No, it does not necessarily mean you have a bed bug infestation after you find one bug in your house. Of course, it is possible that finding one bed bug is a sign of the early stages of an infestation, but it is also possible that the one bed bug you found was a hitchhiker that got on your clothes or baggage that morning.
Whether or not the bed bug is from another location or is from your own growing infestation, you need to do an inspection of your house as soon as possible to nip the problem in the bud if there is one.
Why is it difficult to identify the early stages of an infestation?
Bed bugs are experts at hide and seek. Adult bed bugs are only around the size of an apple seed and they are able to squeeze into tight spaces, such as cracks in walls or furniture. They do not have wings, so you will not see them easily while they fly around your house. They also do not like to come out from their hiding spots unless they need to feed.
Bed bugs will come out when they know their human host is asleep. They learn to adapt to your sleep schedule because they know that they can feed in peace while their host is sleeping. Their saliva has an anesthetic effect, so it numbs your skin before they start feeding, making you unaware that they are currently drinking your blood.
Do not let their small size and short legs fool you because they move quickly and are able to cover three to four feet in one minute.
How do I know if I have bed bugs?
The most damning evidence you can get to verily conclude that you do have bed bugs is seeing an actual adult bed bug.
Adult bed bugs are apple seed-shaped, reddish-brown in color, five to seven millimeters long, six legs, and two antennae.
Baby bed bugs, or nymphs, are smaller than the adults and their color can range from pale to light brown.
Bed bug eggs are about one millimeter long, roughly around the size of a pinhead, oval-shaped, and translucent to pearly white in color. They are usually arranged in clusters and glued to the surface they are laid on.
There are many types of pests that can live inside homes, so it is understandable if one mistakes them for bed bugs, such as cockroach nymphs, beetles, and fleas.
Other signs to look out for if you suspect a bed bug infestation are bite marks on your face, neck, arms, and legs that look like red welts. You might also find blood stains and fecal matter stains on your bed sheets and mattress. When nymphs mature into adult bed bugs, they shed their exoskeleton so you may find them under your mattress or in the furniture near your bed. Egg clusters can also be seen in infestations, predominantly in the bottom of furniture or the seams of mattresses. Bed bugs also have a distinct sweet and musty odor that comes from their scent glands.
Does one bed bug mean an infestation?
It may be unlikely, but there is a chance that the one bed bug you found just happened to hitch a ride on your clothes. It could be a male bed bug or a female bed bug that has not laid any eggs yet.
Even if the bed bug you found really is the one and only bed bug in your house, the smart thing to do is still to assume that you have an infestation. Most people do not know they have a bed bug infestation long after the early stages are over. If you see a bed bug walking around, the most likely scenario is that the infestation is close to severe.
Bed bugs do not reproduce as quickly as most other pests, but they are resilient and their eggs are almost always viable, meaning that even if a female only lays one to five eggs a day, all of those eggs are likely to become full grown bed bugs in a matter of months. Let us say that the one bed bug you found was a female, the males that she gave birth to are eventually going to be her mates. So, a single female bed bug can start a severe infestation all by itself.
You can have up to 500 bed bugs in your home in two months time all stemming from the same female bed bug.
Not finding any bite marks on your body despite finding bed bugs does not mean that you have it all under control. Different people have different responses to bed bug bites. Some people’s reactions take weeks before appearing.
What if I cannot find any more bed bugs after the one I saw?
If after inspecting your entire house for signs of bed bugs and you come up empty-handed, that is good news. It is either you do not have a bed bug infestation or you currently have a mild infestation. These are the steps you need to take to make sure your house stays free of bed bugs.
If you can afford to, call a professional pest control service. They are able to find signs of bed bugs that you might have overlooked. If you do have an infestation, they are the ones that are the most capable of getting rid of them for good.
Buy a plastic encasement for your mattress and box spring. These plastic encasements will help keep bed bugs out of your bed, while also starving and killing any bed bugs that could already be in there.
You can also set up bed bug traps that will catch bed bugs and tell you definitely if you have an infestation.
When you travel and need to stay in hotels or any accommodation like it, be sure to inspect the entire room so you do not end up taking bed bugs back home with you.
No, finding one bed bug does not mean that you currently have an infestation. It is possible that a stray bed bug hitched a ride on your clothes and you found it before it could set up shop in your house. Unfortunately, this is unlikely.
Finding one bed bug usually means that you have a sizable infestation enough for the bed bugs to come out because they are almost always in hiding.
The best approach to finding a single bed bug is to assume that your home is infested and that you need to proceed with the necessary steps to start eradication.
Image: istockphoto.com / John-Reynolds