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Bed Bugs v.s Other Pests

Do you think you have bed bugs? They can be mistaken for other insects, you may have bites, or noticed something crawling in your bed.

This article will help you decide whether you have a bed bug infestation or some other bugs that look like bed bugs.

What are bed bugs and what do they look like?

Bed bugs are a common household pest and are visible to the naked eye.

They have been around since caveman times. By the 1950s they had pretty much been killed off thanks to the pesticide DDT, but when this was banned in the United States in the 70s, the bed bug returned.

Cases in New York City have greatly increased, and Chicago was said to be top of the list for bedbug infestations.

Bed bugs feed on human blood, humans being their preferred host. However, if they cannot find any they will bite other warm-blooded animals. They will have a blood meal mainly at night as they are nocturnal, but bed bugs bite during the day if they feel peckish. It is rare though.

When a bed bug bites, it injects an anticoagulant to make the blood flow and anesthetic so you cannot feel the bite. This can cause an allergic reaction, and the bites can become swollen.

Bites will appear on the skin in clusters, and this is usually a good way of telling bed bugs are around.

Bed bugs are attracted to heat and carbon dioxide we give off, so when you are snug in bed they can sense you are there.

Adult bed bugs are flat, small, around 5-7mm in length, about the size of an apple seed, and oval-shaped. They are reddish-brown with three body parts. Like a true insect, they have a head, abdomen, and thorax. They also have long antennae.

Bed bugs have wing pads but cannot fly. They are very quick little movers, though slow down after feeding on human blood due to swollen tummies. Their appearance becomes redder also.

What are the signs to look for?

The signs to look for a bed bug problem are:

  • Bed Bug excrement, which resembles dried blood and is a red/brown color
  • Smears of blood; greedy bed bugs often take too much blood and it spills on the bed sheets, leaving blood stains behind. The stains can also be from bites bleeding.
  • Bed bugs shed skins when they have fed and grown. You may find these in your bed along with egg shells and nymphs.
  • Bed bug smells; bed bugs give off a musty moldy smell from their scent glands. If you notice this smell you could have bed bugs. It generally becomes noticeable when you have large bed bug infestations.
  • Bedbug bites are red itchy welts that appear on exposed skin. Scratching the itchy bites could introduce a secondary infection.
  • Bed bug eggs are tiny and laid in groups you might just be able to see. A magnifying glass can help.

Bed bug bites

Bed bugs are attracted to heat and carbon dioxide. When they find these, they will bite the host.

Bites can be treated with a hydrocortisone cream from the pharmacy and an antihistamine if necessary, or try applying a damp cloth to the bed bug bites. The bites last 1-2 weeks and usually go on their own.

Severe allergic reactions to bites can be:

  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Blisters.
  • Fever.
  • Feeling sick.
  • Swollen tongue.
  • Irregular heartbeat.

Health can be affected in other ways due to a pest problem, such as lack of sleep. It can be stressful to think something is feeding on you. Some people try to avoid sleep or they are restless.

It can lead to a lack of general wellbeing, causing depression, anxiety, fatigue, and a lowered immune system.

Thoughts of being unclean can lower self-esteem and cause greater levels of depression.

How do they get into the home?

Bed bugs hitchhike on anything: could be your luggage, purse, backpack, clothing, anything they can get a ride on. Doing so, they end up in your home or business.

Have you been away on vacation? Chances are a bed bug hitchhiked home with you from the hotel rooms you have stayed in.

One pregnant bedbug can lead to a bedbug infestation! They are slow at reproducing, laying one egg a day, which is difficult to spot as they are smaller than the size of a grain of sand.

Compare this to the house fly who can lay 500 eggs in four days.

It only takes up to 10 days for baby bed bugs to hatch from the egg.

Buying second-hand furniture that has not been checked properly for bugs can also cause an infestation.

Bed bugs vs. Fleas

Fleas are often mistaken for bed bugs, like bed bugs they like blood, but prefer the blood of animals.

Bed bugs are reddish-brown whereas fleas are a darker brown.

They are tiny insects 1.5-3 mm in length; a bed bug is longer in comparison.

Like bed bugs, fleas have six legs, however, fleas have long legs that are very powerful, allowing them to jump long distances. Fleas cannot fly.

Fleas have a much more developed mouth than bed bugs.

Flea bites are usually found on the lower part of the body, whereas bed bug bites are usually found on the top half of the body.

If you find bites around the ankles and pets are scratching, it could mean you have a flea infestation.

Flea bites have a red spot in the middle, bed bug bites do not have the red spot.

Bed Bugs vs. Carpet Beetles

Carpet beetles are little bugs around 3 mm in length, so smaller than bed bugs. They are oblong, have six small legs, and have distinct wings.

They are either totally black or have patches of brown, white, and red; a bed bug is reddish/brown.

Carpet beetle larvae can cause skin irritation. from their coat. Most people will suffer from this irritation.

Carpet beetles do not feed on blood like bed bugs, but prefer nectar and pollen. If you bring flowers in the house you may be bringing in carpet beetles as well.

Bed bugs vs. German Cockroach Nymphs

Nymphs or baby cockroaches are similar in color to bed bug nymphs, being light brown. Baby cockroaches look like bed bugs, but their shape is more cylindrical.

As cockroach nymphs grow, the shell turns color from white to reddish-brown and it will harden. This process will happen quicker for cockroach nymphs if there is plenty of food within ten hours of hatching.

Cockroaches are flat, oval-shaped, and tend to be dark brown, much darker than a bed bug.

Bed bugs vs. Ticks

Ticks resemble bed bugs because they are also oval and flat.

