From 1 to 7 millimeters long (adults will be around a quarter of an inch), bedbugs are brownish red, rounded and slightly flat. They feed at night when you're sleeping, and release an anesthetic when they bite. If you start waking up with small inflamed, itchy bumps, it may be the first indication that you have uninvited houseguests. Bedbugs travel from location to location by crawling onto clothing or hiding in the seams of handbags and luggage. They aren't just living in bedrooms, either. They've been discovered in movie theaters, office cubbies and department store dressing rooms. Anywhere people gather indoors is a potential spot for lurking bedbugs, and their presence is becoming so widespread that even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection agency (EPA) are calling their growing numbers alarming.
Bedbugs are patient little vampires, too. Adults can survive without a meal for more than a year, so don't plan on closing the bedroom door for a couple of weeks to starve them out. They can also hide in some enterprising areas, such as behind wallpaper and under carpeting. For a bug that's visible to the naked eye, bedbugs are definitely good at concealment.
If you think you have a bedbug infestation, check the seams in your couch and mattress for small brown spots. Inspect your sheets and pillowcases, too. If you don't detect anything, it doesn't mean you've dodged a bullet. You should also inspect the back of your headboard, the undersides of nearby furniture and along your baseboards. Finding a live specimen may be a challenge as they can spend the daylight hours well hidden, but discarded exoskeletons that look like desiccated bugs and tiny blood-filled bug feces (spots) will be detectable if you look carefully. You may also be able to smell a slightly musty, sweet odor near your bed or bedding. Another option is to buy sticky strips and put them on the floor around your bed to trap a bedbug commuter for a definitive identification. Trapping lots of them on a sticky strip may give you an idea of how advanced your infestation is, too.
Bedbug bites can itch like crazy, but bedbugs aren't considered disease carriers. When you're new hobby is bedbug hunting and recreational bite scratching, this may be small comfort, though.