handy tip: bed bug feces identification

by nobugsonme on March 17, 2007 · 47 comments

in bed bugs, signs and symptoms of bed bugs

Goodness, what a day. Bed Bug Helloise would share this, but she blushes and becomes speechless when poop is under discussion. She’s a funny old thing.

Tip from a reader, who heard it from Lou Sorkin: try dabbing a bit of hydrogen peroxide (rather than water) on those little black specks you find in your bed, to reveal if they are from blood or not.

1 Doug Summers MS March 18, 2007 at 4:44 pm

I assume that the blood will foam. Is there a color change that we should look for or is it just the foaming action?

2 nobugsonme March 18, 2007 at 7:59 pm

I think it will foam, but in any case you’ll see red around the edges. I hope some people will try it and report back. (As far as water, this has worked for some too, but it takes longer and sometimes the specks are too hard.)

Most of the fecal specks are black and hard, and these are the ones I’m referring to. There are also the black fecal smudges on beds–which are stains, or sometimes little wet smudges–and you see these in the photos and videos of serious infestations (where a glance at the streaks of black on the mattress tells the tale).

But most people who aren’t sure they have bed bugs are seeing the little hard flecks, around the size of a poppy seed, or a fleck of coarse black pepper.

3 dawn April 24, 2007 at 4:15 pm

do the little hard flecks stick to the bedsheets or just flake off like lint?

4 nobugsonme April 24, 2007 at 9:00 pm

The little black specks that may stick well, but will come off (if you pick it up with your finger, then it sticks to your skin, but it can be removed). They look like little poppy seeds or large flecks of black pepper.

(There’s another kind–the smudgy stains which don’t come off.)

5 dawn April 25, 2007 at 10:04 am

so they do stick to the bedsheets a bit? you can’t just pick them up easily as you would a piece of lint. there will be some sticking to the sheets so you have to kind of scrape them off the sheet a bit right?

6 wantmyskinback April 25, 2007 at 10:14 am

Dawn the specks you are finding that are sticking to your sheets, you might want to place in a baggie and have a PCO or Entomologist look at them to identify it for you.

7 dawn April 25, 2007 at 10:57 am

i’ve actually only found specks one time and they did not stick to my sheets at all. they were just little black things that i picked up easily. that’s why i want to know if the feces usually sticks to the sheets because i was under the impression it was slightly liquid. to clarify, you are saying that the black specks will stick to the sheet a bit and will have to be ‘scraped’ or pulled off and then they will even stick to your fingers. so they are a sticky black substance.

8 hopelessnomo April 25, 2007 at 11:48 am

Dawn, in my experience they are NOT a sticky black substance–they are easily picked up and often are quite dry. Others may have other experiences. You should see if you can break the speck down with water or hydrogen peroxide to see if it’s dried blood. But I caution you that not all your black specks can be broken down in this way. An entomologist or PCO may be able to identify them, but I’m not sure. Do not discount your specks but see what other evidence you find.

9 nobugsonme April 25, 2007 at 12:37 pm

When I said they “MAY” stick, that’s all I meant. Some are slightly more sticky than your garden-variety dirt. But you can pick them up and some aren’t sticky at all.

More relevant, Dawn, is the fact that you have suspicious dirt. If you suddenly see black specks where you did not (at least not so often), then that’s a sign. People who do not know bed bugs think I am crazy when I say that, but if you experience it, you know you see more and more black specks. I first noticed them on the bottoms of my bare feet (from walking on the floor), then on the sheets, then on the sink. Your mileage may vary, as they say, but don’t ignore it.

10 dawn April 25, 2007 at 1:38 pm

so far, i’ve only seen black things on my bed once, quite a while ago and they were larger than poppy seeds and some were actually rectangular in shape. like i said it was one time, weeks ago and i haven’t seen any black specks since.

11 nobugsonme April 25, 2007 at 1:49 pm

So Dawn, are you getting bites? Do you have other reasons to think you have bed bugs?

