I found one bed bug but no others, are there others? Generally, it’s a cause for concern when you spot a single bed bug in your home or workspace. You may think just one bug is not a big deal, but it could be a sign that you have an infestation.
Professional advice: contact professionals if you find just one bed bug. Any reputable and reliable pest control company will perform thorough inspections and devise treatment plans. In the meantime, this publication explains the possibility of having more than one bed bug, as well as domestic steps to get rid of them.
What a bed bug looks like
Don’t mistake a bed bug for cockroach nymphs, carpet beetles, or fleas. To recognize and identify a bed bug, they have a narrow head and thorax with a flat, oval-shaped abdomen.
A bed bug also has 2 beady, black eyes protruding out from their heads. You will find 6 legs and 2 antennae. The antennae protrude from their head and have 4 segments.
A bed bug also has small, vestigial wing pads, however, they can’t fly. A nymph bed bug is pale while the adult is flat and brown/rusty. They elongate when fed slightly and turn reddish. Their interceptors, also known as monitors or indicators, help to catch and identify them.
I found one bed bug but no others
The bed bugs in your home probably scuttled onto a suitcase or cling to your clothing to get inside. Bed bugs are not solitary – they live in large groups, so if you found one bed bug, there could be more lurking around.
It calls for concern, especially if what you saw was a female bed bug. If the bed bug is pregnant, it can rapidly lay eggs and reproduce. One female bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime, so if there are more than one bed bug, you may have a thousand more.
The best practice is to call a professional pest control service. However, it’s okay to check if the beg bug you found is female. Unlike pointed abdomens in male bed bugs, female bed bugs have round abdomens. Bed bugs measure about 7 millimeters long, so this may be a tough distinction to tell.
Other signs that there are other bed bugs in your home or workspace include:
1. Live bed bugs
As described earlier, bed bugs are small, reddish-brown insects, typically the size of flaxseeds. You will find them hidden in tight cracks and crevices anywhere in your home. If you found one bed bug but no other, you may have to visually inspect further—there may be a couple more lurking around, laying eggs and breeding hundreds more quickly.
Bed bugs don’t usually wander around unless:
- They need to feed
- It is a pregnant female avoiding overzealous males.
Therefore, if they found a hiding place in your home, they’re going to stick around. You may not even see bed bugs until the infestation gets severer or their hiding places are disturbed, such as when you move to another apartment.
Finding other bed bugs in your home is not a smoking gun—not that simple at all. Moreover, you may mistake other insects such as roach nymphs, carpet beetles, and spider beetles for bed bugs.
Bed bug eggs are a sign that you have more than one bed bug to deal with. The eggs are usually pinhead-sized, pearly white ovals measuring about 1 mm long. You will find them loosely stuck to various surfaces in your home as well as bed bug harborage areas.
Female bed bugs lay between 1 and 5 eggs each day and may lay up to 500 eggs within one lifetime. The eggs are laid in clusters or singly placed within tight cracks or crevices. Bed bug eggs typically hatch within the next 7-10 days.
Bed bug eggs are visible to your naked eye but can be challenging to recognize unless you know what they look like. There’s a hinged cap at the end of the egg, which is where newly hatched beg bugs emerge from. We find this video helpful: view to know what bed bug eggs look like:
Bed bug eggs are similar to fecal spotting and are found commonly in harborage areas. Note that female bed bugs tend to wander around when pregnant, so the bed bug you found may be a pregnant female or already probably laid eggs in a crack somewhere in your home or workspace. Such an area will suffer an infestation and spread to neighboring areas.
Bed bugs use glue-like materials when depositing eggs to stick them to surfaces. You will find these tiny, white eggs loosely stuck to crevices between surfaces or fabrics—they can be anywhere though.
3. Shed skins and shell casings
If you find transparent, hollow shed skins (husks) or shell casings, there are other bed bugs around. Most of the time, abandoned shell casings are considered an early sign of a growing infestation.
The shell casings are translucent, hollow outlines of juvenile bed bugs often easier to find, compared to the bed bugs themselves. You can find the casings where bed bugs hatch and breed, including holes, crevices, upholstered furniture, mattress seams, and cracks.
Bed bugs go through 3 distinct life stages – egg, nymph, and adult – to complete their life cycle. They need to take a blood meal to molt from one nymphal stage to another—beg bugs have 5 nymphal stages. They shed their exoskeleton multiple times and molting takes place at each lifecycle step.
If you suspect bed bugs and find yellowish, translucent shells in common bed bug hideouts, have your local pest control professional inspect your home or workspace.
Bed bug bites leave small, itchy, red bumps on your body overnight. They typically bite your legs, hands, and arms. You should find clusters of 3 to 4 bites in one line.
However, not all mysterious insect bites are a sign of bed bugs. Bed bugs are nocturnal – they feed at night, so your skin is exposed during the night.
An insect bite alone is not enough to tell a bed bug problem, especially because people react differently to insect bites, so there’s no distinct way to tell a bed bug bite from other insect bites.
