Diagnosing a bed bug infestation is incredibly difficult. The only sure signal of a bed bug infestation is actually observing them crawling or hiding around your place of residence. Otherwise, bed bug infestations are often confused with other infestations, such as fleas, scabies or mosquitoes. This is not too far fetched of an idea, as bites from bed bugs may possibly resemble those of fleas and mosquitoes, depending on how individuals react to bed bug bites.

Can I get a doctor’s opinion?
Going to doctors or other medical professionals for bed bug bites is not as useful as it sounds. Medical professionals cannot properly identify a bed bug bite or distinguish it from another insect’s. This may seem daunting to hear at first, but know that diagnosing a bed bug infestation does not require any medical attention. In fact, it requires your own simple research and investigation.

Symptoms?

The first sign and symptoms of a bed bug infestation is always the bites. They may appear as a single welt or bump, to as much as three or four (or even more in severe infestations) bites in a row. In terms of itching sensation, bed bug bites are extremely itchy and may cause victims to scratch fiercely. Due to the “on and off” itching sensation that often occurs bed bug bites, victims will often scratch during all times of the day and often create open sores/cuts on their bites, putting themselves at risk of bacterial infections. If you must, try using a topical anti-itch cream to relieve itchiness – although personally I found this provides little relief. For more images of bed bug bites, look at the following Google Images search results for “bed bug bites” here.

Another key sign of bed bugs are their eggs, which are nearly undetectable by the naked eye. The eggs are sticky in nature and adhere to surfaces. They are small and tube shaped, with a milky/white consistency and color. Watch the video below to get a great idea of what they look like unhatched and after.

Also, bed bugs – like any other organism with a digestive cycle, defecates. The fecal matter is dark black in color and is often spotted on bedding and upholstery.

Bed bug fecal stains and matter on a bedding post.

Bed bug fecal stains or matter on a white mattress

Bed bugs also cast their skins in between molting (growing from their first stage to their last and 5th stage). Cast skins can be found anywhere but are commonly found around their hiding places or by  eggs and other bed bugs.  

Bed bug cast skin, close view.

Another obvious symptom or signal of bed bugs is observing them crawling around or hiding in your home. Common hiding places include bed frames, headboards, bedding (pillows and blankets), carpet, rugs, behind picture frames, in clutter or garbage, in couches and other furniture and virtually anywhere that provides ample hiding room.

Don’t immediately start throwing away everything you believe is contaminated with bed bugs!

Do not immediately throw away your furniture or belongings that you suspect are contaminated or infested with bed bugs. Always check first with your PCO (Pest Control Operator) to determine if salvaging is a possibility – as they may be able to treat your belongings. Often times your PCO will provide you with a list of things to do before they come and treat – this includes laundering your clothes and bedding and organizing your furniture in a way that inspecting your home and treating it is simpler.

Do not buy chemicals and pesticides to try and treat it yourself!

This is a common mistake many individuals make when first discovering they have a bed bug infestation. It is widely understood that using chemical sprays and pesticides (Raid for instance) will kill the bugs upon impact, but will not solve your infestation problem. However, many individuals claim that Diatomaceous Earth (DE), a naturally occurring silica that is grounded into a fine dust, is very useful in creating a harsh environment for bed bugs. In fact, DE can kill bed bugs over time as the fine dust particles act as a dehydrator on the bugs, killing them in roughly one to two days upon contact. Again, DE is a method for controlling an infestation, not completely ridding of it.

Do not buy a fogger or “bug bomb” and release it in your home.

Hot Shot Bedbug and Flea Fogger. PLEASE DO NOT USE THIS! For fleas, yes, bed bugs = NO.

Bed bug bombs and foggers are counterproductive to solving a bed bug infestation. In fact, the fogger or bomb disperses the bed bugs into finding sanctuary elsewhere in your residence where the “fog” or fumes do not reach. The fumes from these bombs cannot reach the deep cracks and crevices of your home or into deep hiding places – and are very harmful for you and your pets to breathe. Not only are they inconvenient but they also leave a residue from the fumes upon everything it comes into contact with. Not a good idea.

Do not decide to sleep in another room in your home (such as a guest room, your child’s room, the living room) or stay at a relative’s place.

