How Do I Know If I Have Bed Bugs?

It is not difficult to determine if your house or apartment has become infested with bed bugs, but because a number of different insects can cause infestations, the best way to be completely sure that bed bugs are your problem is to come up with an actual sample of a bug or an egg.  Short of this, home owners and tenants can use secondary signs and symptoms to deduce that their problem is bed bugs rather than another insect.

Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation

  • Bed Bug Fecal Matter (looks like blood and often found as smears on sheets or linen)
  • Bed Bug Skin/Shells (bed bugs shed there shells as they develop)
  • Blood Stains on Sheets From Bites
  • Bed Bug Bites

Fecal Stains

Finding Bed Bug Fecal Stains

Most of the secondary signs manifest themselves in the form of fecal stains or spotting.  When the problem is bed bugs, the fecal matter produced by the insects tends to collect in a few key locations:

  • on the seams and edges of a mattress, particularly along the piping
  • on the contours of a box spring
  • inside a box spring itself
  • on the back side of a head board
Identifying Fecal Stains

Because bed bugs generally feast on the blood of their hosts, creeping out of hiding places at night to latch on, some people think that fecal stains from the insects should at least be tinged with the color of blood.  This is not in fact the case.

Fecal spotting tends to resemble smears or stains which are dark brown or even black.  This is because the blood has been digested and excreted.

Bed Bug Shed Skin, Eggs, and Live Bugs

Finding Bed Bug Shed Skin

In some cases, shed skin is also a sign of a bed bug infestation. You are likely to find shed skin where bed bugs habitat. The same goes for bed bug eggs (which are tiny), and live bugs.

  • Piping of the Mattress
  • Bottom of the Box Spring /Beneath Mattress

You are likely to find bed bug shed skin along the piping of a mattress as well as on the bottom of the box spring, which can also be a place where both eggs and live bugs can be found.  As all of these locations indicate, bed bugs are called that for a reason.  They do tend to assemble in the areas in and around beds.

You may also find crushed bed bugs under the sheets where you’re weight has squashed a few roam beneath the sheets.

Blood Stains on Sheets

You can often find smears of blood on the sheet where bed bugs have been active. These smears may be any of the following:

  • Bed Bug Fecal Matter (bed bugs dedicate processed blood as poop)
  • Your Blood After a Bite (bed bugs release an anti-coagulant into your body when they bite you. Some blood can pool from the bite and stain the sheet after the bed bug has finished “feeding” on you)
  • Crushed Bed Bugs

If you do notice blood stains on sheets, it’s powerful evidence that bed bugs have been active, either recently or in the past. Combined with some other form of evidence (bit marks on your body for example), you can be certain there is a bed bug infestation.

Bed Bug Bites

bed bug bitebed bug bites on back

Another indication of a bed bug infestation is the presence of bites on members of the family.  While these are not a 100% certain indication, they may certainly raise concerns and cause a tenant or home owner to search in the locations listed earlier to see if bed bugs are a likely culprit.  Should an actual bug be found, that would be a sure indication.  People who fear they may have found a bed bug can compare the insect they have located to photographs widely available on the internet in order to confirm their suspicions.

Bites that suggest a bed bug infestation will normally occur at night when family members are sleeping.  This is because bed bugs are nocturnal.  If you or a member of your family is waking up each morning with new bites, you should look for bed bugs.  If, on the other hand, family members are acquiring bites at random times, you may have an infestation of some other kind of insect.

Keep in mind that NOT all people react to bed bug bites. This is why some members of a family may never directly notice a bed bug infestation because the bite marks never show, while other family members get bitten and have a reaction to the bite in the form of red welting around the bite marks and terrible itching.

You may want to read our other article about identifying a bed bug infestation and how to check for bed bugs.

I Found Evidence of Bed Bugs. What Do I Do?

If you’ve spotted blood on your sheets, bed bug fecal matter, found bed bug skin, woke up with bite marks on your body, or spotted live bugs, here is what to do.

