9 Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs

Due to the recent increase in bed bug infestations, waking up to find a bug in your bedroom can cause loads of anxiety and worry. Before you start resorting to desperate measures, take some time to learn to recognize bed bugs and common bed bug imposters.

Bed Bugs​

Bed bugs are small, brownish-red insects that feed on blood. They are attracted to warmth and carbon dioxide, so they often live in bedding or mattresses and emerge at night to feed on sleeping humans.

The anatomy of a bed bug consists of an oval shaped body, a small broadly attached head, and compound eyes. Bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed (4-5 mm in length). They have segmented abdomens with tiny, colored hairs that give them a striped appearance. Their antennae are shorter than their legs and have four segments. Bed bugs do not have wings and must crawl to get around.

Now that you can identify a bed bug, take a look at common bugs mistaken for bed bugs and how you can tell them apart.


1. Bat Bug

Appearance: Bat bugs are nearly identical to bed bugs. In fact, it requires a microscope to tell the two bugs apart. The length of hairs on the body segment below the head, known as the pronotum are longer on bat bugs and are typically at least as long as the width of the bat bug’s eye.

Diet: Bat bugs feed strictly on blood, but as the name infers, they prefer to feed on bats or sometimes birds, rather than humans. If their source of food leaves or is eliminated, they will go in search of other food and may then bite humans.

Habitat: Bat bugs are mostly found in attics, chimneys, near bird nests, or where bats are present. If they become desperate for food, they will migrate to mattresses and bed frames.


2. Swallow Bug

Appearance: Like Bat Bugs, Swallow bugs are also extremely close to bed bugs in appearance. Through magnification you can see that their bodies are covered all over in fine, long hair that is longer than the width of its eye.

Diet: A swallow bug’s preferred blood meal is a cliff or barn swallow. When their primary food source is not available, swallow bugs will feed on human blood.

Habitat: Swallow bugs are typically found living in swallow holes or nests, but will move into homes and businesses if necessary for survival. In homes, swallow bugs are often found coming out of walls or on ceilings, especially on upper floors close to possible swallow dwellings.


3. Spider Beetle

Appearance: Spider beetles are reddish-brown to black with shiny globe shaped abdomens. They are smaller than bed bugs, measuring between 1.5-3.5 mm long. Some varieties have cream colored hairs on their head and legs, while others are completely brown. Spider beetles have long legs, 2 body segments, and 2 long antenna. When seen from above, these beetles resemble a spider.

Diet: Spider beetles are scavengers that eat cereals, grains, dried fruit, and even bird or rodent droppings. They do not typically bite humans.

Habitat: Spider beetles forage at night and are most often found in household pantries or attics. During the day, spider beetles will hide in dark cracks and crevices near their food source.


4. Book Louse Bug

Appearance: An adult book louse is much smaller than an adult bed bug, growing only from 1-1.5 mm long. They are translucent white, gray or light brown and have three clear body segments. Sometimes booklice are mistaken for bed bug nymphs because of their light color, but their elongated shape and pronounced head helps to identify them.

Diet: Booklice feed on fungi and mold, as well as cereals, pollen, fragments of dead insects, and other things that have mold growth. The do not bite or feed on humans.

Habitat: Since they eat mold and fungi, booklice are most often found in moist places like kitchens and bathrooms. If you see them in the pantry, it may signal mold growth in the food. They can also be found under wallpaper, in furniture, on the sides of windows, and other humid places.


5. Cockroach Nymphs

Appearance: At the nymph stage, cockroaches are similar in size to bedbugs and are the same characteristic reddish-brown color. They have a small head with a flat body, but are more cylinder shaped than bed bugs. A good distinguishing factor is that cockroach nymphs, like full grown cockroaches, have long antennae and two cerci (appendages) at their rear end.

Diet: Cockroach nymphs do not feed on blood like bed bugs. Cockroaches are omnivores that eat both plants and animals and are known to eat almost anything. They prefer sweets, starches, and meats, but if food grows scarce, they may potentially bite humans.

Habitat: Cockroaches live near food sources where it is dark, warm, and moist. In homes, the bathroom and kitchen are favorite dwelling places, and cockroaches may cluster under sinks, in cupboards, behind the refrigerator, or in cracks and crevices. They are most active at night when they come out to forage.


6. Wood Ticks

Appearance: Wood ticks, also known as dog ticks, come in a range of colors, but are often brown with gray patterns on their backs. Wood ticks have a wide, oval body with a flattened top that expands and makes their shape more round as they feed on blood. Ticks can range in size from 3.5-15 mm depending on when they ate last. Ticks have two primary body sections and are members of the arachnid family, which means that they have eight legs.

Diet: Like bed bugs, ticks survive on the blood of humans and animals. While bed bugs bite in lines or clusters, ticks will find one warm place to latch on and then burrow their head into the skin until they have finished eating.

Habitat: Ticks live primarily in wooded locations in tall grass, leaves, shrubs, and other brush. They do not jump or fly, but instead cling on to passing humans or animals. The most common places to find ticks indoors are on pets, near pet dwellings, in small crevices, or in between floor boards.


7. Fleas

Appearance: Fleas are black to reddish brown and are smaller than bed bugs, ranging from 1.5-3.3 mm long. They also appear narrower and more oval shaped. Fleas are flat in the vertical plane, whereas bed bugs appear flat horizontally. Fleas also have long, powerful legs with the hind pair being thicker and adapted for jumping.

Diet: Fleas are also blood feeders. Fleas prefer animal hosts over human ones. If an animal isn’t close by, however, fleas will not hesitate to bite and feed on humans.

Habitat: In the outdoors, fleas prefer to live in shady, cool places with lots of vegetation. When they find a host, they can hitch a ride into homes. Fleas generally tend to congregate in carpets, on pets, or in areas where pets sleep or spend time.


8. Black Carpet Beetle

Appearance: Black carpet beetles are approximately 5 mm long and round in shape. They typically have shiny black bodies with brown legs. There are many other varieties of carpet beetles that will vary in color and can have brown, gray, or even yellow markings. Unlike bed bugs, carpet beetles have wings and can fly.

Diet: Carpet beetles are attracted to flowers and feed on pollen and nectar. They also eat a variety of animal products like silk, hair, wool, and even other dead insects. Carpet beetles do not bite humans, although the bristly hair of a carpet beetle can cause an allergic reaction on some people, which can lead to red skin rashes and welts.

Habitat: The preferred habitat of the carpet beetle is bird, rodent or insect nests. Once they enter homes, they can often be found between walls, in chimneys, crawlspaces, attics and basements, or anywhere there are indoor plants or dead insects.


Now What?

You find a creepy-crawly in your home and have used your new found knowledge to identify it as a dreaded bed bug… now what? While they are difficult to get rid of, with a little patience it can be done.

It is possible to try do-it-yourself bed bug removal. This consists of deep cleaning your home, washing and drying all textiles in high heat, and sometimes chemical treatments as well. While it can be done, it is important to follow proper instructions for best results and safety.

If you have a large bed bug problem or cannot completely eliminate the bed bugs after a few attempts, it might be time to call a professional exterminator that is certified and specializes in bed bug removal. Pest management companies use an integrated approach to ensure that the adults as well as the eggs are eliminated. Bed bugs and their lookalikes can be tricky to identify and treat, but with a little knowledge you can take back your home.

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