How to find bed bugs (and get rid of them as fast as possible)

how to find bed bugs
No one wants to have bed bugs.

Unfortunately, these pests are more common than you might think. Surveys indicate that approximately one in five Americans has either had bed bugs infest their home or knows someone who has. Think you might have a bed bug problem? If so, you probably have a bunch of follow-up questions, like, “How do I check if I have bed bugs?” or, “Does my renters insurance cover bed bugs?” (Jetty does!)

Learn about the warning signs of an infestation, what to do if you have bed bugs, and read up on NYS bed bug laws. That way, you can figure out how to find bed bugs and what to do if you do have a problem on your hands.

The first step is to check for bed bugs by looking for the telltale signs of these tricky pests around your apartment. Bed bugs don’t always make their presence obvious, so learning how to check for bed bugs and how to kill bed bugs is essential.

How to find bed bugs, option 1: Check for bites and blood stains.

This is often one of the first signs a person notices when they’re checking for signs of bed bugs. If you wake up to find several bug bites on your skin, especially if they’re close together, it could mean you have an infestation. The bites will typically cause no discomfort at first. Over time, however, they can become very itchy. This causes some people to mistake them for mosquito bites.

Even if you don’t notice the bites themselves, you may notice blood stains on your sheets and pillowcases. Since mosquito bites in your home are likely coming from just one or two bugs, several reddish stains are a telltale sign that you might have a bed bug problem instead.

How to check for bed bugs, option 2: Keep an eye out for rusty stains.

Blood stains aren’t the only marks you might leave behind on your furniture if you have a bed bug infestation. People who know how to find bed bugs also tend to notice rusty or red stains on their bedding and upholstered furniture. These can be the result of bed bug excrement, or they can be the remains of a bed bug that’s been crushed. Some find that the stains can “bleed” the way a marker stain would.

How to spot bed bugs, option 3: Sniff around for a musty odor.

When wondering, “How do you check for bed bugs?” consider this: Figuring out if you have them isn’t just based on what you see—it’s also based on what you smell. When large numbers of bed bugs gather together in one general area, you may notice an offensive, musty odor. This is produced by the bed bugs’ sweat glands.

Because bed bugs are small and can be difficult to spot, it’s helpful to be able to recognize even non-visual ways to identify an infestation, like this smell. If you’ve gone through the steps of how to find bed bugs and suspect you have them, remove the bedding and thoroughly examine every area of the bed for more signs of a problem.

You should also check your closet (bed bugs sometimes attach to clothing), as well as all carpeted areas. Figuring out if you have a bed bug problem is just the first step. Your next step is to figure out how to kill bed bugs by determining who is responsible for managing the infestation and final extermination.

Is my landlord responsible for bed bugs?

Depending on where you live and the language in your lease, your landlord is likely required to help you manage a bed bug problem in some capacity. Get in touch with your landlord as soon as you think you have bed bugs, and they can send an exterminator to inspect your home and any nearby units to confirm the pest problem.

Initial exterminator visit helps you check for bed bugs.

The exterminator’s first visit will be purely to confirm the presence of bed bugs, locate them, find out if they’ve spread, and create a plan for how to kill them. They’re experts in knowing how to find bed bugs, and so will likely look very closely at your mattress, any carpets you have, and any closets, dressers, or other fabric furniture where bed bugs like to make a home.

Prepare for treatment.

While an exterminator will probably want to treat your apartment, there are some precautions you can take to help the treatment process along:

  • If you or the exterminator do find bed bugs, consider saving any you find—they may be useful for identification purposes later, either for your exterminator or for your landlord.
  • Wash bedding and clothing and dry at a high heat and store in sealed plastic bags
  • Vacuum your apartment thoroughly, especially carpeted areas
  • Clear any cluttered areas
  • Ask your exterminator or landlord if you can prepare in any other ways

Know NYS or other local bed bug laws.

Find out if there are any NYS bed bug laws or other state laws that dictate exactly how your landlord needs to manage a bed bug problem. Is there a set number of days you have to report the presence of bed bugs? Is my landlord responsible for bed bugs? Does your landlord need to hire a professional to treat your apartment within a certain timeframe? For which treatments is your landlord responsible?

Bed bugs are a stubborn pest, so exterminators often ask you to prepare your apartment for treatment (bagging furniture, drying clothes on high heat, etc.) and have a follow-up appointment with them. However, your landlord may not be required to assist you in any way with the extermination prep or cover any follow-up appointments with the exterminator.

Prepare for the worst by knowing what to do if you have bed bugs.

So, what do you do if you check for bed bugs and discover you have them? Well, it doesn’t mean you need to pack up and move out if they show up at your place. You have some protections as a tenant, and pest control teams specialize in understanding how to kill bed bugs and can make your home feel clean and comfortable once again.

If you end up in a tough situation and your landlord is either refusing to treat your bed bug problem or is asking you to cover the cost of treatments, things get a little tricky. If your landlord is refusing to treat the apartment, you can consider withholding rent, breaking your lease, or deducting the cost of treatment from your next rent check.

Because these open you up to a potential fight with your landlord—legal and otherwise—familiarize yourself with your rights in this particular situation and tread carefully.

Unfortunately, most standard renters insurance policies don’t cover bed bug infestations. Jetty, on the offer hand, does offer a Bedbugs Protection Power-Up. That means that if a licensed pest control professional certifies that you have bed bugs, we’ll cut you a $300 check to help offset the costs of dealing with it. If you don’t have Jetty, it may be worth checking or inquiring with your provider and specifically asking the question, “Does your renters insurance plan cover bed bugs?”