Bed bug look-alikes often make it hard to identify bed bugs, which eventually results in wrong eradication methods.
If you don’t know the characteristics of common of bugs in your house, it is possible to mistake them for bed bugs.
As a homeowner, you don’t want to go wrong with your bed bug eradication strategies. Here is a list of the most common bed bug look-a likes. Related: Steamers for bed Bugs
Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs
1. Bat bugs
Colour: Dark brown or beige
Description: Among other bugs, bat bugs have the greatest resemblance to bed bugs. Perhaps only an expert can differentiate between the two using a microscope.
You can’t tell the difference by looking at their color or shape. One of the most notable difference is their hair on the thorax. Bat bugs have longer hair than bed bugs.
While bed bugs feed on human blood, bat bugs feed on bat blood. However, in the absence of bats, bat bugs will feed on blood from other hosts including humans.
Size: 3-5mm or ¼ in
Do bat bugs have wings? The wings on bat bugs are non-functional.
Do bat bugs bite? Their bite is just as irritating as a bed bug bite.
Where are bat bugs found? The name bat bug does not mean that they nest on the backs of bats. It rather depicts their adaptation to live in areas nested by bats as they feed on their blood.
Apart from caves, bats can live in many other places. So it’s possible to find bat bugs just anywhere including our houses.
2. Spider Beetles
Colour: Their color ranges from yellow to brown to near black.
Description: Spider beetles have a common resemblance to spiders owing to their small oval body and long legs.
But they are also easily mistaken for bed bugs because most of them are reddish brown in color.
They are however smaller than bed bugs and have wings that are covered with hairs. Unlike bed bugs, spider beetles have two body segments (head connects to the body without a neck).
Size: 1/32 in-3/16 in or 1-5mm
Do Spider Beetles have wings? They have wings but only a few species can fly
Do Spider Beetles bite? They don’t bite
Where are Spider Beetles found? They inhabit wooden structures where they can easily access stored food.
Related: Bed bugs infested Carpet.
3. Cockroach Nymphs
Description: Cockroach nymphs bear a lot of similarity to adult bed bugs, especially in their size and color. When lodged in their favourite narrow cracks, you’ll easily confuse them for bed bugs.
Size: 2 in long
Do Cockroach Nymphs have wings? Cockroach nymphs have no wings
Do Cockroach Nymphs bite? They don’t bite
Where are Cockroach Nymphs found? Unlike bed bugs, roach nymphs like hiding in the kitchen and other places where there is food and debris.
4. Carpet beetles
Colour: Dark brown or black with white marks and red or orange scales.
Description: They don’t bear any resemblance to bed bugs but may give you some panic when they crawl on your carpet or clothes. They like feeding on fibrous material like cotton wool, silk, fur, feather etc.
They can be distinguished from bed bugs by their hard skeleton and antennae.
Size: Adults are 1/16-1/8-inch or 2.0-3.8mm.
Do Carpet beetles have wings? Adult carpet beetles have wings which they use to fly during the day.
Do Carpet beetles bite? They don’t bite but their presence can trigger allergic dermatitis in humans.
Where are Carpet beetles found? They usually inhabit fabrics, especially carpets. Sometimes they can be confused with clothes moths
5. Swallow Bugs
Description: They belong to the family Cimicidae, just like bed bugs. Physically, they resemble the bed bugs in their shape, size and color.
Notable differences between the two include the long antennae segment and the long hair on the body of swallow bugs. These can only be seen under a microscope.
Another distinction is perhaps their feeding habits. While bed bugs feed on human blood, swallow bugs feed on the blood of birds, specifically swallows.
Size: 3/16 in
Do Swallow Bugs have wings? They don’t have wings.
Do Swallow Bugs bite? They bite humans when swallows abandon their nests during the breeding seasons.
Where are Swallow Bugs found? Typically, swallows bugs live in nests inhabited by swallow so as to feed on their blood.
Usually, swallows abandon their nests when they become heavily infested with swallow bugs.
Swallow bugs can survive in the nests for up to one year without blood, especially when swallows are breeding.
Description: Fleas are smaller than bed bugs with a bilaterally flattened body (body is taller than is flat).
They like feeding on blood from hairy or furry warm-blooded animals such dogs and cats.
While bed bugs crawl around, fleas jump from one place to another.
Size: 1/16 in-1/8 in or 1.5-3.3 mm
Do fleas have wings? No. But they can jump from one place to another.
Do fleas bite? They bite, especially warm-blooded creatures including humans. When they bite, fleas can cause diseases such as tularemia and bubonic plague.
Where are fleas found? Typically, fleas inhabit the bodies of warm-blooded animals especially those that are hairy or furry. Cats and dogs are their favourite host.
7. Book Lice
Colour: Their color ranges from pale brown to cream yellow and sometimes appear to be translucent.
Description: Book lice bear a lot of similarity with bed bug nymphs. While both are light colored, bed bug nymphs will turn to reddish-brown when they feed.
The body of book lice appears to be more elongated than that of bed bug nymphs.
Book lice are not actually related to the lice that feeds on us. They however look alike in terms of shape and size.
Size: 1/32 in -1/4 in or 1-6mm
Do Book Lice have wings? They are wingless and only crawl like bed bugs.
Do Book Lice bite? They don’t bite, but are suspected to cause asthma when their decomposed matter is inhaled with dust.
