Bed bugs are an unpleasant and frustrating pest to deal with, but what can be even more challenging is identifying them accurately.
There are many bugs that resemble bed bugs, and it’s essential to know the difference to avoid costly and unnecessary treatments.
In this article, we will explore some of the common bugs that can be mistaken for bed bugs and how to tell them apart.
One key aspect to consider when identifying bed bugs is their appearance and life cycle. This information can help you discern whether you’re dealing with bed bugs or an impostor.
However, keep in mind that the types of bugs that look like bed bugs may vary depending on your region.
Some of the more prevalent bugs that resemble bed bugs include carpet beetles, spider beetles, and booklice.
Each of these insects has distinct characteristics that set them apart from bed bugs, but they can be easily confused with one another without a careful examination.
In the next sections, we will discuss the features of each bug and provide helpful tips on how to differentiate them from bed bugs.
Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs
Bat bugs resemble bed bugs closely, but they mainly feed on bats’ blood. Some key differences include:
- Longer body hair in bat bugs
- Found near bat nesting areas
Cockroach nymphs are similar in size and color to bed bugs. Notable distinctions are:
- Nymphs have a more elongated shape
- They lack wings
- Round, shiny, and brown or reddish body
- Six longer, spider-like legs
Carpet beetle larvae are often confused with bed bugs, but some distinctions are:
- Oval-shaped and hairy
- Feed on fabric instead of blood
Fleas and bed bugs have a few differences:
- Fleas are smaller and have a laterally flattened body
- They can jump, while bed bugs cannot
Ticks share similarities with bed bugs regarding their blood-feeding habits. Differences include:
- Ticks have eight legs
- Their size increases significantly after feeding
Head lice can be mistaken for bed bugs. Key distinctions are:
- Smaller in size
- Found mainly on the scalp
Booklice are often misidentified as bed bugs, but they have a different appearance:
- Pale, translucent color
- Feed on mold and fungi
|Bat Bug||Similar||Similar||Blood (mainly from bats)|
|Spider Beetle||Similar||reddish||Stored food/items|
|Carpet Beetle||Larvae similar||brown||Fabric, not blood|
|Head Lice||Smaller||Gray||Blood (from scalp)|
Identifying and Differentiating Bugs
Appearance and Size
Identifying bugs that resemble bed bugs is crucial to effective treatment and control.
Bed bugs are small, flat, oval-shaped insects and are about the size of an apple seed. Other bugs (apart from the ones mentioned above) that might look similar to bed bugs include:
- Stink bugs
- Water bugs
Bites and Symptoms
Bed bug bites are often mistaken for bites from other insects. These bites appear as small, red, itchy welts and can occur in clusters or lines.
Unlike mosquito or flea bites, bed bug bites may not cause an immediate reaction, making identification more challenging. Key differences include:
- Mosquito bites: can be swollen and have a more immediate itching sensation
- Flea bites: usually found around ankles or lower legs and can create a halo around the bite site
Hiding Places and Habitats
Bed bugs live in human homes and harborages close to their food source – human blood. They hide in:
On the other hand, bugs like leafhoppers and aphids dwell outdoors, primarily on plants. Water bugs inhabit aquatic environments.
Life Cycle and Reproduction
Bed bugs have three stages of development: eggs, nymphs, and adult bed bugs. Their life cycle includes:
- Eggs: female bed bugs lay clusters of white, oval-shaped eggs
- Nymphs: newly hatched bed bugs that shed their exoskeleton five times before becoming adults
- Adult bed bugs: mature insects that feed on blood and reproduce, living up to a year
In comparison, true bugs undergo an incomplete metamorphosis, which lacks the pupal stage seen in some other insects.
Droppings and Odor
Bed bug droppings provide evidence of their presence. Their feces appear as small, dark brown or black dots, often found along mattress seams, box springs, or around their hiding places.
Some bugs emit a distinct odor when disturbed, such as the stink bug. Bed bugs, although not as strongly scented, may produce a sweet, musty smell when present in large numbers.
Prevention and Treatment
Keeping a Clean Environment
One of the best ways to prevent bed bugs is to maintain a clean and clutter-free environment. Regularly vacuum your mattress, flooring, and upholstered furniture.
Also, ensure that carpets are clean and furniture is free of dust. When traveling, check your luggage and clothing for any signs of bed bugs.
