Last Updated on February 21, 2024 by Alene Schill
When bitten by bed bugs, it can be bothersome and may be mistaken for an allergic response. While these bugs do not transmit diseases, it is important to identify them before their infestation becomes worse.
Can you see bed bugs with the naked eye? We have detailed the identifying characteristics of these insects to help you detect possible bed bug problems before they worsen.
Is It Possible To See Bed Bugs With The Naked Eye?
If you’re wondering if you can see bed bugs with the naked human eye, the short answer is yes. However, identifying bed bug infestations is not an easy task.
Adult bed bugs look like other insects, such as the carpet beetle, so properly identifying bed bugs can help prevent infestation. Bed bugs visible to the human eye come with six legs, cone-like eyes, and are red to dark brown.
However, bed bug eggs are hard to find even during the day due to their color and small size. But, based on a tell-tale sign, there is infestation if a musty odor is present, which bed bugs leave. This comes from their pheromones and feces.
In addition, if you get small red bites or found dark spots on your mattress, there may be a couple of crushed bed bugs .
What They Look Like
Adult Bed Bugs
- Color: Adult bed bugs appear color brown if not fed, while they look reddish-brown if they have just recently eaten.
- Size: It measures 5-7mm long (about the size of an apple seed.)
- Smell: It has a musty odor similar to coriander or sweet berries.
- Shape: If they have eaten recently, adult bed bugs look like elongated balloons. They will have a long, flat, and oval-shaped body if not.
- Other Distinct Characteristics: Female adult bugs are bigger than males. They also have a three-segmented beak, four-part antenna, wing pads, and short golden hairs.
Young Bed Bugs/Nymphs
- Color: Baby bed bugs or nymphs have a transparent or yellow-white color (young) or reddish-brown (older).
- Size: It comes in varying sizes depending on the nymph stages, including 1.5mm (1st), 2mm (2nd), 2.5mm (3rd), 3mm (4th), 4.5mm (5th).
- Smell: They excrete alarm pheromones, similar to the scent of cilantro, coriander, almond, or raspberries.
- Shape: Both young and older nymphs have a similar shape to an adult bed bug.
- Other Distinct Characteristics: Invisible to the naked eye if not recently fed due to its size and color.
Bed Bugs Eggs
- Color: An egg of a female bed bug appears translucent to pearl white.
- Size: It is very small, comparable to a pinhead or grains of rice, around 1mm long.
- Smell: Bed bug eggs smell slightly acidic or sweet.
- Shape: The eggs of bed bugs are tiny and barrel-shaped.
- Other Distinct Characteristics: Bed bug eggs that are more than five days old have eyespots and are invisible to the naked eye.
Insects That Look Like Bed Bugs
Bat bug has almost identical features to beg bugs, roughly the size of an apple seed. It measures around 6.35mm long and has an oval-like body. Since bat bugs are similar to bed bugs, it also has wing pads which means they cannot fly.
The only visible difference is that bat bugs have long golden hair on their heads. And as the name suggests, these insects are found where the bats set up their colony.
Another commonly mistaken bed bug is fleas (due to their similar color.) Fleas have rounded heads, long legs, and small flat, segmented bodies filled with hair. It measures around 3mm long and has no wings.
In addition, flea bites can cause intense itching and transmit various diseases like parasites and Bubonic plague. They can also be found outdoors and feed on animals.
The booklouse (also known as Psocids) is another insect that resembles bed bugs and also looks like termites. It has long, soft translucent segmented bodies and may vary in color, including gray, white, or brown.
Its body and head are separated and measure 1-6mm long. Booklouse may also have four wings and like to feed on molds and fungi from wallpapers and old books. These insects get easily dehydrated, so they often inhabit high humidity areas.
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Places They Usually Hide
Since the three types of bed bugs like to feast on the blood of humans, including the Cimex Lectularius, Cimex Hemipterus, and Leptocimex Boueti, their common hiding places are close to their host or food source.
Nonetheless, the Leptocimex Boueti prefers feeding on other warm-blooded animals, especially bats.
So if you’re often getting bites, the following are the places where bed bugs usually hide and lay eggs:
- Electrical outlets
- Wall hangings
- Loose wallpaper
- Box springs
- Bed frame
- Luggage racks
- Hotel room
- Couches and chairs
- Wall ceiling junction
- Drawer joints
Furthermore, if you’re residing in Central Ohio, the Cimex Lectularius and Cimex Himepterus will usually infest your home. However, if you recently traveled to tropical countries where the Leptocimex Boueti is found, you might be bringing home a couple of infested items like your clothes and shoes. But can bed bugs bite through clothes?
What To Do When You See Bed Bugs
You might find bed bugs despite not getting bites if you conduct a thorough inspection.
While bed bugs crawling are hardly seen during the day since they are nocturnal creatures, an active infestation can be identified through rust-colored stains on furniture clothing or by finding nymph-shed exoskeletons.
So if you see tell-tale signs of bed bugs, here’s what you should do:
- Steam one room after another, exceeding 45°C to kill bed bugs .
- Apply Diatomaceous Earth (DE) on mattresses, the box spring, carpets, and other infected areas to dry up bed bugs. Don’t use DE for pool filters.
- Use an insecticide that contains Pyrethroids.
- Purchase mattress and pillow encasements with zippers to prevent bed bugs from entering or leaving.
- Dispose of clutter such as magazines and newspapers.
- Laundry washable items with hot water using dissolvable laundry bags.
Can you see bed bugs on clothes and mattresses?
Yes, you can see them if they’re on your clothes and mattresses. There are bed bugs visible if there are rusty fecal stains on your mattress. Also, since they have flat bodies, there might be a couple of alive or dead bed bugs underneath your mattress if blood stains are on your bed sheets. Make sure to look for shed skin, indicating eggs transitioning to nymph stages.
Do you need a blacklight to see bed bugs?
No, blacklight is not necessary to see even a baby bed bug. On the other hand, blacklight can assist in locating bed bug trails that lead to their hiding spots. If you want to see them and prevent bed bug bites, grab a flashlight and magnifying glass. Here’s how you can make bed bugs come out of hiding.
What do bed bugs bites look like to the human eye?
Bed bug bites appear red, lifted, and are bigger than fleabites, which have a red dot in the middle . These insects live near their host, and multiple bites mean disturbed feeding. A bed bug bite is painless and will often take a couple of days up to two weeks before becoming visible.
Overall, bed bug infestation can be prevented by knowing what they look like and being aware of the signs of their presence to perform the necessary steps to eliminate them. By thoroughly checking your home, from the mattresses to the walls, you can prevent bed bugs from laying eggs and feeding on you while you’re asleep.
Moreover, seeking bed bugs experts is advisable to remove their presence in your home completely.
Alene Schill is a property manager from Columbus, Ohio, who has dealt with numerous pest control agencies. She helps families find the perfect homes and knows very well that bed bugs are an ultimate deal-breaker. She enjoys cycling around Scioto Mile during her spare time.