Bed Bug Infestation Signs: How to Avoid it?

Sleepless in your own home! Those bed bugs ought to go.

Bed bugs are a nightmare. They multiply at an alarming rate and quickly spread to all corners of your home. The proverbial icing on the cake is the resistance developed by bed bugs against many insecticides. This makes it all the more difficult and challenging to get rid of these insects.

Bed bugs are tiny in size and normally prefer to come out of their hiding places during the night. This is why these unwanted squatters remain undetected for such long periods of time. These tiny creatures detest sunlight and normally live in corners, making it difficult for you to locate them.

Their trait of lying low for so long is the reason why you will not find signs of bed bugs until their population has increased significantly.

What follows below are the early signs of bed bugs infestation. If you fear that your house may have a bed bug problem, look out for the following signs that tell that you have bed bugs living with you in your home, and take timely action.

Signs You Have Bed Bugs

While you may not see a bed bug crawling on the surface of, say, your end table, there are signs that can tell that an unwanted guest is expanding its family in your abode. As mentioned above, bed bugs are hard to detect. They hide in the seams of your mattress or the corner of your antique armchair. But like those miscreants who leave dandy clues, bed bugs also inadvertently blow their cover-up.

To get rid of this infestation, you have to don the role of a private detective and look for all the clues. For starters, you can search the following obvious signs of bed bugs.

pillows with bed bugs

1. There Are Blood Stains on Your Bed Sheets

You are making your bed and you spot tiny blood stains on your crisp, white sheets that were recently washed. Where do these stains come from? These red spots are probably the sign that you killed a bed bug(s) in your sleep while or after it had fed on your blood during the night.

Like you, many people unconsciously squash a bed bug after it has a fulfilling meal. We are not turning this guide into ‘The Great Tragedy’, so let’s not focus on how those stains end up on your bed and talk about what these stains mean.

Tiny red polka dots on your bed sheets are a sign that you have a bed bug problem, and, most likely, a big one. The first thing that you need to do is to get your mattress and other furniture checked by professionals.  

2. You Find Dark Spots on Your Wall

Your perfect-looking wallpaper has a few black spots at all the wrong places. These spots are fecal stains (ewww!) left behind by bed bugs. You will be surprised to know that bed bugs can leave such stains under the wallpaper as well.

In the case where you are suspicious that you have a bed bug problem, but you can’t find enough evidence to back it up, look for clues on your walls. There is a high chance that you will be able to spot them their signs and then the bed bugs themselves there.

3. Signs of Bed Bugs on Couch

Do bed bugs live on couches? Absolutely, yes. Why? You probably know this well that bed bugs feed off human blood. They will locate hiding places which you use for a major part of the day so that they are nearer to their source of food. This is why your bed or couch (especially the one in your living area) is a perfect hiding place for bed bugs. A couch has cervices and openings that allow these tiny insects to crawl inside them if they smell danger. The cushions provide them a cosy, slightly humid place they can call home.

Now, the question is: how do you check for signs of bed bugs on the couch? While it may be difficult to spot a bed bug during daylight (the bugs are nocturnal), it is not entirely impossible to detect them. Before searching for signs of bed bugs on the couch, get these two things: a flashlight, a magnifying glass, and disposable gloves. You can also get a credit/debit card to check small spaces.  

Your search operation begins now. The first thing that you have to look for is tiny black and red spots. The black ones are the bugs’ fecal stains and the red dots are evidence that these insects have been feeding. Spots that are much paler in color are proof of the discarded skins of these bed bugs. Before reaching maturity, bed bugs nymphs molt after they have had a filling meal.

