What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Adult Bed Bugs

As you can see in the picture, bed bugs can seem to have stripes.
As you can see in the picture, bed bugs can seem to have stripes. | Source

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Bed bug bites look like small red dots that are .15 inches in diameter. There are usually 3 red dots grouped together within a few inches. Initially the dots that make up the rash are perfect circles. After being scratched the rash may look more like a welt.

These pictures were taken while volunteering in a bed-bug-infested neighborhood. They are mean to be as a useful tool to help you identify your mystery bug.

Use discretion when comparing your bug to these pictures. If the bug you found looks like this, then consider calling a reputable exterminator.

If you are sure you have an infestation, it is time to learn how to exterminate bed bugs, which includes a to-do list and informs you about what supplies you will need.

Call a professional right away if you will not be doing it yourself.

A delayed reaction could lead to disaster. Bed bugs multiple so quickly, that it could be only a matter of weeks before full infestation. Exterminating these vampires is not something you can put off until tomorrow.

Bed Bugs Come In All Shapes And Sizes

The dark portion of the body tells us that this baby bed bug has started a meal.
The dark portion of the body tells us that this baby bed bug has started a meal. | Source

Stages Of Live, Habitat, Activity and Physiology

Bed bugs go through many stages of life. In their youth phase they can be difficult to see because they are whitish, unless they have started a meal.

While young, the only brown/red/black found on them signifies that it has had a blood meal.As a bed bug grows it sheds its skin, which is referred to as a cast.

As they grow older their bodies become darker until they are a dark brown. Some people think that bed bugs are black, or even red. However, they only appear this way in pictures because of lighting.

A complete meal will satisfy an adult or baby bed bug for around two weeks. Feeding is often interrupted when the victim moves in their sleep. The bug will attempt to eat until their back is fully rounded.

Once full, it will return to its secret hiding place where it huddles with its friends and family.

Bed bugs hit peak activity after 2 a.m., but before dawn. However, they could be active at any point in the day or night.

These creepers are built for ultimate survival. They have no issue with changing feeding habits if there is no meal available at night.

They may also nest in places you would not expect. Before reading on, dispel the notion that bed bugs only infest cloth and cloth items.

They have been observed under rubber moldings, in shoes, clocks, frames, and metal brackets that attach shelves to walls. That is on top of being found on mattresses, bed frames and box springs.

Bed bugs have six legs, stripes on their body and are usually flattened, unless they recently had a full blood meal.

Their appearance changes as they age, and when they eat, which makes them tricky to identify.

Once you are sure you have bed bugs, then it is time to either call a professional, or invest in bed-bug sprays, such as Harris Bed Bug Control, Hot Shot Bed Bug & Flea, or Suspend SC.

Bed Bugs In Motion

Adult Bed Bug Size Comparison.
Adult Bed Bug Size Comparison. | Source

How to Identify Bed Bugs

Bed bugs can be identified by size, shape, and color. Adult bed bugs are about .20 in diameter and are brownish to reddish depending on the most recent feeding. They have six legs, a pair of antennae. They are flat until fed, and then their back will be raised.

These factors change throughout a bed bug's life cycle, between feedings, and due to genetic variation.

A bed bug that is flatter is likely to head for a meal soon. If you squish him, there should be dark red pasty goo. This is the digested blood which is now feces.

They are creeepers who love to hang out together; in heavy infestations it is not uncommon to find large groups of 10, 20, or more huddled together.

Be prepared to have an iron stomach when fighting a war against these nighttime nightmares; there is no room for the squeamish. Not to mention that squished bed bugs have a lingering musty smell.

Stress from infestation often causes more harm than the bugs themselves.

If you travel a lot, the stress is amplified. If you travel for business the idea of embarrassing bed-bug rashes can be worse. In these cases, a good product to help reduce stress is the Pack Tite Portable Bed bug heater.

You can use it on hotel blankets and linens, as well as your own belongings. It will not scotch or damage these items, and will help you fall asleep knowing you are safe.

