What Bed Bugs Look Like
In order to conduct an effective bed bug inspection you must know a little bit about bed bugs. A bed bug, whose scientific name is cimex lectularius, is a small, oval shaped, wingless bug with six legs. The average adult bed bug is approximately five millimeters long and is about as wide as a credit card is thick; a newly hatched nymph however is much smaller and can be the size of a pinhead. The shape of an adult bed bug has been described as similar to that of an apple seed except that a bed bug is relatively flat. Bed bugs range in colors from nearly white at the nymph stage to brown as adults and rusty-brown if they are adults that have recently fed on blood.
A Simple, Visual Inspection of Sleeping Areas
The least complex, and first method you should use to inspect for bed bugs is a simple visual inspection. This can be done with no tools at all, but using a good flashlight and a magnifying glass can be very helpful. Note that bed bugs are a nocturnal pest, extremely tiny and thin and will hideout in the smallest of cracks and crevices during daylight hours. Therefore, adult bed bugs may be difficult to see during the day. During your inspection, you are really looking for evidence of bed bugs or bed bug eggs in cracks and crevices. Although bed bugs can be found in many areas, the first place that should be inspected is any soft furniture used as a sleeping area that has places for a bed bug to hide; pieces of furniture that fall into this category include both beds and sofas.
Adult bed bugs should be observable with the naked eye but will typically not be found during the day. If adult bed bugs are hiding, only nymphs and eggs may be present and a magnifying glass will be very beneficial in seeing them. In some cases you will not see actual bed bugs but you will see evidence that they were there. Small dark spots on the mattress may be bed bug feces, eggs, shed skin, or blood blots. Unfortunately it is sometimes hard for untrained people to identify bed bug waste.
When inspecting a bed, the first step should be to carefully lookover the fitted sheet and mattress pad that is the sleeping surface. Look for blood stains, often described as looking like pepper, and also inspect for bug parts or squished bugs. Next, it is important to inspect the seams, edging, and corners of the mattress. Gently pull at the sides of the mattress to make it easier to look in the corners. If you have a flashlight, shine the flashlight in the area for better visibility. If you are inspecting a chair, sofa, or other upholstered piece of furniture, first take of any removable cushions, and like the inspection of the bed, look at any crevices, corners or seams where a bed bug would be able to hide.
A Thorough Bed Bug Inspection
If you want to conduct a more in-depth inspection, after you have looked at the tops of upholstered items, move on to other, more discreet areas that may contain bed bugs. After completely inspecting and stripping a mattress turn it over and inspect the underside as well as the top of the box spring. Next, remove the box spring and with a flashlight thoroughly inspect the bottom side of it. The underside of box springs is a favorite hiding spot for bed bugs.
In a room that has a bed, sofa, or chair, the next place to inspect is the furniture around those items. Make sure to take a close look at the front and backside of the head-boards. Picture frames hung near furniture, night stands, joints of any drawers and even electrical outlets can be infestation areas for bed bugs. Bed bugs may also be present in places where we often hang clothing like a coat closet or on the back of a door.
Another option beyond the visual inspection is the use of detection device. There are devices on the market now that will let you know if you have a bed bug problem by encouraging bed bugs to enter a device that traps them until you are able to see them. These devices are usually small and discrete so they can be placed either between the mattress and the box spring of a bed, or near any area you may suspect there are bed bugs.
If Bed Bugs Are Discovered
If you do uncover bugs near a sleeping area in the home we recommend saving it in a sealed container and having a pest professional or local cooperative extension identify it. In the case of an infestation you will want to carefully place all bed linens immediately into a sealed plastic bag and wash and dry them on the highest temperature setting. This will kill all stages of the bugs. There is no need to throw out your mattress! If bed bugs have infested the room there is a good chance that they will simply reinfest any new mattress brought into the room.
To learn more about bed bug, read here.