How can you tell if you have bed bugs?
The only way to confirm that a room or location has bed bugs is to find one of the three key confirming signs, namely:
Live samples – nymph or juvenile bed bugs are translucent but the adults are a much darker brown colour. For further information, see our educational gallery.
Cast / shed skins – as bed bugs mature they shed their skin, this is done five times before they become adults and can breed. To see images of cast skins please see our educational gallery or for more information on the lifecycle of bed bugs see our About Bed bugs educational section.
Faecal traces – every time bed bugs feed they leave tell-tale faecal traces or bed bug “poo” close to where they rest and digest. These faecal traces can be confirmed using the Bed Bug Blue™ kit which is available in our shop section. This biological process is one of the ways that our Passive Monitoring technology works and why the bed bugs are “tamed rather than trapped”. To see images of faecal traces please see our educational gallery
There are also a number of non-confirming signs, such as:
Being bitten or having bites – bites often tell you little more than you have an issue but not what that is. The best current medical advice is that bed bugs cannot be confirmed from a skin reaction alone. For more information, see our bites educational section.
Red blood spots on your sheets – left when some people continue to bleed following a bite from an insect. These however can also be caused by other things such as allergic reactions, other insects and skin conditions. For further information, please see our blood spot analysis guide contained within the advanced educational section.
Without confirming the cause of your symptoms as bed bugs it is best to keep an open mind as to the cause and to seek assistance from someone who will be able to identify what the problem is. Although we have some documents within the advanced education section that discuss other possible causes these only reflect a few of the most common causes.
How did I get bed bugs?
It is not always possible to be certain where you became exposed to bed bug s. What used to be such a rare pest is now so pervasive that the media is full of stories of bed bugs being found in schools, cinemas, shops, hotels, public transport, offices, hospitals and just about anywhere that people go. The reality is that its best to focus on clear and simple education of the risks to those who you may have been inadvertently been exposed by so they can also make sure they are clear.
This is obviously easier to do with friends and neighbours than the local cinema or hotel but as someone once said “better spread the word than the bed bug s”. In the spirit of this we have made available a number of newsletters and communication sheets to help you address the issue without adding to the fear.
We have also made available several videos including how to search a hotel room for bed bugs within our media appearances section.
However, if you are looking for a list of potential sources of bed bug s, here are a few of the most common:
Adjoining neighbour – local source – any infestation originating from an adjoining neighbour will only be resolved when the source is eradicated which is why open communication is so essential.
Hotel or stay away from home – single sources (unless frequently visited location) – the size of the population is initially limited to only the bed bugs brought into the home and thus if caught quickly these infestations are easier to deal with.
Long distance travel – single sources (unless frequently visited location) – unless it’s a regular route the initial population is again limited and easier to resolve. However, as this list also includes aircraft you should always inspect the seat before you sit down (you may get some odd looks from the other passengers but it is worth it to avoid the issue).
Holidays or vacations – single source – again this produces a limited population of bed bugs but is also one that is easy to avoid. Our appearances section includes a simple guide to inspecting hotel rooms for bed bug activity to help you avoid where possible. Any hotel room infestation which is significant enough to risk carrying them home is easy to spot in a 5-minute inspection.
Working environment – local source – although bed bugs are not as common in workspaces as they are in other locations infestations can occur. There have been a number of high profile cases where this has happened, whereby a non-bite responder has not been aware that they are bringing unwanted guests in from home. To assist with educating colleagues, we have provided information sheets in our newsletters and information section.
Commute to work – local source – all forms of public transport can be subject to the introduction of bed bugs in the same way as homes and hotels. It can often be difficult to avoid sitting down on long journeys but our mapping studies of bed bug cases in London have shown that it is essential to remaining bed bug free.
Cinema or social space – single sources (unless frequently visited) – there are numerous media mentions of bed bugs being found in cinemas. On a few occasions we have been able to track back a family’s bed bug exposure to their frequent cinema habit. As we advocate that you live your life as “normally” as possible during bed bug infestations we have developed strategies to allow you to still enjoy your social time and yet reduce the risk of this occurring.
Items brought into the home – single sources (unless items repeatedly come from an infested location) – we often hear of the spread of bed bugs being blamed on this and although we are willing to acknowledge that it is a possible source it hardly explains why there are so many issues in hotels. Through understanding the biology of bed bugs you can inspect items before they come into your home to ensure that they are not carrying unwanted extras.