Let Us Know!

Have you ever seen a bed bug in person?

  • Yes.
  • No.
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Exterminating Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are not slow, sluggish creatures. My wisdom about these creatures comes from first-hand experience.

While performing research, and offering assistance, in a poverty-stricken bed-bug-infested area, I learned a lot.

When we searched for bugs, some were not even found on the same side of the room as the bed.

Bed bugs have many faces. They can be reddish, rusty colored, brown, or even white (if they're immature).

If these pictures are too familiar I urge you to seek a professional. Specifically look for a company who understands how feeding changes their appearance.

Exterminators should understand how identifying the species impacts extermination.

If you are going to invest in a professional, you cannot go with a cheap exterminator who does not know what they are doing. The result of using inexperienced exterminators is having to call them out repeatedly. This could cost you thousands of dollars. In the end, cheap exterminators are going to cost you more than the experts.

One thing you must know about the professionals is that they offer a conditional warranty. They will come back until your problem is gone IF you meet certain requirements, such as placing mattress covers on all mattresses.

Mattress Cover Recommendations

More than one expert who I have interviewed recommended the Sleep Defense System Mattress covers. They have secure zippers and are machine washable (a must). Many mattress covers are made of plastics, which melts when you wash them.

People don't realize that these things need to be washed, and end up having to buy new ones when they need cleaned. Sleep Defense system is one of the few bands which are designed to be machined washed. This makes this brand superior to many other brands.

Sleep defense mattress covers also use a pocketed zipper system. Once zipped, you tuck the zipper under the a cloth flap. This secures the zipper. On other brands, which do not secure the zipper, problems ensure, when the zipper moves slightly.

It only takes a small space for any remaining bugs to escape. Sleep Defenses zipper lock system prevents this.

They are comparable in price, or if anything, only slightly more than the competitors price, but with much more value and practicality.

For more info see: Bed Bug Pillow And Mattress Cover Guide

Professional Exterminators

  • Orkin, the leading bed bug exterminator, goes so far as to explain that there are many different species of bed bugs.
  • Terminix is another great option. They offer a lot of specials and often will give a free inspection and quote.

Whoever you choose, do your research before you cut your check.

Professional or DIY Bed Bug Removal

Bed bugs are invasive, and can live under the harshest of temperatures. Which is why is why it is essential to spray poison thoroughly.

If you do not feel comfortable with spraying, then you should call a professional. In most cases, you should call a professional. However, some people do not have the funds, or just prefer to do bed bug removal themselves.

If you do it yourself, make sure to read all pesticide instructions carefully. Then, read them again, and carefully!

Misusing pesticides can be dangerous.

People have the tendency to use too much concentrate when mixing pesticides.

If you choose to use chemicals, it is not a bad idea to print up a list of potential side effects. As well as research the pesticide yourself.

Bed Bug on a comforter.
Bed Bug on a comforter. | Source

Bed Bug Information

  • Bed bug eggs look like little grains of rice. These are bed bug eggs.
  • According to the Ohio State University's Entomology research on bed bugs, a bed bug can lay up to 10 eggs at a time.
  • The large pale bed-bug-looking spots are actually bed bug skins.
  • Some people find molted skins and mistake them for dead bed bugs.
  • Sometimes people believe that a pesticide product is working, when it is not.
  • The temperature needed to kill bed bugs is 113° F or 45° C
  • It only takes 15 minutes at those temperatures to kill be bugs, but takes an hour to kill the eggs.

He Wants To Suck Your Blood

Bed Bug Creeping in bed at night
Bed Bug Creeping in bed at night | Source

Killing Them Whilst They Are Creeping Through the Night

Bed bugs are agile and can climb blankets, walls, and even across the ceiling.

If you are searching for signs of bed bugs, you might want to invest in traps.

These traps should be placed under the mattress, near where your head would be.

