bed bug on skin

Bed bugs have made quite the name for themselves. For starters, they’re notoriously hard to get rid of. They’re also mistakenly associated with general uncleanliness, even though they can be picked up by the tidiest of people while traveling.

Because of this and the bed bug’s potentially itchy bite, a general fear and worry about these insects exist. This makes it all the more important for people to be able to identify bed bugs, whether the purpose is to put a finger on a household problem or to ease their fears.

So, let’s start identifying. How big are bed bugs? And what does a bed bug look like? Learn the answers to these questions and more.


Bed bugs have oval-shaped bodies and tend to be reddish-brown in color. As with most insects, bed bugs have six legs, antennae, a small head, an abdomen and a thorax. Bed bugs also do not have wings, do not fly and do not jump.

A typical adult bed bug is about one-fourth of an inch in length. That’s approximately the size of an apple seed. Nymphs can be much smaller. In fact, they’re closer to the size of poppy seeds, which are less than 1 millimeter long.

Interestingly, bed bugs can be flat if they haven’t eaten. However, if bed bugs have fed recently, their abdomens become engorged with blood. This makes them look long, which sometimes leads to people mistaking them for other insects.


Although most people would prefer not to see bed bugs, these insects are visible to the naked eye if you know where to look for them. Adult bed bugs can be about the length of a flat-head thumbtack. (Remember, though, that’s length only; they aren’t the exact size of a tack.)

And while it is physically possible to see a bed bug, it’s not likely you’ll be able to distinguish it from other insects without a microscope. As a matter of fact, bed bugs can be mistaken for their cousins — bat bugs — and are also sometimes confused with mites and swallow bugs, as well. This is one of many reasons why you should never attempt DIY bed bug control. It’s simply too difficult to identify these creatures, unless you’re trained to do so.


Because these insects are commonly misidentified, the best way to find bed bugs is to call in a bed bug professional, like the ones at Terminix®. However, there are a few signs that could indicate you have bed bugs, such as:

  • Finding discarded bed bug skins, exoskeletons or shells
  • Bed bug fecal stains on your mattress and bedding
  • Blood stains on your sheets and pajamas
  • Itchy welts in clusters, zigzag patterns or rows on some people who have been bitten
  • Actually seeing a bed bug (They’re sometimes found on box springs, headboards, in mattress creases and on bed frames, but they can and do travel outside of the bedroom.)

Don’t let the bed bugs bite you. These insects can quickly spread through your home, and infestations can be a nightmare to deal with. If you think you may have bed bugs for any reason at all, don’t hesitate to contact Terminix for a free inspection.