Pest Control Methods
For prevention and treatment, there are several methods:
- Physical: Encase mattresses and box springs with covers to prevent bed bug entry.
- Chemical: Use EPA-approved pesticides.
- Heat: Wash bedding and clothing in hot water to kill bed bugs.
- Can be effective when done properly
- Minimal side effects to humans
- May require multiple applications
- Can be time-consuming
Recognizing Signs of Infestation
It’s important to recognize the signs of bed bugs:
- Small, dark droppings
- Blood stains on sheets
- Bed bug skins/shells
- Reddish-brown, oval insects
It can be helpful to compare these signs to other similar pests such as mosquitoes.
Bed Bug vs Mosquito:
|Appearance||Reddish-brown, oval||Small, slender, long legs|
|Bites||Small, red, itchy bumps||Larger, swollen, itchy bumps|
|Habitat||Mattresses, cracks, seams||Standing water, damp areas|
If you have tried the above methods and still have a persistent infestation, it’s time to consult a pest control professional. They can identify and treat the issue more effectively than do-it-yourself methods.
A professional can inspect your home, identify infestation areas, and provide treatment options tailored to your specific needs.
Bed bugs are often mistaken for other pests, making accurate identification crucial. Several bugs resemble bed bugs, including carpet beetles, spider beetles, booklice, bat bugs, cockroach nymphs, fleas, ticks, and head lice.
Each of these pests has unique characteristics that differentiate them from bed bugs. For instance, bat bugs feed mainly on bats’ blood, while cockroach nymphs lack wings.
Proper identification is essential to avoid unnecessary treatments and to implement effective control measures.
Recognizing the signs of bed bugs, such as their fecal droppings, and understanding their appearance can aid homeowners in addressing potential infestations.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Bed Bug, NOT Delusory Parasitosis Perhaps
Ed. Note October 4, 2011: This posting was originally entitled: What’s That Bug? does not correct our contributors’ grammar.
Continued correspondence with “need2relax” has caused us to speculate that there is a greater problem here that we are not qualified to address.
Psychologically messed up..Please help.
September 29, 2011 3:43 pm
I am quite paranoid. In jun we had kept discovering bites and servile of them and our baby was getting bite everyday i automatically though bed bugs called 4 exterminators with in two weeks and non of the 4 seen anything or evidence?..
Time went by figured it was mosquitos or spiders bites lowered..
Then in the last week of august starting getting bit BAD and it was scary. Inspected my beds inspected couches and had professionals seek and found nothing..
Every time though we site on the couch we get bit my husband was wide awake watching a movie while talking to friends and he seen a little brownish black bug and had bites..i inspected the couch seena spiderish looking teeny tiny bug WEIRD nothing else though..
Was in a nother living room and seen a yellowish looking tan color bug when i smashed it black goo came out it was fast not scared at all i was wide awake and it was maybe the size of a rice grain..
Dont have fleas maybe mites? or just the rainy weather living next to the beach and have a lot of lanscaping around just bugs?
idk what to do i cant sleep i panic al night making sure no bed bugs but thank god no bites ever while sleeping and no bugs in bed ever..please help
We don’t know what you have.
Did you get the pictures?
Ed. Note: We referred Aussietrev’s comment and then received this reply.
Thank you. That is probably it.
And also I was thinking biting midges or noseeums. See lots of those.
Update: October 3, 2011
This is the last email.
I also want to include I had 4 exterminations and none of witch did not see any evidence Nether have I just bites. Then I seen a large bug on the back of my head board. Like a size of a quarter or a half dollar.
Could that be bb? Maybe it wasn’t a bug??? Ease help. No ink stains or blood anywhere. And no smell no other bugs tore up the whole house. Please please help.
Update: October 3, 2011
Hey. I’m sorry to bug you. LOL. Do you think this is bed bugs!!
We cannot discern any details in your photos. If four exterminators did not find anything, you might want to seed professional attention for a syndrome known as Delusory Parasitosis. We have no professional credentials. We are not entomologists and we are not able to help you.
UPDATE: October 6, 2011
My last email. I promise. Just answer please.
Cherry red blood came out. And it was teeny tiny. Roundish brownish black. Please help
You are obviously quite troubled, but we are unable to discern any details in the blurry photos you have sent to us. Perhaps you might want to hire a professional photographer to document the things you are finding in your home.
