There are a lot of tiny, brown insects that infest homes. Below, we will compare two pests that can cause a lot of trouble: drugstore beetle vs. bed bug.
Finding small, brown dots milling all over your beds and carpets? Before you panic, take a closer look! Tiny, crawling insects over your bed may not necessarily be bed bugs.
In fact, almost 84% of ‘bedbug’ reports to pest control end up actually being some other form of infestation.
There are many other impostors who have similar aesthetics and behavior – a common one being the drugstore beetle.
While both pests should be taken seriously and investigated, drugstore beetles do not usually bite or feast on your blood like bed bugs.
What Are Drugstore Beetles?
These beetles belong to the family of Anobiidae – known for burrowing into wood. Two types of beetles, however, have developed unique tastes.
This includes the cigarette beetle and the drugstore beetle, which choose to attack food products.
Drugstore beetles commonly infest drugstores (hence the names), pharmacies, bakeries, or places with packaged food items.
Large food manufacturing units are especially susceptible to their infestation, and they can cause significant economic losses.
These pantry pests eat pretty much anything – be it chocolates, sweets, grains, or even books and wood.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are parasitic bugs that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. They commonly burrow and infest carpets, beds, and other upholstery – lending them their name – bed bugs.
They are fast movers and an invasive species. Moreover, they are ‘hitchhikers’ – picking up rides and spreading over from home to home.
The only way to completely get rid of them is through professionals who will thoroughly fumigate your place. They might even have to throw out some unsalvageable items.
Bedbug infestations can often be mistaken for that of other insects. Common signs of bed bugs are::
- Brown color fecal spots on upholstery
- On biting, they leave two dots close to each other on the skin, which might show swelling after a few days.
- Their young leave behind pale white, broken eggshells
What Are The Differences Between The Two?
While bedbugs and drugstore beetles may seem the same to an untrained eye, there are many ways through which you can differentiate between the two. Some key points include their appearance, food habits, and dietary preferences.
Adult bedbugs grow up to 1/4th of an inch. Their body is segmented into three parts, with the abdomen being almost circular and flat (when unfed).
They have six legs and two antennae. Generally, bedbugs have a mahogany-brown color, but they change their color to reddish-brown after feeding on blood.
Young bedbug nymphs have a yellow-white color.
On the other hand, adult drugstore beetles are reddish brown in color with an elongated, oval-shaped body.
They grow up to 1/7th of an inch. Hence they are significantly smaller when kept side by side with bed bugs.
They also have six legs and two antennae, but their body has a singular vertical ridge running through the center.
Their larvae (or grubs) are white in color. The biggest difference between the two is that drugstore beetles have wings and can fly, whereas bed bugs cannot.
Bedbug eggs are pearl-white and hatch into a nymph instead of larvae. There are five stages of growth as a nymph, during which it feeds on hosts and increases in size.
It also changes in color from yellow-white to brown and finally emerges as an adult bedbug. Adult bedbugs may live for 4 to 6 months.
Drugstore beetle eggs are usually laid inside food items such as grains and dry pet food. They hatch into hairy, white grubs that tunnel through the material and finally build pupae.
After around 18 days, they emerge from the pupae as an adult that may live for up to 65 days.
Their entire development cycle is dependent on the temperature as these beetles hatch only when the outer temperature is warm.
Bedbugs solely feed on blood. Some, like the Cimex lectularius, are partial towards human blood.
However, any warm-blooded animal, such as dogs, cats, and rodents, can be fair game for bedbugs.
Drugstore beetles mostly feast on and are found only in dry food sources. This includes flour, grains, pet food, packaged food, and cereals.
Apart from this, they can easily chew through tin and aluminum. They are also fond of pills and drugs found in drugstores.
A running anonymous joke about these beetles is that they can chew through anything except cast iron!
Bedbugs tend to stay close to humans. They are commonly found in niches and cracks of wood, metal, and other surfaces.
They can also burrow within thick mattresses and upholstery. Other areas may include behind pictures, bedframe cracks, and paneling.
Drugstore beetles can be found in a variety of places. While they are mostly found in food items, they are also a common occurrence in pigeon nests.