Nonetheless, bed bug bite symptom is usually red, itchy bumps popping up in small clusters or lines of 3-4 bites. Bed bug bites can also appear in random patterns or single bites.
A bed bug bite is usually not dangerous and does not transmit any known diseases. However, you may experience allergic reactions to specific bed bug chemicals such as saliva. If you experience itchiness, painful swelling, blisters, fever, or flu-like symptoms, seek professional medical attention immediately.
5. Fecal marks
If there are a large number of bed bugs lurking around, you will notice tiny, dark brown or black spots, the size of a pen tip clustered around harborage areas, as well as on clothing and sheets.
The dark smears on your fabric after washing are fecal marks (or fecal spotting) from these ferocious bugs.
Bed bug droppings cause fecal marks, which comprise digested human blood. The digested blood is usually dark brown or black, and it contains iron, which is the reason it gives off a faint, rusty smell that is also responsible for the unpleasant bed bug odor.
Apart from your sheets and clothing, you should find bed bug droppings on your box springs, walls, and headboards, to name a few.
If the bed bug fecal marks appear on your fabric, the stains can be tough to remove. Besides, moisture distinctively smears them.
Bed bugs have an unusual, musty odor. Their pheromones are similar to almonds, raspberries, coriander, or cilantro scent. If you have more than one bed bug, you will get rust, a wet towel, and a moldy laundry smell.
If your bedroom has an unusual, musty odor from no specific source such as dirty laundry, it could be a sign of bed bug infestation.
When bed bugs feel threatened, they emit alarm pheromones in response. The pheromones typically smell slightly sweet or musty and are similar to coriander, raspberries, almonds, or cilantro.
Pheromone smell is faint—quite imperceptible to your nose and hard to detect.
If there are multiple bed bugs in your home, their pheromone smell mixes with other dead bed bugs, bed bug droppings, and shed shell casings. This causes an unpleasant, rusty smell that suggests severe infestation.
Detecting bed bugs by odor is tougher, especially if there are only a few of them around. Moreover, their odor is faint for humans to easily notice.
If you found one bed bug but no others, there could be more if you see unexplained red or rust-colored blood stains in the form of small splotches or smears on your clothing, pillows, and bedsheets.
Bed bugs feed on humans, and they don’t usually go away unscathed. When engorged with blood, the originally flat, seed-like appearance of the bug turns to a round, bloated shape. As such, when you suddenly move your body while sleeping, you may inadvertently squeeze or crush or squeeze the bed bug.
They sometimes survive lying on them but this leaves blood they just fed behind, creating a noticeable red or rust-colored stain.
Thus, if you notice bloodstain on your pillow, clothing, or sheets, visually inspect your body for cuts or scabs that may indicate bed bug bites. If you have no clear explanation for the bloodstain, it could be a bed bug.
Bloodstains may also come directly from bed bug bites. Their saliva contains an anticoagulant that keeps blood clotting while they feed. After feeding, the areas they bit may keep bleeding for some time.
You found one but where are bed bugs hiding?
Bed bugs have tiny, flat bodies, so they easily squeeze themselves into just any crack or crevice larger than 2 millimeters.
These insects typically hide in your mattress seams, cracks, crevices within baseboards and walls, furniture joints, curtain folds, and even electrical outlets.
Common examples of bed bug harborage areas include:
Walls. Harborage includes window frames, door frames, baseboards, wallpaper, curtains, smoke alarms, pictures and posters, and electrical outlets.
Bed. Check your bedsheets, mattress, headboard, pillows, box springs, and bed frames.
Next to the bed. Visually inspect your dressers, carpets/rugs, nightstands, and storage boxes.
Furniture. Bookshelves, couches and cushions, desks, tables, rugs, pet beds, and chairs.
How to visually inspect for bed bugs
Get a thin card such as a playing card, and an old credit card or business card. You also need a flashlight.
a. Start with your bedding
Look for blood stains and fecal marks or spotting on your pillows and bed sheets.
Remove the bed sheets and inspect the edges and seams of the mattress—look carefully for live bed bugs, shell casings, and eggs.
Take out the mattress and search the bed frame and headboard crevices, corners, nooks, and crannies using your flashlight.
b. Inspect the cracks
You need your card for small cracks you suspect as bed bug hideout. Slide the card inside and use the edge to remove any bed bugs evidence.
Check surrounding dressers, nightstands, and other wooden furniture. Be attentive to screw holes, which may contain live bed bugs.
c. Inspect furniture
Move furniture from the walls and check the backs and baseboards for bed bug evidence. Inspect your upholstered furniture and couches as well—make sure to remove cushion covers and use your card in the gaps and crevices.
Contact a professional
A few measures you can include thoroughly washing and drying your linens and encasing your mattress and box spring. However, you need the service of your local professional pest control provider for an extensive inspection. The company will then develop a specific plan to eliminate all bed bugs, eggs, and hideouts. Make sure to compare quotes to make your best decision.
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