If you're the traveling-type, you've probably wondered how you should go about identifying bed bugs. International travel has made it much easier for people to circle the globe quickly and bring home stories of exotic lands. Travelers may bring home unwanted souvenirs: bed bugs. These reddish insects are typically smaller than 1 inch and are specially adapted to feed on the blood of humans. The bugs feed during the night, and then leave the host to rest and digest. Since the bugs don’t stay on the skin during the daytime, it can take patience and persistence to find and identify the small critters. Making a positive identification is important, as extermination techniques used for bed bugs can be costly.
Bed Bug Toolkit
The first ingredient you'll need is patience and an abundance of time. It can take hours to find an early infestation. To do a thorough inspection, you'll need:
Bed bugs bite. You may be able to identify a bed bug infestation by searching yourself and other people living in your house for bites. Bed bugs bite on the skin that is exposed while you're sleeping. Search your head, neck, arms and hands for bites. Use a mirror to inspect your back. Bites are red, with a deeply colored center. Bites are usually in a line or cluster. They may itch, but some people have no reaction to the bites at all.
If you've gone to bed with no bites and awakened with several bites, go to your doctor. He or she may be able to diagnose bed bug bites.
Inspect Your Bedroom
Bed bugs often like to hide close to beds, and they tend to group together while resting. The bugs will often excrete dried blood, which will look like reddish or blackish crust. You may also find the skin adult bugs have shed. You may also see pin-sized eggs. Take any bugs you find to your exterminator.
Pull the sheets from your bed, and pull the mattress from the box spring. Stand the mattress and box spring on their edges and shine a flashlight on the seams to look for staining or skin. Take your bed itself apart. Remove the headboard from the wall if it is attached, so you can look behind it. Flip your bedroom furniture upside-down and look for bugs hiding in cracks and crevices. Bed bugs prefer to hide in wooden surfaces, so all wooden parts should be carefully inspected.
Pull up the wall-to-wall carpet in your bedroom at the corners, and shine a flashlight there to look for live bugs or signs of older bugs. Stains and skins may not prove that you have an infestation now. Rather, they show that you had an infestation at one point. If you do not find a live bug during your search, but you are not convinced that your home is free of bugs, you may need to call in an exterminator to do a thorough search.
A definitive way to diagnose a bed bug infestation is to trap a live bug. Wrap the legs of your bed with paper, and wrap those paper sleeves with double-sided tape. Take any specimens you catch to your exterminator, who can make a definitive diagnosis.