12 dawn April 25, 2007 at 4:29 pm

haven’t noticed any bites but my husband sometimes bleeds on the sheets. he’s shown me, however, that is was from popped zits. i haven’t seen little tiny blood spots, more like zit-sized circular ones.

13 nobugsonme April 25, 2007 at 4:35 pm

So Dawn, is there any reason to think you have bed bugs? If not, that’s great.

14 dawn April 25, 2007 at 5:37 pm

i’m just paranoid because i’ve had them before but i’ve moved and brought absolutely NO furniture with me. all my clothes were washed and we even had the bed bug sniffing dog smell everything before we brought it into the new house. everything came up clean. but my husband bleeds a lot and has always had blood on his sheets (or so he claims). everytime i have seen blood it’s been on his side and i’ve found a corresponding cut or zit on his body that lines up with the blood spots. but i’m still paranoid so i wanted to know more about the feces to look for. like i said, i only had black ‘stuff’ in my bed one morning and it didn’t look pepper like, it was bigger than that, more like a larger poppy seed. some of it was also rectangular in shape and felt like plastic. i haven’t seen any further black spots on our bed sheets so i’m just wondering how often we’d be seeing them IF we had the bugs again. thanks for your patience and help with this.

15 nobugsonme April 25, 2007 at 5:49 pm

HI Dawn,
That’s totally understandable. They really make you wary for a long time, and for good reason.
It certainly could be feces (the poppy seed thing) or even a drop of dried blood (some have compared to nail polish chips).
Are you allergic to the bites? Because you’ll know–you’ll be bitten.
You may have very few. I think its good to keep your eyes out and realize that if you have them, signs will come more frequently.
Don’t panic based on one speck.
But how long since you moved?

16 dawn April 25, 2007 at 6:21 pm

i’ve been living in this new place for nearly three months now.

17 willow-the-wisp April 26, 2007 at 12:49 pm

good to remain proactive dawn: what did you do in order to not bring them with you from the old place?

18 willow-the-wisp April 26, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Anything else??? I meant

19 dawn April 26, 2007 at 2:28 pm

in our old place we only had one bug (we had the bed bug sniffing dog come back after a treatment and he found no further bugs) and we also had him check all of our stuff before we moved it into the new apartment. everything came up clean. absolutely NO furniture came from the old place, everything is new. my concern comes from the blood on the sheets, which my husband says he’s always had for as long as he can remember. he has a lot of pimples on his back and often has scabs or cuts as well. he does scratch a lot at night, i will admit that. i can hear him scratching all the time. the blood is always on his side of the bed, not mine. that’s really the only sign i’ve seen. one time we had black specs on our sheets in the morning, but a couple of them were rectangular in shape and they weren’t very small – in other words, they didn’t look like pepper specks. they were bigger than that, like a large poppy seed. but again, that only happened one time a few weeks ago. there have been no black specks since then.

20 nobugsonme April 26, 2007 at 2:46 pm

I think the size can vary Dawn. It’s hard for us to say based on a description. You shuld try soaking them in hydrogen peroxide on a paper towel for a few hours if you find them again.

21 dawn April 26, 2007 at 2:59 pm

like i said, i haven’t found them again so i’m not sure what’s going on, if anything. did you guys often see blood spots on your sheets when you had them?

22 dawn April 26, 2007 at 5:24 pm

is it the opinion of most of you who are experienced with the bed bug situation that the primary (or most reliable) sign (other than bites, of course) is black fecal specks on bedsheets?