Where are Book Lice found? They usually inhabit dumb places where they feed on the growing mold and fungi. They are also commonly found on potted plants, wallpapers and furniture.
Colour: Color ranges from white to grey. Color changes to slightly brown after feeding.
Description: Headlice are wingless insects and smaller than bed bugs. While both bed bugs and headlice feed on human blood, it possible to differentiate the two by their feeding habits.
Headlice stay on their host most the times and feeds regularly. However, bed bugs stay away from the host and only come to feed from time to time.
Size: 1/16 in-1/8 in or 2.5–3 mm long
Do headlice have wings? They have no wings but have legs for crawling from one hair to another or from one host to another.
Do headlice bite? A head louse will bite and suck blood at all stages of life cycle except eggs.
Where are head-lice found? Head-lice live on human scalp where they survive entirely on blood.
Unlike bed bugs, head-lice stay on the host until they are removed by trimming the hair, scratching, washing the hair or by transferring to another host.
How to Identify Bed Bugs from Look-Alikes
Bed bugs are sometimes mistaken for other bugs that reside in our homes. Inappropriate identification of bed bugs results to incorrect treatments which eventually makes it hard to get rid of them.
Some bed bug look-alikes are extremely hard to differentiate with the naked eyes. However, when you know the distinguishing traits, it is possible to correctly pick bed bugs from other bugs.
Here are some tips to help you tell the difference.
1. Look for Bites
Bed bug bites are perhaps the best telltale indicators that you have bed bugs and not any other bug.
Usually, bed bug bites are small and appear to be reddish, itchy and bumpy after sometime. Although some other bugs can also bite, it is possible to differentiate them from bed bug bites.
Bed bugs bites appear in lines or clusters and occur mostly at night when you’re asleep.
2. Look At The Physical Traits
It is possible to differentiate bed bugs from other bugs by carefully looking at their physical looks. Apart from the bat bugs and swallow bugs, other bugs look pretty different from bed bugs.
Physical identification may entail features like color, shape, size and wings. Notably, bed bugs have no wings. So it is possible to rule out bugs that have wings such as spider beetles and carpet beetles.
Bed bugs are also larger compared to bugs such as fleas, carpet beetles, booklice and spider beetles.
For bat bugs and swallow bugs, you need a microscope to be able to differentiate their looks from those of bed bugs. Swallow bugs have long hair all over their body while bat bugs have long hair on their thorax.
3. Where Are The Bugs Located?
These look-alike bugs are here because of food. So, you will find them near their favourite source of food.
Obviously, bed bugs will be found in beds, sofa sets, baseboards, carpet or any other place where they can easily find their human host.
Headlice, which also feed human blood, are found on the head rather than in hidden crevices or beds like bed bugs. Similarly, bugs that do not feed on human blood will be found near their favourite food sources rather than near humans.
Bat bugs prefer the attics or ceiling, which are the most likely places to find bats. From here, these bugs have good access to their favourite meal-bat blood.
Carpet beetles inhabit carpets and fabrics. So, it is possible to find them even in you mattress, clothing, sofa set and upholstery. Their intention here is to feed on these materials-not your blood.
Spider beetles are not very common in households. If you see them, they are here in search of food, which of course has nothing to do with your body. Thus, you won’t see them anywhere near you. They prefer storerooms, food-stores or where there are food droppings.
Cockroach nymphs are easy to identify because of their tendency to stay in their hatching places. They don’t move around until they grown enough to look for their own food.
They’re usually found in groups inside crevices or cracks near the kitchen, sink and bathroom.
Swallow bugs will be found in swallow nest. If swallows make nests in your home, it must be in the attics or ceiling. Thus, swallow bugs will be found in these places rather than near humans.
Typical locations for booklice are dump places where they feed on mold and fungi. They can also be found on wall papers and in books.
4. Look at What the Bugs Eat
You know that these bugs are in your house in search of something to eat. Let’s look at what these bugs eat to determine whether they exhibit any feeding similarity with bed bugs:
- Bat bugs- they feed on blood from warm-blooded animals especially bats. In the absence of bats, they can feed on other hosts including humans
- Fleas- they feed on blood from furry mammals like dogs and cats. In rare cases, they can feed on humans blood.
- Swallow bugs– they feed on bird’s blood especially swallows. If swallows are not around, they can lodge on a human host.
- Carpet beetles-they feed on stored food, carpets and other fabrics
- Booklice-booklice feed on fungi and mold
- Spider beetles-they feed on stored food, grains, seeds and droppings.
- Cockroach Nymphs-they feed on stored food, droppings and trash
- Headlice-they feed on blood on your scalp.
5. Look For Blood Stain Or Dead Bed Bugs
Sometimes bed bugs get crushed in your clothing or beddings when you turn in your bed during sleep. If you’re lucky, you will see blood stains or their dead bodies.
6. Take A Sample For Testing
Proper identification of the bed bugs is inevitable for you to eradicate them effectively.
So, if you haven’t successfully distinguished the bug you have from a bed bug, you can take a sample of the bug to an entomologist for testing.
Bed bugs resemble a host of other common bugs in the house. So, it can be extremely hard to eradicate bed bugs if you don’t correctly differentiate them from other common bugs.
This guide gives you relevant tips for identifying bed bugs so that you don’t go dealing with the wrong bug. It’s pointless to embark on eradication methods only to realize that you’re not dealing with bed bugs.