Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs: A Look at Bed Bug Look-Alikes

bed bug look alikes featured image

Bed bugs are notorious bedroom insects, these little creatures are a common and a serious problem most people have either gone through or heard about it from a neighbor or the TV. There’s a reason for all the fuss about them and it’s that they can pose a real health problem, especially if you’re prone to allergies.

Finding that any kind of crawling creature has spent the night with you can be a shocking experience for anybody. Whether they are bed bugs or spiders, the moment is not pleasant at all and it needs to be addressed soon. But you have to know how to properly deal with these unwanted visitors since the treatment is different for each case and not all insects are the same.

So it’s important to understand your enemies more before you face them.

How serious is a bed bug infestation?

Bed bug bites can cause a number of health issues. These include skin rashes, allergic reactions, and even completely understandable psychological effects. Serious infestations can cause anxiety, insomnia, stress, and even, in some cases, they can cause an obsession with bed bugs.

The symptoms can sometimes not be seen, they vary from person to person, but generally, bites leave small reddish spots and depending on the person they could lead to more serious effects like intense itching and more prominent skin affections.

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The picture above shows an example of bed bug bites.

Why do they bite?

Although the first thing most of us think when we see any kind of bug virtually anywhere is “it’s going to bite me”. The reason why is that most people think “because they’re bugs and that’s what they do”. However, not all bugs are a threat to humans and their diets vary, making some of those visitors look scary but are technically harmless.

Unlike cockroaches, ants, and other animals that search for human food or animal remains, bed bugs, like female mosquitoes, feed on blood. This is their main diet and the reason why they cause so much discomfort since their only aim is to literally suck the life out of you.

Why me?

If you find out you’re the victim of a bed bug infestation, first you need to calm down. It’s not personal, and speaking of personal, personal hygiene has nothing to do with bed bug infestations so you can relax.

The way they reach your home can be any of the following:

  • You inadvertently brought bugs or eggs stuck to your clothes or other personal belongings after visiting an infested place, or a place with nearby dwellings
  • Brought in by visitors who have this problem at home
  • Brought to your home by wild animals, like bats, rats or birds

Now the reason they have decided to colonize your bed is that this bug seeks warmth and it can sense the carbon dioxide expelled by breathing animals and people. They follow these trails which eventually lead them to make you the perfect target to feed while you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep.

What do Bed Bugs Look Like?

bed bug image

As you can see in the picture above, bed bugs have small, oval, and flat bodies. They have no wings so they can’t fly (which is a relief), adults have that brown and copper color, and their bodies become elongated and red when they feed. Their size ranges from 4 to 5 mm and they walk slowly.

When they’re at their nymph stage, they’re much smaller and may be difficult to see; however, this insect is not microscopic as common belief suggests.

Bed Bug Look-Alikes

There are a couple of insects that can be easily mistaken for bed bugs and, although no kind of insect is nice to have in your bed, it’s important to recognize them so you can know well how to proceed.

Here’s a list of the most common bugs you can find at home that look like (but are not) bed bugs.

Bat Bugs

The bat bug is so similar to bed bugs that their names even rhyme. These two as closely related so it’s important to know the differences.

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Bat bugs are usually found in bat nests and abandoned places, they feed on those animals generally, but when bats fly to towns or cities, carrying the bugs on their skin, they can infest homes and start feeding on humans. Bat bugs are also parasitic insects so they feed on blood.

Their bodies are a darker brown than bed bugs and their legs are slightly thicker. However, because of their similarity, it’s very difficult to distinguish them from bed bugs with the naked eye. A recommendation is to catch one of them, put them in a bag and take them to an expert, or a doctor for its examination to determine the culprit.

Bat bugs can survive months without eating; however, they will eventually leave if there are no food sources. To get rid of them you must get rid of bats by closing off every possible bat nest. The treatment for bat bugs is generally done with the same chemicals used for bed bugs.

The Book Louse

book louse image

This lousy critter, also known as a psocid, can be a nuisance in big numbers and, although they are clearly different in color from bed bugs, they can be confused because of how difficult it is to identify them at plain sight. They have three body segments and their color is generally translucid or light brown.

They can be found around boxes and moldy areas, and places with food—especially cereals. They look for warm and moist places so you need to keep moisture at a minimum in your house to make it unappealing for these critters.

The Flea

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Fleas can cause terrible infestations if not controlled in time, because of their reproduction speed and durability. They can’t fly but they can jump a lot. Adults are about 3 mm long and their bodies are brown and flattened sideways. Their overall body shape is not so similar to bed bugs and the fact that they can disappear from your sight in the blink of an eye (when they jump) is a clear giveaway.

