Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to find. If you start seeing the presence of even a couple of these insects, you must be careful of an infestation. These insects hide within the household furniture and feed on human blood. Bed bug infestations have to be controlled because the females can lay hundreds of eggs at a time and it can become a major inconvenience to get rid of them. Under favourable conditions, bedbugs can reproduce and grow fully within 5-6 weeks. Just the thought of having bedbugs on your couch, sofa or chair can be itchy. So once you find them, it is best to exterminate them early with the help of professionals. But determining what exactly is a bed bug is also a common doubt.
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
Beds bugs are flat-shaped brown insects about the size of an apple seed, approximately 5-7mm long. They are generally oval in shape and their bodies swell into a reddish colour once fed. Young bed bugs also called nymphs are smaller and translucent or whitish in colour. Because of their size and colour, they are not easily visible to the naked eye. But adult bedbugs are very visible to the human eye.
Bed bugs resemble a lot of other household pests like carpet beetle, small roaches or ticks which can make them difficult to identify. Bed bugs also have a musty smell. These insects also have wings but they cannot fly. So, if you see brown to reddish brown oval-shaped insects with rust-coloured stains on your bedsheets or mattresses, they are bed bugs.
What are the Early Signs of Bed Bugs?
When identifying these bugs becomes a problem, you must be on the lookout for early signs that point to a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs leave stains and if you have been noticing stains or blobs on your sheets, it is possible your furniture has bed bugs. Now what kind of stains should you be looking for exactly? Read on to know in more detail.
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Bed Bug Staining
Bed bug stains are divided into three major types: blood stains, rust stains or yellow stains and black spots.
- Bed Bug Blood stains: Spotting a red blood stain on your sheet does not immediately conclude the presence of bed bugs, especially if you are nursing a recent wound/injury. Bed bug blood stains are actually tiny red spots that look like smears. Bed bugs might get crushed under the body of the person sleeping and if the bugs are done feeding for the night, the dead bugs will leave out the blood stains. These stains are human blood that these bed bugs have fed on.
- Yellow Bed Bug Rust Stains: Another stain left by bed bugs is from their crushed eggs. These are rust or yellow-coloured stains. If a female bed bug has laid eggs in the cracks or folds of your pillowcases or bed, it will leave a yellow colour stain. These stains are not very prominent but are small and patchy. If unnoticed, they will fade into the light sheets in a light brown colour. They look like rust and must be addressed as a sign of bed bug infestation.
- Black Spots: Bed bugs’ excrement leaves black spots on the sheet. These faecal stains are usually dark brown to black and are slightly harder to clean. If you start frequently noticing black blobs and spots on your sheet usually in a cluster, it is an early sign of bed bugs.
Other than these stains, bed bugs also leave other kinds of remnants like their musty odour and shredded skin.
Bed Bug Remnants
- Bed Bug Shed Skin: Bed bugs shed a lot of skin, in fact, the young nymphs shed skin as much as five times before reaching complete maturity. This process of shedding is called moulting. Every time, the nymph goes through a new developmental stage, it sheds its shell. Spotting these casings is a sign of bed bug infestation. A bed bug requires feeding before it can cast its skin. In perfect conditions, there will be moulting every week. So look for dry flakes a little smaller than the size of the bugs themselves in and around your bed, behind the headboard or near the bed toes. Bed bugs live in groups so you will find a lot of castings together around your furniture if you have an infestation.
- Musty Odor: Bed bug smell is not easiest to detect unless you have a prominent large infestation. When bed bugs get crushed they release a smell which is rotten, musty and often compared to ‘berry’ sweet. Even if you smell it, you are not going to like it. And chances are the smell may retain onto your sheets, if you don’t clean them quickly. If you tend to smell such odor continuously, you are going to need an exterminator.
- Bed Bug Eggs: Another mark of bed bugs leaving their mark are by creating more of them. Bed bugs lay eggs in corners and crevices of walls or beds. They are usually in clusters. If you see tiny white spots in the joints of your furniture, those could be the eggs or nymphs. Always carry a thorough inspection with a torch if you see these often paired with other stains.
How Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?
Bed bug bites are usually painless which is why they can be easily ignored to be just another rash. But if you don’t pay attention, they can be very itchy and leave you with more red marks and spots on your arms and legs. Bed bugs bite you when you are sleeping and they will bite any exposed area of your skin. It is essential to identify these bites as bed bug bites, especially if you are someone with sensitive skin and can easily develop a rash. A lot of times, bed bug bites look very similar to other insect bites. Here are some ways to recognize bed bug bites:
- The bites appear red and feel very itchy. If they remain longer on the skin, they will turn a deep brown or purplish even.
- Bed bug bites will most likely appear on your arms, legs, neck, and feet. Any area that is exposed as you sleep.
- Bed bug bite marks are usually in a line of three or more bites. They can be in a zigzag line. Multiple bites are usually grouped together.
While a lot of other bugs can also leave you with red dark spots, you must look for other signs of bed bug infestations like stains on your sheets, and moist odor to confirm the presence of bed bugs.
Where Do Bed Bugs Come from?
Bed bugs can be found anywhere and they are simply not limited to beds and furniture. You can get an infestation if someone in the neighbourhood has experienced one. Or bed bugs are usually seen in old mattresses, second-hand furniture, box springs, etc. Bed bugs
feast on human blood so they are always looking for human hosts. You can get a bed bug home from anywhere, it could be a holiday at a hotel, or from a movie theatre.
Bed bugs can easily hitch a ride on luggage, purses and backpacks. They can even travel across building complexes. Bed bugs are also capable of moving at speeds so they can travel between rooms just as quickly to find a new hiding spot. Although they cannot fly, they can easily crawl through cracks and openings in walls and ceilings. It would barely take them minutes to go from one spot to another and infestations can happen over a couple of weeks to months.
Habits That Can Help You Get Rid Bed Bugs
If you already suspect a bed bug infestation in your home, here are some things to follow to get rid of bed bugs. It is best to seek expert help in getting rid of these bugs once and for all. But here are a few things that will also help:
- Don’t Put Stuff on Your Bed: While bed bugs won’t take long to reach the bed from your floor/ceiling, you can easily transfer them to your bed if you keep putting the stuff you carry outside right on the bed. For ex: if you have returned from a trip, do not keep your luggage on the bed directly. Bed bugs can hitchhike on any item so do a thorough inspection before you just lay down your stuff on the bed.
- Check Your Bags: As mentioned earlier, bed bugs can be quite the travel buddy. So, if you have returned from a hotel stay, check your bags for these tiny bugs.
- Clean Your Sheets: The most common way to know you’ve had a bed bug infestation is the stains on your sheets. If you keep spotting red marks or black spots on your mattresses and sheets then scrub them clean. Clean not just the bedding but also the curtains in hot water and dry them. Regularly clean out your sheets to prevent them.
- Hang Up Your Clothes and Belongings: Bed bugs can easily hide within damp, sweaty clothes. If you have a pile of clothes that you just keep shifting from the chair to the bed, you need to tend to that. Always hang up your clothes, bags and purses. Dry them out and check the folds before keeping them in the wardrobe.
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