Identifying the presence of bed bugs in your mattress is not always straightforward. They are very well adapted to hiding in small crevices and cracks during the daytime and only emerge at night when you are asleep. Often, the first sign that there are bed bugs in your mattress is the bites that you find on your body in the morning. However, not everyone has a reaction to the bites, so even this may not appear as a sign. Read on to learn how to check if your mattress has bed bugs.

Common signs there are bed bugs around

The presence of bites on your body doesn't necessarily confirm you have bed bugs since there are many biting insects out there.

Some of the common clues of their presence include:

  • A sweet, sickly scent, not unlike cinnamon but far less pleasant
  • Tiny dark spots on the mattress and surrounding area - a sign of their excreta
  • Live insects - you may discover the insects themselves or their shed skins, even though the adults are only 4-5mm long

It can be difficult and costly to get bed bugs under control. Don't ignore the warning signs - you must act as soon as you spot evidence of their presence.

Tips on how to check if your mattress has bed bugs

Alongside the signs listed above, keep an eye out for the following:

Blood spots on your bedding

You may begin to observe minuscule blood stains on your bedding, and this could be a sign of the presence of bed bugs. Be aware that small blood stains on your bedding could be a sign of many things, but if it is combined with any of the major signs listed in the previous section then you have quite strong evidence of an infestation. Incidentally, stains on a mattress can be very undesirable, but it is possible to get rid of them.

In many cases, the bite of a bed bug is painless and causes no irritation. This is why visual symptoms of their presence can take time to appear. The blood spots on your bedding will usually come in a linear arrangement, like a row. This is because bed bugs usually shy away from prolonged migration when they feed on a person's blood vessels.

Traces of bed bugs

The small black spots mentioned earlier usually appear on the insects' walkways. They are also common in their hiding places during the process of feeding. Their faecal excrement is usually around 0.5-1mm in diameter. Collections of these faecal pellets can usually be found around the mattress as well as in the bed frame and behind wallpaper on walls close to the bed.

Pink Metal Bed

Product: Belmont Metal Bed Frame

Locating the bed bugs

Naturally, the bed is the first place to check for a bed bug infestation. But they also hide in other areas of the room, including:

  • Crevices in the bed frame and headboard
  • Seams in the mattress
  • Under carpets and underlay
  • Cracks in skirting boards
  • In between timber floorboards
  • Inside cracks in the plaster or behind peeling wallpaper
  • Inside fixings like electrical sockets
  • In cupboards and drawers
  • Wardrobes
  • Bedside tables/cabinets

You will usually find bed bugs in bedrooms and sleeping areas. They congregate in these places because they provide easy access to a blood meal in the night-time. They are also drawn to the carbon dioxide in our breath and the warmth of our bodies.

How can bed bugs spread?

Bed bugs are usually carried into a home or place of work. They find their way onto clothing, luggage and furniture, and they are very well adapted to travelling between locations.

The following are risks for the spread of bed bugs:

Second-hand furniture

If it comes from a place where there was an infestation, bed bugs can be present in second-hand furniture. Before you take anything into your home, check it carefully for signs of an infestation.

Overnight stays in hotels

If a hotel room has an infestation, the insects can easily get into your luggage, clothing and even on your person.

  • Look for blood stains on bed linen and any other common signs upon arrival.
  • If you have any suspicions, go straight to the hotel management with your concerns.
  • If you are worried you may have been exposed to an infestation in a hotel, you may want to launder or fumigate your belongings before bringing them back into your home.

Visiting friends

If your home has a bed bug infestation, you should take steps to avoid spreading them to someone else. Do not take clothes, furniture or suitcases into other people's homes.

An established bed bug infestation can find its way into adjoining properties via the walls or floor cavities. If you are in a flat or terraced house and you discover a bed bug infestation, inform your neighbours quickly and take action to address the problem.

Electric Ottoman Bed

Product: Electric Ottoman Bed

Getting rid of an infestation

Before bringing in pest control experts, there are things you can try yourself. A vacuum cleaner can remove the bed bugs, but be sure to dispose of the contents after vacuuming as the bed bugs may otherwise come back out. You will also want to kill any remaining insects and destroy their eggs, and the best way to do this is to expose them to heat.

Wash all your clothes and bedding at a high temperature, and use a steam cleaner to clean out the mattress and any surrounding areas the bed bugs could be hiding. You may also wish to get rid of the mattress - we have some advice on doing that in this article.

With a major infestation, it will likely be necessary to call in pest control. Remember, heat exposure is the most effective bed bug killer, but there are chemicals that can do it too. Trust your pest control specialists and do whatever it takes to get the infestation under control.

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