What Are the First Signs of Bed Bugs?

Medically Reviewed on 1/13/2022

8 early signs of bed bugs

8 early signs of bed bugs
Identifying the following 8 early signs of bed bugs can better help you manage and eliminate an infestation.

Bed bug infestation can often become a notorious problem if not detected early. These bugs can interfere with your sleep and tend to spread to different corners of your home when not timely eliminated. Hence, it is important to identify their early signs.

  1. Fecal spots:
    • If your bed has been infested with bed bugs, you may find small, brownish to blackish spots on the sheets, pillowcases, and mattress. These spots are due to the fecal matter of the bed bugs.
  2. Bites:
    • Bites caused by bed bugs are often mistaken for mosquito bites.
    • Because they mainly bite at night and cause painless bites, bed bugs may often go unnoticed. Although, their bites eventually turn into itchy welts.
    • Bites may be seen in clusters as zigzag patterns on the skin. Each cluster has about three to five bites.
    • In people with skin sensitivity, bed bugs can cause significant skin allergies or irritation.
  3. Eggs:
    • The female bed bugs lay oval, white eggs after mating. These eggs are generally found in cracks and crevices. You may find empty eggshells. 
    • Because the bed bug eggs are quite small (smaller than an apple seed), they may be easily overlooked.
  4. Molt skin:
    • They may be seen as peel or shell-like structures under the sheets, pillowcases, or mattress. These are the remnants of the outer shell called the exoskeleton that is shed by the bed bugs.
  5. Bloodstains:
    • Bed bugs bites may be seen as rusty or red streaks or specks on the skin. 
    • These stains may also be seen on sheets, comforters, mattresses, and even on upholstered furniture (such as the couch or headboard of your bed).
  6. Musty smell:
    • Bed bugs have scent glands that produce a typical odor to help them communicate with other bed bugs.
    • If your home is infested with them, you may experience an offensive, sweet, or musty smell.
    • The smell may be mild and often overlooked.
  7. Changes in pet behavior:
    • Although bed bugs prefer to feed on humans, they may infest your pets as well.
    • You may find your pet irritated, scratchy, or restless.
    • Generally, fleas or ticks get attached to your pet’s body, however, even bed bugs can trouble them.
  8. Live or dead bugs:
    • In places with heavy infestation, you may spot live or dead bed bugs.
    • Bed bugs generally hide in dark places, such as under the mattress, cracks, and crevices, on walls, or behind a painting or loose wallpapers and wall paints.

You can seek professional help to detect and get rid of bed bugs if they do not respond to over-the-counter measures.

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are tiny, oval, wingless insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals including poultry and other birds. They may grow up to a length of 0.25 inches.

  • Bed bugs have two tiny antennae and six legs and appear brown and flat before feeding. After feeding on blood, they appear more swollen, longer, and red.
  • They tend to bite at night and thus, may disturb your sleep.
  • They can attach to objects, such as luggage, linen, and clothes, to travel long distances, and thus, they are also called “hitchhikers.”
Medically Reviewed on 1/13/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

United States Environmental Protection Agency. How to Find Bed Bugs. https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/how-find-bed-bugs

National Pest Management Association. Bed Bugs. https://www.pestworld.org/pest-guide/bed-bugs/bed-bugs/