9 Early Signs of Bed Bugs

early signs of bed bugs
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Check out these 9 early signs of bed bugs!

Imagine this; you are peacefully asleep on your bed when you suddenly feel an itch on your forearm. Irritated, you sluggishly wake up to find reddish welts on your arm.

You are probably an unfortunate victim of a common household pest, also known as the bed bug if you relate to this.

Worried, you start thinking back to all the places you’d been that caused these annoying bugs to come to your house uninvited.

But more often than not, there is almost an infinite number of ways these pesky things can enter your space. They can enter your house by sticking to mostly anything- be it your clothing or furniture like your beds and couches.

Mattress seams are another favorite hangout spot of bed bugs; one could say the bed area, in general, is the favorite hiding place for these creatures. Their oval-shaped bodies would find it more than easy to creep into the crevices of your house. Do you have any loose wallpaper they can crawl under?

A bed bug infestation can probably be very inconvenient and frustrating. Thankfully, there are a few common signs to look out for when bed bugs.

Some early signs of bed bugs include small red or brownish blood spots on sheets or mattresses (from crushed bugs or fecal matter), tiny white eggs or shed exoskeletons in crevices near the bed, and a sweet musty odor. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to inspect your bed and surrounding areas thoroughly to confirm the presence of bed bugs and take steps to remove them.

Here are a few early warning signs of a bed bug infestation in your place of living.

early signs of bed bugs
by adrenalina / unlimphotos

1. Irritation of the skin

One of the early signs of bed bug infestations is its reaction to your skin. Usually, when any potential foreign presence is not suitable for our body, for example, insects, it tries to warn us in ways such as creating an itching sensation.

Usually, the itching starts after you wake up after going to sleep in the presence of bed bugs. They are by nature nocturnal creatures so they will lay in wait in their typical hiding places, such as your bed frame or your dirty laundry in the daytime.

If your body is having an adverse reaction to the presence of bed bugs, you may start to itch. Bed bugs are more likely to bite you in areas where your skin is out and unprotected by layers of clothing.

Thus their usual bite areas would be in the upper body, as this is the part of your body most exposed while you are asleep.

So look out for any irritation in your skin in recent times. The irritation could be a mere mild itch, but it could also be a burning sensation that is very bothersome in some cases.

2. Their distinct odor

Another one of the first signs that should be noticed before it’s too late is the typical odor of bed bugs. Any unusual smell that was not there before is usually the first sign in most infestation cases. The severity of the smell depends on how many bed bugs are currently infesting the place.

At first, when there are just a few bugs, the smell may be easily missed. But as the number of bed bugs increases in the count, it becomes almost impossible to ignore their characteristic smell.

Bed bugs communicate by producing a sweet (sweet for them, unpleasant for us) smell from their body glands. They use this smell as a communication link between them.

When bed bugs emit these pheromones, it is usually a response to them feeling threatened. And since they use it to communicate with each other, the smell is usually not detected by the human nose unless you pay close attention.

The smell emitted is sometimes compared to smelling like almonds or raspberries. It is a sickly sweet smell evident to the trained nose but not the average person.

When the number of bed bugs increases:

However, when the number of bed bugs increases, the smell starts to go from raspberry-like to slightly unbearable.

Bed bugs, when they are in a large amount, that is, a full-blown infestation, usually tend to form a musty odor by getting their pheromones blended with the smell emitted by bed bud carcasses, empty bed bug cases or shells, and their fecal matter.

The resulting combination is those mentioned horrid musty odor that keeps growing as the number of bugs increases, and the bed bug problem worsens. It is described as being similar to the smell of rust.

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by Reana / unlimphotos

3. Welts on the skin

A typical way of noticing the presence of pests of any kind is insect bites. And just like any other kind of insect bite, bed bugs have characteristic itchy bites that are sure signs that they are in your house.

But even so, pest control professionals say that insect bites cannot determine an infestation in the house.

Bed bug bites mostly appear as red welts or bumps on the skin, primarily pinkish or reddish-raised welts.

They may be single bites that have space between them, but bed bug bites differ from other insects because their bites are mainly thought to leave “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” patterns which means that the bites appear close together.