Yes I am. It’s just I keep seeing weird little things and no one understands. And I know your not a bug specialist and I’m sorry to drive you nuts. I just seen this little tiny almost invisible black bug and when I smashed it cherry red blood came out.
I dont think it had antennas? It had remarkably small legs.. What could this be? Is it just a harmless little outdoor bug that wondered in? Or is it a mite or a be bug a very small blackish brown sitting in the seam of my blanket very slow motion moving bug. Any ideahs. ( yes I will seek psychological help ) thank you.
What you describe does not sound like a Bed Bug. Mites could be a possibility. Some Mites infest the nests of birds and rats, and if such nests are in your attic, the Mites might find their way into the home when the young birds or rats leave the nest. See this posting and others in our Mite category.
UPDATE: October 12, 2011
Bed bug right?
Or could this be a mite. Like a clover mite. It busted red like blood.
This does indeed look like a Bed Bug. We apologize for suggesting that you might have Delusory Parasitosis. Your earlier photos were unrecognizeable as insects. Often times, many small insects find their way into beds.
Carpet Beetles and Pantry Beetles do not bite, but they are often found between the sheets. This latest photo has enough detail to be identified as a member of the order Hemiptera which includes Bed Bugs.
There is not enough detail for a conclusive identification, but we can at least speculate that since it was found in the bed, and since it contained blood, and since you are being bitten, that a Bed Bug is an excellent candidate.
You might want to take the actual specimen to your local disease vector headquarters or to a local exterminator to give you a more certain identification. If you have Bed Bugs, you will have to begin an extensive eradication program.
Start by searching under the mattress, along the baseboards, under pictures hanging near the bed, and other likely hiding places. Good luck with your eradication efforts and again, please accept our apology for our initial reluctance to confirm you had Bed Bugs.
Letter 2 – Bedbug, most likely
Help with a bug please
Hey i was hoping you could help me identify this bug and give me some help on what i can do to get rid of them. The bug is a brownish red color, pretty small, 4 legs from what i could see.
When i killed one it was definately full of red blood. Human blood i would imagine. They are crawling all over my bed and have been biting me leaving me with an itch that usually lasts until the morning.
I tried using a bug gas bomb to get rid of them but had no luck. I took a picture to help. Thanks alot.
Your photo isn’t detailed enough to be certain, but the general outline of the culprit as well as your description leads us to believe you have Bedbugs, Cimex lectularius. According to Hogue:
“The species may be recognized by its small size (its length is about 3/16 to 1/4 inch), dusky red color (which changes to bright red when the bug is ingesting blood), and flatness.
It is entirely wingless, even as an adult. When indoors, the Common Bedbug feeds exclusively on human blood, invading the bed at night for its meals. … During the day Bedbugs hide in crevices in walls and floors, behind wall decorations, and in furniture.” Seek professional help.
Letter 3 – Possibly a Bed Bug
Location: Cincinnati, OH
December 20, 2010 11:52 pm
I’m sort of freaking out here. My boyfriend went to crawl into bed and found this crawling under the pillow. He swears to me it’s a bedbug but I guess I just don’t want to believe it. This is the only one I’ve found ever, and I just throughly cleaned our bedroom and house yesterday.
We tore the mattress and sheets apart and searched under the bed with a flashlight (the cover under the box spring is still on the bed) no signs of feces or blood spots, eggs or other bugs. We searched the base boards, and all the cracks and crevices by our bed and have come up with nothing.
We have also never had any bites or anything that looks like a bite or itchiness. We have 2 dogs and maybe one of them brought something in tonight? But I want to know definitely if this is a bedbug.
It’s not quite as fat as some I’ve seen online and it seems fairly big for a bed bug probably the size of a dime or so… and flat like a bedbug.
Please help. I won’t sleep tonight, but I just wanna know. 🙁
Most of the images we receive of suspected Bed Bugs are actually Carpet Beetle Larvae, Stink Bugs or Pantry Beetles, and your image is far to blurry to make a conclusive identification, however, this creature does actually resemble a Bed Bug.
Keep vigilant and continue to search for possible Bed Bugs until you are certain that you do not have any of the nocturnal, blood sucking creatures that have been getting so much media attention in recent years.
Letter 4 – Quite Possibly a Bed Bug
Location: Upstate New York
March 20, 2011 7:55 am
My son found this on my chair. We searched high and low and found no others. Is this a bedbug? The pic is the best I could do since he is so small. For a size reference, the container he is in is a 2TBSP medicine cup.