They also feed on blood. Ticks will live on and feed on wild animals and pets; bed bugs prefer human blood.

Another difference is that bed bugs look different in that they have antennae, ticks do not, and ticks have eight legs, being an arachnid, not six like bed bugs.

Ticks attach themselves to a host and a bed bug will feed and stay near the host, not on them.

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease however. Ticks are known to spread Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Ehrlichiosis.

To protect yourself from Ticks do the following:

  • When outside, wear protective clothing.
  • Tuck pants into your socks.
  • Avoid areas of tall grass and shrubs.
  • Once home, check yourself over for any ticks attached to you.

Bed bugs vs. Bat bugs

Bat bugs are closely related to bed bugs. Bed bugs look almost the same as bat bugs, however, under a microscope, you can see the bat bug has longer hair on its body.

Both like blood for food, but Bat bugs feed on blood from bats. If you have a bat infestation in your home, chances are there will be Bat bugs too.

Bat bugs are not known to carry disease, the same as bed bugs do not.

Bed bugs vs. Head Lice

These two pests are often mixed up by people.

Head lice are smaller than bed bugs, about the size of a sesame seed.

An adult head louse can lay about eight eggs a day, which is more than a bed bug.

The difference is head lice cling to the hair of the host with hooks on their feet. Bed bugs do not stay on the host, as they are not able to hold onto the hair as head lice can.

Head lice attach their eggs firmly to the hair shaft, bed bugs lay eggs away from the host.

Bed bugs vs. Booklice

Booklice are bugs that look like bed bug nymphs, translucent white in color. They are longer and thinner than bed bugs are, 1-6 mm in length, and their bodies are softer.

Booklice do not live on blood like bed bugs. Instead, they feed on fungi, pollen, and mold.

Check bookcases, window sills, and behind wallpaper for signs of booklice.

Bed bugs vs. Spider Beetles

Spider Beetles resemble bed bugs as they are also oval. They are smaller than a bed bug’s apple seed size, though about 1-5 mm long.

Unlike bed bugs, Spider beetles have long legs and their head is connected to the body.

They do not feed on blood. The spider beetle likes to live in wooden buildings, usually ones that are badly looked after.

Similar to bed bugs, they are not known to carry any disease.

Bed bugs vs. Swallow bugs

Swallow bugs look very similar to bed bugs; they have a flat oval-shaped body, and they are wingless and therefore cannot fly.

They prefer to live in barns and in cliff swallow nests. They will, like bed bugs, have a meal of human blood if they have no other choice.

They are not usually found in human buildings.

Bed bugs vs. Chiggers

Chiggers are parasitic mites that inject fluid into the host, which causes itchy swollen areas on the skin.

Chiggers attach themselves to other animals, unlike bed bugs who feed and leave.

Chiggers are smaller than bed bugs and red in color.

Bed bugs vs. Spiders

Spiders have eight legs, bed bugs have six. Spiders have two body parts, a large round abdomen and a small head.

Spiders spin webs to catch insects.

Amazingly a spider has eight eyes, while bed bugs have only two eyes.

How to treat a bed bug infestation

There are various methods to get rid of bed bugs and their eggs.

Managing bed bugs can be difficult, as they hide so well they can be hard to find.

De-clutter your home to reduce hiding places.

The environmental protection agency has set rules and laws to be followed in the use of chemicals, since people have been known to use too much of a product.

Some chemicals can have serious side effects and can be dangerous. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and EPA laws.

You can buy chemical sprays that have the chemical Pyrethroid in them. Also worth a try are bed bug traps, carbon dioxide, and heat, which attract the bugs to the sticky surface of the trap. Click here to find out more.

Vacuum

Buy a powerful vacuum cleaner that will help to reduce bed bug infestations.

Vacuum the mattress, box spring, and headboard. Vacuum every inch of bedroom flooring, cupboards, drawers, and anywhere a bed bug can hide.

When it comes to emptying the vacuum cleaner, place contents in a bag, seal it, and put it outside.

Steam cleaning

If you can buy a steam cleaner, they can heat up to 212 f (100 c), which will kill bed bugs instantly.

A steam cleaner can be used on the mattress for a bed bug problem; it will kill bed bugs and their eggs.

Steam cleaners vary in price. Click here for more information.

Launder bedding and clothing

Remove all bedding, including the box springs cover, and wash at a high temperature. Then if you have one, tumble dry on high heat for at least 30 minutes.

If you have items too big to launder, take them along to a laundromat where machines are big enough to take large items.

This is one of the most effective methods of pest control for bed bugs.

Do not put bedding and clothing back in the room until you are sure the infestation has gone.

Should an item be too delicate to wash, put it in a sealed bag in the freezer. The cold, like heat, also kills off the bugs and eggs.

Diatomaceous earth

This natural white powder is a good insecticide. It dries out the insect, causing death. It can be easily purchased from hardware stores and online for pest control. It must be food grade to be safe to use. Click here for more information.

Sprinkle it on the mattress seams and on the box spring of the bed to kill the bugs. After a few days, vacuum and replace more Diatomaceous earth.

If all else fails, call in a pest control expert. They have the knowledge and chemicals to hand for bed bug extermination.

And finally,

We now hope you are able to recognize these different insects. Use our article as a reference to help you decide which pests you are dealing with.

You can always ask a professional pest control expert for advice on which products to use, and if you are unsure about an insect, ask them to give you a proper identification of an insect.

If you have any questions, please drop us an email. We do our best to respond as quickly as possible.

Good luck!

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each pest control method, product and process. 

Read more here.

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