These small clusters of bites are the telltale sign of bed bugs, although it is not necessary that the bites have to appear in the line formation. As bed bugs feed in the night, you will most likely wake up with red welts on your skin.

Sometimes people tend to develop allergic reactions to bed bug bites, causing severe itching and flu symptoms.

4. Signs of bed bug eggs

Bed bugs are egg-laying insects. They are shaped like rice grains but have a minimum diameter of only 1 mm. Bed bug eggs hatch in about a week after laying them. Female bed bugs lay up to seven eggs in a day. Spotting these is another one of the early signs of bed bugs.

Bed bug eggs are tough to spot, as they are of such small size, but if you are actively on the lookout for them, the small oval-shaped eggs are relatively easy to spot.

Bugs secrete an adhesive substance that makes it easy for the eggs to stick onto surfaces. Eggs that are more than 5 days old tend to have dark spots called eyespots, but these spots would only be visible under a magnifying glass.

5. Live bed bugs- nymphs and adults

The stage after the eggs is the bed bugs growing into full-grown adults. Adult bed bugs are rust-colored or brown. Nymphs are live bed bugs that are paler than adults, and they become larger and take on a reddish color after they feed.

Bed bugs are creatures that are the size of an apple seed and are reddish-brown or brown. When they are in the growing stages, they are called nymphs and paler than the adult stage color.

They have six legs and two antennae. Some common places to check for them would be the seams of your mattress, any wood framing, and upholstered furniture. Usually, checking for bugs with a flashlight would be sufficient.

6. Signs in your pet

Pets do not usually come to mind when we think about the victims of bed bug bites- they prefer the human touch.

However, there are cases where bed bugs bite the household’s pets. In such a case, keep checking for bed bugs on your pet. They are roughly the size of an apple seed and look similar to other insects like carpet beetles.

Since bed bugs can not use their adhesive to cling onto the fur that quickly, they will tend to attack parts of your pet’s body that have less fur- such as their soft bellies, so make sure to keep an eye out on your pets, too.

7. Blood on your bedding

Spotting blood on your bedding is never a nice thing to wake up to. Fortunately or unfortunately, if you suspect a bed bug infestation, this is one of the early signs of bed bugs taking over.

After having a blood meal, the bed bug, which was once flat as an apple seed, now bloats with the amount of blood it took from your body.

And since you are unaware that the bug is in the process of taking blood from your body, you may roll over and crush it, leading to it oozing the blood it took from your body onto your pillow or mattress, or blanket.

The bloodstains may appear to be the color of rust or the typical color of blood- red. However, the bloodstains on your bedding can have several reasons- from a pimple to a scab.

So make sure you confirm the theory of a probable bed bug infestation by going through all of the above signs before concluding.

Since the saliva of this blood contains a component that prevents blood clotting, there is a chance that the blood may not even be from crushing the bug- it could be from the bite on your skin.

8. Fecal stains and droppings

Like all other insects, bed bugs perform their typical bodily functions, including excretion. Bed bug droppings, also known as fecal spotting, look like small and dark spots, much like the inkspot of a pen.

Bed bug feces are mainly made up of human blood after digestion. It is black or brown-colored, and they are smaller than the bloodstains caused by the crushing of bed bugs.

As human blood contains iron, bed bug excrement will naturally smell like iron- with a characteristic rust smell. This, along with the pheromones discussed above, will combine with the unpleasant smell in the household.

One can find bed bug droppings almost anywhere you can find the bed bugs hide- the usual bedding, wood frames, and other furniture.

They can even be found on cloth surfaces like drapes and curtains. But mostly, they can be found in places where hiding is easy, like corners and other hidden surfaces.

The stains will remain on the fabric even after washing, so make sure to look out for any black stains on your clothes.

9. Shell casings and dead bed bugs

Husks or shells

Bed bugs are insects, so they have a hard shell for an exoskeleton. They tend to grow out and shed this shell once in a while. This shell or casing they shed could be another one of the signs of bed bugs.

The shell or exoskeletons are primarily translucent, taking on a yellow or brown color. They are found more freely than the actual bug, and you can check for them in the same place you would check for the actual bed bugs themselves- in bed frames, wall hangings, and any upholstered furniture too.

