If You Find One Bed Bug, Is There Usually More?

Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional

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Over the years I’ve had numerous calls from customers asking if it’s possible to have just one bed bug, as they’ve only found one and want to know if there could be more, or if this one bed bug means an infestation.

These are valid questions, but if you find only one bed bug and don’t find more, should you be worried?

There is actually a Yes and No answer to this which is explained below.

Is It a Bed Bug Or Something Else?

Catching bed bugs early is vital, but the first thing that is needed is to make sure it’s definitely a bed bug you’ve found as it often turns out to be a similar-looking bug.

So it’s really important to correctly identify if it is a bed bug as there’s nothing worse than worrying unnecessarily that you might have an infestation.

Check here where you’ll find some bed bugs pictures that will help you identify this unwanted pest.

How to tell if it’s a bed bug

What are bed bugs? Bed bugs are insects that infest our homes and feed on human blood, but they will feed on the blood of an animal if a human host isn’t available.

Adult bed bugs are small and oval-shaped, similar in shape and size to an apple seed. They have six legs and two antennae.

When unfed they are a light brown color and flat, but once they have a blood meal they become a darker brown/reddish color and the 11 segments on the abdomen expand and elongate giving them a striped appearance.

Adults grow to 5-7mm (3/16 inch) in length and lengthen up to 10mm (⅜ inch) when taking a blood meal.

I took the two images of bed bugs below which show you what they look like.

Single adult bed bug crawling on mattress
Single adult bed bug up close
bed bug placed alongside ruler for actual size measurement
Image showing how small bed bugs are

Baby bed bugs (nymphs) grow from 1mm – 4.5mm, are semi-translucent, and are easily missed when looking for their hiding spots.

They become darker in color and look like smaller versions of the adults as they grow through each molt.

Image of bed bug infestation with adults, nymphs, fecal dropping on mattress seam
Signs of bed bug infestation with adults, nymphs, fecal dropping on mattress seam

The adult female hides her eggs away in cracks and crevices where they are hard to find.

Bed bug eggs are a translucent white color and are extremely small like a grain of salt (1mm), so you have to look very carefully for these.

Picture of tiny, white, oblong bed bug eggs stuck onto wooden surface
Bed bug eggs stuck onto wood
Image credit: Mohammed El Damir, Bugwood.org

The female uses a sticky substance to attach her eggs to cracks and surfaces, especially wood. 

Is It Possible To Have Only One Bed Bug?

Does One Bed Bug Mean An Infestation?

Yes, it is possible to have one bed bug. And no, one bed bug does not mean you have an infestation.

If the bed bug is found in your hallway or kitchen for example then the chances are it is just one bed bug.

In that case, just squish it and discard it.

Sometimes a single bed bug can hitchhike its way back to your home by crawling into your backpack, luggage, or hiding on your clothes.

This is easily done if you’ve recently traveled by plane or another mode of public transport or stayed in a hotel.

It’s also possible to pick up a single bed bug if you’ve sat in a waiting room, or borrowed a book from the library that has bed bugs in it, for example. There are numerous ways they can be brought into your home.

If you’ve found the bed bug soon after returning from a holiday, then it is possible to have only one-bed bug.

But, the one bed bug found could be:

  • another bed bug
  • a single, non-fertile bed bug
  • a single, fertilized (pregnant) bed bug
bed bug male female and eggs
The female is larger than the male and has a rounded abdominal tip, whereas the male has a more pointed abdominal tip.

Obviously, a single, non-fertile bed bug is what you hope it is!

However, if you found it near to where you sleep, or on your bed or couch, then you have to assume that there’s going to be more than just one bed bug.

Bed bugs reproduce every 7-10 days, so if it’s a fertilized female that you’ve seen then this needs dealing with immediately as this single female bed bug will cause an infestation.

PLEASE NOTE, if you live in an apartment building, then this could be a bigger issue as a neighbor may have an infestation and the bed bug has made its way into your apartment. In this case, you won’t have just one bed bug and an exterminator will need to be called.

These nuisance pests are expert hiders so you must ensure that there isn’t more even though you’ve only found one bed bug, and the only way to do this is with a thorough inspection of their common hiding spots.

Bed Bug Hiding Spots

Where Do You Check For Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs have harborage areas close to where we sleep and mainly within 6 feet of the bed, but they also have other hiding places that you need to know about.

They are attracted to the CO we breathe out as well as our body heat, so this is why an estimated 70 – 85% of the bed bug infestation is found on the bed as they stay close to their food source.[1]

So it makes sense to begin your search looking for any early signs of bed bugs on the bed starting by removing the bedding from the mattress and inspecting the seams for actual bed bugs, eggs, or blood spots.

The same then needs to be done for the box spring, headboard, bed frame, and the bedding that was on the bed.

When you have finished the bed, the remainder of the room then needs to be thoroughly inspected as the remainder of the infestation can be found in other areas such as:

  • cabinets
  • underneath wallpaper
  • in carpets
  • upholstered furniture
  • baseboards
  • behind electrical switch plates

Bed bugs are flat when unfed and the width of your credit card so even a tiny crack in the wall can be a hiding and breeding area and can so easily be missed.

Looking for bed bug hiding spots takes time and should not be rushed.

What Should You Do If You Still Only Find One Bed Bug?

If after all your search efforts you’ve still found only one bed bug (and killed it) and haven’t found any other signs of an infestation, that hopefully means you only had one bed bug.

But remaining vigilant is vital here, as mentioned above, bed bugs reproduce every 7-10 days and the newborn nymphs will be looking for a blood meal straight away.

So carry out another search around this time, and if you still find nothing then you should be in the clear.

However, not every inspection is 100% reliable so to be on the safe side you should take some basic precautions and bed bug proof your bed with bed bug certified mattress and box spring encasements and bed bug interceptors.

The encasements prevent any bed bugs from escaping and feeding and any bed bugs not inside them from hiding in your mattress.

A quick search on Amazon brings up lots of encasements to choose from, but make sure you buy one that is certified bed bug proof.

Read my review on encasements and which one I use and recommend.

The interceptor traps stop bed bugs from climbing up the bed legs and feeding on you

If One Room Has Bed Bugs, Do They All?

No, if you’re lucky enough to have just had a lone male or unfertilized bed bug find its way into your home and you’ve got rid of it, then the other rooms in your home will be bed bug free.

But even if you’ve only found one bed bug and can’t find more, don’t be tempted to move into another room or sleep on the couch, because if you didn’t find them all during your inspection then they will soon spread to where you are sleeping.

As you know, bed bugs stay close to a blood meal and the bedroom is the main location for them, but they are hard to keep isolated to one room only once an infestation grows.

Is It Possible To Only Have a Few Bed Bugs?

If you’ve found a few bed bugs in your bedroom after your inspection then you can assume you’ve got an established infestation that is growing and needs treating immediately.

I cannot stress how important this is and my detailed guide on how to get rid of bed bugs permanently shows you step-by-step how to do this yourself.

If trying to control an infestation yourself is not for you, then contact a reputable and licensed pest control company that is experienced in dealing with bed bugs, so you can be sure they have been eradicated.

Related pages:

Where do bed bugs hide?
How to tell if you have bed bugs – early signs
How long does it take for a bed bug infestation to show?
Bugs mistaken for bed bugs
How to get rid of bed bugs permanently
How do you get bed bugs in the first place?

[1] https://citybugs.tamu.edu