How to Tell If You Have Bedbugs

By Amanda Lutz Updated June 11, 2024

While bedbugs are small, it’s possible to identify and exterminate them before you have a major infestation. Here, we explain what bedbugs look like, where to find them, signs of their presence, and infestation containment tips. We’ll also answer some common questions about bedbugs to ensure you’re armed with the knowledge to confidently determine if you have bedbugs in your home.


What Do Bedbugs Look Like?

Unfortunately, bedbugs have a similar appearance to several small insects, such as ticks, lice, baby cockroaches, and fleas. You can distinguish them from other pests by learning more about their appearance in the different stages of their lifespan. Adult bedbugs differ in color and size from immature ones. Here’s what you can expect at the varied stages of a bed bug’s life. 


What Are the Signs of a Bedbug Infestation?

Recognizing an infestation early is key to successfully eradicating bedbugs from your home. While bites are a sign of bedbugs, they may not be frequent enough to recognize, and bites from other insects can easily be confused with bedbug bites. These telltale signs will help you identify a bedbug problem in your home. 

Blood Stains

Typically, you won’t notice bedbugs feeding on you while you sleep. Yet, they will leave signs of their presence behind. Search bed sheets and pillowcases for small red or rust-colored stains resembling splotches or smears. These stains occur when you unknowingly put pressure on a bug that has just fed on your blood. If stains are present, check your body for injuries that might be the cause. You may have bedbugs if there are no other probable causes for such stains.

Eggs

While bedbug eggs are more difficult to see than adult bedbugs, they’re visible to the naked eye and don’t hide when you search for them. Bedbug eggs are pearly white, oval-shaped, and about the size of a pinhead. They look similar to tiny grains of rice loosely stuck to cracks and crevices between fabrics or wooden furniture.   

Fecal Spots

These spots are smaller and often less noticeable than blood spots. Droppings are often called fecal spotting as they resemble black dots from the tip of a marker. The digested blood appears dark brown or black and smells faintly musty. These dark spots can be found on sheets, pajamas, mattresses, headboards, box springs, walls, curtains, and other surfaces. Yet, they’re most likely found in harborage areas (narrow crevices in furniture and around the seams of mattresses and box springs). 

Shed Skins

Bedbugs shed their skins as they grow, leaving behind light brown exoskeletons. The shells are yellowish-brown and translucent and come in various sizes throughout the bedbug’s molting cycle. Shed skins are often found clustered around the seams of mattresses and the edges of box springs. As an infestation grows, you may also see them in other areas. Upon recognizing shed skins, you should call your local pest control professional for an inspection to confirm your suspicion of bedbugs. 


What Do Bedbug Bites Look Like?

Bedbug bites are small, red, itchy bumps. Since they resemble other insect bites, they’re not enough to confirm an infestation. However, recognizing them can help connect other signs of an infestation. 

The most common spots for bedbug bites are areas that are likely to be exposed, including hands, arms, and legs. Bites usually appear in clusters of three to four bites in zig-zag patterns. However, they can appear as single bites or random patterns and be mistaken for flea or spider bites, hives, and rashes. Bites generally aren’t harmful but can cause an allergic reaction in some individuals. 


Where Should You Check for Bedbugs?

Bedbugs are about the size of an apple seed and prefer to stay immobile during daylight hours. They can be difficult to locate until an infestation gets out of control. Bedbugs’ hiding spots are more likely to be found in areas where they can stay undetected, although bedbugs can inhabit practically any material. Use a flashlight and magnifying glass to inspect the following areas to help you recognize a bedbug infestation.


How to Confirm a Bedbug Infestation

Confirming a bedbug infestation usually requires more than finding live bedbugs and evidence of bites. Multiple signs of bedbugs are a likely indicator of an infestation. However, capturing a bug for positive identification can help you achieve an accurate confirmation. 

Live or dead bedbugs can be used for positive identification if not crushed or altered. Try scooping bedbugs into a small jar, pill bottle, or zip lock bag. Once you’ve captured one or more of these insects, it’s best to have a pest control professional make a positive identification. Bedbug treatment is costly and requires a substantial time commitment, making a positive identification worth your time. 


How to Prevent the Spread of Bedbugs

Recognizing and containing a bedbug infestation early is critical to a successful extermination. While severe infestations can eventually be eradicated, getting them under control takes much more time and effort. 

Like other insect infestations, bedbug infestations can start small and multiply quickly. Once you’ve positively confirmed the presence of bedbugs, act promptly to prevent their spread throughout your home. Take these steps to contain an infestation.


Our Recommendation

Early detection and preventive actions are vital to controlling and eliminating a bedbug infestation. Learn to identify what bedbugs look like and the signs of an infestation to help you positively confirm if you have bedbugs in your home. Search for blood spots, fecal matter, shed skins, and eggs, and watch for live bugs and bites on your skin. Once you confirm you have bedbugs in your home, act quickly to prevent them from spreading and aid extermination efforts. Contacting a pest control company is often the best option for successful eradication since getting rid of bedbugs is time-consuming and challenging. 


How to Tell If You Have Bedbugs FAQ

Can bedbugs live in your hair?

While bedbugs can get in your hair, they don’t typically infest or live in human hair. An infestation of bugs in your hair is more likely to be lice.

Can you see bedbugs with the naked eye?

Yes, adult bedbugs can be seen with the naked eye. While bedbug nymphs and eggs are more difficult to see, they can also be seen with the naked eye.

Do bedbugs bite every night?

While bedbugs feed at night, they don’t necessarily bite every night. They can go several nights in between meals.

How long do bedbugs live?

On average, bedbugs live about seven to 12 months. However, their life span depends on environmental factors such as temperature and available food.

What are the first signs of bedbugs?

Bites and bloodstains on sheets are some early signs of bedbugs. Other signs may include fecal matter, live bedbug sightings, and musty odors.