Because bed bugs can hide in the smallest cracks and crevices, you will not know where control is needed until you perform a detailed inspection. Because eggs and freshly hatched nymphs are as small as 1 mm and translucent, it is easy to overlook them. Using the proper equipment and conducting a thorough inspection before you begin any control operation will assure the best results.




Flashlight:  Bed bugs usually hide in dark crevices; without a flashlight, you may not see them. Use a bright flashlight (LED recommended) with fresh batteries.  Can't find a flashlight?  With the right app, your cell phone could work.


Collection containers: (re-sealable plastic bags, tightly capped vials, small jars, etc.) You may need to keep the evidence you find. If you find insects that may or may not be bed bugs.  If you are unsure about this pest or any other pest, contact the Pesticide Control Office and we can assist you with identification.


Probe: For checking cracks if cracks and crevices are too deep to inspect, you can use a metal spatula, putty knife, or other small probe to drive bed bugs out into the open. You can make a tool by cutting a long thin triangular piece from an old credit-type card. Compressed air can also be used to flush bed bugs from hiding places in tight cracks.


Hand tools: for gaining access to outlets, access panels, etc. You may need to remove access panels or outlet covers to inspect for bed bugs. A selection of screwdrivers, pliers, and an adjustable wrench may come in handy.


Alcohol wipes:  baby wipes, or alcohol and cotton swabs if you find spots that may be bed bug fecal stains or droppings, you can wet them with an alcohol swab, wipe, or baby wipe and look for a red or reddish brown color on the wipe. This will help you distinguish between bed bug droppings and dirt/lint or other matter.


Magnifying glass:  At 1 mm, most people need a magnifying glass to clearly see bed bug eggs and freshly hatched bed bugs. Get a large magnifying glass to make close-up examinations easier.


Forceps, tweezers, or a thin probe:  to help collect specimens




Begin your search where people sleep and move across the area in a systematic fashion. It is important that you inspect all habitable crevices, and developing a method for ensuring you inspect each area can help prevent missed areas. While bed bugs can be found virtually anywhere, you should begin your search in the high probability areas, normally within 15-20 feet of the sleeping area. Hold your flashlight parallel to the surface being inspected to reveal eggs and newly hatched bed bugs. With the light being shone from above, they may blend in to the background, but a flashlight held parallel to the surface will cause eggs and small bed bugs to cast a shadow that is easier to see.




You will be inspecting for live or dead bed bugs, cast skins, eggs, and fecal stains or droppings. In a light infestation, there may be little to see.


Bed Bugs Live or Dead:  Live bed bugs may be crawling around their harborage or sitting quietly in a crack or a crevice. Newly hatched bed bugs are beige and difficult to see until they have had a blood meal. Bed bugs that have fed have a dark digestive tract and can be seen much easier than unfed bugs.  As they mature, the bugs become darker and easier to see on light colored backgrounds. Dead bed bugs are frequently found in or near the harborage and often with their legs and antennae broken off.


Cast skins:  Bed bugs grow by shedding their skin (molting) and leave a shed skin behind after each molt. The skins look like empty shells of the bed bugs about the same size as the bed bug stage that left it. They are extremely light and will blow away at the slightest breeze.


Eggs:  Although they are only about 1 mm long, bed bug eggs are white and will show up well in a number of situations. They are more visible on dark backgrounds or smooth surfaces. Females have a tendency to lay eggs around their harborage areas. A cluster of eggs is a pretty good indication that there is a fertilized female nearby.


Fecal Stains & Droppings:  The droppings appear as small dark or black spots and are frequently the easiest to spot of all the evidence. A grouped arrangement of droppings suggests a closer search of the area. Droppings may appear as solid blobs or as thin ink-like stains. They can be seen as blood spots on sheets and pillows.



Michigan Manual for the Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs