Signs Your Room Has Bed Bugs
If there are bed bugs in your room, you might be wondering how to treat bed bug bites and eliminate the pest. And if you're nervous about the possibility of bed bugs in your room, checking for bed bugs is easy, if you know how. Learn how to perform a DIY check today.
Can You See Bed Bugs?
Unfortunately, bed bugs can be hard to find. And despite the ongoing bed bug epidemic, many people still don't know what a bed bug even looks like. This University of Minnesota extension page does a good job explaining the complexities of finding live bed bugs considering their changing stages of life, saying:
"...eggs hatch in about six to 10 days and the newly emerged bed bug nymphs seek a blood meal. Immature nymphs molt five times (i.e., they shed their outer exoskeletons in order to grow) before reaching adulthood. They need to feed at least once before each molt, although they could feed as often as once a day. There may be three or more generations per year."
You can see pictures of bed bugs in their various stages over at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, but keep in mind that bed bugs are nocturnal. Identifying bed bugs during the day requires a bit of good or bad luck (depending on your view) and some persistence.
Bed bug bites are often mistaken for mosquito bites or bites from other insects, and some people show no reaction at all to bed bug bites. So it’s no wonder they go undetected for long periods.
However, if you know the right place to look, you may be able to spot bed bugs. Adult bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye—no equipment is required. Check:
- Bedside tables
- Ciling/wall junctions
- Loose wallpaper or paneling
- Wherever you find a crease or crevice near where a person sleeps. This includes baseboards, mattress seams and personal belongings
Mature bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed (approximately five millimeters). They are reddish-brown, wingless and flat, although they swell up like a torpedo after a blood feeding. When that happens, they change to bright red in color, taking days to return to reddish-brown.
Immature bed bugs are categorized by one of the five immature stages as they approach adulthood. They can also be seen by the naked eye, though the bed bugs in the youngest stage are very difficult to spot. Eggs are even smaller and much harder to see but can provide another sign of bed bug presence. Eggs are pearly white, found in clusters and are about one millimeter long.
Bed bugs congregate near where their host (human) sleeps, creating aggregations. Bed bugs from all five stages of development group together, which means they may vary in shapes and sizes. Among these groups, remains of exoskeletons (bed bug shells), feces and egg castings accumulate. A variety of conditions may cause aggregation, including specific smells, chemical stimuli, stimulation of antennae and microclimate factors such as temperature, humidity and light. Aggregations can be found around wood framing like that around a closet door, inside chipped paint indentions, around baseboards, curtain rods, air conditioners and personal belongings.
Physical Evidence in the Room
Bed bugs are smart enough to hide but not smart enough to clean up the evidence of their bloodthirsty crimes. These careless clues are the best indicator your room is overrun with bed bugs since secondary signs of bed bug infestation are visible both night and day:
- Cast/shed bed bug skins, exoskeletons or bed bug shells
- Fecal spots on your mattress and bedding
- Blood stains on your sheets and pajamas
Do you suspect bed bugs in your room? Take the sheets off your bed and look at the edges, crevices and piping of your mattress. Bed bugs are flat, almond-shaped, reddish-brown and very tiny. Look in the box spring and check for various sizes and stages, from bed bug eggs to adults. Varying size also applies to secondary signs of infestation (i.e., cast/shed skins).
Here's a little more detail about some common signs of bed bugs:
Bed Bug Shells or Molted Skins
Look out for empty shells that may exist where bed bugs aggregate and feed. Bed bugs grow with each blood meal on the way to maturity. In doing so, they shed their exoskeletons or shells in order to grow larger. This process is called molting. Each bed bug will molt five times as they progress through each of the five immature stages. Where infestations grow large, there will be hundreds if not thousands of molted skins left behind, regardless of the duration of the infestation. The shells look like the bed bug itself but are translucent. They are different sizes due to the different life stages.
Signs of bed bugs include liquid waste, which is found wherever they go. Bed bug fecal spots differ from blood stains. As bedbugs.net points out:
"Because bed bugs generally feast on the blood of their hosts, creeping out of hiding places at night to latch on, some people think that fecal stains from the insects should at least be tinged with the color of blood. This is not, in fact, the case. Fecal spotting tends to resemble smears or stains, which are dark brown or even black. This is because the blood has been digested and excreted."
Bed bugs are ectoparasites, meaning they live on the outside of their host and feed on its blood. They feed between five to seven days whenever a host is present.
Here's how to perform a DIY bed bug check. You will quickly learn how to tell if your home has been invaded and how to treat bed bug bites if you have them. Once you confirm the infestation has begun, remember that the main goal is to end it even quicker.
Signs of Symptoms of a Bed Bug Bite
The most telltale sign of a bed bug problem isn't the bed bug's bite. As the United States Environmental Protection Agency points out:
"Bites on the skin are a poor indicator of a bed bug infestation. Bed bug bites can look like bites from other insects (such as mosquitoes or chiggers), rashes (such as eczema or fungal infections) or even hives. Some people do not react to bed bug bites at all."
The percentage of people who do not react to bed bug bites is commonly stated as 70%, but a lengthy discussion as to why this is wrong rages on. The new evidence implies that "repeated exposure" to bed bug bites is the key to whether or not you react to the anesthetic in the bed bug's saliva. In other words, if you have bed bug bites, treatment requires more than just stopping the itching. You have to get rid of the infestation as well.
Look for these signs of symptoms of a bed bug bite:
- Raised, red welts
- Burning and itching
- Bed bug bite rash across localized area
- Straight lines of multiple bites
Check out these pictures of bed bug bites from American Family Physician, showing the characteristic wheals (temporary raised, red, itchy welts) and clusters associated with the aftermath of a feeding.
How to Treat Bed Bug Bites
Now that you know the signs of a bed bug infestation, here's how to get rid of bed bug bites. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends you see a dermatologist if you have multiple bites, blisters, oozing, pus or any other signs of a severe allergic reaction or infection. Otherwise, their recommended bed bug bite treatment is:
"Wash the bites with soap and water. This will help prevent a skin infection and help reduce itchiness. If the bites itch, apply a corticosteroid cream to the bites. You can get a weak form of this medicine without a prescription at your local drugstore. Stronger corticosteroids require a prescription."
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are very difficult to get rid of. They typically require a strategic approach to using multiple methods to fully remove them from your home once they have established an infestation. That's why it's important to contact a professional who's knowledgeable and trained in bed bug control to inspect your home and determine the best treatment methods.