To know if you have bed bugs at home, check:
- If you or a member of your family seems to have insect bites on their skin.
- If you or a member of your family is suffering from itching.
- If there are blood stains or black spots present on the mattress.
- If there are stains or insects present in the mattress and bed base.
- If there are stains or insects present on the furniture or supplies in your room.
If you find one or more of these clues, investigate more closely and talk to a professional exterminator.
How to recognize bed bug bites
Due to the different looks that they can take, it can sometimes be difficult to recognize bed bug bites. Furthermore, they could easily be confused with those inflicted by mosquitoes, fleas, or even spiders. They generally resemble mosquito bites, with slight swelling, but can also on occasion cause papular urticaria. Although much rarer, bed bug bites can cause bullous hemorrhagic eruptions, giant urticaria, and impetigo. They have the particularity of being sometimes grouped together and sometimes aligned. Look for them more specifically on the body parts that aren’t covered by clothes during the night (e.g., feet, hands, legs, arms, and torso…). (1)
It’s also useful to know that skin reactions to bed bug bites can appear in some people immediately after being bitten, while they can take several days in others. In certain individuals, the skin lesions may leave small brown spots on the skin after healing.
However, since a portion of the population doesn’t show any skin reaction or itching following bed bug bites, it’s important to take the search a bit further, especially if a member of your family or a neighbour reports the presence of bites on their skin or bed bugs to you. The absence of “bites” doesn’t mean that you don’t have bed bugs.
How to recognize the stains left by bed bugs
To grow and multiply, bed bugs need to feed constantly by biting their victims. When it bites its host, the bed bug first injects an anaesthetic, which will prevent them from feeling the pain of the bite, then an anticoagulant substance to make the blood flow better. During their meals, a drop of blood sometimes escapes from the bitten site and stains the sheets. It’s also not uncommon for bed bugs that are full of blood to be crushed during the night and leave larger or more extensive stains on the sheets. They also sometimes leave droppings on the sheets. The stains to look for have a span ranging from a few millimetres to a few centimetres and can vary from black to red, including more brownish hues. They can usually be found near the most commonly affected body parts, such as the arms and legs. If you think that you are likely a victim of a bed bug infestation, using very light-coloured bedding is recommended so that you can detect blood stains there. Check the edges of your mattresses, too.
If the infestation isn’t yet extensive enough or for different reasons, it may be impossible to find any blood or excrement stains on the sheets. Trying to find the insect itself in the bed is therefore recommended.
How to find bed bugs in a mattress
Bed bugs are excessively careful, clever, and disingenuous. They normally only leave their hiding place when their victim is fast asleep. They flee the light and move relatively quickly. To find them, arm yourself with a flashlight. Remove the sheets and inspect the mattress. Pay special attention to the seams and carefully inspect the cords, buttons, and any other place where the insect could enter. Check under the mattress in the same way, since this is a popular place for bed bugs to gather and proliferate. Be attentive to the potential presence of bed bugs, the shells of dead bed bugs, pupae (young bed bugs), and black stains. (2)
Sometimes, bed bugs like box springs more than mattresses. Inspect them in the same way as mattresses. Some of them may have fabric or cardboard lightly attached to their undersides. Don’t hesitate to remove these to carefully check inside the box spring. It’s not uncommon for the insect to take shelter there and proliferate quickly, out of sight of its victims.
Then, check the structure of the bed. Inspect any metallic structure carefully. Don’t hesitate to gently lift the wooden boards that might be found there. Bed bugs love to hide there.
If the base of your bed doesn’t have legs, it may be useful for you to check inside it by laying it on its side. Bed bugs are particularly fond of the corners of bed bases.
How to find bed bugs in furniture
Although they are very fond of beds, it’s not uncommon to find bed bugs in furniture. They are nevertheless hard to find for the untrained eye.
It’s pointless to look for them on surfaces exposed to light. They prefer surfaces turned toward the walls or floors. Check behind the headboards. They can also be found inside furniture. Don’t hesitate to move the furniture and put it back. Among other places, bed bugs like to hide in small holes in wood and near small legs or felts. Take all the drawers out of your dressers and check inside them using your flashlight. Look for the stains left by their droppings.
Bed bugs can also sometimes be found behind frames, clocks, and curtains. You should also consider the possibility that they are hiding in electric baseboard heaters, the rails protecting the bottoms of the walls, behind wallpaper, under door frames, inside electrical outlets, in cracks in the floors, etc.
