“Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” How many times did you hear this line whispered at night when your mom tucked you in bed? At such a young age, you probably had no idea what bed bugs were. It wasn’t until you were bitten by this little red-brown critter while sleeping that you realized that you had bed bugs.
But was that really a bed bug? I would say that chances are 50/50. According to research done on pest infestation by the University of Kentucky, over 2/3 of people living in the US have no idea what a bed bug looks like. In fact, the participants couldn’t identify the bed bug even when it was isolated from other insects.
Following is a list of bugs mistaken for bed bugs that will help you identify the critter you are dealing with so you can find the right extermination treatment:
Bat bugs are eerily similar to bed bugs. As far as bugs mistaken for bed bugs go, bat bugs come out at the top. There’s not much difference in their coloring except for a dark brownish hue and both are oval in shape. Since bat bugs are half the size of bed bugs, only a trained eye can spot them. To touch, bat bugs have a hairy exterior.
According to a study published in the journal of Clinical Microbiology Reviews, a bat bug bite’s reaction is similar to that of a bed bug bite. This is why it is impossible to set them apart. You won’t know your house is infested with bat bugs until you call a professional exterminator for inspection.
As the name says, bat bugs feast on bats. “Phew, crisis averted,” is that what you just thought? Well, sorry to break it to you but bat bugs are a fan of human blood too. If their bat host abandons them, they latch onto humans.
Here’s the good news ― you won’t find bat bugs hiding in the folds of your mattress like bed bugs. Since bat bugs’ primary food source are bats, they are more likely to be found in the attic. They might gravitate towards the ceiling but remain close to their host.
Just like bed bugs, fleas are also reddish-brown in color. They resemble bed bugs to a T but are smaller and oval in shape. Where bed bugs have a flat top and remain stuck to the surface, fleas are flatter and skinnier. They stand taller and attack by jumping onto their prey.
There are two types of bed bugs: common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) and the tropical bed bug (Cimex hemipterus). The former feeds on human blood, whereas the latter on animal blood. The good news about fleas is that humans are not their preferred choice of the blood bag. They like what cats and dogs offer more.
The reason fleas are considered a worthy opponent is because they are equally irritating. They like dark places and usually hop onto your pet to gain entry into the house. They are fast on their feet and scatter the moment you spot them and expose them to light.
Spider beetles are the perfect combination of a spider, beetle, and a bed bug. It has six legs, two of which are extensions on the head and this is why spider beetles are mistaken for spiders. Factor in the reddish-brown color and the oval shape, and you think it’s a bed bug. Confusing, isn’t it?
So, how does one set apart spider beetles from bed bugs? Well, spider beetles are found near-poor sanitation and food sources. They hide in wooden structures and snack on a specific food.
The scary part about spider beetles is that some of the species fly. They don’t bite which is a plus in your favor but when an insect comes flying at you, all sense and reason go out the window. You know what I am talking about.
According to a journal article on “Swallows and Bed Bugs” published in The Condor, bed bugs often nest with swallow bugs and start feeding on the same animals. This is one of the biggest reasons behind swallow bugs mistaken for bed bugs.
Swallow bugs are the same in size and color as bed bugs. The only defining difference is that they are covered in hair, which can be felt when touched. As the name says, their preferred food source is a swallow bird. When their host leaves the nest, the bugs migrate and move into homes, where they feed on humans but only during desperate times.
In early summer, when birds depart, swallow bugs make their way into your house. This is one reason you will seldom find an infestation. Their bite causes mild to severe reactions. It’s important that you get these critters exterminated as soon as possible because they can survive without food for three years.
Most ticks are brown in color. They have a flat body shape like bed bugs but when they gorge on blood, they become round. They have eight legs and their preferred host is pets. However, ticks also like human blood so if your pet is bringing in ticks from the outside, you need to be prepared.
Where a bed bug’s bite is harmless and causes little inflammation, ticks on the other hand are extremely dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ticks can cause a number of diseases such as Ehrlichiosis, Heartland Virus, Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) and more.
It’s not my intention to scare you or scar you for life but ticks like to become one with their host. They burrow into their host’s skin when they bite and then spread their bacteria through the blood. Ticks are almost invisible due to their size, which is why you won’t feel them until your health starts to deteriorate.
Since ticks are mostly found in wooded areas, it’s important to cover yourself while jogging through a forest. Wear protective clothing in a light color so you can easily spot them.
Compared to the above-mentioned bugs mistaken for bed bugs, booklice are easy to spot because of their creamy yellow color. In a way, these bugs resemble termites and are much smaller in size than bed bugs.
Where bed bugs are harmless critters, booklice do pose a small threat. According to Donald A. Oswalt, a former Research Assistant from the Department of Entomology at Clemson University, booklice can cause asthma attacks. Their dead bodies combine with dust and disperse in the air when windows are opened.
Some species have wings and fly but none of them bite. Booklice can be found in damp areas. They also hide in the folds of a mattress and cause a big infestation. Since booklice measures around 1 mm, it is minuscule compared to bed bugs and is hard to spot.
Cockroach nymphs are born white but turn reddish-brown in color as they grow. Compared to bed bugs, they are more cylindrical in shape and don’t feed on blood. In the first ten hours after hatching, their growth depends on their food source. The more food and water they get, the faster they grow.
So, why are these bugs mistaken for bed bugs? In the nymph stage, they resemble a bed bug and are found in corners and crevices. They hardly bite humans, which means you are safe… until the nymphs turn into adult cockroaches and increase the infestation.
Cockroach nymphs are active at night, which is why you might find them in your bed. Even though they don’t bite, prolonged exposure to them can cause an asthma attack.
Carpet beetles are easy to spot due to their bright pattern. They have a combination of orange, red, white, and black colors on their outer shell. Some carpet beetles fly when they turn into an adult. Even though they don’t bite, they can cause dermatitis.
Like ticks, they are brought into the house from the outside. They are found on flowers and once inside the house, they hide in the fibers of a carpet. The main reason carpet beetles are mistaken for bed bugs is that they mingle with them and feed on their skin. Like bed bugs, they can cause a rash.
Since carpet beetles are bigger than bed bugs, you can easily see them. While buying flowers, inspect the bouquet closely to make sure that you won’t be bringing these bugs inside your house.
And with that, ends my list of bugs mistaken for bed bugs. Now that you know these bed bug doppelgangers, you will easily be able to find a treatment online. In an emergency, use a DDT powder or spray to control the spread of the infestation. I recommend that you call an exterminator right away because only they can give you the assurance that you won’t find a hidden nest the next day.