“Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Remember that old saying? Bed bugs have been bothering people for millennia, but for much of the 20th century they seemed to be a thing of the past. However, in the past 20 years, they’ve come back with a vengeance. Bedbugs are small and like to stay hidden, so you probably won’t notice them unless you’re doing a thorough inspection.
By Jesse Jardim
If you’re wondering, “Do I have bed bugs?” here are some indicators that might help you decide it’s time to find out for sure with a professional bed bug inspection. The sooner you find out for sure, the sooner you can set up a bed bug treatment to help you “sleep tight” once again.
1. Bed bug bites – Although you might not see bed bugs, there is a high probability that you will see and feel bed bug bites if you’re getting bitten. For roughly 30% of people a bedbug bite doesn’t cause any reaction. For the rest of us, the bite creates an itch and more severe red welts. Bed bugs don’t tend to carry diseases, but scratching the bites can lead to open sores, infection, and scarring.
2. Small dark marks on padded furniture – The most common places to find bedbugs are in the seams and tucks of mattresses and upholstered furniture. Pull the mattress pad off a corner of your mattress and use a flashlight to look carefully in the cracks next to the seam. Adult bed bugs will look like flax seeds only 3/16-inch long. Younger bedbugs are smaller and almost transparent so very difficult to see, even on white mattresses. The bugs are even harder to see on colored furniture, especially because they’ll be in deeper cracks, not easily accessed.
Bed bugs are largely nocturnal. Don’t expect to see the dark spots moving during an inspection, especially if you’re checking during the day. The bugs will also be accompanied by dark stains, which are actually the darkened fecal remains of ingested blood from you, their victim.
3. Reports of bed bugs from friends and neighbors or any place you have stayed recently – Bed bugs are great hitchhikers. If you stay in an infested hotel room, you’ll likely bring bed bugs home with you. If the people in the apartment next to you have bedbugs, it’s likely the persistent little creatures will find their way to your apartment too. If you have bedbugs in your living room sofa, you’re likely to have them in your bed soon.
4. Musty Smell – In very large numbers, bed bugs give off an odor ranging from a rather pleasant coriander aroma to the musty smell of poorly dried towels. Trained bed bug sniffing dogs can smell them in nooks and crannies of your furniture when just one or two are present.
5. A spotlessly clean (or more normal) home – No, not all clean homes have bedbugs, but they can, just as often as rather cluttered, messy, less clean houses. The point is that having bed bugs is NOT the sign of a dirty home. Keeping your home neat and clean in general will minimize pest problems, but it won’t keep bed bugs from finding snug little spots to start an infestation once they get in the door.