Tell if You Have Bedbugs

Edited by Yuliya, Doug Collins, Eng


How can you tell if you have bedbugs?

Bedbugs don't transmit diseases, but they're blood sucking parasites that are notoriously difficult to get rid of. But before you call in the exterminator, you need to figure out that you have these creepy crawlies in the first place. So how do you detect if you have bedbugs? Start by knowing the facts.

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Common bedbug myths

  • "My house is clean, so I can't have bedbugs." Unlike many other household pests like cockroaches, bedbugs aren't attracted by food crumbs or a dirty house. What attracts them is the sweet scent of the CO2 you exhale when you're asleep. So even if your house is spotless, it a bedbug finds his way to you, he might make your house his own home.
  • "I don't see anything on my mattress." Despite what their name implies, bedbugs don't just live in beds. They can fit into any crack wider than a business card, and often make their homes in unexpected places like desks, picture frames, walls, or other places you may not think to look. So just because you don't see them on your mattress doesn't mean you don't have them.
  • "It's impossible to tell if you have bedbugs because they're too small to see." While it's true that bedbug eggs and their young are very tiny, adults can grow as big as a quarter of an inch. They are visible to the naked eye, and leave behind signs (usually on the bed) like shell casings, black dots of fecal matter, and sometimes even small spots of dried blood from when they bit you.
  • "I'm not getting bitten but my spouse is, so it must be something else." The common saying about bedbugs is that they eat in a "breakfast, lunch, and dinner" pattern - groups of two or three bites at a time, often appearing hours after the bite actually happens. But different people react differently to bedbug bites. It's not unusual for one person to be getting eaten alive while a spouse sleeping in the same bed to be seeing absolutely no signs of bites.
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Catching bedbugs in a homemade bedbug trap

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The only way to know for sure if you have bedbugs is to actually see them. The first and easiest step is to check your bed for signs. Flip over your mattress and look in the seams especially. Check any connections and gaps. Look for small black dots, empty white shells, or the bugs themselves.

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If you can't find any signs of bedbugs on your mattress, it doesn't mean they're not there. Bedbugs can live anywhere in the area around your bed. To find signs of bedbugs if there are none in your bed, you can build a simple but effective trap using cheap household materials.

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What you'll need:

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  • Small plastic container
  • Large plastic container
  • Rough-surfaced tape
  • (Optional) Baby powder or other Talc-based powder

How to build the bedbug trap:

  1. 1
    Tape all around the outside of the larger container
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  2. 2
    Place a few strips of tape on the inside of the smaller container.
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  3. 3
    Put the smaller container in the middle of the larger container.
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  4. 4
    (Optional) Brush some baby powder along the space between the small and large container
    This will make the space slippery and harder to climb up.
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  5. 5
    Place the leg of your bed (or chair, or table - anywhere you suspect the bedbugs might be hanging out) inside the trap and leave it there overnight
    For best effects, make traps for every other leg as well, and make sure no bedding touches the floor.
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The trap works by intercepting bedbugs as they try to climb up the bed legs. Bedbugs actually don't only live in mattresses, they can live anywhere within 20 feet of their food source (that's you!). These traps are especially useful if you've checked your mattress and bed, and don't know where the bugs are coming from.

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Bedbugs can't fly or jump, so they climb into the traps and get stuck there. It might take a couple of days to catch anything, since bedbugs only need to feed every couple of days. When you do catch something, save it in a zip-lock bag (dead or alive) and show it to an exterminator or expert to confirm that it is a bedbug.

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Additional notes


  • One unusual way to detect bedbugs is bedbug sniffing dogs! Some dogs are specially trained to pick up the scent of even a single bedbug. Check to see if any are available in your area.



  • Jiří Humpolíček- Bedug001 [1]
  • Charlysays - Bedbugs [2]
  • Elgaard - BedbugSniffingDog [3]


  • University of Florida - A better bedbug trap: Made from household items for about $1 [4]
  • Bedbug Central - How Do I Know I Have Bed Bugs [5]
  • Virginia Tech, Dini M. Miller, Ph.D. - How to Identify a


If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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Article Info

Categories : Home Repair

Recent edits by: Doug Collins, Yuliya

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