The photo you have submitted is entirely too blurry to make any definitive identification impossible, but it might be a Bed Bug. The general shape and markings appear to match those of a Bed Bug, as you can see from this photo on BugGuide.
Most of the Bed Bug ID requests we receive are actually Carpet Beetles, but in your case, we believe you have the real thing. You should immediately seek professional assistance before you have an infestation, and since you have an actual specimen, you can verify the identity of this creature at your Natural History Museum or at a University before you spend the money on any eradication methods.
Is it possible to have one bedbug? I found one on my chair but I went through the entire living room (all furniture, behing furniture, crevices etc) and found nothing. I also checked all beds and mattresses and found no brown or red spots or shells or anything. Could one have gotten in without “infesting” me?
At this point, anything is speculation since the photo is not conclusive. We repeat: “since you have an actual specimen, you can verify the identity of this creature at your Natural History Museum or at a University before you spend the money on any eradication methods.”
Letter 5 – Blurry photo might be a Bed Bug
Subject: Bug Identity
March 13, 2013 4:46 pm
Can you tell me what kind of bug this might be? I know it’s a little blurry. We’ve found them sporatically over the past 3 years or so in our house. I’ve tried looking on different bug websites with pictures, but I haven’t found it.
It’s approximately .5 cm and dark reddish brown. The only places I’ve found them are in the bedrooms and the bathroom connecting the two rooms.
Signature: Tired of bugs
Dear Tired of Bugs,
The photo is entirely too blurry to be certain, but the general outline of this creature resembles the shape of a Bed Bug.
Letter 6 – Bed Bug in Louisiana Hotel Room
Subject: Can you identify this bug???
Location: Hammond, Louisiana
November 29, 2013 10:04 pm
This was crawling on a chair at a hotel we were staying at. What is it???
Signature: Angelique Nicholas
Your photo lacks critical sharpness, which would make an exact identification impossible, but this sure looks like a Bed Bug to us. We would strongly recommend extreme caution when unpacking to ensure you do not transport the wily creatures back to your home.
Thank you, unfortunately we did verify last night that it was a bed bug. We took our clothes and put them in trash bags for transport to the laundry mat, got rid of our suite case and had the hotel purchase us a new one, and have informed them that if I find one in my home or car, within the next 12 months, they will be financially responsible to fumigate it.
Congratulations on holding the hotel accountable.
Absolutely. Unfortunately, a friend of mine was in a place that was infested, and I’ve seen first hand how hard it is to get under control.
Letter 7 – What’s That Blurry Bug???
Subject: identify bug
Location: Durham NC
February 11, 2014 4:15 am
This bug was crawling on my cover on my bed.
We are sorry, but this image is much too blurry to identify conclusively.
Ed. Note: While the outline of this insect does indeed resemble the contours of a Bed Bug, we did not want to alarm Sharon needlessly. While we acknowledge that might be a possibility, we cannot be certain.
Sharon should know soon enough if there is a true Bed Bug problem, but we felt compelled not to contribute to unnecessary paranoia.
Letter 8 – Blurry Bug
Subject: Bed bug maybe ?
Location: On pants in house
February 11, 2014 11:13 pm
I’m not sure what this bug is I’m hoping it’s not a bed bug but I’m thinking it is
Since Bed Bugs are cosmopolitan, the exact geographic location of the pants in your house are not of any consequence, however, for future reference, we like a position on the globe for location.
This image is entirely too blurry to identify, but it does look much like the blurry image we posted earlier in the week that we believe might be a Bed Bug.
Letter 9 – Possibly a Bed Bug
Subject: Identify Red bug
November 5, 2014 1:21 am
I found this little red bug crawling on my coat and I have no clue what it is or where it came from. Tried finding it online but not satisfied with any of the pictures resembling it. Could you possible tell me?
We don’t want to be alarmist as there is not much clarity or detail in your image, but this looks like it might be a Bed Bug, but since it appears to be an immature insect, it might also be a benign True Bug.
Letter 10 – Possibly Bed Bugs
Location: Wall and bed
November 17, 2015 8:40 pm
Please help on what these are ideas to get rid of them
Signature: Hopeful mom
Dear Hopeful mom,
Your image is too blurry to be certain, but these might be Bed Bugs.