23 willow-the-wisp April 26, 2007 at 7:31 pm

Well dawn there’s a lot of stuff unfortunately the least seen thing are the bugs in most cases. Themselves–well until the end, then most people do see them. There are the littel black flecks–like chipped dry nail-polish or poppy seed like. there is little blood trails blood on the sheets I varying forms from the bites, from the oozing wounds form picking them unconsciously in our sleep … there can be the cast skins with the development of the next stage toward development: you may see rust colored spots sort of growing like mold on a petrel Usually, too–you’ll see this “rusting a shaded corner area by the ceiling or by the floor–makes little difference. Blow on it–nothing happens. You have to scrub it off with and call the PCO but not in that order!
You may also see a few squashed bugs in the bed who became met-there-death form biting one time too many and so it’s like jay walking … the bugs take a chance and usually win, occasionally–they don’t.
During treatments I saw many cast skins around the bed … on the tables … like they were just there in the morning. … so surreal! They’d died overnight
ome and post inside dawn click the forems and start a topic thread–it’s free, youll learn even more and you casn teach us what you know!

24 willow-the-wisp April 26, 2007 at 7:41 pm

I’m sorry Dawn my keyboard and spell check keep going ou- of- whack I’ll replace them ASAP.

25 dawn April 27, 2007 at 10:36 am

i’d still like to hear other people’s experiences with signs before they found the bugs. are fecal spots the most reliable way (aside from bites). thank you willow-the wisp for your input.

26 hopelessnomo April 27, 2007 at 1:06 pm

Willow, jaywalking bedbugs! LOL.

Dawn, there are a variety of signs, fecal spots and stains, blood on the sheets or sleeping clothes, and a smell that is variously described but might be like mold or rotting fruit. Most people don’t notice the smell, either because the infestation is not yet large enough, or because they just aren’t susceptible to it. I don’t remember any smell at all. The most I can say is that I remember one day I had just cleaned my former studio apartment and oddly it didn’t smell clean and fresh. It didn’t smell of anything in particular, I just got a sad vibe. I opened the windows and forgot about it. Mistake! If you get an odd feeling in your home, you should trust it and investigate further. Read this comment from an earlier thread. Truer words…

The best evidence is a bug, but please note that you can have an infestation and not see even one bug. The blood spots are troubling but your husband seems to have a reasonable explanation.

If you are concerned, why wait for the signs to appear to be obvious? You should take a flashlight and look around the sleeping area, on the bed, below it, remove the mattress and the box spring, turn them over, etc. Inspect the frame, headboard, bedstands, you get the idea. You can open the electrical outlets nearest to your bed and take a look. Bedbugs are the stealthiest creatures, but you can at least satisfy yourself that you have tried to inspect for them.

27 dawn April 27, 2007 at 2:52 pm

i have already done a detailed inspection. our boxspring is wrapped in plastic and the mattress is brand new. i vaccuumed all around our headboard and the nightstand next to the bed. i even sprayed some n.i.c. 325 (something a former pco used) into the nightstand and the headboard. as i explained earlier, we had the bed bug sniffing dog come and smell all our stuff before it was moved in. none of it was furniture. all of that is already in storage. when the dog came, everything came up clean, including all my shoes, etc. again, we only had ONE bed bug in our old apartment, also found by the dog. we know this because we had the dog come back and the place came up clean. so when we moved from the old place, we effectively didn’t have bed bugs. that’s why i’m so confused and concerned about what’s going on. my husband insists he has always bled on his sheets that’s why i’m wondering what other signs i should look for. i suppose i’ll keep an eye out for fecal specks. i’ve only seen those black specks in my bed once and a couple of them were rectangular in shape (and felt like plastic) so that doesn’t seem right. My husband’s mother insists he’s always had blood on his bedsheets (since he was a teenager) and so has his father. In fact, anytime I’ve found blood on our bed, it’s been on his side. Any comments are welcome.

28 hopelessnomo April 27, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Hey Dawn, now I understand.

I guess the missing piece of information here is probably that neither of you react to bedbug bites, is that right?

OK, let me try to explain why no one here is going to say “you have nothing to worry about” even if you may have nothing to worry about.

Most everyone here has suffered bedbug trauma. “You have nothing to worry about” is incompatible with that experience.

You “only” found one bug in your previous apartment. Some of us never find any. Bedbugs are like icebergs–there’s the part you can see and the part you can’t. (And there’s no Kate Winslet with an axe coming to the rescue.) If you’re not allergic to the bites, you can have them and not know it.

