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How to Check for Bed Bugs (Guide for Home and Travel)

Magnifying glass with an illustration of bed bugs in a bed

Learning how to check for bed bugs can be an invaluable skill, especially when you’re traveling to different parts of the country or even the world. With recent reports of Paris battling against bedbugs ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics, it’s more important than ever to learn how to check for these notorious pests!

In this complete guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about keeping an eye out for bed bugs within your home and when you’re out traveling so that you can prevent any future bed bug infestations in your living spaces.

Looking for Signs of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown insects about the size of an apple seed that often hide in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards. These pests can also find hiding places in cracks, seams, and crevices of couches, cushions, curtains, and even luggage.

There are many different early signs of bed bugs, and we have a full guide that I recommend you check out for the whole low-down.

One of the first signs of a bed bug infestation is often the presence of itchy welts or red bumps, which are the result of bed bug bites.

Other signs of bed bugs include dark spots on your bed sheets, which could be bed bug excrement, and small clusters of bed bug eggs often found in the folds of fabric or the joints of your bed frame.

Macro of bed bugs on white cloth

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Adult bed bugs, as well as bed bug nymphs, can sometimes be seen with the naked eye, especially when using a flashlight.

A musty odor, similar to the smell of wet towels, can also indicate an infestation. This odor is caused by the pheromones released by these insects. If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to contact professionals immediately to prevent further spread.

Remember, bed bugs are not only limited to beds and can infest apartments, hiding under the drawer or along the seams of your cushions and even behind the curtains.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

Bed bugs are notorious pests that can infest various areas in your home. They are particularly drawn to mattresses, box springs, and bed frames, where they can hide and lay their eggs.

These insects can also find hiding places in the seams, cracks, and crevices of couches and cushions, making them difficult to spot with the naked eye.

Bed frame and headboard infested with bed bugs

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

These pests are not limited to the bed frame and headboard, they can also hide in the folds of curtains, joints of drawer, and even behind the fabric of your luggage.

Bed bugs can also infest apartments, hiding in small clusters in the seams of bed sheets, or along the cracks and crevices of the walls and the joints of the furniture.

Signs of bed bugs include dark spots on your mattresses or cushions which are actually bed bug excrement, a musty odor caused by their pheromones, and blood stains from their blood meal.

In severe cases, bed bug bites can cause itchy welts or red bumps on the skin. If you suspect a bed bug infestation, it is recommended to seek help from professionals to effectively get rid of these pests.

Where to Check for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs can infest various areas in your home, particularly where you sleep. These pests are known for their bites, which can result in itchy welts and red bumps. Identifying signs of bed bugs early can prevent a full-blown bed bug infestation.

Start by inspecting your mattresses and bed sheets for dark spots, which could be bed bug excrement, or blood stains from their blood meal.

Pay special attention to seams, folds, and crevices, as these are favorite hiding places for adult bed bugs, bed bug nymphs, and bed bug eggs. The bed frame and headboard, especially the joints and cracks, should also be examined using a flashlight.

Hand with white gloves checking bed mattress for bed bugs using a flashlight

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Don’t overlook other furniture like couches and cushions. Bed bugs can hide in the fabric seams and under the cushions.

Check the seams of curtains and in the folds of fabric. Look along the edges of carpets, behind picture frames, and in the joints of drawer and furniture.

Remember, bed bugs can also leave a musty odor, so if you notice an unusual smell, it might be time to call in professionals.

If you do happen to come across an insect that you believe is a bed bug, make sure it’s not one of the 8 common bugs that look like bed bugs.

Bed Bug Behavior and Habit

Bed bugs are known for their unique behavior of staying close together in small clusters. They lay their eggs in these secluded areas, which are hard to see with the naked eye. Adult bed bugs, especially females, can lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetime. Let’s take a closer look at their feeding behavior and habits:

Feeding Behavior

Bed bugs are nocturnal pests known for their blood meal feeding habits. These insects, which can infest mattresses, couches, and even luggage, have a keen ability to detect the warmth and carbon dioxide emitted by humans, which they use to locate their next meal.