In earlier times, they used to frequent apothecaries and pharmacies. They prefer warm areas and are not restricted by what material they are feeding on.
Which is More Dangerous To Humans?
Bedbugs use a structure on their mouths called a proboscis to pierce and draw blood from humans and other animals.
They are especially harmful as they can cause allergic reactions and rob you of a peaceful night of sleep.
While they are not fatal, these infestations are very hard to get rid of.
Drugstore beetles, on the other hand, do not harm humans. They tend to burrow into food, and this makes them a huge pest for pantries and other food storage units.
A drugstore beetle infestation makes the stored food unviable. You might even need to do a complete pesticidal solution if they are present in large numbers.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you tell the difference between a bed bug and a beetle?
A simple way to differentiate between a bed bug and a beetle is based on how they look and act.
Bedbugs are rounder and bite, whereas drugstore beetles are longer and do not bite. Carpet beetles bite but only grow to only 1/8th of an inch.
Why are there drugstore beetles in my bedroom
There are two things that attract these beetles – light and female drugstore beetle pheromones!
If you do not have food in your room but still see a drugstore beetle infestation, it could be that they are in the kitchen but have come here attracted by light.
Moreover, these critters have wings, which makes it very easy for them to infest one room if they are already present in another.
Does the drugstore beetle bite?
The drugstore beetle does not bite, but sometimes parasitic wasps may co-exist in their colonies, and these do bite.
However, both bedbugs and drugstore beetles may cause an allergic reaction. For drugstore beetle, this is due to the hair on their larvae, whereas for bed bugs it is their bite that can cause the problem.
Is there a bug that can be mistaken for bed bugs?
Due to their small size, many other insects can be commonly mistaken for bedbugs.
A few common culprits are – spider beetles, stinkbugs, carpet beetles, and drugstore beetles.
But closer visual observation is quite enough to distinguish between them if you know what to look for.
Due to their small size, identifying bedbugs vs. beetles is a common confusion point. So keep an eye out for other clues that point out to their habitat or eating habits.
It is important to know the distinction between various insects and their infestations so one can identify the best course of action against them.
We hope this information helped you identify them more easily. Thank you for reading!
Over the years, many of our readers have become confused between these two common pests and have taken our help to identify the bug that has been pestering them.
Shared below are some of their emails, with a few pictures as well, showing how closely drugstore beetles resemble bed bugs and why they can be such a major cause for concern.
Letter 1 – Invasive Firebug reported in Ontario Canada
Subject: What is this bug? Geographic location of the bug: Brampton, Ontario, Canada Date: 02/26/2018 Time: 09:04 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman: There were many of these bugs last summer. I’ve never seen them before. They were near my blazing stars, wild geraniums, clematis and lilies. They are not the same as the bugs that attacked my lilies the year before. How you want your letter signed: Dying to know. Dear Dying to know, This sure looks to us like a European Firebug, Pyrrhocoris apterus, a species that has been introduced to North America, but according to BugGuide, there are only reports from Utah. If it has also become established in Canada, you should probably notify your local agricultural agency.
Letter 2 – New Invasive Exotic Species: Firebug found in Utah!!!
