How to check for bedbugs

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If you think you’ve spotted a bedbug or think you may have seen a bedbug bite on yourself or a member of your family, it’s time for a more detailed inspection. Bedbugs tend to hide in areas like the seams of mattresses and furniture, but they often leave telltale marks, such as dark spots on your bedding or mattress.

Key insights:

  • Bedbugs leave behind distinct signs of their presence, such as small, dark spots (feces), shed skins, tiny pearl-white eggs and an unpleasant, musty odor.
  • Bedbugs can hide in a variety of places, including the seams and tags of mattresses, cracks in furniture, behind wall hangings and even inside electrical outlets.
  • A systematic visual inspection is crucial for spotting bedbugs. This involves checking all potential hiding places, starting with the bed and extending to all rooms in the home.

7 signs of a bedbug infestation

If you suspect you have bedbugs, there are specific things to look for. Here are seven key signs you may have a bedbug infestation:

Not all people react to bedbug bites —  you could have a bedbug infestation even if you haven’t noticed any marks on your skin.
  • Small, dark spots: These spots are bedbug fecal matter — they’re usually found on your sheets and pillowcases or in mattress seams. They can look like tiny black dots, similar to a marker dot.
  • Shed skins: As bedbugs grow, they shed their skin, which is known as molting. You might find these shed skins, which look like hollowed-out bugs, in areas where bedbugs typically hide.
  • Small, pearl-white eggs: Bedbug eggs are pearl-white in collar and about 1 millimeter in size. They’re often found in dark spaces, such as in the seams of your mattress or inside furniture.
  • Live bedbugs: Live bedbugs are one of the most obvious signs of an infestation. They're most active at night — if you’re looking during the day, check common hiding places, including the seams of mattresses and couches, along the edges of carpets or in other hiding places.
  • Unpleasant odors: Some people report a musty, sweet smell, similar to the scent of raspberries or rotten raspberries, in an area infested with bedbugs. This odor comes from the bedbugs' scent glands — it can be quite strong in a large infestation.
  • Blood stains on sheets: If you roll and turn in your sleep, it’s possible you might crush a bedbug that's emerged from hiding to feed. This can leave small blood stains on your sheets.
  • Itchy, red bites: Bedbug bites are often red and itchy, and they’re usually arranged in a line or cluster. They’re most often found on parts of the body that are exposed during sleep, such as your face, neck, hands and arms. Not everyone reacts to bedbug bites, however, so the absence of bites doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have bedbugs.
  • Unusual marks on walls and furniture: Bedbugs can leave behind unusual marks on your walls and furniture. These marks could be fecal spots, blood smears or shed skins.

How to inspect for bedbugs

Performing a visual inspection for bedbugs involves a systematic approach to ensure no area is overlooked. Start by checking the most common areas before expanding your search.

“Generally, bedbugs are found in bedrooms or living rooms that have an occupant sleeping there,” said Megan Wede, co-owner and co-operator of Done Right Pest Solutions in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. “If the bug was found elsewhere, the person can typically cross bedbugs off the list.”

1. Inspect your bed

Begin with your bed — it's the most common place for bedbugs. Remove all bedding from your mattress and box spring and look for small, dark spots (feces), shed skins or live bedbugs. Pay particular attention to the seams and tags, which are the most common hiding places for bedbugs.

» KNOW THE SIGNS: What do bedbugs look like?

2. Examine your furniture

Bedbugs can also hide in furniture, such as nightstands, dressers, sofas and chairs. Check all seams, cracks and crevices of your furniture, especially the furniture around your bed or in your bedroom. Don't forget to inspect inside drawers and underneath furniture.

3. Look at the edges of carpets and under rugs

Bedbugs can hide along the edges of carpets and under rugs. Use a flashlight to inspect these areas, and try using a stiff brush to dislodge any bedbugs or eggs that might be hidden in the carpet fibers.

4. Check wall hangings and electrical outlets

Bedbugs can hide behind pictures, posters and other wall hangings, as well as behind electrical outlet plates. Be sure to remove and inspect these items carefully.

5. Look in other rooms

Bedbugs can easily spread to other rooms, so don't limit your inspection to just one area. Be sure to check all rooms in your home, especially if you've noticed signs of bedbugs elsewhere.

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    What should I do if I find bedbugs in my home?

    If you spot bedbugs, you want to act quickly to prevent the infestation from getting worse. Isolate any areas where you find evidence of bedbugs — seal off rooms where they are found and place items with bedbugs or bedbug traces into sealed plastic bags.

    Next, consider how you want to treat the bedbugs. It’s possible to handle small infestations yourself, but it can be a long and challenging process. If you have a large infestation or want to eliminate the bedbugs as quickly as possible, consider hiring professional exterminators.

    » DISCOVER: Best pest control companies

    Where do bedbugs hide?

    Bedbugs prefer to hide in dark spaces. Common hiding places include:

    • The seams and tags of mattresses and box springs
    • Cracks in the bed frame and headboard
    • In and around bedside tables
    • Underneath peeling paint or loose wallpaper
    • Inside electronic appliances
    What do bedbug eggs look like?

    Bedbug eggs are about 1 millimeter long and a pearl-white color. They’re often found in dark, secluded spaces.

    Can I see bedbugs during the day?

    Bedbugs are nocturnal, but they can be seen during the day if disturbed.

    What should I do if I find bedbugs in my home?

    If you find bedbugs in your home, it's crucial to act quickly. Isolate the affected areas, clean all bedding and clothing, and consider contacting a pest control professional.

    Can bedbugs live in my hair or on my body?

    Unlike parasites like lice or ticks, bedbugs do not live on humans. They prefer to hide in dark spaces and come out to feed.

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