How to identify a bed bug

What do bed bugs look like?

Fully grown bed bugs are typically a mahogany to rusty brown color, although they may appear more red-brown color after a recent blood meal. They are usually identified by their characteristic flat body, which is about the same size and shape as a medium-sized flat apple seed. They have stripes along their flat body, small golden-colored hairs, six legs, and antennas with four segments. Bedbugs do not have wings.

Bed bug photos

Here are some of the characteristics that can be used for bedbug identification:

how to ID a bed bug

Can you see bed bugs with the naked eye?

Yes. Adult bed bugs typically range from 4 to 7 mm in length (the common comparison is that bedbugs are “about the size of an apple seed”.)

How big is a bedbug?

Bedbugs that are early on in their life cycle are obviously much smaller, and are typically much more translucent, making them harder to spot. But, you can still see them without a microscope, if you get close up enough.

Bugs that look like bed bugs

Many bugs are often mistaken for bed bugs, causing undue panic. For example, carpet beetles are bugs that are sometimes found in beds, but are not begbugs! Carpet beetles do not bite, although they can be a nuisance because their tiny hairs do cause skin irritation for some people. All-in-all, they’re not as big of a deal as bedbugs.

Other bugs that are often confused with bedbugs are:

These insects may have their own health risks associated with them, but are not the sign of a bedbug infestation.

How do you know if bites are from bed bugs?

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to definitely determine whether a bite is from a bedbug or not. Many people react differently to insect bites, or do not react at all. Some bed bug infestations take a long time to be recognized simply because one person sleeping in the bed is getting bitten while the other is not.

One common characteristic of bed bug bites is that they are often grouped in a line (if you disturb the bed bug while feeding by rustling or rolling over, it may detach, move slightly, and resume its meal). That said, there are other types of bites or skin conditions that could easily be confused for bed bug bites. If you believe that you may have an infestation, it’s best to look for these other signs as well.

Other methods of identifying bed bugs

Even if you do not see a bedbug, there are other signs that may be indicative of a bedbug infestation.

  • You may see small spots of blood on the bed sheets or pillowcases from where bedbugs have bitten you, or gotten squashed after biting you (it’s your blood, not theirs).
  • You may see dark “rusty-colored” spots on the sheets or pillowcases, which are actually bedbug excrement. These are often found on the corners of the bed.
  • You may see bedbug casings or bedbug eggs along the edges of the bed or in other areas of the house where bedbugs often hide.
  • Raised, red welts or itchy rash with no other obvious explanation.
  • Severe bedbug infestations sometimes cause an odor that is described as “musty”.

The most surefire way of identifying a bedbug infestation is either by finding a live bedbug, or hiring a pest control professional to do a thorough examination (which often includes a bedbug-sniffing dog). Despite their name, they frequently hide in curtains, chairs, and carpets, under flooring or inside electrical outlets, etc. Bedbugs can easily hide in tiny cracks and crevices; so, the best way to trap a live bedbug is to use a trap called a bedbug interceptor or bedpost interceptor. They are available for purchase or you can fairly easily make your own.

How do I know if what I found is a bedbug?

If you find a bug, compare it to the photos above. If you’re still not quite sure whether it’s a bedbug, try snapping a photo and uploading it to the Reddit sub-reddit ”/r What’s This Bug?

Other articles for you:
The Ultimate Guide to Killing Bedbugs
Home remedies for bedbug itch
6 BEST bed bug mattress covers (and a size chart)

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