Bedbugs haunt homeowners’ nightmares like the bogeyman. These nasty little critters that feast on your blood while you sleep cause you to check under your bed any time your skin begins to tingle. But in the summer months, when outdoor activities mean exposure to mosquitoes, gnats, and fleas, how are you to tell that your red, itchy bites came from a bedbug? Read on for the tips and tools to help you with early detection of an infestation.
Recognize Bedbug Bites
Reactions to bedbug bites can vary, but they generally take the form of itchy, red bumps that appear in straight rows—often in threes—rather than scattered on the body. If you’re still uncertain whether your bites are signs of an infestation or just souvenirs from last night’s buggy barbecue, try this: Check your body for bites before you go to bed and then again when you get up in the morning, making a mental note of any new ones that occurred overnight. Bites that appear while you sleep may suggest that you are sharing your home with a nibbling pest.
Search Your Sheets, Mattress, and More
On your hunt for more evidence, start with your mattress. Keep your eyes peeled for four signs: bug droppings (which will appear as tiny, dark spots); red blood stains left over from feeding; insect eggs; and the bugs themselves. Bedbug eggs are white ovals about 1/16 of an inch in length, while the bugs are wingless, brown ovals that can grow up to a quarter-inch long.
First, pull your bed and nightstand away from the wall, and watch to see if any bugs scurry away. You may also see excrement stains on the wall. Then remove the top layers of bedding (your blankets or comforters), leaving just the fitted sheet on the bed. Hold a flashlight close to the sheet to examine thoroughly. If you don’t find anything on the sheet, then move on to check the mattress. Pull the sheet back and pay particular attention to the mattress seams, where bugs like to hide. You can press a credit card against the seam to hold it back while you shine the flashlight on the darker areas. You’ll want to flip the mattress over and check the other side as well. Finally, check the joints of your bed frame, shining the flashlight into all the dark crevices to search out the bugs. Snap photos and bag any evidence you find.
Continue your search through the rest of the apartment or house, pulling all upholstered furniture away from walls and thoroughly checking around zippers and seams.
Invest in Tools to Help
Just because you don’t see any bugs doesn’t mean you’re safe. More than just inspecting visually, you’ll want to employ a few tools to do the work for you.
Adding bedbug interception devices to each leg of your bed frame allows you to keep an eye on the situation without having to flip your mattress every morning. Instead, monitor the devices every few days to see if any pests show up. Consider using these on other upholstered furniture in the bedroom as well. Trapping a bug and identifying the pest is the only way to be truly sure of an infestation.
At the same time, you may also want to invest in encasements for your mattress and box spring. Although pricier than a detection device, these work double duty: They protect your bed by sealing out bugs, and they also cover crevices, leaving a smooth surface for easier inspection in the future.
Call In the Pros
Whether you find signs of a bedbug infestation or are still simply itching from an unknown cause, phone a professional. A qualified pest-control expert has much more experience with the search and knows exactly what to look for—and in this case, it’s better to have a second opinion. Bedbugs spread easily from room to room by hitching a ride on human clothing or other objects that are moved around the house.