Updated: March 29, 2022

Notice any suspicious stains on your sheets recently?

This could be the first sign of a bed bug infestation.

Bed bugs typically gather in and around bedding (it’s in their name, after all).

They typically reside in niche corners of the bed such as:

  • Behind the headboard.
  • Under the sheets.
  • Within the folds of the mattress.
  • Sides of the bed frame.

Bed bugs can leave behind traces of their existence that often come in the form of red or brown stains on your sheets.

If you’re unlucky enough to spot one or more of these signs, it’s time to consider your options for bed bug removal.

Early Signs of Bed Bugs

If you suspect bed bugs in your home, there are several indicators you should be aware of. This is because confirming your infestation is key, and any of these signs could be proof that you’re dealing with the early stages of an infestation.

Here are 8 early indicators of an active bed bug infestation.:

1. Live Bed Bugs

The most obvious sign of a bed bug infestation is the bed bugs themselves. Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown insects that primarily come out at night.

Bed bugs will form colonies in secluded, remote areas of your home. They commonly build their nests in and around beds, but bed bugs will settle anywhere that offers a decent hiding place.

2. Bed Bug Eggs

Where there are adult bed bugs, there are bed bug eggs. A female bed bug can lay an average of 200-250 eggs in its lifetime.

The eggs will hatch relatively quickly.

(Roughly 7 days after being laid).

Bed bug eggs are very tiny, only 1 mm in length. They have a pearly-white color to them and can be found stuck to hard surfaces.

3. Bed Bug Shells

Bed bugs leave behind 2 types of shells. The first are eggshells, left behind once the larvae hatch from their eggs. A bed bug eggshell is nearly transparent in color, making it difficult to tell apart from an unhatched egg.

Exoskeletons are also shed by bed bugs as they mature. These shed skins are translucent and yellowish-brown in color.

Because they have the same shape as a bed bug, it can be hard to tell at a glance if you’re looking at a shell or a live bed bug.

4. Bite Marks

If you don’t immediately notice bed bugs in your home, then you’ll start noticing them once you see bed bug bites on your skin.

Bed bugs are nocturnal feeders and will come out to feed on human blood while you’re asleep. Bed bug bites are small, red welts that may appear in patterns along the upper torso.

Common areas that people are bitten include:

  1. Back
  2. Neck
  3. Arms
  4. Shoulders
  5. Face

The above areas are most common because they’re typically more accessible areas of exposed skin.

If you do notice bed bug bites on your body, do NOT scratch them. Although bug bites tend to itch, repeated scratching will keep the wound open and potentially lead to infection.

Bed bug bites typically heal after 1 to 2 weeks. 

5. Musty Odor

Notice a distinct, musty odor in your room?

Can’t find any apparent cause for it?

Then it’s likely caused by bed bugs.

The scent is actually an alarm pheromone produced by bed bugs when they feel threatened.

Normally, these pheromones only produce a light smell–nearly undetectable to the human nose. A musty odor only becomes noticeable when large numbers of bed bugs make these hormones at the same time.

6. Bed Bug Fecal Stains

Bed bug feces look like small, dark spots scattered around sheets or clothing. These stains are actually digested human blood, and they also give off a slightly ‘rusted’ smell.

Fecal stains are especially common in areas where bed bugs are nesting. However, they can be found anywhere that a bed bug has traveled, including clothing, walls, and curtains.

7. Blood Stains

Bed bugs aren’t particularly fast insects. Sometimes, after they’re done feeding for the night, a bed bug might be crushed by a person tossing and turning in their sleep.

That’s where blood stains on your bedding come from.

The blood isn’t actually bed bug blood. Rather, it’s human blood that wasn’t able to be digested in the bed bug’s stomach.

Less often, bloodstains might be caused by bed bug bites. Bed bugs inject anticoagulants into the bloodstream while they feed: once these anticoagulants wear off, the area around the bite may bleed afterward.

8. How to Remove Stains on Sheets

If you notice blood or fecal stains on your sheets, you can easily wash them in your laundry. Before you do, spray your sheets with special enzyme-based laundry cleaners, and allow them to sit for 30 minutes.

Once the cleaner has dried, you can wash and dry your sheets as normal. It’s recommended to turn your dryer’s heat to the highest setting possible, as extreme heat can kill any bed bugs attached to the bedding.

How Do I Know If I Have Bed Bugs Early?

There’s no sure way of detecting bed bugs in your home early on. By the time you notice them, an infestation has already gotten large enough to be a problem.

Many people first become aware of bed bugs once they notice bite marks on their body. Bed bug bites are ½ an inch in size and look like red welts. Bed bug saliva contains antihistamines, which prevent the immune system from responding immediately: once these antihistamines wear off, the area around the bite will start to itch.

What Marks Do Bed Bugs Leave on Sheets?

There are 2 distinct types of marks bed bugs can leave on your sheets…

Bloodstains and fecal stains.

Bloodstains are left behind when a person crushes bed bugs in their sleep. The stains are actually undigested blood, the last meal a bed bug had prior to its death. These stains can easily be washed out in your laundry.

Fecal stains are caused by bed bug droppings and look like dark brown or black marks. Bed bug feces are slightly harder to clean out since the droppings can “bleed” through your sheets and onto other parts of your bedding.

Can You Crush a Bed Bug?

Crushing bed bugs is so easy, you could do it in your sleep!

Quite literally, actually.

If you toss and turn in your sleep, there’s a good chance you’ll end up crushing bed bugs.

Bed bugs are very slow insects. They can’t go any faster than a crawl, and their bodies aren’t built for jumping or flight.

That makes returning to their nest a dangerous trip because there’s no way for them to escape quickly when in danger.

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Date Published: 2022-03-25

Written By Robert Brown

I'm a seasoned pest control veteran. I focus my time on writing educational content about the industry and helping people learn about indoor insects. When I'm not thinking about bed bugs I am spending time with my daughters or walking the dog.

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