During your search, look for tiny rice-shaped white eggs. These eggs normally take 10 days to hatch and it is preferable if you get rid of them as early as possible. Use your credit card and swap it along edges, zippers, and seams. It is also better to flip your couch and see its bottom. The bugs can also lay eggs in the corners at the bottom. From the joints of the couch to the bottom, you should thoroughly check the furniture to detect an infestation.

couch infected with bed bugs

4. You Notice Unusual Smell

We cannot objectively define what bed bugs smell like. However, many people who have experienced a bed bug infestation have shared that they smelled a musty odor in their homes. This odor is a sign that you have a bed bug problem. While some describe this smell as sweet and musty, some associate it with that of rotting raspberries’.

This shows that aromas can be subjective, and people perceive them differently. Also, not all bed bug colonies smell the same way. Their smell is also in close proximity with stink bugs’ which is like mild skunk odor or like sweaty socks. Many people also think that the odor is closely similar to coriander seed. The latter has an underlying scent of nuts and citrus. In the same manner, many call bed bugs smell woody or nutty. It is a unique smell which the bugs usually make to camouflage against predators.

As mentioned above, bed bugs produce this unique smell to guard themselves from birds, lizards, and other insects, and from other bed bugs. They need protection from their own kind mainly because when a bed bug wants to mate, it looks for any kind of a bed bug. This means that it will mate with nymphs, an already impregnated female bed bug, and even a male bed bug. And since bed bugs mate through the process called traumatic insemination (which means that a male bed bug pierces through the abdomen of a female bed bug), the bugs prefer to avoid it as much as they can.

If you smell anything that is similar to what is described above, chances are that you have bed bugs in your home. But, you should also know that this smell is not always detectable, especially when these insects are fewer in number.

Having said this, if you think that your house at present is hosting a colony of bed bugs, look for any unusual smell. Fortunately for you, the smell will guide you to the hiding place of these insects.

5. Bed Bugs in Your Carpet

Whether or not you see red or black spots on your carpet, it is certain that these terrifying creatures have found a home in your carpet. Like the coach, the carpet also has small openings that provide a good hiding place to the bugs. If you spot a bed bug in your carpet, be aware that there may be eggs in there as well. Bed bug eggs are too small and are often that it is difficult to tell them apart from other carpet debris. The presence of adult bed bugs in the carpet is an indicator that there are their eggs somewhere as well.

While checking for bed bugs in the carpet, thoroughly check the fabric along its perimeter. You can use a credit card or a similar card to check if there is a bed bug or not.

6. A Nest in Your Electronics

You probably will not think that these nightmarish insects are using your electronic items as their hiding place. Many people assume, and wrongly so, that bed bugs are only found in ‘beds’. While it is true that their preferred place is the bed, they can be found anywhere in the house. They can even make a home on your electrical devices.

If you have a hunch that your house may be a host to bed bugs and you cannot find them on the majority of conventional places, check your electrical items. Check the screws on the devices and look for the presence of bed bugs.

Cleaning your electric gadgets is difficult. You cannot use bed bug powder or spray to kill the insects that are living inside these items. If you do so, you will probably damage the item. A less risky way of getting rid of bed bugs is to keep the device in an airtight plastic bag with a bed bug chemical strip. Keep the device sealed for at least a week.

At the end of the week, take out the device carefully and dispose of the bag. Make sure that you are wearing gloves during the handling process. These chemical strips are harmful to humans and it is better to avoid direct contact with them. Don’t place the strips with bare hands and always keep your hands covered.

If you use the electrical item daily, clean it thoroughly to ensure that there is no trace of chemical left on its surface.

7. Bed Bugs in Wood

If there is one thing which everyone wants to avoid like a plague, it is bed bug infestation. There are many misconceptions that falsely suggest that an outbreak of bed bugs is due to a house’s unhygienic situation. This is untrue. Bed bugs do not live in your house because it is dirty. They live in it because they want a climate-controlled place to survive.

In the same manner, some people believe that wood flooring will help them keep the insects away. This, too, is wrong. Bed bugs will make a home in every place that brings them closer to you — the human whose blood they require. They can find a place in the wooden frame of your bed or your couch. It is not wood or anything else. It is ‘you’ who attract them. In fact, it is the carbon dioxide that you exhale that makes them change places and be close to you.

