiding. Bed bugs feed exclusively on human blood – they’re not interested in being anywhere that doesn’t give them easy access to a sleeping body to chomp on. This means that you’re most likely to find bed bugs near any beds or couches that your family regularly sleeps on, and you’ll almost never find a bed bug in your kitchen or bathroom.
Most infestations are contained to a single bedroom, with bed bugs only venturing to other rooms if their host leaves or their population grows too large for one spot. If someone in your home is experiencing what they think might be bed bug bites, start your search in their bedroom. If someone has recently returned from a trip, start with their luggage and then move on to wherever they usually sleep.
Bed bugs don’t like to hang out in open spaces. They’re not equipped to defend against predators, and are too slow to avoid being stepped on or sat on. To stay safe between meals, bed bugs like to squeeze into tight cracks and crevices, where they are free to rest, reproduce, or digest their meal.
Common hiding places include the seams and folds of the mattress and box spring, the joints and corners of the bed frame, headboard, and footboard, and the cracks and spaces along 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.
Common Signs of Bed Bugs
Even though you now know where bed bugs might be hiding, you’re still not likely to find many of them running around. Bed bugs can fit in any space a credit card can fit, making it very easy for them to get out of sight and out of reach. On the other hand, you are likely to find some signs that bed bugs have been actively feeding and reproducing in the area:
Fecal droppings are thin and dark streaks that bed bugs leave behind after digesting their blood meal. These droppings consist of heavily digested blood, and should smear red when dabbed with a wet cloth.
Blood spots are dark and red and can be found where bed bugs have been crushed by a moving person or other activity that would open their stomach, releasing the freshly-consumed blood meal.
Shed skins are left behind when a bed bug molts, a sure sign that they are progressing through the five instar phases to maturity. Like other insects, bed bugs have an exoskeleton that needs to be replaced by a larger shell as they grow. If you find these golden shells, you’ll know that bed bugs have been reproducing nearby.
Bed bug eggs are milky white and about the size of a grain of rice. These are usually deposited two to five at a time, and will be dropped every day while a female is pregnant.
Bed bugs themselves are dark reddish brown, and will grow to about the size of an apple seed (roughly five millimeters). They have six legs, short antennae, and no functioning wings. Their big, segmented abdomen have tiny hairs that give the illusion of dark bands.
How to Inspect a Room for Bed Bugs
To begin your search, gather up a few tools to make the job a little easier. You’ll want a flashlight, a magnifying glass, and a stiff card like a bank card to help scrape material out of tight cracks and crevices. If you need help moving your mattress or other furniture, enlist the help of a sturdy friend or neighbor.
Start by checking every seam and fold on the bed or couch, along with the joints and cracks along its frame and underside. Move slowly and carefully; if you rush this job, you might miss important signs. Once you’re done with the main sleeping area, expand from there to nearby furniture and flooring. Keep moving further and further away until you’ve covered the whole room.
What to Do Next
If you find any signs that confirm bed bug activity, you’ll want to start treating right away. As described in our proven 4-step solution, you can start by treating and isolating the bed, then move on to nearby furniture and other cracks and crevices, hitting every potential hiding place with steam and contact and residual chemicals. As long as you follow the right steps with the right tools, you can be bed bug free in a matter of weeks!
If you are still not sure if you have bed bugs, use some bed bug monitors, like ClimbUp Interceptors or SenSci Volcanos to trap any bed bugs that might try to climb up the legs of a bed or couch. With these traps in place, a sleeping person can act as the “bait”, luring bed bugs out of their hiding places and into these pitfall traps. In the mornings, you can confirm bed bug activity by finding the critters in the traps.