Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional
What do bed bugs look like?
It’s important to be able to identify and know what a bed bug looks like as you don’t want to delay treating a growing infestation. The scientific name for bed bugs is Cimex lectularius and from the description below and the following images, you’ll see that bed bugs are:
- Wingless and small with two protruding eyes, six legs, and two antennae
- Light brown in color with flat bodies when unfed
- When feeding they become a dark brown/reddish color with an engorged and elongated body
- They are about the size and shape of a small apple seed.
- The adult grows to 5-7mm (3/16 of an inch) in length and up to 10mm (just over ⅜ of an inch) after a blood meal
- Baby bed bugs, or nymphs, grow from 1mm – 4.5mm, and are semi-translucent, so they are easily missed when looking for an infestation. When feeding their abdomen fills with blood, and becomes red in color, making them easier to spot. As they mature they become darker in color like the adults.
Here’s what else you need to know about these blood-sucking pests.
Bed bugs only feed on blood and prefer the blood of humans, but will also feed on animals.
They are nocturnal, so they hide during the day but a close inspection will find them on mattress seams, box springs, bed frames, headboards, and in cracks and crevices near to where you sleep.
Bed bugs are not seasonal so they bite all year round, but they do prefer warm temperatures of between 70-80°F (21° – 26°C) so the female can lay her eggs.
It’s easy to get them confused with similar-looking pests, and as mentioned above, a lot of people misidentify them, so the bed bug identification photos below will show you exactly what they look like and what to look for.
Did you know that 84% of pest control companies reported they get called out to treat a particular pest (people often think it’s fleas), only to find that it’s actually bed bugs? Below you’ll find over 65 pictures of bed bugs that include nymphs, adults, shed skins, and infestations to help you identify if you have bed bugs.
We’ll begin by looking at what these bugs look like up close.
Bed bug pictures close up
1. This photo is one that I took when treating a bed bug infestation.
From this close up you can see the segments on the abdomen and its six legs as it’s crawling on the mattress.
In front of the bed bug is a speck of fecal matter and just behind it is a bed bug egg.
Although this is not the actual size of a bed bug, it does show you what they look like and help you identify them if you think you’ve found one.
2. This picture is a good example of a bed bug close-up. You can see it’s feeding by piercing the skin and taking blood from the person.
One particular identifying feature of the bed bug as I mentioned above is the protruding eyes, which are situated to the side of the head.
Bed bugs will bite any area of skin exposed when you’re sleeping.
We’ll get to the photos of bites to the face, back, and other areas of the body further down the page to get a good idea of what the welts look like.
3. I took the magnified photo below to show what bed bugs look like close up and how they compare in size to an apple seed (left) and flaxseed (right).
What does a bed bug look like up close?
Although other bugs are mistaken for bed bugs, they do have some features which will help you to correctly identify them, and these are:
Head – short and broad with distinct eyes that are clearly seen on each side of the head.
They have a long proboscis to feed, which pierces your skin and sucks your blood. When not feeding, the proboscis is tucked back underneath the body.
Bed bugs have two antennae, each with four segments that work together as sensors for locating a blood meal.
Thorax – is attached to the head and abdomen and enables the body to move.
It’s not always easy to tell the difference between the thorax and the body, but the thorax is in three segments and the segment nearest the head is flatter and partly surrounds the head.
The legs and wing pads (bed bugs cannot fly despite having wing pads) are also attached to the thorax.
Abdomen – the bed bug has 11 segments on its abdomen so the body can expand whilst feeding.
After feeding the body looks swollen, elongated, and darker in color.
You can also tell if the bed bug is male or female by the shape of this area. The female is larger with a rounded abdominal tip, whereas the male has a more pointed abdominal tip.
4. Here is a good picture of a bed bug as it shows you in detail all of the features mentioned above.
You can see how the segments on its body expand and become darker in color as it fills itself up with blood.
This is what a bed bug looks like after feeding.
5. A closer image of number 1 above. Although this photo is a bit blurry (it’s hard to take photos when you’ve got all of your pest control gear on).
Again, you can see the segments on the abdomen as it crawls across the mattress.
6. This frontal close-up of the bed bug shows it is feeding. Notice its body is similar to the shape of an apple seed.
You can see the wing pads which don’t actually develop into wings, so thankfully, bed bugs cannot fly.
7. I zoomed in on the bed bugs below when treating a heavily infested mattress and box spring.
The adults cluster together in their hiding spots.
You can also see what bed bug eggs look like which are the pearly-white, almost translucent oblong shapes on the mattress. These have hatched as there is an opening at one end of them.