These creepy critters use carbon dioxide to track you down, so there are usually more at the head of a mattress.

There are lots of traps that are great. My favorite is Buggy Bed because it uses special ingredients that mimic carbon dioxide.

This leads the bed bugs to the trap and away from you. The Buggy Bed Traps work better than many competitors because it uses an enclosed bait and trap system. Many traps are messy glues, and have fumes, but not these. They are completely surrounded by plastic, accept for small holes that are the bed bug by-way to becoming trapped.

Pile of Bed Bugs

A bunch of dead bed bugs.
A bunch of dead bed bugs. | Source

Undead Use Dead To Hide

This photo was taken one day after a spray. That is a great sign that the spray is working.

There are still some living bed bugs in the area, too.

Something I noticed with this group is that the living bed bugs would pick up the dead ones and hide under them.

Even if you find a pile like this you cannot assume they are all dead.

Under the dead ones might be some hiding living ones.

A second spray is needed within two weeks because eggs are usually not affected.

If you find bugs that look like these, it is time to take action towards becoming bed bug free.

Squished Bed Bug Advisory

If you use a paper towel to pick up a bed bug and squish it between your thumb and first finger, you will see blood.

Not just a little blood, but a lot of blood.

Keep in mind that this could be your blood, or someone else's blood.

Not only people who live in the house, but guests and visitors.

If you do squish them, use enough layers of paper towels to prevent you from coming in contact with the blood.

While bed bugs do not spread disease, it is better to be safe than sorry and avoid coming in contact with the blood.

A freshly-fed bed bug will squirt blood in all directions when you crush it, and it bleeds right through the paper towel.

You probably want to wear gloves if you try this, especially if the blood may not be yours.

One other thing I suggest is to pay close attention to the smell when you squish it.

This smell is hard to describe, but once you smell it, you know it.

At this point, I can tell when a home has a moderate to severe infestation just by that smell.

I saw an advertisement for bloodhounds who sniff out bed bugs.

Seeing how unique the smell is, I can see why something like that would be possible.

Bed bugs are an epidemic. Now you know what to look for so you can protect yourself and your family.

More Images Below

This immature bed bugs picture shows a baby bed bug on a woman's finger. It is white and so tiny that you almost cannot see it.
This immature bed bugs picture shows a baby bed bug on a woman's finger. It is white and so tiny that you almost cannot see it. | Source
Can you squish bed bugs? Yes, look at this picture of a squished bed bug.
Can you squish bed bugs? Yes, look at this picture of a squished bed bug. | Source
Squished bed bug.
Squished bed bug. | Source

Works Cited

"Types of Bed Bugs". Orkin. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2012
"Ohio State University Extension fact sheet: Entomology, Bed Bugs". 
       OSU. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2012. 
       < >.

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Comments 20 comments

unknown 3 months ago

I know the smell and could never forget it. I have a thong where i can tast what I smell for some things and I was eating chicken and that smell(flavor) made me throw that peice away. I have had bed bugs forprobly almost 5 years and I am still not used to havong them in my home. I have tried everything to get rid of them bit they are still here

Mitch 10 months ago

I have a bed bug problem. The only places we've had problems is in the master bed, and my sons car seat. It appears that I've eradicated the car seat colony( which is the only place I've actually found bugs). I thought I got the master bedroom under control, but my wife is still getting bit. I've put the mattress and pillows in an encasement, washed and dried all the sheets on hot, and placed the bedframe in the cup traps that are supposed to stop bed bugs from getting from getting from the floor to the bed. I've moved the bed to the middle of the floor, and don't let any thing thought the wall of floor. As far as I can tell the bed should be an island that no bedbugs can get on or off of. The bedframe is wood and I've sprayed it, but they must still be in the frame since we're still getting bit. Is there something I'm missing, like another way bugs are getting too the bed? Or is it note likely that the bugs are deep in the cracks of the frame and are still able to come out and get us?

pt109 17 months ago

ok so I think Ive discovered signs of bedbugs, I vacuumed the bed like a mofo and Im going to get a bed cover/zipper thing. My question is this: will I be sleeping on a layer of decomposed bedbugs ? Do they live inside the mattress? thanks for your article, well done.

