Bed Bugs: How to Find a Bed Bug Infestation in Your Home?

It is best to find a bed bug infestation early before the outbreak has a chance to become established or spread. Although this sounds like common knowledge, it is worth repeating: It is easier and cheaper to treat a low-level infestation than it is to treat the same infestation once it has become more widespread.

However, it is hard to find and identify low-level infestations. Despite popular belief, small bites on the skin are a poor indicator of a bed bug infestation because a lot of insect bites (such as mosquitoes or chiggers), and rashes (such as eczema or fungal infections) look like bed bug bites. Furthermore, some people do not react to bed bug bites at all.

How Do You Identify Bed Bugs?

Looking for physical signs of bed bugs is a more accurate way to identify a possible infestation.

For example, when cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for:

  • Crushed bed bugs leave rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses,

  • Bed bug excrement which may bleed on the fabric as a marker would and looks like dark spots,

  • Tiny, pale-yellow eggs and eggshells that are shed by nymphs as they grow, and

  • Live bed bugs.

Where Do Bed Bugs Hide?

Bed bugs hide all over when they are not feeding. For example, they like to hide in box springs and mattress piping; in cracks on bed frames and headboards; under loose wallpaper and pictures; in the seams of couches, chairs, and cushions; in the folds of curtains; in electrical receptacles and appliances; cracks in wood floors and under the edge of carpeting; at the junction where the wall and the ceiling meet; and even in the head of a screw.

Because bed bugs are approximately the width of a credit card, they can hide in thin, tiny spots. If a crack can hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug.

What Is Bed Bug Behavior and Habit?

Another way to help you find a bed bug infestation before it becomes established is to understand their behavior (e.g., how they eat, live, and reproduce). Once you know their behavior, you can monitor for any early signs of the presence of bed bugs in your apartment.

Although bed bugs are primarily active at night, if they are hungry, they will seek human and animal hosts in full daylight.

However, bed bugs appear to prefer to feed on human hosts, traveling far to feed on them. Bed bugs are known to travel 5 to 20 feet from established hiding places to feed on a human host. Once a bed bug finds a host, they may probe the host several times before starting to feed on the host's blood for 3 to 12 minutes. The rusty or tarry spots left by bed bugs on bed sheets or in bug hiding places are because 20% of the time bed bugs will void remains of earlier blood meals while still feeding.

After the bed bug is full, it will return to its hiding spot—typically where other bed bugs are aggregating—to begin digesting and excreting the blood meal. Since the digesting state usually takes three to seven days, bed bugs typically feed once or twice per week, meaning that most of the population is digesting, and not feeding most of the time.

Common bed bugs have five developmental life stages. Because bed bugs, like all insects, have their skeleton on the outside of their body (exoskeleton), they must shed their exoskeleton before they can grow larger. This process is known as molting. Immature bed bugs (called nymphs) molt five times before reaching adulthood. Nymphs must feed on at least one blood meal to molt, although they could easily feed once a day.

Adult bed bugs, both female and male, use the blood of humans and animals to reproduce and must take a blood meal once every 14 day to continue. A female bed bug can lay one to three eggs per day, or 200 to 500 eggs per her lifetime.

Where Do Bed Bugs Live?

Common bed bugs live almost anywhere their hosts (i.e., humans) live. However, tropical bed bugs need to live in a hotter environment than the common bed bug, so they live in tropical and subtropical areas.

Bed bugs die when their body temperatures reach 45°C (113°F); therefore, to kill bed bugs with heat, the room must be hotter than that to ensure sustained heat reaches the bugs no matter where they are hiding.

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