You moved without any furniture. People do that all the time and still move their bedbugs with them. I know this is not what you want to hear, but it’s the sad truth.

You employed a bedbug sniffing dog. I have no experience with sniffing dogs but I understand that 100% reliability is impossible to guarantee. So, while those results are reassuring, none of us will go, “oh, then you don’t have bedbugs.”

And finally, forgive me, there is a faint tone of denial in your posts. It’s familiar to me from painful personal experience, so Lord knows I mean no offense. Denial is probably one of the “signs” — if only it could be read that way in time.

So, all this said, you probably don’t have bedbugs! But, since you don’t react to the bites, you’ll need to wait for an accumulation of evidence, or absence thereof, in order to be certain. You’ll need to monitor closely and keep track of all possible signs. Soon, you will know either way.

29 dawn April 27, 2007 at 4:23 pm

neither my husband or myself seemed to respond to the bites. we didn’t find the bug in our last apartment, the dog did. if it wasn’t for the dog, we would probably never have found it. but the weird thing is that when the dog came back later that day, the apartment came up clean. so the owner could only surmise that we either had only one bug or the night table we tossed (and defaced so no one would take it) had some more in it but that’s the only place they were. the pco we hired found absolutely no bugs at all. most of our stuff went into storage anwyay and the stuff that didn’t was cleaned (i.e. clothes and sheets, etc.) and then checked by the dog. i’ve been in this new apartment nearly three months now. and there is certainly denial in my post – i take no offense to that. because i’m praying we don’t have them again.

30 hopelessnomo April 27, 2007 at 4:35 pm

I’ll think good thoughts for you too, I hope you’re rid of them!

What made you hire the dog in the first place, though?

31 dawn April 27, 2007 at 4:41 pm

we actually hired the dog three times. the very first time we hired him it was because we had blood on the bedsheets and he came to the house and declared it clean. the second time we hired him it was because we had blood on the bedsheets and that’s when we found the one bug. then we hired him the third time to check everything before we brought it into the new place. so, as you can see, we’ve always had blood on the sheets and it’s always on my husband’s side of the bed but his mother says he’s always had blood on his sheets since he was a teenager and he does have quite a bit of acne (mostly on his back and butt). i often hear his scratching his skin at night as well. so all of this is coming from blood on bedsheets, quite simply.

32 hopelessnomo April 27, 2007 at 4:58 pm

And the blood on the bedsheets has always been on your husband’s side of the bed?

And has he always said it’s acne, or is he saying that now to try to reassure you because you’re nervous?

Did you have other signs then, in the old place? Did you know of infestations in the building? Or did you just read about bedbugs and worried over the blood stains and decided to hire the dog?

Something seems strange here, so I ask all these questions. A lone bedbug is possible I suppose, a hitchhiker, but you didn’t buy it, I’m sure, or you would not have gone to such lengths.

Anyway, Dawn, trust your feelings on this one, is what I suggest, and be vigilant.

33 Anonymous April 27, 2007 at 5:17 pm

What wonderful input all this is–I definitely saw a lot of bed bug pooh and was in denial for awhile too. When I saw it on the wall, and wondered why I was so itchy all the time–that’s when I started to put 2 and 2 together. I never moved but I did change my lifestyle a lot, ridding myself of even a few close friends. Yes Dawn I am so glad you are proactive: keep looking for the pooh–a little bit of thin plastic? I saw some of that, some smaller poppy seed looking like things, blood on the sheets and a few bugs that were squished–that was the final and the ultimate for me: I then knew I had bedbugs. I’ve seen this triangular type of pooh too!

