Bed bugs are turning into quite the pesky problem. These little apple seed-sized bugs can easily transfer locations with more people traveling, living in apartments, or buying second-hand furniture.
In a 2015 survey called “Bugs Without Borders,” 99.6 percent of pest control professionals reported treating bed bugs within the past year. The survey also found bed bugs increasing in places not known to be infested before, including some unusual spots.
So if you’re wanting to stay clear of these pesky creatures, here are 5 warning signs you should look for:
1. Bug bites in a line
Bed bugs thrive on blood; so they tend to hide in places where they can get a good supply. When they’ve found what they’re looking for, the bugs will often bite in several places to find the best spot.
If you find small, itchy bites in a straight line or zig-zag pattern, this is an indication you could have bed bugs, says Terminix.
The bites tend to be raised and may produce a burning sensation. However, some people don’t react to the bug bites at all.
You may need to check for bed bugs on a regular basis regardless of whether you’ve received a mysterious bite.
2. Dark brown or reddish-brown stains
Even if you don’t see the bed bugs themselves, they often leave behind telltale traces.
According to Reader’s Digest, unexplained dark brown spots or reddish-brown stains that smear when wiped are a few signs the bugs might leave. Often, the spots are no bigger than a pencil point but they may be bigger if smeared.
These spots could suggest an area where the bug has been feeding, living, or excreting—so you’ll want to wash your bedding carefully.
3. White or yellow shells
Next, you might see the casings from young bed bugs called nymphs. Nymphs are hard to detect due to their nearly invisible bodies, but you might find their casings in mattress seams or in the springboard.
Be sure to look for pieces of nymphs or near-adult shells too, which can look like little flakes of white or brown skin.
4. Bed bug eggs
Along with the young nymph casings, you may see bed bug eggs that could pose a greater problem once they hatch. If you’re able to spot bed bugs in this stage and get rid of them quickly, the problem will be much easier to resolve. However, eggs do mean that adult bed bugs are close by.
Terminix says the eggs will be hard to see on their own. They may provide an additional clue to the problem, though.
The eggs are a bright white color or may have a yellow coloring to them, and you’ll likely see them in areas where adult bed bugs live.
See the next warning sign to get an idea of where to look.
5. Live bed bugs
It’s unlikely you’ll find live bugs as your first warning sign. However, if you have a heavy infestation, you might see the little creatures in certain spots, says the Environmental Protection Agency.
Places you may find bed bugs include:
- Mattress seams, corners, or around the headboard
- Chair or couch seams
- Around walls where they connect with the ceiling or another wall
- In electrical outlets
- In drawer joints
- Under loose wallpaper
If you are looking for live bugs, you should get familiar with what bed bugs look like. According to Reader’s Digest, many travelers (who are at risk for encountering bed bugs) don’t know the difference between these and other common pests.
You should look for a wingless bug that’s round and flat. If they’ve just encountered a meal, they may look more plump and reddish. Otherwise, their bodies are small and brown.
That description is different from spiders which have longer legs and a much less flat body. Also, ants and termites are small and skinny compared to bed bugs.
The Bugs Without Borders survey suggests the top 3 places you should be looking for bed bugs are: in apartments, in single-family homes, and in hotels.
However, other places they might inhabit are nursing homes, offices, schools and daycare centers. Basically, anywhere the bugs can access a variety of hosts are fair game for infestations.
Be careful and check often, especially during the peak season—summer—when people are traveling the most.