Macro photo of a bed bug on brown mattress

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

They typically feed at night, coming out of their hiding places in the seams, folds, and crevices of your bed frame, headboard, and even the box spring.

Once they’ve located a host, they use their sharp mouthparts to pierce the skin and consume a blood meal, often leaving behind itchy welts or red bumps known as bed bug bites.

Adult bed bugs, particularly females, can consume several times their body weight, leading to rapid breeding and infestations.

After feeding, they retreat back to their hiding places, leaving behind signs of bed bugs like dark spots from bed bug excrement or even blood stains on bed sheets.

Understanding the feeding behavior of bed bugs is crucial for early detection and effective management of these pests.

Life Stages and Mating

Bed bugs have a life cycle that includes several stages. They begin life as bed bug eggs, which are often found in small clusters and can be difficult to spot with the naked eye. These eggs are usually laid by females in key hiding places.

Bed bug life cycle – eggs, blood, and larvae on wood

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

As the bed bug nymphs hatch, they seek out a blood meal, often causing itchy welts or red bumps known as bed bug bites on their human hosts. These nymphs will shed their skins multiple times, leaving behind signs of bed bugs like dark spots or bed bug excrement.

Adult bed bugs, distinguishable by their darker color, can live for several months and are known for their musty odors caused by pheromones.

Mating is a crucial part of their life cycle, with females able to lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetime.

How to Check if Your Hotel Room Has Bed Bugs

When you check into a hotel room, the last thing you want to encounter is a bed bug infestation.

Start your inspection by examining the mattresses, bed frame, and headboard. Use a flashlight to check for signs of bed bugs such as dark spots, which could be bed bug excrement or small clusters of bed bug eggs in the seams, cracks, and crevices.

Checking for bed bugs on bed using a flashlight

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Check the box spring, frames, and joints of the bed, as these are common hiding places. Don’t forget to inspect the couches and cushions, and pay close attention to the fabric folds and seams.

Bed bugs can also hide under the drawer, in the curtains, and along the seams of your luggage. I recommend carrying a few bed bug traps and using them around your hotel bed to make sure there aren’t any in the room.

Look for reddish stains on bed sheets, which could be blood stains from crushed adult bed bugs or their blood meal. A musty odor, produced by bed bug pheromones, can also be a sign of infestation. If you find any signs of live bed bugs, contact professionals immediately.

Keeping Bed Bugs Out of Your Suitcase

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the first step to keeping bed bugs out of your suitcase is awareness. Know the signs of bed bugs: dark spots of bed bug excrement, tiny bed bug eggs, and live bed bugs, which can be seen with the naked eye.

Bed bug on a gray cloth

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

It’s also important to keep your suitcase off the floor and away from the bed. Consider using hard-sided luggage, which has fewer hiding places for these pests.

By taking these precautions, you can prevent unwanted hitchhikers and ensure your trip remains a relaxing getaway.

How To Know If You Have Bed Bug Bites?

Bed bug bites are often mistaken for hives or other insect bites, but there are some telltale signs to look out for. Their bites often appear as small clusters of red bumps or itchy welts, usually on uncovered areas of the body. Unlike other insect bites, bed bug bites often form a line or zigzag pattern.

Female back with clusters of red bumps due to bed bug bites

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Another sign is the presence of blood stains on your bed sheets or mattresses. You may also notice a musty odor, caused by the pheromones of live bed bugs.

If you suspect a bed bug infestation, check for signs of bed bugs in the seams, folds, and crevices of your bed frame, headboard, box spring, and even couches and curtains.

Use a flashlight to inspect dark spots, which could be bed bug excrement, or their eggs, which are visible to the naked eye. If you find any signs, contact professionals immediately to prevent further spread.

Other Bed Bug Guides from Planet Natural:

Bed Bug Bites: Pictures, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Complete Guide to Bed Bug Traps (+ 3 Best Ones in 2023!)