8. Magnified head and thorax.
9. Another good close-up of this dreaded pest using its mouthparts to pierce the skin and take in a blood meal. Notice how the body has become longer as it feeds.
10. This is a great (but rather scary-looking) image created using a digitally colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM). From this view, you can see the mouthparts of the bed bug which it uses to suck up your blood.
11. This is from a slide that shows a bed bug’s body structure.
12. Can you tell the difference between male and female bed bugs? This picture shows a male (left) and a female (right) as well as bed bug eggs.
The male’s body is more pointed as this is where the sex organ is, and the female’s body is more of an oval shape and is wider than the male’s.
13. This photo (magnified picture at the top), although not very clear, shows both a male and female bed bug, as well as bed bug eggs.
You can see the fecal matter, which is digested blood.
Actual size of bed bugs pictures
How big is a bed bug?
14. An adult bed bug is about 5-7mm long. This up-close photo shows its actual size in millimeters.
This is an adult and as you can tell they are very small so they are excellent at hiding in the smallest of cracks and crevices in your bedroom, hotel room, workplaces, and anywhere people generally are.
15. This image indicates the size of a bed bug by the scale at the bottom of the picture. Again this is an adult and you can clearly see the segmented parts of the body.
16. This is a picture of a nymph, or bed bug baby after feeding.
Baby bed bugs can be hard to see as they are semi-translucent and as the measurement scale on the image shows, they are tiny.
This baby bed bug has had a blood meal which is the dark area in the abdomen.
17. The next picture shows the size of bed bugs in comparison to the coin.
The adult bed bug on the left has an elongated body meaning it has recently fed. If you think you’ve got bed bugs, then just remember this image to see how small they are when searching for them.
18. What do bed bugs look like on a mattress? If you look closely at the picture below you’ll see an adult crawling where the seam of the label joins the mattress.
Read what are bed bugs to learn more about them and how you can them in your home
Bed bugs can be found anywhere on or near the bed, and this shows just how carefully you need to inspect everything as they are so small and can easily be missed.
19. The image below is one I took after treating a house for an infestation.
To show the actual size of a bed bug, I placed it alongside a ruler and if you look close enough, you’ll be able to see it had fed shortly before it died.
20. How small are bed bugs? Small but you can see them with the naked eye.
I took this photo of a baby bed bug, probably 4th/5th instar, that I found during an after-treatment inspection.
21. The next photo is a close-up of a dead bed bug that was placed on the pen tip for size comparison, again to show what size they are.
22. I took the photo below to show the size comparison of a bed bug (middle), apple seed (left), and flaxseed (right).
This bed bug was not quite an adult, so an adult would have been slightly larger, but it still gives a good indication of their size and similarity.
There is also a close-up version of this picture at number 3 above.
23. Another close-up image I took of a bed bug at the end of a Q-Tip (or cotton bud if you’re in the UK).
Hopefully, these pictures are giving you a good idea of what they look like and how easily they can hide away in the seams of your mattress.
24. And another for size comparison with the bed bug next to the Q-tip.
This bed bug had been dead for a few weeks as you can tell by its dried-out appearance.
Images of bed bugs feeding
The following show bed bugs feeding on people.
As these pests are nocturnal, you often won’t know you have bed bugs straight away because not everyone reacts to the bites, and if they do, they usually think it’s a bite from a different insect.
Adult bed bugs and nymphs will feed about once a week, and they need regular access to a blood meal so they can grow and reproduce.
Although they feed on your blood, and the blood of animals, thankfully they do not transmit diseases!
25. Adult getting a blood meal from a person.
26. Pictured next is the pest crawling on a person’s hand and feeding. If you woke up and discovered a welt on your hand, would your first thought be that it’s a bed bug bite?
27. This is a great bed bug poop photo! Not only is it defecating but it’s also feeding on a person at the same time.
The fecal matter is actually blood taken from a person which the bed bug has digested.
Notice how dark the dropping is. We’ll take a look at how you can spot this on your mattress in the photos further along.
28. You can see from the next picture exactly what bed bugs look like after feeding when the abdomen becomes longer and fuller as it fills with blood.
Baby bed bugs pictures
What do baby bed bugs look like?
Newborn baby bed bugs (or nymphs or larvae as they are also called) are about 1mm (1/16”) in size and look almost transparent as they are so pale.
They go looking for a blood meal after they hatch, and when fed their abdomen becomes red making them easier to spot.
Nymphs will molt five times before they mature, as long as they have access to blood.