Their bite can cause intense itching and swollen itching spots. In animals, they can cause loss of hair after extended damage to the skin. Fleas are especially harmful because they are vectors for viral diseases, parasites, and bacteria.

Fleas generally stick to pets but they can attack humans as well. To get rid of this pest you must do a general cleaning of your house, wash your pet’s bedding and shower them using the proper chemicals to kill fleas. Their eggs remain in your pet’s skin and are immune to chemicals so they will hatch some weeks later when you will need to repeat the process.

The Cockroach Nymph

cockroach nymph image

Cockroaches in their nymph stage are really small and of a light/caramel color. Their bodies are long and narrower when compared to a bed bug’s oval and shorter body and their antennae are longer.

Cockroach nymphs will always be found near warm and moist places, between cracks, and in dark areas. They come out at night and you can expect to find them in the bathroom and kitchen most of the times. They can trigger asthma or allergies and will contaminate any food they touch.

The Carpet Beetle

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Carpet beetles are more similar to bed bugs in that their bodies are oval, short, and brown. The difference with this insect is that carpet beetles have wings—they can fly.

However, this beetle doesn’t feed on blood or attacks any animal. It’s normally harmless but some people report irritation when exposed to its hairy body. Their larvae resemble hairy caterpillars and they can cause irritation on the skin.

This pest’s larvae can damage carpets, furniture, and clothing so it’s important to get rid of them before this happens. To eliminate carpet beetles first find the source of the infestation and remove them using a vacuum cleaner. The affected fabrics must be washed in hot and soapy water to kill the insect and its eggs.

The Tick

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An unfed tick (left picture) is small, brown, and looks more like a tiny spider, they possess strong claws they use to feed and prevent falling from their host. When they feed for long periods of time, their body grows as they fill with blood (right picture).

Yet another blood-sucking parasite you must get rid of as soon as possible. Tick infestations can be as bad as flea infestations; this pest is also a vector for Lyme’s disease and can cause other health problems. Adult female ticks can lay thousands of eggs at once, basically releasing thousands of these nuisances in no time.

To exterminate this pest, ask your veterinarian for the best products and solutions to kill them. Generally, keeping your pets clean and checking their fur regularly to extract the ticks using tweezers, can help diminish and eventually destroy their population. When extracting ticks, never squeeze the big ones as it may cause them to regurgitate their contents back into the wound. This can infect the host with a disease.

How to get rid of bed bugs?

Now that you know better how to identify bed bugs, it’s a good idea to know how to eliminate them. First of all, you need to know where to find them, they can be found in all the places people use to rest, besides the bed as their name implies these places can be:

  • Curtains
  • Under desks or chairs
  • Carpets
  • Fabric (they can climb on clothing)

The recommended way to eliminate this pest is to follow an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, which consists of combining several methods and procedures to completely exterminate the issue. Here are some of those methods:

  • Do general cleaning: Check the mattress, your bed sheets, the bed frame; check the carpets, sofas, nightstands and dressers
  • Bed bug proof mattress covers: These can be used to cover infected mattresses to trap the bugs inside and wait until they starve. However it’s important to remember that bed bugs can go for months and even a year without eating, so make sure the cover is properly sealed during all that time, or discard your mattress and buy a new one
  • Insecticide treatment can be used; however, bed bugs are resistant to insecticide so sometimes this is not as effective as expected. Pyrethroids are the most common effective insecticides used for bed bugs since their residual effect can help eliminate their eggs too
  • Using heat to kill bed bugs is an effective method. Wash all clothing, plush toys, bed sheets, and everything you can wash, on hot water, reinforce this by using a dryer machine after. Another measure for clothing can be dry killing which is proven to successfully kill bed bugs
  • Vacuum clean your house: This way you will remove both bugs and eggs that can be lying around the surfaces or carpets in your home

To finish

Both bed bugs and their look-alikes can be equally difficult to manage and get rid of. In these situations, what makes the difference is to stay calm and inform yourself about how to deal with these specific problems. There are tons of information on how to do it yourself and the procedures you can follow to handle this problem without the need of an expert.

Never forget that these infestations can happen to anybody, it’s not a matter of being rich or poor so there’s no reason to feel embarrassed when dealing with this situation. You should act as soon as you can, following the best procedures to eliminate these pests and protect your family.

If you have seen anything like the creatures we’ve mentioned in this article, now you know how to identify the problem so prepare yourself and tackle it from the root now. It’s now your chance to exterminate that pest by your own methods before it gets worse. And, in any case, you can hire an expert to help you.

Sources of information


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