Bed bug detection equipment
To conduct longer-term surveillance or to ensure the absence of bed bugs following a treatment, there is a wide range of technologies used as bed bug detection equipment. They are sometimes called bed bug traps, monitors for bed legs, interceptors, or bed bug detectors… There are even online stores, such as “L’exterminateur en ligne,” that offer a multitude of anti-bed bug items.
Bed bug monitors for bed legs
Monitors for bed legs make it possible to check for attempts where bed bugs try to climb up to or descend from the bed via the bed legs. Square-shaped or round, they are placed under each of the bed legs. When a bed bug tries to pass through it, it slides into a crevice from which it is incapable of emerging. It’s therefore possible to monitor the presence of the insect. However, this method requires the bed to be moved away from the wall and the bedding to never touch the ground; otherwise, bed bugs could pass elsewhere than through the traps.
Anti-bed bug traps with pheromones
Traps with pheromones use chemical signals that attract bed bugs to the trap. It’s therefore possible to check if they are present.
Bed bug traps using heat
Certain traps use heat to attract bed bugs. Rather discreet, some of these traps are integrated into a multi-outlet power bar for electrical devices. These traps are particularly appreciated in places frequented by clients, such as shelters, hostels, motels, and hotels.
Bed bug traps for empty homes
It’s very hard to detect or trap bed bugs in an empty home. Normally, bed bugs are attracted by the scent, heat, and CO2 emitted by their victims. When a tenant leaves an infested apartment, however, these elements are absent. Bed bugs therefore tend to go into hiding and only reappear when a new tenant has inhabited the premises. Certain bed bug traps for empty homes are available on the market. They use a technology that combines heat, CO2, and pheromones to simulate the presence of a person sleeping in the apartment. Since they are more costly, certain pest control professionals offer a rental service for customers interested in this technology.
Inspection by a pest control professional
Pest control professionals are familiar with the lifestyle of bed bugs and the places where they like to hide. They are also able to recognize the insect quickly if it is found on the premises. Although a visual inspection of the premises isn’t 100% effective, bed bugs are very often detected this way. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, in certain circumstances, it may be beneficial to have a preventive inspection performed. Among others, this is the case when one of your neighbours discovers the presence of bed bugs.
Canine bed bug inspection
Canine bed bug inspection is a very valuable tool. For a long time, dogs have demonstrated their formidable effectiveness at detecting odours that are imperceptible to humans. Whether it’s the search for drugs, explosives, missing persons, or even certain diseases, they have worked hand in hand with their handlers to serve humanity.
These days, the offerings of bed bug-detecting dogs are increasing sharply. Well-trained and receiving constant training, the effectiveness of the detector dog’s performance is about 95%. The animal is also capable of telling the difference between a living bed bug and a dead bed bug. It’s even said that they are capable of telling the difference between a fertilized egg and a dead egg.
Some agencies even offer to use two or three bed bug-detecting dogs to confirm the indications given by the first dog. This practice reduces any margin of error that the first animal could have made even more.
I have bed bugs. What should I do?
When you discover that you have bed bugs in your house, it’s important to act fast, but without panicking. You shouldn’t be ashamed of being in the presence of bed bugs. It can happen to anyone, and it’s not a matter of poor cleanliness. Being the victim of an infestation is an accidental situation. The problem must therefore be approached as an accident.
Trying to solve the problem by yourself isn’t recommended. It’s not uncommon to see cases where the victim’s intervention has made the condition of the infestation worse, spread the bed bugs around, and increased the cost of the treatment. Professional exterminators have access to more effective equipment and products. They have experience and can better contain the infestation and treat it effectively.
Discuss your situation with an expert. Click here to contact a bed bug exterminator.
What different treatments are available to eliminate bed bugs?
The treatments designed to stamp out bed bugs are varied. Among others, you’ll find:
The treatment using approved products against bed bugs.
The treatment using a vacuum cleaner, dry steam, and diatomaceous earth, used especially in places where it’s impossible to use other types of treatments.
The heat treatment for clothing.
The freezing treatment for clothing and objects that can’t be subjected to heat.
By discussing with your pest management professional and updating them on your situation, they will be able to propose an action plan to eliminate the infestation.
The bed bug is one of the hardest insects to get rid of. The success of the operation depends on the cooperation of all the players (tenant, landlord, and pest control professional). Following the instructions that your pest control professional will provide you with to the letter is recommended. (3)