With the ongoing bed bug outbreaks around the country, one of the most commonly asked questions is: What do bed bugs look like? This post will provide a detailed description of these bothersome bugs as well as some of the signs and behaviors they’re known for.

Identifying Bed Bugs – What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

nest of bed bugs in bed

If you’ve asked yourself “what do bed bugs look like?” then consider these factoids:

  1. Bed bugs are wingless insects.
  2. They are flat and oval in shape.
  3. Their color is a rust or reddish brown.
  4. Bed bugs that have just fed appear almost as red as the blood they just fed on.
  5. They are covered in microscopic hair.
  6. Their average size is 4mm to 5mm in length.
  7. A bed bug mouth resembles a beak, which is what they insert into the skin to draw out blood.

Did You Know?

  • The Centers for Disease Control have noted about 92 sub species of bed bugs that have been found around the world.
  • They report that the most common species of bed bugs found among today’s infestations is known as Cimex lectularius – the species best adapted to human environments commonly found in temperate climates throughout the world.
  • They were identified as far back as the 1600’s in Europe and were thought to have not been found in America until settlers arrived, bringing them over on ships.

Signs and Behaviors of Bed Bugs

check house

Because of their minuscule size, it is also important to know about the signs and behaviors of bed bugs should they make their way into your domicile or hotel room. Here’s what to look for:

  • On bedding, look for red or black dots, which can be blood or feces, or little white spots, which may be bed bug eggs.
  • The newly hatched bed bugs, known as nymphs, are translucent in appearance and grow to the darker color as they mature.
  • Bed bugs are parasitic in nature like mosquitoes, so inspect any bites on your skin in the form of a large, red welt that comes with intense itching.
  • These insidious insects tend to come out more at night.
  • Bed bugs also feed on pets, rodents, and other warm-blooded animals.
  • They do not move very quickly and can only crawl; they do not jump like fleas and ticks.

Bed bugs do not live that long in the grand scheme of things but, while they are alive, they tend to thrive – multiplying at a rapid pace and creating a national crisis in the process.

Life cycle of Bed Bugs

The average bed bug life cycle is anywhere from ten months to just over one year. During that time, they can create up to three new generations of bugs from three to eight eggs that are produced at one time. In total, a bed bug can produce up to 500 eggs in their lifetime, not all of which will lead to a new life but does illustrate just how fast and big the bed bug problem can get.

life cycle bed bugs

The gestation period of the eggs is about 12 days. The hatched eggs produce nymphs, which are beige until they start feeding on blood. Over the course of the next 32 to 48 days, they will go through five more developmental stages before reaching maturity.

An adult bed bug is flat and oval but, due to their small size, are often difficult to see with the naked eye. They do not have wings and tend to be brown or reddish-brown in color. Younger bed bugs are often colorless until they feast on their first meal. Signs of bed bugs can include shed skins as well as dark spots on bedding that is actually bed bug excrement.

Lifestyle of a Bed Bug

Bed bugs are hardy creatures as they can live up to seven months without a meal. In identifying their food source, they can detect exhaled carbon dioxide as well as sense warmth and moisture from warm-blooded hosts. It pierces the skin of its host and injects salivary fluid to keep the blood from clotting.

In terms of habitat, these pests prefer to live in mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, clothing, cracks and crevices. Nighttime is their favorite time for feeding. It is somewhat of a nomad, moving from place to place for its meals. Bed bugs have been found all over the world, specifically Europe, North America, and Central Asia.

Where do bed bugs hide

Bed bugs get their name because of the most well-known of bed bug facts—they like to live in beds.

bed bug-free sofa

Bed frames, box springs, and mattresses provide plenty of places for bed bugs to hide, which is their nature. And beds are close by humans, who also happen to be sleeping and are therefore oblivious to being bitten. Bed bugs feed on blood, and at night humans offer themselves up on a platter.

You’ve Got More to Worry About Than Beds

But as much as bed bugs gravitate toward beds, one of the bed bug facts that many people don’t realize is that they also can live in other furniture. Couches and chairs are almost as good as beds for bed bugs because the undersides and cushions give them plenty of places to hide and humans sitting in the chairs serve as hosts.

The implications of this aren’t pleasant, but the reality is that a bed bug can crawl onto you while you’re sitting in a couch or chair outside of your home, and you’ll carry them into your home yourself. So it’s not just hotel beds that you need to be concerned about.

And needless to say, you don’t want bed bugs in your furniture to attach to one of your guests (unless it’s a guest you really don’t like!). So for your family’s sake as well as your guests’, it’s a good idea to inspect the undersides and cushions of all your furniture, looking for the signs of bed bugs. Pay close attention to cracks and holes. Even furniture such as desks and cabinets can be infested by bed bugs hidden in deep recesses.

Bed bugs’ ability to live almost anywhere in your home—not just in the beds they prefer—means you should never bring any used furniture of any type into your home without first thoroughly examining it for bed bugs.

In Review

In reviewing answers for the question, “What do bed bugs look like,” here is an at-a-glance summary:

  • They are hard to see with the human eye, but bed bugs move slow and are either dark red or black spots often seen on bedding, beds, clothing and furniture.
  • Their eggs and young (nymphs) are white or translucent in color.
  • They do not have wings and do not jump.
  • They tend to be livelier at night and tend to leave spots of blood or feces behind – a telling sign they have taken up residence.
  • They multiply quickly due to the large number of eggs they live in their short life, which can be anywhere from seven months to just over a year.
  • The life cycle includes numerous developmental stages until they become an adult.
  • The number of eggs – up to 500 – can produce up to three new generations of bed bugs.
  • They prefer warm-blooded hosts and prefer to dine at nighttime.
  • Bed bugs are nomadic and set up house in bedding, mattresses, clothing, and dark, hard-to-reach areas of a building.
  • They are found all over the world.

Learn with The Bed Bug Inspectors