Could You Identify Bed Bugs in a Lineup?

Bed bugs inspire terror. They bite you while you sleep when you’re at your most vulnerable, they’re hard to get rid of, and they can hide almost anywhere–but they’re most often found in your bed. If you’re like most Americans, you dread the thought of getting bed bugs. But would you know how to identify bed bugs if you saw them?

A fascinating recent study published in American Entymologist found that, while most Americans are terrified of bed bugs, they can’t identify them in a lineup.

The study asked participants to identify a bed bug out of a lineup of five different bug silhouettes. The lineup included an ant, termite, louse, bed bug, and tick. Only 35 percent of business travelers picked out the bed bug. Even worse, 28 percent of leisure travelers guessed correctly. That means that about 7 in 10 Americans don’t really know what a bed bug looks like!

This is a big problem.

Travelers and homeowners need to know how to spot a bed bug for two reasons: to know if they have them and to know if they don’t have them.

Knowing how to spot a bed bug will allow you to eliminate a bed bug infestation or avoid one entirely. You’ll be able to take all the necessary steps, whether that’s calling a pest control professional (if at home) or changing accommodations and washing your clothes (if traveling).

Perhaps just as important, however, is knowing what isn’t a bed bug. If you think that every bug you find in a bed is a bed bug, it can cause a lot of needless stress.

The study found that 61 percent of travelers would switch hotels—not just hotel rooms—if they discovered just one report of bed bugs in the hotel online. But because most people can’t identify a bed bug, many of these reports are probably inaccurate.

That means that a lot of people are changing rooms or hotels for no reason—costing them time and money they could have saved. It also means that some bed bug infestations could be going undiscovered in hotels and in homes.

What does a bed bug look like, exactly?

Well, it depends on where the bug is in its life cycle. Recently hatched bed bug nymphs are white or tan in color and extremely small—about the size of a pin head. You’re unlikely to see bed bugs until they reach their adult stage.

There are a few key features that indicate you are looking at an adult bed bug:

  • The body is small, flat, and apple seed (or oval) shaped, with a smaller head
  • There are six legs and two relatively straight antennae
  • The bug is brown or reddish-brown in color

Below, you can see bed bugs on a mattress (to give you an idea of scale).

Bed bugs are nocturnal, so they can be hard to spot during the day. You can look for them in the evening or at night using a flashlight, or you can look for the signs of a bed bug infestation during the day. You can generally find bed bugs and the evidence they leave behind around a bed’s mattress (especially the seams) and headboard. They can also often be found in electrical outlets, picture frames, and other furniture.

If you’re ever in doubt that what you’re looking at is, in fact, a bed bug, it never hurts to get a second opinion. If you find the bug in your home, you can place it in a small plastic bag and take it to a pest control professional for an expert identification. If your home has bed bugs, a pest control professional can help you get rid of them quickly and effectively.

If you’re traveling, you can alert the hotel staff that you found what might be a bed bug. The hotel—if it is a good one—should take the complaint seriously and give you different accommodations while the staff inspects the room.

Bed bugs are making a comeback in a big way, and it’s important to stay on the lookout! We hope this post gave you the knowledge you need to keep your home pest-free.

Concerned you might have a bed bug infestation on your hands? Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We’ve been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our websiteFacebook, or Twitter.