If you think you have signs of a bed bug infestation, don’t panic, even though that’s probably your first instinct. First you must confirm that these insidious creatures are behind the infestation. These small blood-sucking insects can cause a huge headache but the good news is that that’s all they can do, since there is no proof that bed bugs transmit disease. They’re just an annoyance.
The first sign that something is wrong may be bites on your body. Different people react to bed bug bites in different ways, so there’s no predicting what your physical symptoms may be. Some people may have no reaction to the bites. Others may just have small itchy bumps. Others may react with large welts or even a rash-like appearance. The bites will typically be on the areas of skin exposed during sleep, and typically appear in the morning where there were no bites the day before. They sometimes appear in a row along your skin, which is one way to distinguish the bed bug bites from that of another insect like the mosquito.
However, since the bites can resemble other insect bites, this alone won’t identify the problem. You’ll need to look for evidence in the bed itself. Be systematic and keep a record of everything you find so that you know just how far the problem has spread and where it will need to be treated. Start in your bedroom, and then move onwards to other rooms.
Bed bugs feast on our blood as we sleep, so begin with your bed. Start with the sheets. If you’ve rolled over and crushed some of these bloodsuckers in your sleep, they’ll leave tell-tale rusty stains on the bedding.
Then remove the sheets and inspect the mattress itself. Bed bugs love natural materials like cotton and wood, so inspect all the crevices and edges of your bed. Look between the cracks on a wooden bed frame. Check the edges of the mattress. You may discover the bugs themselves, or at least their droppings. This fecal matter can be identified by its black color and size, which is about that of a pencil point. Sometimes, along fabric, this can appear too as a smeared stain. You may also find skins shed by the bugs as they grew into adulthood.
If you see the actual insects, you can easily identify them as bed bugs. Bed bugs are flat, and about the size of an apple seed. They have an oval shape, and a rust colored shell. However they can resemble other insects–ticks, for instance–but you can find a large number of bed bug resources online to verify what you’re dealing with.
Lastly, check for eggs–they’re white, and about a millimeter long. Don’t forget to check not just the mattress, but also the bed frame and any tiny narrow crevices–such as cracks in the wall, and along baseboards–as well as any other upholstered furniture.
Make notes, gather samples and check in a widening circle, starting with the bed. Once you’ve determined it is bed bugs, it’s time to call a professional exterminator.