They shed their skin at every single one of their life stages- from the first instar nymph to the fifth instar and the final time once it reaches their final adult form.

Contact an experienced pest control professional if you spot many of these yellowish translucent exoskeletons. Since they shed in cycles, the husks would also be in different sizes.

32913342 scabby tree bug on house wall
by Dr-Lange / unlimphotos

Dead bed bugs

The shells and husks may also sometimes be accompanied by actual dead bugs- these are easier to spot as you already have an idea of what they look like.

Finding husks and dead bugs together is almost a sure sign of infestation, and you should probably call a pest control professional as soon as possible. While this may not be one of the early signs of bed bugs, it is still enough of a warning sign to call an exterminator.


Prevention is better than cure! Bed bugs are classified as public health pests, so their infestation is bound to be bothersome.

If you notice any of these signs, it is important to inspect your bed and surrounding areas thoroughly to confirm the presence of bed bugs.

So make sure to check out any of the above signs to take the required steps to get rid of them.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


1. How can I tell if I have bedbugs?

There are several ways to tell if you have bed bugs:

  1. Physical Evidence: Check your mattress and bedding for small reddish-brown bugs, tiny white eggs, and shed exoskeletons.
  2. Bites: Bed bugs often bite people during the night, leaving small, red, itchy welts on the skin.
  3. Blood spots: Check your sheets and mattress for small blood spots, which can be caused by bed bugs being squashed while they feed.
  4. Fecal spots: Bed bugs also leave behind small, dark fecal spots on surfaces around the bed.
  5. A sweet musty smell: Bed bugs release a specific smell that is a mixture of rotting raspberries and almonds.

If you suspect you have bed bugs, it’s best to confirm it by contacting a pest control professional to inspect your home.


2. What are the signs of bed bug bites?


The signs of bed bug bites can vary from person to person and may not appear for several days after the bite. Common signs of bed bug bites include:

  1. Small, red, raised welts or hives on the skin.
  2. Itching or burning sensation at the bite site.
  3. Bites often appear in a line or cluster, as bed bugs may bite multiple times in the same area.
  4. Bites may be more pronounced in people with sensitive skin or allergies.

It’s important to note that not everyone will have a reaction to bed bug bites, and some people may not show any symptoms at all. Also, bed bug bites can be mistaken for bites from other insects, so it’s essential to confirm the presence of bed bugs before treating the bites.


3. Can you see bed bugs crawling on your bed?


It is possible to see bed bugs crawling on your bed, especially at night when they are most active. Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown insects that are about the size of an apple seed. They are flat and have a segmented body. However, they tend to hide in cracks, crevices, and other small spaces during the day, so they may not always be visible.

If you suspect you have bed bugs, it’s important to inspect your bed and surrounding areas thoroughly, paying close attention to the seams and crevices of your mattress, the folds of your sheets, and the cracks in your bed frame and headboard. You may also want to use a flashlight or a magnifying glass to help you spot them.

If you find bed bugs and want to get rid of them, it’s best to contact a pest control professional as bed bugs can be hard to eliminate and require specific treatment methods.


4. What causes bed bugs and how can I avoid them?

Bed bugs can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  1. Travel: Bed bugs can easily hitch a ride on luggage, clothing, or furniture and be brought into your home from hotels, dormitories, or apartments.
  2. Used furniture: Buying or obtaining used furniture, especially beds and couches, can also lead to the introduction of bed bugs into your home.
  3. Unsanitary living conditions: Bed bugs thrive in cluttered and dirty environments, so homes that are not regularly cleaned and maintained can be more susceptible to infestations.

To avoid bed bugs, it’s important to take precautions when traveling and to be cautious when bringing used furniture into your home. When staying in a hotel, inspect the room for signs of bed bugs before unpacking, and keep your luggage off the floor and beds.

When buying used furniture, inspect it thoroughly for bed bugs and consider having it treated by a pest control professional before bringing it into your home.

Regular cleaning and vacuuming can also help to prevent bed bugs by removing their food source (shed human skin) and hiding places. Regularly inspecting your home for signs of bed bugs, especially in and around the bed, can also help to catch an infestation early before it becomes severe.


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