Bed bugs can be hard to find and identify, given their small size and their habit of staying hidden. It helps to know what they look like, since the various life stages have different forms. Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed, balloon-like and reddish-brown. Young bed bugs (also called nymphs), in general, are smaller, translucent or whitish-yellow in color.
Although bed bugs prefer to feed on humans, they will feed on other mammals and birds as well. They travel five to twenty feet from hiding places to feed on a host. Even though they are primarily active at night, they will seek hosts in full daylight if they are hungry. Feeding takes 3-12 minutes.
Bites on the skin are a poor indicator of a bed bug infestation. Bed bug bites can look like bites from other insects, such as mosquitoes or chiggers or rashes, such as eczema or fungal infections, or even hives. Some people do not react to bed bug bites at all.
A more accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs. When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for: live bed bugs; rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed; and dark spots about the size of a pin head, which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
Bed bugs hide in a variety of places including around the bed near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard. If the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs: in the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains, in drawer joints, in electrical receptacles and appliances or under loose wall paper and wall hangings. Since bed bugs are only about the width of a credit card, they can squeeze into really small hiding spots. If a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug.
The good news is that there are ways to control bed bugs. Getting good, solid information is the first step in both prevention and control. While there is no chemical quick fix, there are effective strategies to control bed bugs involving both non-chemical and chemical methods. To learn more about bed bugs check out the EPA and CDC websites.