As they molt and become bigger (a 5th stage baby bed bug will grow to about 4.5mm), they look like the adult bed bugs only smaller and become brownish-red in color.
Baby bed bugs can reach adulthood in about 21 days if temperatures are between 70-80ºF (21-27ºC), but the average time is usually about five weeks.
Once they become adults, they can reproduce and add to the infestation.
29. Apologies for the blurry image, but sometimes it’s quite difficult to get into spaces and get good photos.
This close-up photo of an infestation shows baby bed bugs (nymphs) in different life stages as their cast exoskeletons are visible. This means they have been able to grow to the next molting stage as they have had access to blood.
You can also see two adult bed bugs have fed as their abdomens are a darker color.
30. If this baby bed bug (nymph) wasn’t filled with blood, it would be hard to see as it’s almost see-through.
Notice the prominent eyes at the side of the head.
31. In this photo you can again see that the immature bed bug has recently fed because of the dark area in the abdomen.
As it has had access to blood, it has been able to molt to the next growth stage (called instars) and leave behind its exoskeleton, which is at the top right of the photo.
32. This magnified image of baby bed bugs below shows a cluster of hatched bed bug eggs, tiny nymphs, and casings.
An adult female bed bug lays about 5 eggs a day and hundreds throughout her lifetime. She also mates with her offspring, so the infestation will just grow and grow unless treated.
The eggs are extremely small like a speck of dust (1mm) and are a translucent white color so you can imagine how hard they are to see with the naked eye.
The female uses a clear and sticky substance to attach the eggs to cracks and other surfaces like wood.
33. Next, you can see bed bugs in various life stages from nymph to adult. You can also see the exoskeletons left behind after they molt.
Notice how the exoskeleton looks almost exactly the same as the nymph due to the color.
34. The photo below is one that I took to show a close-up of a baby bed bug on a mattress label.
This nymph has recently fed as you can see the undigested blood in the abdomen of its nearly translucent body.
A nymph of this size and hiding near the seam would be difficult to see unless you knew where to look. You have to look very closely as they have so many hiding places.
A pest control professional will know exactly where to look.
35. This is another photo I took that shows baby bed bugs clustered underneath a box spring.
Notice the amount of fecal matter everywhere, they’ve obviously had a few good blood meals.
36. Another image shows baby bed bugs at various days old, along with an adult and lots of eggs, feces, and exoskeletons on a mattress.
Images of bed bug mattress infestations
The bed is the main place you’ll find evidence of bed bugs as they like to hide in the mattress seams, box spring, bed frame, and all other areas close by and wait for their blood meal.
Below are several infestation pictures of bed bugs on mattresses and the signs they leave behind that you can look for.
What does bed bug poop look like?
Bed bug poop is digested blood and as it dries and soaks into fabric, it looks like rusty brown/black streaks or dots, similar to an ink stain.
The first place to look for bed bug droppings is in the corners and seams of your mattress as they hide close to a host.
You might also find bed bug feces in clusters on your pillowcases, duvet, sheets, behind switch plates, on curtains, the couch, and anywhere else they hide
37. Bed bugs are hiding under the mattress piping in this picture.
The mattress is the first place to inspect if you think you have bed bugs.
The dark spots are fecal matter.
38. The image below shows a bed bug infestation that has been left to grow for some time. The tell-tale signs are the dark blood spots on the mattress.
39. This is a photo I took while treating a bad infestation. This mattress was very heavily infested which is evident by the number of blood spots and smears on it.
If your mattress has got to this stage, don’t try and treat it yourself as it will be impossible to get rid of the infestation. Only a pest control company will be able to eradicate it at this point.
If the infestation is really bad then the pest control technician will most likely recommend you get rid of your mattress.
But before you do, check out these guidelines so you know how to dispose of the mattress and box spring properly.
40. This is an up-close version of the photo I took above. You can see the smeared blood spots that look like dots from a marker pen.
41. The picture below shows a heavily infested bed frame and how bed bugs can hide anywhere in it, like the lining under the box spring and in the corners of the frame.
42. This is another picture of a bed bug infestation I took which is of a heavily infested box spring.
Notice how the feces looks like smeared ink.
43. The picture below was taken by a colleague (apologies for the blurred photo) showing bed bugs and smeared blood spots on the mattress piping.
Did you know that one of the most common ways you pick up these little hitch-hikers in the first place is when you travel?
So, it’s always a good idea when staying in a hotel or moving to college, to look at the mattress piping and seams as soon as you arrive for any signs of bed bug activity.
