Bed bug bites on a toddler's feet and ankles

Bed bug bites are small, circular red marks or welts on the skin. They usually itch and may swell up. The nocturnal bloodsuckers usually bite in lines or zigzag patterns around areas of the body that are exposed while sleeping such as the face, neck, shoulders, hands, armpits, or ankles.

It can be tough to tell bed bug bites apart from other insect bites. There’s no one surefire way to deduce if your red mark is a bed bug bite or some other skin irritation… especially since bed bug bites look different from person-to-person. There are, however, several telltale characteristics of bed bug bites like those described above. The trick to figuring out if you’re looking at a bed bug bite is to look for several of the following characteristics at once:

1. Visible lines of bites

Insects obviously tend to bite the areas they have easy access to when they’re feeding. Mosquitoes bite your lower arms, legs, and neck because that’s what they can usually get to while you’re outside. Bed bugs are no exception. As explained above, these bloodsuckers prey on the parts of your body that are exposed while you’re sleeping. For most people, this may include your armpits, upper arms, neck, shoulders, hands, or even face.

Because of how they have to feed, bed bugs tend to leave tight, grouped clusters or lines of bites on the areas of the body they prey upon. Unlike mosquitoes, bed bugs feed in only one spot until engorged. They have to feed on this spot continuously for 3 to 10 minutes. If you interrupt them (by rolling, adjusting your covers, etc.) at any time during their feeding, they’ll break off and attempt to return to a nearby spot later. Bed bugs also tend to feed three times a night, so lines of bed bug bites are sometimes called “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” signs.

2. Several bites at once

Lines of bed bugs on a toddler's legs

Unfortunately, you never suffer only one bed bug bite. If you’re ever bitten by a bed bug, it’s because you either have an infestation or slept in a place with an infestation. Infestations are always dozens or even hundreds of bed bugs… and they all feed at once. They all also feed up to three times a night. Consequently, if bed bugs find you for even one night, they’ll bite you quite a few times.

The symptoms of bed bug bites may take up to two weeks to appear, but they’ll probably start appearing all at once. Look for several bite marks, rashes, or irritated areas around likely spots. Remember: if you have one bite, then it probably isn’t a bed bug bite. Unfortunately, as infestations grow, the number of bites you sustain will, too. You’ll probably notice several bites in key areas of your body at first, and then many more bites in those areas as time goes on.

3. Uniformly red, hard bite marks

Unlike flea bites, bed bugs bites do not have a clear central location where the bite originated. They usually don’t develop any ring-like, circular rash, either. Instead, bed bug bites tend to look and feel more similar to mosquito bites. They are small, usually circular, bright red (especially when inflamed), and itchy welts. These welts may take several days to swell up but will usually grow over time. They may also scab over or bleed if you scratch them enough.

Unlike mosquito bites, bed bug bites rarely become “puffy,” though they may feel tender. Instead, they tend to become hard, even as they inflame. If you’re particularly sensitive to bed bug bites or allergic, your bites may appear liquid-filled. Bed bug bites also tend to last longer than mosquito bites. Your bites could last several weeks after the initial bite. They’re also somewhat more likely to scar than mosquito bites, especially if you itch them.

4. Targeted areas

Bed bug bites on a woman's neck

As mentioned above, bed bugs feed on specific parts of the body in straight lines or zig zags. They also work their way from site-to-site in order to find the best places to feed. This behavior means, unlike other pests, bed bugs don’t bite randomly. Instead, you should be able to notice patterns in their biting behavior, especially after a protracted infestation. Look for zigzagging or clusters of bites moving from area-to-area of your body.

To complicate matters, bed bugs don’t necessarily feed every night. After engorging themselves, bed bugs typically digest and molt for several days. Depending on how synchronized your infestation’s feeding rituals are, that means your bugs could feed on you severely one night and not much another. In other words, don’t be surprised if your symptoms tend to wax and wane slightly over the course of weeks or months. Remember: bed bug infestations never go away on their own. If bed bugs feed on you now, they’ll keep feeding until you do something about them.

Insect Bite Disclaimer

Insect bites of all kinds (including bed bug bites) are notoriously difficult to decisively identify without an actual insect sample. No matter how positive you are that you’ve got bed bug bites, the only way to know for sure is to find the bugs themselves. Consider these bed bug bite identification steps a helpful first step, but not a complete response.

If you think you have bed bugs, we always recommend conducting a professional inspection. Griffin’s experts use highly-trained canines to thoroughly inspect the infested site and collect samples. We’ll be able to tell you if you have bed bugs for sure, and figure out the best way to wipe them out.


When it comes to bed bug bites, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Infestations never go away and only worsen over time as they grow and expand. If you think bed bugs are biting you, do something about it right away: call Griffin Pest Solutions.

Griffin’s bed bug experts specialize in finding, diagnosing, and eliminating bed bug infestations of all sizes. No matter your infestation, we have the tools and expertise required to find and fix it right. If you think you’ve been bitten, now’s the time to call. We’re ready to help make sure the bed bugs can’t bite anymore.

What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like? Serving Kalamazoo & Grand Rapids

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