Don’t Get Confused—Bed Bug Lookalikes

The insect world is diverse. The Smithsonian Institution’s Department of Entomology estimates that in the United States, about 91,000 species of insects have been named and described, with another 73,000 yet to be explored. For beetles alone, 23,700 species have been fully identified.

Meanwhile, by broad definition, insects are “a group of small and often winged animals that are arthropods having six jointed legs and a body formed of a head, thorax, and abdomen.”

It’s little wonder that the average person can find their heart racing as they struggle with the decision: Is it a bed bug, or is it something else?

Bed Bug Lookalikes

A number of other common insect pests may at first resemble a bed bug and even cause similar bites, itches or rashes. However, closer visual inspection can help in identifying some distinguishing characteristics.

  • Ticks: Ticks are not insects but a type of parasitic spider—an arachnid. Where a bed bug has just six legs, a tick will have eight. Although bed bugs bite, they don’t attach to their hosts for a long-term feed. Bed bug bites usually appear as a bumpy rash while tick bites often will develop a bull’s-eye rash surrounding the site.
  • Carpet Beetles: The larval stage of carpet beetles may at first seem similar to the abdomen portion of a bed bug. Carpet beetle larvae have no obvious head section, and their segmented bodies are quite hairy. In fact, those hairs can irritate human skin enough to cause a light rash. Because carpet beetle larvae consume textiles, they may be present in places where budbugs might be as well.
  • Cockroaches: A dark reddish-brown, even immature cockroaches tend to be too large to be a bed bug. Some other giveaways are the cockroach’s long, thin antennae versus the bed bug’s shorter, thicker antennae. Cockroaches have a more rectangular shape, with a longer abdomen that is not as markedly segmented as a bed bug’s.
  • Fleas: Like bed bugs, fleas often are present in numbers. They may start with pets, but they can infest an entire home if left unchecked and feed on humans. They have no wings, but they do have powerful hind legs that allow them to spring away from a threat quickly. While bed bugs are wide and rather flattened horizontally, fleas are very thin, flattened vertically. Flea larvae are clear and wormlike versus bed bug nymphs, which simply look like smaller versions of the adults.
  • Lice: Lice are a uniquely human parasite and can affect the head or the body, causing itching and irritation. They can often be found on clothing or in the bedding of a person with lice. Their color can range from white to shades of brown or grey, and they typically have an elongated teardrop shape. Eggs are laid as nits, an egg bonded to a strand of hair. Like bed bugs, lice nymphs look like immature adults, with full-grown lice about the size of some bed bug nymphs.

Identifying Bed Bugs

Mature bed bugs are shiny reddish-brown insects with a flat body. They’re often compared to an apple seed in size—3/16 to 1/4 inch in length—and have an ovoid shape. If they’ve recently fed, they may take on a bloated appearance and darken with the blood meal. Nymphs resemble adults but are lighter in color, their yellowish or translucent hues making them nearly invisible. Pearly eggs are sticky and the size of a pinhead. Telltale evidence of a bed bug infestation include tiny stains from blood-based excrement, shed skins and empty egg casings.

Parasites and pests can be difficult to identify. Meanwhile, they can destroy property, ruin your ability to sleep and degrade your quality of life. If you need help identifying and treating insect pests, Geiger’s Pest Services wants to help. Contact us through our website, or pick up your phone and give us a call. We’ll protect your home from the invaders—bed bugs and all their lookalikes.

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