infestation of red/black bugs in neighborhood April 17, 2010 for the last two months we have had an infestation of black and red bugs in our lawns on our entire street. i thought they were boxelder, but looking at your pictures, they are different. i can’t find a picture anywhere on the internet like these. they live in the lawn and if you stand and look down at the lawn, it appears the entire lawn is moving they are so plentiful. hitting a stump, thousands immediately ran out. they were covering a part of the garden so thick all you could see is red. they are in every crack in the sidewalk and every square inch of the lawn. they don’t appear to be able to fly. you can see them mating constantly which looks somewhat like the pics of the boxelder bugs mating. please help identify these! ps there do not appear to be ma ny spiders out there this year. are they eating those? will they ruin the lawns? desperate for help salt lake city, utah Dear desperate, This is a European species, Pyrrhocoris apterus, commonly called a Firebug. We have numerous images posted to our site from parts of Europe, but this is the first report we have gotten from North America. Out of curiosity, we checked BugGuide, and several photos of Firebugs were sent in March 2010 from Utah, and considering the details of your letter, the Invasive Exotic Firebug is already established in Salt Lake City. You should probably contact the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regarding this outbreak. We will copy Stephanie Dubon at email@example.com regarding this unusual sighting. thank you so much for your quick reply. you guys are awesome! i notified the aphis like you suggested. sonja Reply from APHIS Dear Daniel, I don’t believe anyone has shared Stephanie’s news with you, so please allow me. Stephanie accepted a new job with the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) in Rome, Italy. … All of us here miss her, personally and professionally! Meanwhile, your emails are still reaching our group through this email (NPAG@aphis.usda.gov), and are much appreciated. I hope that you will continue to think of us when you receive information about new pest species in the US. Best regards, Christie Bertone Entomologist USDA-APHIS-PPQ-CPHST-PERAL
Letter 3 – Firebug from Iran
Do you know whats this bug? Location: Kerman, Iran May 27, 2011 7:27 am I find so many of them in our garden. Thanks Signature: MNZ Dear MNZ, This distinctive European Hemipteran is commonly called a Firebug. It is in the Red Bug family Pyrrhocoridae and its scientific name is Pyrrhocoris apterus. We learned on the British Bugs website that it feeds on mallow and limes.
Letter 4 – Firebugs from Hungary
These were spotted in Hungary on the stump of a tree. The adult was about 2mm long. Is it a box elder bug? I took the photo mainly because, upside down, it looks like a very scary African mask!
These Hemipterans are commonly called Firebugs. Firebugs, Pyrrhocoris apterus, are in the family Pyrrhocoridae. Boxelder Bugs are in the Scentless Plant Bugs Family Rhopalidae.
Letter 5 – Firebugs from Kazakhstan
Red Bugs From Kazakhstan
My husband and I recently returned from Kazakhstan, having spent the summer over there. We saw these bugs everywhere (northern and southern parts of the country). This particular photo is from a park in the former capital of Almaty. Can you tell us what they are? These seem to have two different patterns – are they they same thing? Thanks!
These are Firebugs, or Fire Bugs, Pyrrhocoris apterus, a True Bug that is found throughout much of Europe and Western Asia. Since it is a True Bug, it has incomplete metamorphosis with the immature insect resembling the adult, but without wings. You photo shows both immature and adult Firebugs.
Letter 6 – Firebugs from Turkey
Need your help for identification Location: Yalova, TR April 15, 2012 1:05 pm Dear Scientist, I’ll be very glad if you’d help with identification of the bugs that I encountered in the forest recently. This picture is taken in Yalova, Marmara region of Turkey. Sincerely, Ercan Signature: Mr. Ercan Arısoy Dear Ercan, We are not scientists, nor do we have a terribly extensive formal background in science. We are artists who are trying to promote a better understanding of insects and their importance to the web of life on our planet. These are Firebugs, Pyrrhocoris apterus, a benign species found throughout much of Europe.
Letter 7 – Firebugs in Russia
Subject: Bugs behaviour Location: Moscow, Russia June 24, 2014 12:50 am Dear What’s That Bug team, Why those bugs are gathering into groups? there were quite a few of those groups. Kind regards Signature: Slava Smirnov Dear Slava, These are Firebugs, Pyrrhocoris apterus, and they are known for forming large aggregations containing both immature nymphs and adults.
Letter 8 – Invasive Fire Bug in Utah
Subject: Fire Bug Utah Location: South Ogden, Utah August 10, 2017 6:50 am I just wanted to submit a photo of a single fire bug I found in my yard on 8/6/2017. I live in South Ogden, Utah Signature: Jason Fabert Dear Jason, Thanks for submitting your image of an invasive, exotic Fire Bug which we first reported from Utah in 2010.
