How to tell if you have bed bugs

What bed bugs look like

What signs can tell you that you have bed bugs? Can you even see them?

“I didn’t realize bed bugs were visible, I always thought they were microscopic”’ is a refrain I’ve heard all too often from people just learning about the annoying pests. If you think you might have them, or just want to guard against the little pests, you’ll need to know what they look like – and what signs tell you they’ve set up shop.

Can you see them? The myth of microscopic bedbugs…

“When I first got bed bugs I didn’t even think of ‘bed bugs’ as a possibility to identify my mystery bug because I didn’t think you could see them – and I’m an entomologist!” says Dr. Gale Ridge, entomologist and bed bug expert.  Gale receives calls all the time about the pests.

“In reality, bed bugs are the size of an apple seed when fully grown,” says Dr. Dini Miller at the University of Virginia.

Even when they’re babies, they’re still visible. Bed bug nymphs are harder to spot, but still visible, if you know where to look.

Bed bugs are very good at hiding, however, which is likely where that myth came from. To identify them, you’ll want to look for these signs – if you can’t find the bugs themselves.

Early signs of bed bugs

  1. Three bites in a row on your body (note: not everyone shows bites!)
  2. Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases. (Not sure if you’re seeing bloodstains? Change your bedding out for white bedding so you can see any excrement, shed exoskeletons or stains.)
  3. New dark spots on your floorboards or your sheets – a.k.a. bed bug excrement.
  4. A new musty odor you didn’t notice before

Bed bugs can be a slow disaster. It’s like mice: if you can see one, there are a lot more. Bed bug populations double in size roughly every 10 days with access to a regular meal; if you find any signs of bed bugs – especially what we call a “harborage” site, or a cluster of bed bugs hiding in wait for their next meal – you need to begin treatment as soon as possible.

How to tell if you have bed bugs

The bites & the stains tell the story. If you’re getting bitten at night, but see no sign of bed bugs otherwise, trust the evidence. (And vice versa: if you aren’t getting bit, but you do see stains, dark spots, or an odor you hadn’t smelled before – it’s time to call a pest control professional.)

Your next step: make your bed a refuge.
learn how here

Then check out our treatment guide, where we review all the options you might consider.


Stay proactive
Bed bugs are scary, but at least you’ll know them when you see them. Taking steps to protect yourself against bed bugs begins with education, but it shouldn’t end there. Being proactive instead of reactive is always the best strategy when dealing with the most stressful pests on the planet.

If you’re worried about bed bugs, watch our video series on myths about bed bugs on our YouTube channel
Check out our myth series

Education is key and you’ve made a great first step in dealing with bed bugs. With the help of the Bed Bug Adviser you can surely sleep tight tonight!

Do Bed Bugs Jump? & Other Bed Bug Myths
Get Rid of Bed Bugs with Our Treatment Guide

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