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If you’re worried that you might suffer from a bed bug infestation and bites, one of the keys to identifying this pest is to know the differences between bed bugs and other types of similar bugs and bites.
The following is a complete comparison chart that can help you determine if you’re experiencing a bed bug infestation or another type of infestation or illness. Ultimately, you should always consult with a trained medical professional for the best diagnosis and treatment plan.
Bed Bugs vs. Fleas
Both pests require warm-blooded hosts for blood meals, but while fleas tend to feed on furry animals including pets like cats and dogs, bed bugs prefer bare skin that they can easily get to, which means they tend to go after people.
You’re less likely to experience an infestation of fleas if you don’t have any pets, whereas bed bugs can thrive wherever people are and are not as dependent on the presence of other animals.
Bed bugs can also live considerably longer than fleas. Fleas can live up to several months as pupae before developing into adults, but adult fleas will only live for about two weeks regardless of feeding. In contrast, adult bed bugs can live up to a year without feeding.
Also, unlike fleas, bed bugs can’t jump or fly. They can only crawl to their hosts. Both bed bugs and fleas can transmit diseases. Bed bugs have been shown to be carriers of Chagas Disease, whereas fleas can transmit diseases like plague, typhus, and cat-scratch fever.
Bed Bugs vs. Flea Bites
If you are bitten by something, you can usually tell between bed bug and flea bites based on a couple of key differences.
Flea bites tend to resemble clusters of mosquito bites, and will appear in random spots as round swollen dots with a red center where the puncture occurred.
Bed bug bites, on the other hand, will appear as small raised flat welts because of the allergic reaction that takes place to the anticoagulants and anesthesia that bed bugs’ saliva contains. Bed bug bites appear in a small line in most cases, as the bug travels down a path causing multiple bites along the way. It is fairly common for bed bugs to also bite in clusters of three.
Flea bites take less than an hour to develop after the initial bite, and will begin itching and irritating almost immediately, while bed bug bites can take days or in some instances up to two weeks to show up, itching more over time.
Bed Bugs vs. Scabies
Scabies also feed on human blood like bed bugs, but unlike bed bugs, they feed from the inside of the body. Bed bugs, like many other bugs, use specially designed mouthparts to bite the surface of the skin, but scabies will actually burrow beneath the skin to both feed and lay their eggs.
Also, unlike bed bugs, scabies are microscopic parasites that are invisible to the naked eye regardless of where they are.
You can tell scabies and bed bug bites apart by looking at their characteristics. Bed bug bites appear in a raised flat line of welts along the bite site, in rows of three or more. Scabies, on the other hand, will look a little different as they burrow under the skin, leaving gray-white lines that turn into red bumps over time, which may take on the look of a bed bug bite.
Scabies bites also tend to get worse if left untreated, often developing a yellow crust along with skin lesions and scaling as scabies parasites reproduce and spread.
Bed bug bites also appear anywhere on the body with minimal hair, often on the arms or legs, while scabies prefer to burrow in moist skin folds such as between the fingers or toes, in armpits, or in other areas where moisture can become trapped.
Scabies bites are also often itchier, causing the victim to scratch at the bite area more often, leaving it more vulnerable to infection. Although, a significant number of bed bug victims experience extreme itchiness and discomfort at the location of the bites.
Bed Bugs vs. Lice
Lice and bed bugs may seem similar at first glance, but there are some big differences between them. Both feed on their victim’s blood, but they will require different treatments and their bites will appear in different areas of the body.
Bed Bugs vs. Body Lice and Head Lice
When it comes to physical differences, bed bugs are normally larger than head and body lice, measuring around a quarter of an inch long. Lice are much smaller and harder to see, measuring only around an eighth of an inch. Bed bugs are also darker in color, appearing brown or red, while lice are often more of a light gray. Lice are also oblong in shape, while bed bugs are flat and oval-shaped.
Unlike bed bugs, lice generally require blood every day to survive, which means they tend to stay on the human host and cause consistent irritation and itchiness. They also tend to stay in areas full of hair where they can easily reproduce and lay eggs, most often in the scalp, though they can also burrow in other areas with hair.
Bed bugs will bite their victims, often overnight as they sleep, and leave once they’ve consumed a sufficient amount of blood. Their bites can also take days or up to a week to develop and become noticeable.
