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10 signs you don't actually have bedbugs, even if you think you do

10 signs you don't actually have bedbugs, even if you think you do
  • Paris is experiencing a bedbug outbreak.

  • There's also a rise in bedbug anxiety — where people think they have bedbugs, but don't.

  • Here are ten signs you don't actually have bedbugs.

Paris has been battling a bloodthirsty bedbug infestation for months.

Roughly the size of a Tic Tac, bedbugs typically emerge at night and feed on unsuspecting people as they slumber. But in Paris, they've been reported in movie theaters and on the metro.

Bedbugs aren't just a problem for people in Paris. According to a 2023 paper published in the "Annual Review of Entomology," there's a "global resurgence" of bedbugs. Just the idea alone is enough to make anyone itch.


But with all the news of bedbugs, there's also been an increase in bedbug anxiety.

"I've never seen a panic like this," Thibault Buckley, who works at the French bedbug canine detection agency ATN, told the New York Times. According to Buckley, up to two-thirds of calls placed to ATN have ended up being a false alarm.

While strange marks on your body, spotting an insect in your bed, or feeling extra itchy in the morning could, understandably, make you think you have bedbugs — these signs might not be bedbugs after all.

Here are ten signs that your problem isn't actually bedbugs, and what it could be instead.

You've found small bugs in the cracks and crevices of your home

Other bugs are often mistaken for bedbugs.wabeno/ iStock

Just because you found small "cylindrical-shaped insects" lurking about in your house, doesn't necessarily mean you have bedbugs.

"German cockroach nymphs are often confused with bedbugs," Dr. Sydney Crawley, a public health entomologist with Scotts Miracle-Gro, told Insider.

"However, cockroach nymphs are more cylindrical in shape, and bedbugs are shorter and oval. Both of these insects are cryptic, live in harborages, and are most active at night," Crawley said, "but cockroaches do not feed on humans and are usually found near food or moisture."

So if they're not in your bed or on the couch, that's a good initial indicator that they're likely not bedbugs.

The bites are around your ankles — and you also have a pet

flea bite
Bites just around the ankle is probably fleas.anamariategzes/ iStock

It's not necessarily super common for bedbugs to bite only around the ankles.

If you only have bites around your ankles and also have a pet, it might actually be a sign that another insect is causing your problems.

Bill Horgan, the president of Debug Pest Control, told Insider that these are likely signs of a flea infestation, rather than an issue with bedbugs.

The bugs near your bed have wings

winged beetle
Bedbugs don't have wings.porpeller/ iStock

If the bugs you've spotted have wings, that's a good sign that you don't have bedbugs — because bedbugs don't have wings.

"Carpet beetles are often confused for bedbugs and may be found in the bedroom, but they have distinct wings," Crawley said. "Additionally, their larvae look like caterpillars."

Your bed looks completely clean

bedbug infestation mattress
Bedbugs leave lots of damage to your mattress.pinkjellybeans/Shutterstock

If you suspect that you might have bedbugs, it's a good idea to check your mattress and bedding for rust-colored spots — this is what bed bug excrement looks like. Another sign could be shed exoskeletons that look like coffee grounds.

But if you take a closer look at your bed and you don't really see much out of the ordinary, that's another good sign that you might not have bedbugs.

"Bedbugs leave behind tiny blood stains or small black dots that look like mold or like black pepper sprinkled in the seams of your mattress or creases in the corners of your sheets," Eric Hoffer, the owner of Hoffer Pest Solutions, told Insider.

If you're itchy, but you haven't spotted any of these telltale signs, bedbugs might not be the cause.

You're simply itchy

Lots of things can cause itchiness.Shutterstock

There are tons of things that can cause itchiness beyond bedbugs.

Hogan said that if you don't see any bugs and haven't traveled recently, you may want to consider things like detergents, medications you may be taking, allergy issues, and more because one of those other things might be what's actually causing the itchiness.

The bites are spread out, in places where you weren't touching your bed, or in very small groupings

bed bug bite
Bedbug bites usually appear where you have touched the bed.Wikimedia

When you're dealing with bedbugs, you should expect to see large clumps of bites or bites where you were touching your bed. If you have bites that are spread out, in small groups, or in seemingly strange or random places, that might mean it's not bedbugs.

"Although bites acquired during the night can point to a bedbug problem, it can also mean that you're dealing with some other pests," Karen Thompson of, told Insider. "Anything from mosquitoes to fleas can leave bites while you're sleeping. The trick is to pay attention to the spot where the bugs leave the bites as well as how the bites look. If the bites are near the place where your body meets the surface of your bed and they are in large clusters then you most likely have bedbugs.

"However, if you wake up with a few bites here and there or there are small groups of red, itchy bites on your body (clusters of no more than three or four bites) then more likely you're dealing with either mosquitoes or fleas."

They look like bedbugs but aren't near your bed

flea versus bed bug
Flea (L) and bed bug (R).Flickr/gailhampshire/AP/Carolyn Kaster

Make sure the bugs you're looking at are actually bedbugs and not something else.

"Some insects look like they are small bedbugs that have fed on blood when they have not (e.g., spider beetles)," Crawley said. "It is normal to think you have bedbugs when you see something that looks so similar to a bedbug, and you maybe haven't ever seen one in person and are basing your views on internet images."

When in doubt, call in a professional. But if the bedbugs aren't in or near your bed, couch, or other plush furniture, it might be something else.

You look around your bed and you don't see any bedbugs

mattress no bed.JPG
If there aren't signs on your bed, it might be something else.Dwight Burdette/Wikimedia Commons

It might sound obvious, but if you take a look at your bed and don't see any bedbugs or signs of them, that's a pretty good sign that you probably don't have bedbugs, Matteo Grader, a pest control technician at Panther Pest Control in London, told Insider.

Though they could still be there, it could also be other pests that are causing your trouble. Grader said that if you have a pet or someone brought a pet into your house recently, it could be fleas, while if you've noticed buzzing sounds, it could be mosquitoes.

Your bites are all on your lower body, backs of your knees, or inside your elbows

bug bite
Flea bites are more common on the lower half of your body.PARNTAWAN/ iStock

The location of your insect bites can help you figure out if you have bedbugs.

"If a pet has carried fleas into your home, they're most likely living in your carpet — so they'll bite the lower half of your body and aim for warm, moist areas like the backs of your knees or the inside of your elbows," Hoffer said. "Bedbug bites are more common on the upper half of your body, around the face, neck, and arms."

Wherever the bites on your body are, however, it might be a good idea to go to the doctor so that they can help determine what the cause may be.

You have an unexplained rash

scratching rash
Lots of different bugs and other causes can leave the same marks as bedbugs.iStock

"Here in play is the human nature that tends to think the worst and bed bugs can definitely compete for that title," said Jordan Foster, a pest technician at Fantastic Pest Control in London. "But there are many other insects (not to mention the many other non-insect related causes) that leave similar markings on a human's body."

A rash can be concerning, of course, but just because you noticed it first thing in the morning doesn't necessarily mean that bedbugs are the cause. Talking to your doctor or a dermatologist or hiring a pest control company to come out and take a look can help you figure out what you're really dealing with — and help you get to a place of resolution much sooner, whether you do really have bedbugs or not.


Read the original article on Insider