Last Updated on July 1, 2023 by Alene Schill
We understand how bed bugs can be hard to identify whether they’re dead or alive, as they share many similarities with other insects. However, they can be more difficult to spot when they’re dead.
What do dead bed bugs look like? We’ll help shed some light.
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like When They’re Dead?
If you see a bed bug that’s shriveled, dried out, or on its back, it’s likely dead.
As soon as a bed bug dies, its body starts drying out. This is easily distinguishable from their live forms, which tend to be shiny, flat, and reddish-brown in hue.
However, this is not to be mistaken with bed bugs in hiding. After feeding, bed bugs will retreat to their hiding spots and lay still for hours. They won’t be on their back when they’re hidden.
You can also tell whether a bed bug is dead or alive based on movement. A disturbed live bed bug will scurry away, so if you get too close to a bed bug and it doesn’t move, it’s likely dead. But are bed bugs really skinny and long?
What Does Dead Bed Bug Skin Look Like?
The skin of a dead bed bug is shriveled and dried out, unlike its live and healthy form, which is shiny, flat, and reddish-brown.
It’s not to be mistaken with bed bug shells or casings. Bed bugs shed their skin naturally in their life cycle. Molted bed bug skins are slightly translucent and perfectly shaped, and the older the bed bug is, the harder and bigger the shell is.
How To Tell If Bed Bugs Are Dead
Detecting movement is a great way to tell if the bed bug is dead. If it’s no longer moving, you can assume it’s dead. Most bed bugs will scramble away if you breathe in their direction.
If a bed bug is still alive, but close to dying, it will try its hardest to flip their bodies around and slowly crawl away. Find out if bed bugs can get into your ear here.
Do They Pretend To Be Dead?
Fortunately for the human race, bed bugs have not yet learned how to play dead. (We’d all be in trouble if they did!)
If they’re laying still, it’s either because they’re dead or hiding out after feeding.
However, we’ve noticed that some bed bugs will actually use the dead bodies of their peers and hide under them for safety. This is especially true if you’ve used an insect spray that has not successfully killed off every bed bug. If you notice a pile of bed bugs, you shouldn’t assume that all of them are dead.
Like ladybugs and caterpillars, some insects will play dead as a defense mechanism.  Thankfully, bed bugs have not yet adapted to this survival tip.
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Are Dead Bed Bugs Black?
Dead bed bugs can be black, but they’re not always black. During death, a bed bug’s hue largely depends on how much blood it ingested.
A live bed bug that’s just fed will be a darker brown, bordering on black, in color, as opposed to their natural reddish-brown hue. If you see a dead black bed bug, you can assume it fed right before dying. But is it easy to see bed bugs with the naked eye?
Do They Dry Up?
Yes, dead bed bugs dry up, especially after treating an infested area with pesticides or heat treatment. Their muscles will likely contract during their last moments.
When a bed bug dies, its head and limbs contract into its body, giving them a shriveled, dried-out look.
Why do you keep finding dead bed bugs?
If you’ve just had your home treated for bed bugs, it’s normal to find dead bed bugs days after the initial treatment. However, if it’s been a few weeks and you’re still seeing dead bed bugs, you likely still have an infestation, and these bed bugs are finishing their life cycles naturally.
If you weren’t aware that you have bed bugs yet you see their dead carcasses everywhere, you probably have a bed bug infestation that you weren’t aware of, and in this case, it would be best to contact licensed professionals.
How do you get rid of dead bed bugs?
Vacuuming is an effective solution to get rid of dead bed bugs after home treatment. Afterward, wipe down all surrounding furniture, like the bed frame, nightstand, and dresser, and wash all beddings and sheets. It would also be a great idea to seal all cracks and crevices and replace torn wallpaper.
Dead bed bugs can only mean two things: either your recent bed bug home treatment was effective, or you’ve got a bed bug infestation that you weren’t aware of, and they are living their natural life cycles.
Either way, it’s best to be informed about what dead bed bugs look like.
If a bed bug is lying on its back, with its legs and head curled up towards its body, it’s likely dead.
Live bed bugs that have been disturbed will always scurry away into hiding, so if that bed bug isn’t moving, you can also assume that it’s already dead.
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.