What Are the Signs of a Bedbug Infestation?
“Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” Unfortunately, if you wake up with itchy, red bites, you may be sharing your mattress with unwanted bedmates.
Read on to learn more about these common household pests.
Because many small insects have a similar appearance, you’ll need to know what bedbugs look like before you can accurately identify an infestation.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, adult bedbugs are similar in size to apple seeds. They’re typically brown, with flat oval bodies, four-part antennae and six legs. However, bugs that have recently fed may be reddish-brown and balloon-like.
Juvenile bedbugs, known as nymphs, can be seen with the naked eye if they’ve recently fed. They're smaller than adults and are usually translucent or whitish-yellow in color. However, insects that haven’t fed recently can be nearly invisible. Their size varies by lifecycle stage, and they can range from 1.5 to 4.5 millimeters.
Bedbug eggs are about as large as a pinhead, but you may be able to see them if you look closely. Eggs are pearly white and may have an eyespot if they’re more than five days old.
Identifying bedbugs can be challenging, as they resemble other types of insects, including:
- Bat bugs
- Swallow bugs
- Poultry bugs
- Carpet beetles
- Immature cockroaches
If you can't confidently identify a bug you've found, you may be able to get help through your state’s NPIC Cooperative Extension Service or a reputable pest management company.
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Early signs of bedbugs can be easy to miss, but by being proactive, you can often avoid a full-blown infestation. Checking for these pests is especially important if you’ve recently stayed at a hotel or purchased used furniture. Thankfully, finding bedbugs is simple if you know what to look for.
Bedbugs often stay hidden during daytime hours. However, because they leave behind telltale signs of their presence, the simplest way to check for bedbugs is a visual examination of your mattress, bed frame, bedding and surrounding areas, preferably using a magnifying glass and a flashlight.
Here’s what you should be looking for:
- Fecal stains: Small brown or black spots that look like smeared ink could be bedbug feces. Droppings are often found behind headboards or in the creases of a mattress or box spring.
- Bloodstains: Bloodstains on your bedding and sleepwear may indicate bedbugs. These spots can result from bleeding bedbug bites or from bugs that were crushed after feeding.
- Skin casings: Bedbug nymphs molt five times before adulthood, leaving behind skins of various sizes. These casings look exactly like bedbugs, but are translucent.
- Eggs and eggshells: Bedbug eggs and eggshells are tiny but visible to the eye. They're white or opaque, and about 1 mm long.
- Live bedbugs: Even a single live bedbug may be an early sign of an infestation.
- Bedbug bites: Itchy, red bites on exposed areas of skin can be signs of bedbugs. They often occur during the night.
- Musty odors: Bedbugs give off a sweet, musty odor. An unusual smell with no obvious cause may be a sign of a bedbug problem.
Bedbugs are social creatures that reproduce quickly, so any sign of their presence may indicate an infestation. However, if you're finding discarded skin casings in several sizes, seeing multiple live insects or experiencing a strong smell that mimics the aroma of rust or moldy laundry, you likely have a full-blown infestation.
If you see signs of bedbugs, don't try to manage the problem on your own. Licensed pest control professionals have the tools needed to eradicate bedbugs. Just make sure to choose a company with experience in bedbug control. Depending on how severe the infestation is, insect eradication may involve two or more treatment visits, plus a follow-up to make sure the bugs are gone.
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