Bed bugs will simply migrate to your new location and infest whatever room you decided to sleep in. Also, do not stay at another person’s place unless you are 100% certain you are not carrying bed bugs on your clothes or belongings. Just to be safe, it is recommended that you stay at your place just to safeguard your loved ones from your problem, you will be glad you did. If you absoloutely cannot stand staying at your home, always make sure you are not carrying bed bugs when you stay the night at a friend’s or relative’s place (bless their soul). Pack light – don’t carry too many belongings, only what you need for the night. A toothbrush, light clothes (that have been dryed on your dryer’s hottest setting before being warn) and perhaps double check your shoes are not carrying any bed bugs as well.

What about my clothes and belongings?
Do not throw away your clothes! Remember, the thermal death point for bed bug adults, babies and eggs is 115 degrees Fahrenheit. A standard drying machine can reach temperatures far greater than this – a 30 minute cycle in the drying machine can kill all bugs and eggs.

There have been experiments done with laundry cycles and the effect they have on bed bugs. It is now known that the wash cycle is not nearly as important as the dry cycle. The most potent way to rid your clothes of bed bugs is to put them through a dry/dry cycle on the hottest heat setting. Washing, even in hot water – is not actually hot enough to kill bed bugs. After running your clothes through a dry/dry cycle (the more drying the better), place them directly in tightly sealed bags.

Do not remove your clothes from the bags until AFTER treatment has finished and that you are absolutely sure that there is no longer a bed bug infestation. Get used to living out of these sealed bags, they will provide you some peace of mind when you change clothes. I recommend XL sized Ziploc bags, which is what I used during my bed bug infestation. Worked like a charm – it kept my clothes bed bug free.

Bed Bug Monitors
A nice and less hands-on method for discovering or detecting bed bugs is the use of monitors. One of our favorites is the Bed Bug Alert (BB Alert) Passive and Active Monitors, however you can read about them and many more monitors at the following, comprehensive and detailed website at Stern Environmental.

Most bed bugs monitors are a great way to detect a bed bug infestation. Never think of them as a means to ridding your infestation.

History’s Battle Against Bed Bugs:

Bed Bugs might seem like more of a widespread problem today than they’ve ever been – but mankind has been plagued by bloodsucking bed bugs almost as long as civilization has existed. Here are some of the old school bed bug treatments (and some more modern alternatives!)

Bed bug prevention from long ago, Tudor-period beds were built high off the floor.

Tudor-period beds were built high above the floor to prevent bed bugs climbing inside them.

The first mention of bed bugs is dated to 400 B.C., in the writings of ancient Greece – although archeologists believe that c. lectularius might have been biting people for far longer than that – even infesting the caves our early ancestors slept in.

The Romans complained about bed bugs in Pliny the Eldar’s Naturalis Historia – but enterprising apothecaries also collected them, and prescribed them to patients to treat snakebites and ear infections much like medical “experts” from ancient time would apply leeches to the sick and injured.

Following the dark ages, bed bugs again hit the headlines; seem as a rampant pest in medieval France and Germany. They were rarer in England – probably because of the cooler temperature – but London had its own infestation in 1666 when European bed bugs stowed away on French oak shipped to Great Britain to help rebuild after the Great Fire of London.

Bed bugs might have existed in the New World before European settlers first set foot there, but it’s difficult to know for sure – because on voyages both back and forth, passengers ships tended to be infested with the little bugs. Similarly, early American settlements had major bed bug problems from the start.

Traditional means of killing bed bugs involved spreading about a variety of natural plants, fungi and even other insects. Rumors were that black pepper and camphire could repel bed bugs – while other compounds had more proven success.

In fact, some of the medieval remedies for bed bugs – like oil from cedar wood and wild mint – are still used with great effectiveness today. Nature’s Response 100% organic bed bug pesticide spray uses cedar oil as one of the ingredients, and can immobilize bed bugs instantly, and kill bed bugs within minutes of contact.

In 19th century Europe, wicker basketwork panels were erected around the bed at night, which trapped bed bugs inside them. They were then shaken outside the following morning. In the Balkans, the broad leaves of certain plants were scattered around the bed each night. These leaves had tiny, microcopic hairs on them which would trap bed bugs as they scurried across them. The following morning, the leaves (and the bed bugs they contained) could be swept up and burned.

In many ways, these techniques mirror the use of bed bug detectors and ClimbUp Insect Interceptors.

In fact, if history has taught us anything it’s that natural remedies remain the most effective way to combat bed bugs – although it’s only in the 21st century that we’ve been able to harness this knowledge to create truly effective, natural bed bug killing products like Nature’s Response.