8. Signs of Bed Bugs on Bed

As their name suggests, bed bugs will usually make their home in your bed. They live in your bed because it will be easier for them to come out of their hiding place and feed your blood when you are sleeping. Almost everyone uses their bed for a major portion of the day and this makes it favorable for the insect to live in the bed.

Since bed bugs cannot jump, they reach your bed by crawling on the furniture items that are in contact with your bed (for example, the side table). They lay eggs in the corner of the bed and keep multiplying over there. They come out when they are hungry and hurriedly go back once they have eaten.

Besides hiding in the corner, these bugs can also live in the headboard of the bed. If the headboard has any design or a craving on it, the bugs can live in it as well. Black or red spots on your bed’s frame will indicate bed bugs presence.

Another giveaway of the insects’ presence in your house is the spots on your mattress. The bed bugs on mattress signs are easy to detect. The bugs love to stay on the seams of the mattress and if you spot a single one, do not forget to check your mattress. If there is a zipper on your matter, these insects can also choose it as a place of their hiding.

9. Your Neighbors Have It

Yes! If your neighbor discusses with you about the nightmare weekend they had because of bed bugs, be on alert. Bed bugs can easily travel through the cracks in the wall and enter your house without any difficulty. Be on your toes if you have the slightest suspicion that these insects are living in your neighbor’s house.

10. You Brought a Used Furniture in Your Home

The times are tough, we know. The prices of almost everything are skyrocketing and to keep your budget in line, you may consider buying second-hand furniture. This sounds economical, but there is a catch. Many pieces of second-hand furniture are infested with bed bugs. While bringing these items to your house, you are voluntarily bringing a nuisance to your home.

11. You Find a Collection of Shells

Bed bugs produce husk-like specks when they are shedding their skins. They are paler in color and are normally found in clusters. Bed bugs prefer to peel off their skin on a wooden surface or on fabric and avoid doing it on metal or plastic.

12. You Spot a Track On Your Door Frame

Like termites, bed bugs also love to settle down on the perimeter of a door frame. A thin, black line just a bit above your door can of bed bugs. As discussed above, wood and fabric are bed bugs’ most preferred material.

13. Electric Sockets

Bed bugs do not like plastic, but they will not mind making a home in the wall under the electrical socket. If you see a black line along the outline of the socket, prepare for a killing spree against bed bug.  

itchy skin bit by bed bugs

Signs of Bed Bugs on Skin

We need a separate section to discuss how these tiny insects can irritate you to the core and lead you to have sleepless nights. You know that bed bugs feed on human blood. They get the blood once they bit you. People who are bitten by bed bugs normally complain of the following condition: itchiness, irritation, and sores.

It is important to mention that even though bed bug bites can be irritating, no medical evidence suggests that they can transmit disease. But this itchiness and red bumps across your body is a sign of concern and should be treated.

Bed Bugs Sign and Symptoms

The following are five signs and symptoms of bed bugs:

1. Red, Itchy Bites

Before biting on the human skin, the bed bugs release the saliva that acts like anesthesia. The area goes numb and you will probably not realize that a bed bug is sucking your blood. You will only realize it once the bed bugs have left their mark. A zigzag line or a small cluster of bright pink marks on your skin is a sign of bed bugs. These bites are irritating and itchy. While it is hard to ignore the itch, scratching them can lead to infection and bleeding.

2. Feeling Flu-like or Nauseous

This feeling develops as a reaction to a bed bug bite. If you are feeling nauseous for no apparent reason or have flu symptoms like a runny nose or watery eyes you should check your house. It is rare that people will develop such a harsh reaction to a bed bug bite. If such a situation arises, immediately seek medical help.

3. Irregular Heartbeat

One of the several severe reactions of a bug bite is an irregular heartbeat. It is better to see a doctor. Take immediate steps to get rid of the insects.

