Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs – What Bed Bugs Look Like

You may begin to ask questions when you discover that your home is infested by a kind of insect that you cannot simply identify. The questions may be accompanied by worries if you suspect that your home is infested by bed bugs. This may be primarily due to the fact that bed bugs bite, their bite may be accompanied by unpleasant symptoms and sometimes, allergic reactions, and they may be difficult to exterminate.

It is even more devastating when you have been bitten all over by the strange-looking insect. There is absolutely nothing to worry about if you find yourself in a situation like this. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Kentucky found that about ⅔ of Americans cannot differentiate a bed bug from other similar insects. The easier it is to identify the species of insects that have infested your home, the easier it will be to devise methods to get rid of them.

In addition, it will be easier for you to protect yourself from the negative impact of the infestation. For this reason, we decided to create this post to provide you with a detailed list of bugs that look like bed bugs but are not so as to make it easy for you to tell one from the other. Scroll down for more information.

What Does a Bed Bug Look Like?

Bed bugs are small species of insect in the genus Cimex. They can be found in areas of active infestation. If you have heard your neighbors complain about bed bug infestation in the area, then you are probably dealing with a bed bug situation. This section will help you to easily identify a bed bug when you spot one.

However, it is important to note that bed bug infestation is not caused by poor environmental hygiene. Bedbugs either move on their own or they are transported from one place to another. They prefer to stay in high-density areas. Bed bugs are insects that feed exclusively on the blood of their host (mostly humans) but the good thing is that they can survive for a whole year without feeding.

This brings us to the appearance of a bed bug. Bed bugs are small insects, but they can be seen with the naked eyes since an adult may measure about 3 to 5 mm long and 1.5 to 3 mm wide. The color of an adult bed bug may range from copper brown, light brown to reddish brown but a nymph may appear white or translucent. Bed bugs are flat and oval shaped. They have prominent eyes that can be easily spotted if you look closely and four-segmented antennae.

Furthermore, bedbugs have wings that are vestigial and look more like pads. Their wings are not easy to spot and they do not support flying. Bed bugs are capable of biting as they have mouthparts that are adapted for cutting through the skin of a host and blood sucking. They usually bite three times in a row either on the neck, arm or shoulders. Bedbugs rarely bite in the armpit and at the back of the knee.

Although bed bugs are not known vectors, their bite may be accompanied by swelling, redness, itching, fever and other allergic reactions attributable to a sensitivity to proteins in the saliva. The manifestation time of symptoms resulting from a bed bug bite may vary from one person to another. Bed bugs are a parasite, but they hardly remain on their host after a successful feeding session. They can be found in crevices of your bed, drawers, wardrobe, in your mattresses, pillows, and the likes.

Read our post on how to repel bed bugs from the skin.

Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs

1. Flea

Fleas are species of insect that belong to the class Insecta and order Siphonaptera. They are parasites, and just like bed bugs, they feed exclusively on the blood of their host which include warm-blooded vertebrates, but they are mostly found on pets like cats and dogs. While fleas prefer to stick with their host, they can be found in other areas of the house in the case of severe infestation.

Furthermore, just like bed bugs, they cannot fly but they have long hind legs that are adapted for jumping. It is reported that a flea is able to jump a distance that is up to 50 times its size. Their bodies are flattened sideways and can be easily spotted if you look closely. This is notwithstanding the fact that fleas are small as an adult measures up to 3 mm long.

Their mouthparts are for tearing into the skin of their host for easy feeding. Just like bed bugs, fleas are reddish brown in color. They are also vertically flat and oval shaped which is unlike the shape of a bed bug that is horizontal. The bite of a flea appears similar to that of a bed bug, just a little bit bigger. It may also be accompanied by swelling, redness, and itching.

However, unlike bed bugs, fleas are vectors and may transfer disease from one host to another. Transmittable diseases include but are not limited to viral, bacterial, and rickettsial diseases such as murine typhus, Rickettsia typhi, bubonic plague, Bartonella henselae, myxomatosis virus, Rickettsia felis, Hymenolepiasis tapeworms, and Trypanosome protozoans.

Read our post on how to differentiate a bed bug bite from that of a flea.

2. Swallow Bugs

Swallow Bugs are species of bug in the class Insecta and family Cimicidae. Just like the bed bugs, this type of bugs feed on blood, but they prefer to feed on that of a swallow. Although swallow bugs are choosy, they may make do with human blood in the absence of their bird host. They can be found in homes, nesting, and feeding just like bed bugs.

