Because extermination of bed bugs can be so lengthy and expensive, it’s important to first look for bed bugs signs in order to determine if you actually have a bed bug problem.
If I have bed bugs, won’t I be able to see them?
photo credit: StarMasterGenerally, no. Although fully-grown adult bed bugs can grow to around 5-7mm in length and may be visible to the naked eye, most bed bugs are tiny. The photo shows a fully-grown adult bed bug. Young bed bugs (also called larvae or nymphs) are much smaller. In addition, bed bugs generally feed around the early hours of the morning when we move less so that their feeding isn’t disturbed. In addition, a feeding session typically lasts only around 15 minutes, and most bed bugs only feed every 3-4 days (it’s possible for them to go more than one year without food). All of these factors together mean that you are very unlikely to see bed bugs unless you have a very significant infestation. Below is a list of the best ways to detect bed bugs.
Bed Bug Signs
a. Bites – not a reliable method
You may think that it would be obvious if bed bugs were biting you on a regular basis, but it’s actually not a reliable method of determining whether or not you have bed bugs. Bites can vary from person to person, looking like a rash, a reddish raised bump, or even nothing. On some people, one or two puncture marks may be seen, but on many people, no marks are visible at all. Given the fact that bite marks can vary so much from one person to another, just studying the bites alone is not an accurate method of determining whether or not you have bed bugs. Even a doctor cannot tell the difference between bed bugs and other possible reactions or bites, which makes this method a highly unreliable way of telling whether you have bed bugs or not.
b. Stains on bedsheets
photo credit: cuttlefishAlthough this method is by no means full-proof, it’s the first thing you should look for. Like most other animals, bed bugs also leave feces, which may appear as small dark brown or reddish dots or streaks on your mattress or sheets. You can see the stains on the mattress in the picture. These stains are best detected if you use white mattress covers and white sheets and pillow covers. The downside is that a small infestation may not leave any stains, and even if they do, they can be hard to find, since they’re often located in crevices.
c. Double-Sided Tape
This method involves placing double-sided tape around your mattress, box springs, and bed frame, as well as other furniture that you think might be infected. For example, if you have carpet, then you might want to place tape along the bottom of your walls, and if you have fabric sofas, then you might place tape around the legs of your sofa. Ideally, the tape will trap a few of the bed bugs so that you have proof. Unfortunately, if you have very few bed bugs, it may require a lot of luck for those few bed bugs to get stuck on the tape. In addition, please don’t think that this is a way of exterminating them, since bed bugs will lay eggs and new bed bugs will hatch even if you managed to catch all the existing ones on the tape. Also note that because bed bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide, this method will not work for vacant rooms since the bed bugs will not move when the room isn’t occupied.
This is a variation of the double-sided tape method. In this case, you can simply rub Vaseline around the legs of your bed (or bottom of wall or legs of sofa). Like tape, Vaseline traps the bed bugs. Remember where you put the Vaseline and check the Vaseline regularly for any bugs that may be stuck in it. Wipe off and reapply the Vaseline every week as the Vaseline will gather dust and make it harder to see any small bugs that might be stuck to it. Disadvantages to this method include being messy (of course) and the risk of small children and pets ingesting it.
Bed bug monitors are one of the more recent inventions for detecting bed bugs. Typically, these monitors will emit small amounts of carbon dioxide (to simulate human breathing), which then attracts bed bugs to a contraption that catches and/or kills the bed bugs. Unlike the Vaseline or double-sided tape methods, monitors actually function better in unoccupied rooms, since they don’t have to compete with carbon dioxide emissions from humans. The disadvantage is that bed bugs will often continue to target humans even if there is a monitor present since humans emit more carbon dioxide than the monitors.
f. Sniffer dogs
Bet you didn’t know that there are actually dogs trained for much of their lives to sniff out bed bugs and bed bug eggs huh? Although much more expensive than the other methods, this is the most accurate way to detect bed bugs, since the dogs are typically up 95% accurate, and it takes less than 10 minutes per room. One potential downside to using sniffer dogs is that the companies offering these services are often connected to extermination services. In such cases, many people suspect that the companies report instances of bed bugs just get you to engage their extermination services.