44. Below is another photo I took of an adult bed bug crawling on a box spring while treating the bedroom.
45. Live bed bugs and fecal matter are evident on the box spring. If you look closely, you can see they are also behind the material/lining.
46. This is a close-up of the above photo and a clearer view of the live bed bugs and the dark blood spots on and behind the box spring’s fabric.
47. An even closer view of the infested box spring.
Look at how they are hiding behind the lining. This is just one of the areas that should always be checked when looking for bed bugs.
48. Again, the same box spring but showing the internal area of the frame where they are hiding.
Bed bug fecal matter can be seen on the, which are the black dots.
Bed bugs like to lay their eggs on rough surfaces like wood.
Images of bed bug infestations in other areas
49. Bed bug infestations aren’t just found on the bed as this picture shows a heavily infested slipper.
If you suspect you have bed bugs, then even the unlikeliest of places have to be checked.
50. Below is a cluster of bed bugs that have set up their harborage area in the folds underneath a bed.
Inspecting the folds and creases of fabric furniture is also important when looking for these pests.
51. I found the bed bugs in the image below in the rivets of a bed frame. You probably wouldn’t think to look here, so knowing where to inspect is really important!
52. A heavily infested couch where bed bugs are often found hiding between cushions, in seams, and folds.
53. Below you can see the bed bug eggs have been laid on a wooden surface, this gives you some idea of what they look like and what to look for when inspecting your furniture.
54. The next highlights the unusual places you probably wouldn’t think to look in for bed bugs.
It also shows just how small they are as there are several adults and bed bug eggs in this screw head.
55. I’m often asked if bed bugs crawl on ceilings and walls, and my photo shows that yes, they do!
I took the picture below to show other areas of the room where bed bugs can be found.
56. Bed bugs can also be found hiding behind a strip of wallpaper.
57. A close-up of bed bug eggs hidden away in cardboard.
Pictures of bed bug bites
What do bed bug bites look like?
Bed bug bites are not easy to diagnose as they look very similar to bites from other insects.
Bites from bed bugs can occur in a row or cluster, or singularly, on any area of your body uncovered when in bed, so the arms, face, shoulders, and back are common areas for bites.
The bite itself is not actually felt as an anesthetic and an anticoagulant is injected into your skin. It’s only later if the skin reacts and the bite develops into a welt and itches, that you realize you’ve been bitten.
Hopefully, the following images give you some idea of what they look like.
But remember, if you don’t find any other evidence of bed bugs, then it probably isn’t bed bugs that are biting you.
58. This shows a bad case of bed bug bites on the face.
In reality, you wouldn’t really be able to tell if this was a bed bug or mosquito bite, so it’s always advisable to look for other evidence of bed bug activity.
Bed bugs will bite mainly exposed areas of the body and not everyone has a reaction.
59. Large welts develop on this person’s back after being bitten by bed bugs.
60. This image shows a reaction to bed bug bites on the arm. This is a common area to be bitten as the arms are often uncovered in bed.
61. Next shows how a person can react to the bites. Bed bugs crawl down the hair to get to the skin to feed.
This image was taken several hours after being bitten and the small red marks developed during that time.
The appearance of bites will differ from person to person due to their reaction if any.
62. The picture below was taken in a controlled environment where bed bugs were allowed to feed on the person through a screen.
This shows the inflammation developing 3 hours after the bed bugs feed.
63. This image is the same as the one above but is the reaction and inflammation caused by the bites two days after feeding.
Some people experience reactions other than just itchiness and inflammation, such as blisters, hives, and a painful burning sensation.
Unfortunately, the effects on your mental health caused by having bed bugs can be longer-lasting than the physical symptoms.
Dead bed bug pictures
What do dead dried-up bed bugs look like?
64. This is a close-up picture I took of a dead bed bug after treatment (apologies for it being out of focus).
Its features, such as the eyes and antennae are still very prominent despite it now looking flat, dull in color, and dried out with a white flaky appearance.
65. This is what a bed bug looks like upside down.
This close-up is a bit blurry but you can see the dark color in the abdomen so it managed to get a blood meal before dying.
Unfortunately, you can only see 5 of its legs as I took this picture a couple of weeks after treatment, so it had dried out and one of its legs had broken off.
I hope these pictures of bed bugs help you identify whether you have them or some other pest, as well as where some of their hiding places are.
If you think you might have these pests in your home and the infestation is in the early stages, then there are steps you can take to get rid of them and do it yourself.
But, if you don’t fancy the DIY method, or even if you’re still unsure it is a bed bug you’ve found, then contact a bed bug exterminator, but do your research and make sure you get a company that has experience in treating bed bug infestations.
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