Cimicids look just like bed bugs as they are small, flat and oval-shaped in appearance but their exoskeleton is covered with long hair compared to that of the latter. They are flightless, but they possess a non-functional wing pad. Their bite appears just like that of a bed bug and may be accompanied by swelling, itching, redness, fever, and allergic reactions. This is the reason why swallow bugs are easily confused with bed bugs.

Although, viruses and many other pathogens can be transmitted from a host to cimicids, swallow bugs rarely transmit them to other hosts. interestingly, the insects are not killed by the viruses transmitted to them. The viruses hepatitis B, Trypanosoma cruzi, and HIV may be transferred to some birds but there is no recorded evidence of viral replication in both cimicids and their host. The virus may persist in swallow bugs for about two weeks. They rarely pass diseases to human hosts.

3. Spider Beetles

Spider beetles belong to the class Insecta and family Ptinidae. Their name “spider beetles” is due to their appearance, which is similar to that of a spider. They look more like fleas than bed bug in terms of their size and shape. An adult spider beetle may measure up to 5 mm long. This makes them easy to spot with the naked eyes and feel between two fingers.

Spider beetles are usually reddish brown to light brown in color. They have two round body segments that are round, as well as long and slender legs. Many species of spider beetles are flightless, and they have two long antennae that may seem like another pair of legs. Unlike bed bugs and fleas, spider beetles do not feed on blood, but on grains, seeds, and dropping.

Their activities are usually intense at night, and so this may be the best time to confirm spider beetles infestation in your home. Many store-bought insecticides may effectively get rid of beetles.

4. Black Carpet Beetles

Black carpet beetles are bugs in the class Insecta and family Dermestidae. They have round bodies and look very much like well-fed bed bugs. Just like bed bugs, an adult black carpet beetle may grow up to 5 mm long, but the larval form measures about 7 mm. They are reddish brown in color too, but their body is covered in bristles. Some species are patterned with white, black, and yellow.

One way to differentiate a black carpet beetle from a bed bug is that the latter have wings and it can fly. Adult black carpet beetles feed on nectar, pollen, and skin shed of bed bugs which may make you even more confused when you find them in bed bug nest. The larval form black carpet beetles prefer to feed on natural fibers, carpets, clothing, and furniture. The insects may be extremely destructive in the home.

Black carpet beetles do not bite vertebrates to feed on their blood, but rashes or an allergic reaction may result from exposure to their fur.

5. Ticks

A tick is another insect that can be easily confused with a bed bug because of its physical features. Ticks belong to the class Arachnida and order Ixodida. They are really small, but they can be spotted without magnification tools if you look really closely. Although they mostly appear in a light brown shade, ticks may vary in color.

They are ectoparasite that survives by feeding on the blood of their host that may include but not limited to bird, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Although they also feed on humans, they prefer animal hosts. Before feeding on the blood of their host, ticks may appear flat like bed bugs with a similar body shape. But after feeding, they will appear engorged with blood.

Unlike bed bugs that have six legs, ticks have eight legs. They also have a hard shield on their dorsal surface, a structure that looks like beak housing their mouthparts for hard ticks and mouthpart beneath the body for soft ticks. Both families of ticks are able to identify their host by its smell.

Ticks are known vector, and they may transmit diseases from one host to another. diseases transmittable by ticks are infections that are caused by pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and protozoa such as rickettsialpox, typhus, Boutonneuse fever, Lyme disease, African tick bite fever, Flinders Island spotted fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Queensland tick typhus, Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever, Colorado tick fever, Q fever,  tularemia, relapsing fever, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, Bourbon virus, bovine anaplasmosis, tick-borne meningoencephalitis, and Heartland virus.

6. Cockroach Nymph

Cockroaches belong to the class Insecta and order Blattodea. Cockroach nymphs are small and white in color after they hatch but they quickly turn to reddish-brown sheds. This is the reason why they are easily confused with bed bugs. However, cockroach nymphs, unlike bed bugs do not feed on blood, but they can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attack.

Furthermore, cockroach nymphs are cylinder-shaped and a little bit longer than bed bugs. They hide in crevices and cracks just like bed bugs do for easy access to warmth and food. Cockroach nymphs are more active at night, and they may be more of a nuisance than a pest. You may use store-bought insecticides to get rid of them.

7. Booklice

Booklice belong to the class Insecta and order Psocoptera. Due to their appearance, they may be easily confused with a bed bug nymphs rather than adult bed bugs. They are small and adults may range from 1 to 10 mm long. They also differ in terms of color ranging from brown to gray.  They are considered as a pest of stored products.

The insects do not bite vertebrate for their blood. Booklice feed on lichen and algae, pollen, and insect remains. They have three body segments, wings that cannot be easily spotted, but they cannot fly.