Ive been a nervous wreck all day, Im starting to calm down a bit.

Pharma131 2 years ago

Very nice site!

Johnk966 2 years ago

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ptosis profile image

ptosis 3 years ago from Arizona


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peachpurple 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

i see you have lots of bugs at home. Is that an old house with old beddings? I have lots of bites on my legs but not sure whether they are bugbites. Will hunt for the bugs before setting my conclusions. Thanks for sharing the photos.

jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 3 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

This is interesting and disturbing at the same time. When we have to live with these critters, we need to take action ASAP.

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Bedbugabscond 3 years ago from United States Author

Thanks for stopping by. Prevention is ALWAYS the best way to deal with bed bugs. When you travel try to do an inspection of your hotel room before you settle in. Look for the feces, eggs (look like rice, and feces. Another tip is to request a fresh top blanket.

I worked in a hotel for years and the top blanket was only washed once a month, even though sheets were done daily. I think it is good to ask for a clean one, even if you don't find a sign of bed bug.

There are also some great organic travel sprays you can spray on your luggage and the bed, just in case! Happy traveling!

janices7 profile image

janices7 3 years ago

My husband and I travel A LOT so I'm always worried about bringing home critters with us. These things are a nightmare once they invade. Your pictures are quite helpful since you put in the hand for scale. They are actually a bit bigger than I thought they were. Thanks for such an informative hub!

Aadom23 profile image

Aadom23 3 years ago from Albany

I actually had a friend who was bitten by bed bug, it left her body all red. This is a very informative hub.. Thank You

summerberrie 3 years ago

This one has left me itching! Lots of great information and well presented. Voted up and useful.

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Billjames007 3 years ago

According to the folks at EastSide Exterminators, repeated treatments are required to make sure bedbuds don't come back.

Golivas88 3 years ago

I've heard that the smell is like that of spoiled or rotten raspberries

Bedbugabscond profile image

Bedbugabscond 4 years ago from United States Author

No, I don't think it smells like blood. Some people say it smells like nightshade, but I don't know what that smells like. I know the bed bug smell though. It is VERY distinctive. The smell bed bugs make cuts the air, it sticks out (not if you are used to it of course). It is a sort of tangy smell kind of bitter and a little sweet. It isn't gross smelling, but it is defiantly something "odd". I keep trying to figure out how to describe it, and that is still the best I can do since the smell is so unique. Thanks for reading! Sorry about the chills!

CrisSp profile image

CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

I have goose bumps all over me while reading this and looking at those photos but I have to continue, so I'm aware. Very informative. I just hate bugs-all kinds. You mentioned to smell it when you squish it. How does it smell? Is it as distinct as the smell of blood? Curious...

ROBERTHEWETTSR profile image

ROBERTHEWETTSR 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

What an expose on bedbugs. Great post. No one is immune to these feisty little creatures. Thanks for following me I will be following you too. Robert

Bedbugabscond profile image

Bedbugabscond 4 years ago from United States Author

It isn't a terrible idea to replace your mattress frequently. Bed bugs plus dust mites equals yuck. A cheaper alternative would be to purchase a zippered mattress cover and to replace as needed.

Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 4 years ago from London, UK

Oh my.... those photo's... but it's important to learn about these things. It makes me wonder, maybe people should bin their matrasses every 5 years?

Great Hub.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 4 years ago from California

Very well written. Like your use of pictures. My son was in pest control for awhile. He said a good pest control wouldn't stop at just one treatment. :)

Glad this wasn't your home.

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    Melody Trent (Bedbugabscond)135 Followers
    32 Articles

    Melody is a CDC Committee volunteer and activist who has been fighting and educating others about bed bug infestations for years.

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