And while you can easily treat lice through rigorous shampooing to clear them from the body, bed bugs live throughout a home and are subsequently harder to get rid of in the long term.
Bed Bugs vs. Hives
Many people may mistake bed bug bites with hives, considering both look somewhat similar and result from a type of allergic reaction. Mistaking bed bug bites for hives can also leave a bed bug infestation untreated to the point where it gets out of control, so it’s important to be able to tell them apart.
First, bed bug bites are normally the same size, though bites lumped together can appear as a larger single bite. These bites are normally no larger than a pencil-tip eraser. Hives will appear in varying sizes from small dots to large quarter-sized lumps.
Bed bug bites are also always red, while hives can vary in color from a paler white or gray to dark red. Bed bugs also resemble mosquito bites, and hives will take on different shapes, sizes, and color.
Bed bugs only go after specific areas of the body where bare skin is exposed, often the arms and legs, but you can find hives anywhere on the body.
Consider whether you have a history of allergies. If you believe an allergic reaction to a certain food, topical cream, or medication could be the culprit, you might be suffering from hives.
Bed Bugs vs. Ticks
Both bed bugs and ticks may seem similar at first, as both are flat and dark in color, and both feed on people, but there are some key differences between them to consider.
One big difference is that bed bugs are insects, which means they have six legs. Ticks, on the other hand, are arachnids, meaning they have eight legs. Ticks also belong to various species, depending on where victims live, while bed bugs are generally only seen in a single species.
Ticks tend to stay in one place and feed for hours at a time, swelling in size as they fill with blood. Their mouthparts become stuck in the victim with barb-like attachments, making them difficult to remove albeit easy to spot. Bed bugs, conversely, only feed for a brief period before leaving the host and hiding to digest their blood meal, which means they’re often more difficult to catch while feeding.
Keep in mind that ticks carry diseases such as Lyme Disease, which can develop serious complications, whereas bed bugs are more prone to carry Chagas Disease. If you spot a tick, contain it immediately and have it identified by a professional. Certain species such as brown dog ticks are more prone to spreading infectious diseases. However, they are generally easier to get rid of in the home than bed bugs that hide throughout the home.
Bed Bugs vs. Spider Bites
Bed bugs and spider bites can both cause itching and irritation, but there are some differences to look out for to differentiate the two.
While both bites can result in itching, swelling, and redness, bed bugs tend to feed at night while their hosts sleep, which means you can wake up with freshly visible small red welts. Bed bugs also tend to bite multiple times in the same area, which means bites often appear in a small line in the bite area. Bed bugs also often bite on the arms, hands, face, and neck, where bare skin is exposed for easy feeding.
Spiders, on the other hand, only bite once in most cases, and only bite in defense when squished or otherwise in danger. As such, spider bites can appear anywhere on the body. Spider bites also often contain visible puncture marks where the two fangs penetrated, which you won’t see with bed bugs.
Bed bugs also tend to infest the home, which means you’re likely to see bed bug bites more frequently. Spiders generally bite only when defending themselves and won’t seek victims.
In extreme cases, some more venomous species of spider can also cause serious harm to victims, resulting in visible swelling or other more serious reactions such as severe pain throughout the body, fever, or other reactions warranting immediate medical assistance. Bed bugs only cause a severe reaction in individuals who are allergic.
Bed Bugs vs. Dust Mites
Bed bugs are different from dust mites in several ways, and while both might be pests you don’t particularly want in your home, dust mites typically are far less harmful than bed bugs.
Bed bugs are insects that can bite their victims overnight as they consume blood meals. Dust mites, in comparison, are microscopic arachnids that feed on dead skin cells and other particles that people and animals leave behind. If anything, dust mites may be seen as helping keep the home cleaner, producing excretion in the form of dust.
Dust mites do not actually leave any bite marks and are only a problem if you’re allergic to the dust they leave behind. If allergic, your skin can develop a rash.
Bed Bugs vs. Mosquito Bites
Bed bug and mosquito bites look somewhat similar. However, the main difference between them is that bed bugs tend to bite more than once in the same area, resulting in a cluster of raised red welts. Mosquitoes tend to bite once before moving on, and you might notice them biting you in the middle of the day, often leaving a single bite behind.
Mosquito bites also often swell up, while bed bug bites remain relatively flat unless your body has a more severe reaction.
