So You Think You Have Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs Can Be Expensive

Having bed bugs can be a costly proposition.  Treatment can be very expensive and often doesn’t work the first time.  Bed Bugs will also cost you a great deal of sleep and productivity, not to mention emotional stress.  The good news is just because you think you have bed bugs doesn’t mean you do.  This post is designed to help you verify a bed bug infestation before you start spending a lot of money.

How Do I Identify a Bed Bug Infestation

Nearly every day I receive calls from folks that believe they have bed bugs.  Fortunately for them, many do not.

Bed bugs can be relatively easy to identify but extremely difficult to find.  The best way to identify bed bugs is to call a pro.  Professional exterminators that specialize in bed bugs, generally have a great deal of experience locating and eliminating these creatures.  They study the specific habits of bed bugs and learn where and how they live.  Ultimately, their experience and training can save you a great deal of money.  Quick ID can allow for treating a small area before the bugs have spread throughout your home.  Understanding the bed bug life cycle means timing the treatment to be most effective.

Although you may not have the experience of the pros, you can learn to perform a basic bed bug inspection to help you understand if you need to prepare to start spending money.  There are a few key markers that we use to identify an infestation.  It is not recommended to rely heavily on any one of these indicators, but cumulatively they can tell you with near certainty whether or not you have bed bugs.


One of the first visible indicators of bed bugs Blood Spots on Beddingis blood spotting on your sheets and bed clothing.  These spots are often left as a result of the bed bugs feeding.  They are generally caused by either the full, recently fed bugs getting squished as we move in our sleep or it can be a result of simple spillage. Bed bugs use a an anticoagulant as they feed to make the blood flow more easily.  Depending on how quickly you clot, some of this may “spill” onto the sheets.  Spots are typically about the size you’d expect if you cut yourself shaving.


Bed Bug fecal spotting on mattress

Bed Bug fecal spotting on mattress

There is a children’s book called “Everyone Poops.”  This definitely includes bed bugs.  Bed Bug poop or fecal spotting typically looks like someone took a Sharpie marker and made a series of small dots.  These may appear on the bedding, mattress or box spring, bed frame, nearby furniture or walls or pretty much anywhere the bed bugs live.

These for fecal matter deposited, the more the spots cluster and eventually look like large ink smudges.  On many fabrics, these spots tend to bleed and run and may result in little black stars.  Wherever you find these spots you can be almost  certain bed bugs have been pooping.  And if they’ve been pooping, they’ve been feeding…on you.


Bites would seem to be the easiest indicator of bed bugs.  But in reality they aren’t that different from thousands of other bug bites we can get.  A dermatologist may be able to treat the itching but even the very best are challenged when it comes to verifying bed bugs bites.  This is one of the main reasons it is not wise to rely on any single piece of evidence.

When bites appear they will look similar to mosquito bites or small red welts about the size of a pencil eraser.  However, not everyone reacts the same way.  The visible marks on the skin and the itching are caused by an allergic reaction to the anticoagulant and the anesthetic the bed bugs use while feeding.

Some people can have severe reactions and be covered from head to toe with large red patches that are painfully itchy.  Other people may have no reaction at all.  Some time ago I had a client that was covered in bites and would not have looked any different had she had the measles.  Meanwhile, her husband had absolutely no reaction.  Ultimately we found bed bugs on HIS side of the bed.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of bed bugs is the bite pattern.  Often the bites will appear in clusters of three to five as a result of the bed bug feeding habits.  It can take several minutes for a bed bug to finish feeding.  During that time they may stop and start again anytime they are disturbed as we move about.  This may result in clusters of bites rather than just a single spot.

It is important to note that bed bugs don’t actually bite.  They do not have the mouth parts necessary to bite down or chew.  In fact, they have a couple long tubes that are used to pierce the skin and access the capillaries or tiny arteries under the skin surface.  One tube injects the anesthetic and anticoagulant while the other extracts the blood.  This piercing action means they can feed through many fabrics as well.

OK.  So You Still Think You Have Bed Bugs

Now that you have either identified a bed bug problem on your own or called in a professional to do it for you, you have to get rid of them as quickly as possible to minimize the chances of them spreading and becoming even more expensive to treat.

My next post will help avoid some of the wrong things to do to eliminate an infestation and put you on the proper path to a bed bug free home.

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