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Bed bugs are not exactly the most popular insects. They are annoying and can also multiply very rapidly. For humans, the bugs are not life-threatening, but very unpleasant.

In a nutshell

  • Bed bugs don't bite, they bite
  • Bites cause itching, redness, and swelling
  • Occurrence of the so-called "bug street"
  • Traces of faeces, small blood stains and remains of skin are also indications of bed bugs
  • Bugs give off an unpleasant, sweet smell

Flat as flounders

"Flat as flounders" is the right keyword to describe the appearance of bed bugs (Cimex lectularius L.). Their shape in particular earned them the nickname “wallpaper flounder”. In short, a few comments on how to recognize these insects correctly. An adult bed bug is usually visible to the naked eye. Typical features are:

  • Size 4 to 6mm
  • Form oval to slightly rounded and very flat
  • reddish-brown coloring
  • six hairy legs
  • Lines cover main body
  • eggs are white to off-white, slightly translucent and sticky
  • Age 6 to 12 months

Notice: Bed bugs are very agile and can easily scale ceilings and walls, then swoop down on their potential victims with ease. They are usually nocturnal, staying hidden in their hiding places during the day.

Bites or stings?

Contrary to the assumption that bed bugs bite their victims and suck their blood, just like mosquitoes or fleas, this is not really true. Bed bugs don't bite, they bite. They have excellently trained mouthparts that can penetrate human skin with ease. A bite of the small bloodsuckers occurs only during the night, when their victims are sleeping. The animals are attracted by the heat, which they particularly love, as well as by the carbon dioxide emitted by the sleeper.
The bite itself is not perceived by humans. Symptoms usually only appear a few days later. As a rule, bites are only found on uncovered parts of the body such as:

  • poor
  • legs
  • shoulder and neck
  • feet
  • face and neck

First Symptoms

Bed bug bites usually look similar to a mosquito or flea bite. The symptoms can sometimes appear up to two weeks later. The bites are always arranged close together in a row, the so-called "bug street", which ultimately leads to a distinction between the bites of flea, mosquito or louse. The arrangement of the bites comes about because the bug does not always hit a blood vessel with the first bite. It must therefore continue to “wander” on the body.
A bite itself is painless, unlike flea or mosquito bites. With the bite, the bed bug injects its victim with a substance through its sharp mouthparts, a kind of anesthetic that prevents the blood from clotting immediately, so no pain is felt. Depending on the stage of development of the bed bug, the blood sucking lasts between 3 and 20 minutes and is repeated every three to five days. However, these animals can survive for several months without food. Symptoms appear such as:

  • reddening of the bite site
  • mild to severe itching after about 30 minutes
  • flat, small bumps or swellings

As a rule, a bed bug bite is accompanied by a more or less severe itching. Stronger reactions can sometimes lead to larger wheals or even a rash. As noted, these symptoms may not become apparent until days later after a bite on the skin. Everyone reacts differently to such bites. There are also people, around 20 percent, who show no reactions whatsoever. It always depends on the sensitivity of each individual.

Notice: Bed bug bites are not very pleasant. A rash can occur. However, you don't have to panic right away, because contagious diseases cannot be transmitted. However, there is a risk of infection of the wound if the wheal is repeatedly scratched.

people with allergies

Usually, very few people are allergic to a bed bug bite. However, in isolated cases people can develop an allergy such as a bee or wasp sting. In this case, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible. Without further treatment, the affected person can otherwise suffer from anaphylactic shock, an autoimmune reaction of the body, which can lead to respiratory and circulatory arrest. In the case of a severe infestation, there is also the possibility that constant "blood sucking" will result in anemia in the affected persons.

treatment not necessarily

Symptoms usually go away on their own within a week if the body reacts uncomplicatedly. However, if the pain is very severe and there is no relief, it is always advisable to consult a doctor. In the case of very severe skin reactions, a cortisone ointment can be used in the event of a rash. Something should also be done against the itching that occurs, because it can have a huge impact on well-being. There are different possibilities:

  • Sting healer from the pharmacy
  • heated spoon
  • cooling poultices or gels

If none of this helps, then antihistamines from the pharmacy.

Notice: An electronic sting healer works on the basis of concentrated heat of 51 °C. The heated ceramic surface is pressed onto the bite for 3 to 6 seconds. The local heat effect should ease the pain. The application is well suited for allergy sufferers, pregnant women and children.

Other signs

Bite marks do not always have to be a clear indication of the presence of bed bugs, as flea and mosquito bites also show such injuries. Therefore, other signs should be looked for, such as:

traces of feces

  • 0.5 to 1.0 mm black to dark red droppings
  • anywhere they are like hideouts, mattress, bed frame
  • excreted, digested blood

Shedding residue (nymph skins)

  • Bug goes through five larval stages until adulthood
  • at any stage molting
  • Remnants consisting of all legs, head with a split open back
  • almost transparent, brownish to ocher


  • due to delayed coagulation of the blood during the sucking process
  • Stains on bed linen and nightwear


  • penetratingly sweet
  • especially in heavy infestations
  • Secretion of an oily secretion
  • Defense against enemies and to attract when reproducing

If several of the symptoms coincide, an infestation by "wallpaper flounder" can be assumed.

frequently asked Questions

How do bed bugs get into the home?

Usually they are souvenirs with the luggage from vacation. But you can also change hands when you buy old furniture and things from the flea market or over the Internet. In addition, bird nests on house walls and in attics also offer good shelter for these little animals.

Where do bed bugs hide?

They love warmth and darkness. They are to be found preferably in inhabited and closed rooms, in the vicinity of people's sleeping and resting places. They like to crawl into cracks, joints and crevices. They love materials like paper, textiles and wood. They often hide behind wallpaper, hence the name "wallpaper flounder". Damp and cool places are avoided.

How can bed bugs be combated?

Fighting is quite persistent. All hiding places and nests have to be found, which is not always easy for laypeople. Therefore, an exterminator should be consulted. This fights the insects with special chemicals, which are usually harmless to humans and pets. These must act for at least two to three hours. Multiple applications are often necessary. Furthermore, it can be controlled with heat above 55 °C and cold below -18 °C.

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