You Are In a Hotel

If you experience bed bugs in a hotel, it’s key that you document the evidence. Some hotels like to deny bed bug problems and you may need to “prove your case” to ensure you get a full refund or claim compensation from the hotel. Many hotels, especially middle or lower range ones, may balk at giving you a refund IF you can’t absolutely prove your case.

1. Document the Evidence

-Take a Picture of the blood stains, bite marks, fecal matter, crushed bugs, or live bugs with a camera. The more pictures, the better.

-If you find actual physical evidence of the bug itself, capture it so you can show to hotel management.

If you happen to capture a live bug, it’s VERY helpful to future-proof your your claim by taking a picture of the bed bug along with some documentation that identifies the hotel. We suggest you use one of the hotel documents (often found in a folder left on a table or desk in the hotel room) with the hotel name clearly visible along with the room key (with room number visible). If you have any other evidence that proves the date, such as newspaper, include that in the photo.

Again to have good photo evidence, put the bed bug by or on:

  • Hotel Document with Hotel Logo
  • Room Number Key
  • Paper with Current Date

If you capture the above evidence, you basically will have documented evidence of the bed bug infestation, hotel name (and address), room number, and date. This will be a powerful evidence to prove your case both to the hotel and public.

You’ll want the picture evidence of the bug found in the hotel to be something like this:

2. Report Infestation to Hotel Management

It’s critical that you report the infestation to management while you stay at the hotel. Quite often, hotels will deny responsibility after you leave the hotel. Show any evidence you have to the hotel manager. If you have evidence, you should be able to get the room comped at the very least.

3. Secure Your Items

If there are bed bugs in a room, you need to take active steps to ensure you don’t bring them along with you to your next destination. Bed bugs can and will travel with you in your clothes and luggage.

1. Throw Away Luggage (or have it steam cleaned right away)

2. Wash ALL clothes in highest temperature setting. Dry at highest temperature for several hours.

3. Bag up any accessories

You may want to just put all your items into plastic bags

It’s a time sink to secure your items after you are exposed to bed bugs, but you do NOT want bed bugs coming home with you and infesting your house. Note that if you have evidence of the bed bug infestation, you stand a good chance of getting the hotel to comp you for any luggage/items you throw away or replace. They should also take care of the cleaning costs (dry cleaning clothes/washing items).

4. Move to a Room Far Away

If you choose to stay in that same hotel (and some people don’t), make sure you are put in a room that’s 30 feet or more away from the infestation. Bed bugs that infest one room may easily infest other rooms nearby. If the bed bugs have been infesting a room for a while, they’ve probably spread to other rooms on the same floor. Ideally, try and get a room on a different floor completely to cut down on the chance of another infestation experience. If the second room you are given has bed bugs, check out of the hotel!

It goes without saying, inspect your new room for signs of bed bugs!

5. File a Bed Bug Report on Registry.BedBugs.net about the hotel

We recommend you report the bed bug infestation on our bed bug registry for that hotel. Of course, this depends on how the hotel treated you after the incident, but we feel it should be public knowledge whether a hotel room has had a bed bug infestation in the past. Hotels, understandably, like to keep this under wraps. If the hotel has treated you well, you may not want to file a report — but we leave that up to you.

Your At Home

Bad news if you have bed bugs at home. You’ve got a battle ahead of you, but you can win it. It won’t be instant victory though.

Do It Yourself Bed Bug Treatment Strategy

1. Replace Mattress (the most likely place bed bugs will be living). Read our Guide on what to do with a mattress after a bed bug infestation

2. Start Bed Bug Treatments (Read THIS bed bug treatment article)

Pest Management Solutions

If you can’t deal with treating the bed bug problem yourself, it is a good idea to contact a professional pest management company if you suspect an infestation in your home.  They will be able to inspect your home thoroughly, and if they confirm your suspicions, they can help you explore your options for eradication.


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