4. Marked Arms and Shoulders

Fleas and chiggers tend to bite around the ankles. Bed bug feed on your exposed skin. When you are asleep, your arms and shoulders are exposed. These bugs will bite this uncovered area.

5.  Uncomfortable Nights

Even though you will not notice anything when a bed bug is biting you, you will feel a great level of itchiness once the little bug has finished its meals. Since they are nocturnal, bed bugs are most active during the night. They find you sleeping on the bed and attack you to have a good, satisfying meal. If you experience itchy feeling while sleeping or trying to sleep, take it as a sign that your home has now become home to bed bugs.

Other signs and symptoms of bed bug bites are:

  • A red itchy bump with the lighter swollen surrounding area and a dark center
  • A burning painful sensation
  • A slightly raised itchy bump with a dark center
  • Small red bumps surrounded by hives or blisters
  • Areas of skin with flat or raised patches that may be inflamed
  • Small red welts in a line or in a zigzag pattern

How To Get Rid of These Symptoms

The first thing that you should do is to clean the wound with soap and water. For minor symptoms, you can use the following:

  • Antihistamines
  • Over-the-counter hydrocortisone
  • Anti-itch creams

Generally, the wounds take between one and two weeks to heal completely. If the swelling persists for a longer period, see a doctor. Usually, the doctor recommends the following:

  • Antihistamine
  • An injectable corticosteroid
  • Epinephrine medication

If there is no change in the condition, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Things You Can Do To Avoid Getting Bed Bugs

There is no other way to say this that bed bugs are a pain. They are unwanted guests who love extending their stay. Treating a bed bug infestation is another big problem. You cannot simply get done in a day. You need at least a week to rid your house of this nuisance. 

Now that you know how tedious it is to clean your house against them, read below to find out what steps you can take to avoid these irritating creatures entering your home.

1. Know the Signs of Bed Bugs

Read, re-read, and repeat. Familiarize yourself with all the signs that point to the important direction: that you have a bed bug infestation in your house. You will be able to get rid of the insects if you know what a bed bug looks like. Regularly check your bed or couch or the closet for any signs of bed bugs.  

2. Be Careful When Buying Used Furniture

Second-hand furniture is a common breeding ground for bed bugs. When you are buying used furniture items, take your time to inspect each item. You know the visible signs that you can check to ensure whether the item is infested. You can also treat your recently picked used furniture item with an insecticide to get rid of the insects.

3. Make a Trip to Laundromat After Vacations

While unhygienic conditions don’t play a significant role in attracting bed bugs, a study suggests that bed bugs are more attracted to dirty clothes than clean ones. When you are on a vacation, you do not have time to wash your dirty clothes. Keep a plastic bag with you and seal the clothes. As soon as you return home, wash all the clothes that you took for the trip — regardless of whether you wore them or not.

4. De-clutter Your Life

Clutter attracts bed bugs and gives them a safe place to be. De-clutter your life, your garage, and the storeroom to avoid bed bugs from living in them. Once you move in into a new place, unpack all cardboard boxes and place the items where they belong. Replace the boxed with plastic containers and store the rest of the things that will not be used immediately in them.

5. Monitor Your Pets

Bed bugs don’t live on pets. And they don’t live on humans either. This is because they don’t like the body heat and tend to avoid it. But, they will feed your pets’ blood. And for that, they may hitch a ride on your pet’s fur, clothing or bedding.

If you have pets at home, regularly check their beddings for any bed bugs signs. Wash their clothing and bedding on high heat to get rid of any unwanted bed bugs or their eggs.

In Conclusion

All the steps defined above are tiring and hectic, and will definitely drain the last drop of energy out of your body. Having said this, it is important to follow all the steps for the early detection of bed bugs. Only early detection will help you avert any disaster that these tiny critter bring with them.   

Besides poking holes in your skinm, a bed bug problem can also be a drain on your pocket. It says prevention is better than cure. So make sure that you get rid of these tiny, terrifying insects as soon as possible before an invasion becomes an infestation.