If you see a cluster of bites, these are more likely to belong to a bed bug. A single raised round bite that itches is more likely to be that of a mosquito.
Bed Bugs vs. Mosquitoes
Bed bugs and mosquitoes also look noticeably different. Bed bugs can’t fly, being flat and wingless. Female mosquitoes fly from victim to victim and have long, thin bodies with a longer needle-like proboscis at the end of their mouths that they inject into the bite area.
It’s easy to tell the two apart just by looking at them based on these differences.
Bed Bugs vs. Chicken Pox
People may mistake bed bug bites for a symptom of the chickenpox virus. However, there are some obvious differences that can help you discern between them.
One of the first signs to look at is the number of bites; bed bug bites often appear in a small cluster of three or four bites, which will appear as small red flat welts. Chicken pox tend to spread throughout the body pretty quickly as the virus spreads, and you’re likely to experience other symptoms in addition to markings that itch.
While people allergic to bed bugs might develop blistering bumps on the affected areas, they typically remain small and red in appearance, without any swelling. Chicken pox will come with blistering in most cases, transitioning from red rashes into raised pink or red bumps that blister, followed by scabs that crust and heal.
In addition to markings, chicken pox can cause other symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue or malaise, and loss of appetite. Bed bug victims normally don’t experience anything beyond itchy bites within a small cluster.
Bed Bugs vs. Bat Bugs – Section seems unnecessary if we’re saying bat bugs tend to avoid areas where humans are.
In addition to their names sounding similar, bed bugs and bat bugs look nearly identical. However, they vary greatly in where they tend to live and on what they seek out as their main food source.
Bat bugs are found almost exclusively in the midwestern U.S., while bed bugs are located all over the world.
Both tend to prefer living near their primary food source. Perhaps the greatest distinction between bed bugs and bat bugs stem from the different primary food source each has which has resulted in each bug living in a very different area. Both are pests that feed on mammals for their blood, but while bed bugs tend to go after people, bat bugs feed on smaller mammals such as bats, hence the name, and are found in areas where bats are likely to live, including attics, voids within walls, unused chimneys, and other uninhabited areas where people aren’t likely to be. In contrast, bed bugs feed primarily on people at night while they sleep, which is why they are found around beds and other areas where people are found.
Lastly, bed bugs are slightly larger than bat bugs, measuring up to ¼ inch while bat bugs range from 3 to 5 millimeters.
Bed Bugs vs. Roaches
Bed bugs and roaches are both pests that nobody wants in the home. However, they’re quite different in how they infest the home in addition to their appearance.
Bed bugs are much smaller than roaches, and you can easily spot roaches due to their larger size. Bed bugs are wingless, but many species of roaches have wings and can fly.
Bed bugs feed on people, resulting in bite marks. Roaches generally leave people alone but will feed on food scraps and anything else that they can scavenge when people aren’t around.
You’ll find roaches hanging around garbage cans, sinks, and anywhere else where rotting food might be present. You’re more likely to find bed bugs in rooms where victims are likely to be, such as the bedroom in bedding or hiding in furniture.
Both pests can easily infest the home and may require professional extermination if they get out of control.
Bed Bugs vs. Stink Bugs
Some people might confuse stink bugs with bed bugs, but there are many differences between the two to keep in mind.
First, stink bugs are larger and have a body that’s shield-shaped, belonging to the Pentatomidae family, while bed bugs are much smaller and rounder, belonging to the Cimicidae family.
Bed bugs are also predatory parasites that feed on people, while stink bugs feed on fruits and vegetables. Bed bugs can cause bites on people as they feed overnight, but you’re likely to see some damage to a fruit or vegetable garden if stink bugs are present.
Stink bugs don’t tend to hide. In fact, you’re likely to see them climbing on the walls or your furniture in broad daylight as they search for other insects, vegetables, or fruits to feed on. Bed bugs hide in bedding and other dark areas and only come out at night when it’s quiet, when they’re more likely to get a blood meal.
Stink bugs can also fly, while bed bugs are wingless. And while stink bugs can leave a bad smell behind when touched or crushed, bed bugs are generally odorless.
Keep in mind that stink bugs can bite, and these bites can be somewhat painful, but they only bite out of defense and won’t cause a reaction unless the victim is allergic. Bed bugs bite in series and can cause a line of small red welts to appear that itch. You may not notice a bed bug bite until the pest has consumed a blood meal.