34 dawn April 27, 2007 at 5:19 pm

we had no other signs in the old place at all and the blood has always been on my husband’s side of the bed and he’s always said it’s acne or that he’s just always had blood on his sheets. that’s why he even told me to ask his mother because he says it’s always been that way. before we moved, and put everything into storage he even promised me that we would have blood in the new place and i shouldn’t be surprised when it happens because it’s always happened to him. i was wary of the lone bed bug theory, which is why i insisted on putting everything in storage even though the dog said the house was all clear. the pco came to check all the places around us and they came up clean. our incident was the only one in the building. my husband is a flight attendant so he believes he brought in the lone bedbug in his work bag. he thinks it was just a random thing that happened to us from his job. for the record, in our new place he DOES NOT bring his bags into the house at all, he doesn’t bring his laptop on the plane and he keeps his bags wrapped in plastic while the are on the plane. they are kept in the garage when he returns home from work.

35 WILLOW-THE-WISP April 27, 2007 at 5:46 pm

it isgood to know that youare being proactive dawn. I’m hoping we have settled your fear for now. I’ve seen little triangular flat types of pooh too!

36 dawn April 27, 2007 at 5:53 pm

i didn’t see any triangular flat types of poo. the thing i found was thick and rectangular and it felt like plastic. my biggest concern is that we always have blood on our bedsheets – but it’s always on my husband’s side, like i said. and he insists it’s just always been that way and always will be.

37 bugaboo April 27, 2007 at 7:02 pm

Hi there dawn. I’ve had lots of experiences with bed bug pooh! Can you say that the only place you found these rectangular black flecks were once, a few weeks ago in the bed? If so … then if you have checked for more evidence of this in all corners of the house–you’ll only need to keep an eye out. Have you looked all over? In the bathroom? On the walls?” baseboards?

38 Anonymous April 27, 2007 at 8:02 pm

yep, it was only one time, a few weeks ago in the bed. just one morning. and they felt like plastic, not like poop. i’ve looked all over for more evidence all over the bedroom walls, by the baseboards and i’ve checked the mattress and found no signs at all. in fact, it’s brand new.

39 dawn April 27, 2007 at 8:05 pm


40 willow-the-wisp April 27, 2007 at 8:34 pm

Iam back from shopping and am wondering what’s going on here? if there are more poop questions and concerns I think they should be discussed further in the forums. what do other people think? should we provide aspecial ppop link or start a poop chat?:)

41 dawn April 27, 2007 at 8:44 pm

i was just answering a question from bugaboo regarding the poop. like i said, mine were weird. they were thick and rectangular but a couple were round but seemed pretty big and plastic like.

42 nobugsonme April 27, 2007 at 11:38 pm

I sympathise with your situation but I don’t think there’s anything anyone can say except to wait. If youdo have bed bugs, even though you do not appear to react to them, you will see more and more evidence. You will see more and more specks, if nothing else. Sorry that is frustrating. I don’t think there’s anything anyone can or should say to reassure you, but there’s also no reason to panic. I don’t know why your husband’s family would lie about blood on the sheets–and maybe he does get a lot of scabby pimples.
I’m not sure what the plastic-looking stuff was, but perhaps you mean what I mean when I say some blood looks like a fleck of nail polish. I think that’s actually a little clotted drop of blood, as opposed to bed bug feces.
Good luck! Keep your eyes open, and we’re here if you need us.

43 willow-the-wisp April 28, 2007 at 12:55 am

good luck dawn. come back if and when … But who’s bugaboo?

44 James Buggles May 6, 2007 at 9:00 pm

If you crush the feces, do you get a white powder? Or is that just toe cheese?

45 jessinchicago May 6, 2007 at 9:05 pm

LMAO. I think it’s toe cheese, Buggles.


46 willow-the-wisp May 6, 2007 at 9:29 pm

I’m on the bloody floor!!!!!!!!!!!!!

47 James Buggles May 6, 2007 at 9:30 pm

Sorry for the gross out, but I’ve experienced itchiness for 7 months with no signs of bedbugs — except these little pebble-like items on the matress that when crushed turn into a white powder — viewed under a 10x loupe. Out of curiosity, what does bedbug poop look like when crushed? Just more of the same — black dust?

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