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What Bed Bugs Look Like -- How to Find and Identify 'Em

Who's Been Sleeping in Your bed?


Picture of Bedbugs and Eggs

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

© Dodson Urban Pest Management Lab at Virginia Tech
Continued from page three of Bedbugs and Travel

How to Spot Bedbugs in Hostels, Hotels and at Home

What Bed Bugs Look Like

    Bedbugs are teeny flat critters; grown adults are about the size of an apple seed. Check out the bed bug picture to the right to see what a bed bug looks like -- picture shows a bug in afold of suitcase lining. Adults are brown until they consume some blood, after which they turn reddish brown. Ah, that rosy after-dinner glow.

    Pinhead sized nymphs, or non-adults, are smaller and are whitish or gold until they feed -- just about the color of a mattress, according to Martha Craft, Orkin spokesperson, making them very tough to see. (More evidence of clever, sneaky behavior.)

    Where Bed Bugs Live

    Bed bugs like beds, of course, though Baumann says "bed bug" is actually a misnomer, since they certainly live anywhere. However, they're especially likely to like your bed -- you, who are their meal ticket, are in bed all night, which is when they come out to eat. (Check out some interesting thoughts on suitcases and beds in bed bug prevention tips on the next page.)

    According to the National Pest Management organization, the bugs can also live in carpets, under wallpaper, behind baseboards, and in small cracks and crevices throughout a room. Baumann comments that the bugs can be found in all furniture, pointing out that someone carrying them in clothing can spend as much time on couches and chairs in the living room as in bed.

    The bugs can travel alone, but seeing one is probably the tip of the bloody iceberg. Baumann says the nocturnal critters are transient and elusive; he says, "They are a frightening pest (because you) can't find 'em, might not see 'em." Uh huh. Sneaky.

    How to Detect Bed Bugs

    The data seems to show that the odor of an bed bug infestation, though distinct, is too subtle for amateur bug detectives. Bed bugs are said to smell like sweet, rotten raspberries, and it's also said that an infested room smells like almonds; I can't summon up that particular odor mix, but perhaps you'll catch the smell of an old granola bar if you flatten a scuttler and know that, yep, it was a bed bug. Orkin spokesperson Martha Craft says you need a biiiig infestation before you can smell the bugs in a room's air.

    Bed bugs do leave tiny reddish or black streaks on sheets. If you see those upon checking into a hostel or hotel room, consider grabbing your stuff before crawling hitchhikers hop on it, and cruising straight back to the desk to ask for a new room. (Read more about what the desk clerk's response to a bedbug claim may be.) If need be, just go to a different hostel or hotel -- cheaper than getting rid of the pesky travelers if they hitch a ride with you, and far better than being bitten all night.

    These bugs are great world travelers. They like living in your sleeping bag, backpack and clothes until they can get to your house and move into the recliner, where they can start raising a big family in a nice neighborhood. A female can lay up to 500 eggs over its life.

With that thought, let's move to the next page to learn how to kill bed bugs which have latched on to your worldy goods in your travels.

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