Bed Bugs vs. Chiggers
Unlike bed bugs, chiggers aren’t insects. In fact, they’re mites that belong to the arachnid family with ticks and spiders. However, their bites are similar to the ones you’ll get with bed bugs.
Chiggers are hard to spot because of their very small size ranging from around 0.15 to 0.25 millimeters in length. Chiggers also stay outdoors and prefer grassy areas where their hosts might pass through. These pests are bright red while bed bugs are dark red or brown in color.
Chiggers don’t actually bite their hosts, either. Instead, once they attach to a host, they use digestive enzymes to break down areas in the host’s skin and form a hole called a stylostome. They then chew small sections of the skin to cause irritation and swelling.
Bed bugs are found in homes where victims live and feed on them primarily at night when sleeping. Chiggers can feed on people walking through grassy areas in the middle of the day, causing an immediate reaction. They also tend to bite around the ankles and legs if they’re exposed, while bed bug bites often appear on the arms, neck, face, and hands.
Typically, you won’t need to worry about chiggers infesting the home as they prefer outdoor environments. As long as you don’t expose your skin in grass or near brush, you shouldn’t sustain bites from these pests. Bed bugs spread throughout homes and will often require professional extermination to get rid of them.
Bed Bugs vs. Ants
Bed bugs and ants might look similar at a glance, but there are ways to tell them apart fairly easily.
Ants are often similar in size to bed bugs, but different species of ants will be different colors. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, which can make them look somewhat similar to red ants that also appear dark red or brown. However, unlike ants, bed bugs are never black.
Ants also have three sections of the body, consisting of a thin head, thorax, and abdomen, whereas bed bugs generally appear as a single wide flat body with a small head.
Certain species of ants can sting and cause a reaction, such as fire ants. Contrary to what many people believe, ants don’t actually bite; they sting like bees. Fire ants and other species can use a stinger in their abdomens to inflict a burning or itching sting using venom. The sensation is usually immediately noticeable, and ants tend to attack in clusters if you’re near their nest.
Bed bugs tend to spread out and bite one at a time as their victims sleep, and you may not notice bed bug bites until you awake the next morning.
Ant stings or “bites” and bed bug bites can appear similar as small red welts, but you’re likely to see a lot more of them if you’ve been stung by venomous ants. You’re also likely to have bites around the ankles, feet, or lower legs if you stepped into or near their nest, while bed bug bites appear on the arms, legs, hands, face, and neck in most cases.
Bed Bugs vs. Eczema
Eczema is a common skin problem that many people experience, and you may believe that small red welts are symptomatic of eczema or another skin condition over bed bugs if you haven’t encountered bed bugs in the past.
However, there are some differences to keep in mind to help you differentiate between bed bug bites and eczema.
Generally, bed bug bites appear in small clusters of three to four red welts that itch. They may develop into blisters over time, but typically remain small and don’t spread.
When it comes to eczema, there are different types that can manifest, each of which comes with its own varying symptoms. Most eczema will appear as dry, irritated splotches of skin that are easy to tell apart from the small contained spots experienced with bed bugs. However, some types of eczema could develop blisters in the form of dyshidrotic eczema.
If you can’t spot any evidence of bed bugs in your room upon checking bedding or nearby furniture, you may want to consult with a dermatologist who can help you determine the cause of your skin condition.
Identifying Bed Bugs and Seeking Compensation for Infestations
With a better understanding of the nature of bed bugs and the differences between them and other pests, you can more accurately identify them if you suspect that you or your loved ones are victims of bed bug bites and infestations. Ultimately, if you or a loved one suffered injuries only a trained medical professional can provide the most accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
If you suspect that an infestation and any subsequent bites resulted from another party’s negligence, including hotel owners or landlords, you may be able to seek compensation for any pain and suffering experienced. Consult with a reputable bed bug attorney who can help determine if you have a case and get the representation you need.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. This firm handles claims nationwide on a pre-litigation basis. Some attorneys are not licensed to practice in certain jurisdictions. Although most bed bug cases resolve without a lawsuit, should one need be filed in a jurisdiction the firm is not authorized to practice, our lawyers work with local counsel upon the execution of a new agreement.