Letter 9 – Maybe French Milkweed Bugs are Firebugs
Would you identify these bugs? I live in S.W.France. Are they harmful to the lime tree that they have infested? if so, how do I get rid of them? Many thanks for your help. Michael Warrack Hi Michael, I am not as familiar with French insects, but it appears you have an aggregation of Seed Bugs, Family Lygaeidae, of some sort, possibly a type of French Milkweed Bug. Seed Bugs are True Bugs and most suck juices from developing or dry seeds or the sap of grasses. They are known to form aggregations, sometimes to hibernate. My best guess is that they are not harming your lime tree, but using it as a gathering site. Update: (07/28/2008) Species ID for “Maybe French Milkweed Bugs” pic Hi there! I’ve been a fan of your site for some time now. I used to live in central Florida and your site was an invaluable resource in helping me identify all manner of insects while I was there…during that time, I sent you a couple photos I’d taken of insects in that area. (I don’t think any of them made it onto the site, but then, I wasn’t actually requesting IDs for the pictured species and I know you’re inundated with requests, so I didn’t really have any expectation in that regard.) I have since moved to Brno, Czech Republic, and am now encountering a very different (but no less interesting) selection of creatures. Anyway, on to the point of this message! While browsing your site recently, I noticed the photo under the heading “Maybe French Milkweed Bugs”, which was submitted by a reader in France…I thought I’d send an email because I think I can help with its identification. The picture in question appears near the top of your first page of true bugs. I suspect the species pictured is Pyrrhocoris apterus, commonly known as a “firebug”. I have seen aggregations of them here in Brno, as well, especially during their mating season in mid-Spring. The information I’ve found indicates that this species is fairly prevalent throughout central and southern Europe. The fact that the submitter of the photo mentioned that they were found on a lime tree supports this identification, as well, as lime tree seeds are one of their primary food sources. Thanks for all the effort you put into the site, keep up the good work! Sharon Hi Sharon, Thanks for catching this and bringing it to our attention. We have subsequently identified Firebugs on later postings, but we didn’t realize we had an old letter still listed as unidentified. We also apologize for never posting your photos. At times we are inumdated with mail.
Letter 10 – Two from the Netherlands: Firebug Aggregation and mating Colorado Potato Beetles
Are you identifying European insects? I am glad I came across your excellent web site with wonderful images of insects. I was in the Netherlands and tried to identify the insects in the attached images but I wasn’t very successful in finding photos that match the species I photographed. The two specimens surrounded by leaves were in a field of beans. The common red and black insects were up and down the length of a trunk of a tree by the side of a road which ran along a river. It looks like I will be buying an insect identification book in the not-too-distant future. Thank you for any help you can provide. Best Wishes, Yours sincerely, Richard
|Firebug Aggregation||Mating Colorado Potato Beetles (range expansion???)|
Letter 1 – Drugstore Beetles
little bugs in my bed and cupboard. Location: West Virginia August 9, 2011 1:07 pm My wife and I found these tiny brown beetle looking bugs in our bed and cupboard. Their body is in two sections, head then body. They also bite. Signature: willyp Hi willyp, These appear to be Drugstore Beetles to us. Drugstore Beetles are generically and unscientifically categorized on our site with other small but unrelated insects that infest stored foods in the pantry. According to BugGuide: “larvae feed on prescription drugs, flours, dry mixes, breads, cookies, spices, chocolates and other sweets, plus a variety of “non-food” items (see Remarks section below) adults do not feed … Larval non-food material includes wool, hair, leather, horn, and museum specimens. Larvae have been known to bore into books, wooden objects, and, in some cases, tin or aluminum foil and lead sheets.” You can start by checking the pantry for food items that are infested.
Letter 2 – Drugstore Beetle probably
Black bug in my pantry Location: Gilbert, AZ December 4, 2010 4:42 pm We found these little black bugs in our pantry. They appeared to have eaten rice in a box of uncle ben’s wild rice and it apparently was deadly, because most of them were dead. We live in Gilbert AZ, which is just SE of Phoenix. Thanks. Signature: Pete Dear Pete, There are numerous small and unrelated beetles that will infest stored foods in the Pantry, and we unscientifically categorize them as Pantry Beetles. Some are quite difficult to tell apart. We believe this is a Drugstore Beetle, Stegobium paniceum, which you may read about on BugGuide.