Medical facility – single sources (unless frequently visited location) – media articles have again confirmed bed bugs in medical facilities from hospitals to doctors waiting rooms and surgeries. Medical facilities should ideally have infestation control procedures in place and an efficacious monitoring solution.
Restaurant – single sources (unless frequently visited location) – although one of the least common sources of infestation we can confirm that we have been called upon to treat restaurants for bed bug s. If you suspect this is the case either check the seating area before you sit down or switch to “take away” until you are sure they are clear.
Nursery, school or university – local source – again the media has covered numerous incidences of bed bugs having been found within schools and universities. This is most likely through someone inadvertently bringing a bed bug along with them or picking it up on route to the location. If it sometimes necessary to isolate items that have been to potentially infested locations when they arrive back in the home until they can be decontaminated.
We consider sources of bed bugs we regard them as being either single source of local sources, as defined below. Working out which of these is affecting your property can really help with resolving an infestation although it often takes an experienced professional to be able to work out which dynamic applies through visual inspection alone.
Single source – an exposure to bed bugs that you only come into contact with once. This can result in a small population of bed bugs being transferred to another location but is usually limited to 1 – 15 bed bugs in the first instance. So long as this is caught quickly and treated thoroughly it is the easier of the two dynamics to resolve.
Local source – an exposure to bed bugs that you only come into contact with either on a daily or occasional basis. This can result in an infestation which is continually “topped up” or appears to resolve and then return. This is by far the more complex dynamic to resolve as you need to identify and avoid the source in order to resolve the infestation. Only through years or analysis of bed bug infestations and their patterns can a professional quickly identify both this form of infestation and the likely source. This is one of the reasons why specialists have much higher success rates than general pest controllers.
Understanding how you got bed bugs can often be step one in successfully and efficiently eradicating them from your property, it also goes a long way to ensuring you don’t get exposed again. This approach to infestation dynamics and their role in bed bug infestations was pioneered by our founder David Cain.
Bed bugs are impossible to get rid of, can you actually get rid of them?
Bed bugs can be difficult to get rid of but they are not impossible by any stretch of the imagination. Even with the worst heavy infestations or cases where people have fractionated the infestation throughout their home (through the use of aerosol, fumer, smoke bomb or other inappropriate treatment) we eventually get the problem cleared. Obviously the speed of eradication is very much dependent upon the level and source of the infestation but that is precisely why this is not a job for the novice. We have seen too many cases where people have spent years and hundreds of pounds attempting to treat a problem that we would have initially charged just £55 for and that is before you factor in the cost of the items they have disposed of.
It is better to limit any self-treatment to things that can’t make the matter worse such as Diatomaceous Earth (DE) or the treatment by replacement strategy that we make available online. If you fail to resolve a problem in two treatment cycles, you will find it a lot more cost effective to call in an experienced professional before it gets out of control. In 2012 we tackled one of our most ambitious commercial projects, a hotel with a 100% infestation of bed bugs which had been under treatment for over four years. Admittedly it was not the cheapest of jobs once we spent over 300 hours resolving the problem but it was fixed within a matter of weeks.
To date we have not failed to resolve an issue for any client who was compliant with our clear and simple instructions, that’s over 28,000 cases. Its why we consider our approach to bed bugs to be a team effort, our skills and experience along with your help means we will reach our goal of eradication fastest.
The doctors / pharmacist / nurse says the bites look like bed bugs but I can’t find any. What should I do?
Unfortunately, the fact that it’s not possible to confirm the cause of a skin reaction by its appearance is not as widely accepted in the medical practice area as it is in medical research. The latest clinical review published in the British Medical Journal, Bed Bug Infestations – PDF (which mentions this site) along with the bed bug bites section of this site confirm this.
The reality is that bed bugs can’t be the cause of your reactions if there are none of the confirming signs present, namely:
Cast / shed skins
Images to compare and contract can be seen in our educational gallery but if none of these signs are present you should start to consider alternative causes for your reactions. Some of these are discussed in the bed bug bites section but also in more detail as part of our advanced educational section.
In some parts of the world it is also possible that you have an infestation of a close relative of bed bugs either bat bugs or bird / martin bugs which without advanced identification skills and an entomological key can essential look identical to common bed bug s.
To ensure that you do not have bed bugs you can use a Passive Monitors which is designed to detect the three confirming signs of bed bug s.