If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably come across some bugs that look like bed bugs. Unfortunately, there are many other insects that look like bed bugs which makes it tricky to identify them.
But that’s why it’s so important to identify what they are so that you can start treating and managing them effectively. This article will help you figure out what type of insect is invading your home by sharing with you the 8 bugs that look like bed bugs.
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
Bed bug nymphs are whitish-yellow in color and smaller than adults. They look bright or dark red when they are full of blood. Without blood, their transparent bodies are nearly invisible.
When they come out of their eggs, bed bugs are about the size of a poppy seed. Bed bug eggs are pearly white and about the size of a pinhead or an apple seed.
An adult bed bug has an oval-shaped, broad, flat abdomen that covers the majority of its body. The bed bug’s abdomen expands into the shape of a long, bloated football with a reddish tinge after it consumes blood.
In front of the abdomen are a small thorax and a narrow head with two protruding eyes on each side. Bed bugs have a little tube-like beak called the proboscis located at the very tip of their bodies. This beak is used to puncture human skin and draw blood.
8 Common Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs
Let’s take a look at the 8 common pests that look like bed bugs and are often mistaken for them:
1. Baby Cockroaches
Due to their similar coloring, bed bugs and baby cockroaches (cockroach nymphs) are sometimes mistaken for one another. Cockroaches appear flattened and oval in shape, with long antennae and long, bristly legs.
There are many different species of cockroaches found commonly in homes, including the German cockroach, American cockroach, brown-banded cockroach, and Oriental cockroach.
Depending on the species, they can be reddish brown, dark brown, tan, or even black.
People often mistake them for bed bugs because they are nymphs and haven’t developed their wings yet.
They are commonly found in moist places, especially those where food is prepared or stored. Restaurants, grocery stores, commercial kitchens, sewers, and steam tunnels are prime breeding sites for these annoying pests.
Cockroaches might even be hiding in your crawl space, bathroom, or basement. The presence of cockroach nymphs in your home may indicate an infestation.
Cockroaches can spread diseases like salmonella and gastroenteritis because bacteria sticks to their bodies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, people who are allergic to cockroaches may develop asthma attacks.
Booklice, sometimes known as psocids, are not actual lice. These tiny insects resemble lice in appearance, but they don’t consume blood. Instead, they live on mold and fungi.
In terms of appearance, they can be translucent white, gray, or brown, and are often confused for adult bed bugs.
As the name suggests, they can be found feeding on mold from the paste of old book bindings and wallpaper. Book lice are a sign that mold is forming on food in case they are found in your stored pantry items.
Booklice like to live in places with high humidity, like damp books, because they dehydrate quite easily.
These pests are annoying, but they are not dangerous. Usually, they only cause minimal damage.
3. Carpet Beetles
Adult carpet beetles range in length, are oval in appearance, and can resemble bed bugs. They are black in color with white pattern and orange or red scales.
They come in a variety of species, including the black, common, furniture, and varied carpet beetle.
These small pests like to eat your furs, silk, wool, feathers, leather, and other materials made from animals.
Despite their name, they don’t like to consume the synthetic components that make up most modern carpets. They will make an exception, though, if your carpet is made of a mix of synthetic materials, animal fabrics, food, sweat, and oils.
Carpet beetles are commonly found along the edges of rugs and carpets, beneath upholstered furniture, and along baseboards.
Carpet beetle larvae pose little threat to your safety, but they can cause severe damage to your carpet and favorite wool sweater. The damage will typically manifest as a single destroyed patch rather than a number of holes dispersed over the surface.
4. Spider Beetles
Spider beetles may resemble bed bugs that have recently fed on blood.
These bugs have long legs and large, rounded abdomens, giving them the appearance of small spiders. The abdomen of the American spider beetle is reddish-brown to black and glossy, while the legs, head, thorax, and antennae are pale yellow.
Spider beetles can be found foraging in grain mills, pantries, warehouses, and attics that have bird, rodent, or bat droppings.
These insects have the potential to bite you and infest your food.
5. Bat Bugs
Bat bugs have an oval bodies like bed bugs and a short, broad head that is attached to the prothorax. The primary distinction between these two similar-looking insects is that bat bugs have longer and more hairs on their thorax.
Bat bugs thrive in areas where bats congregate, such as chimneys, attics, and walls. As bats leave or are removed from a house, the remaining bat bugs may enter and hide in dark nooks and fabric folds, including your mattress.
Bat bugs are dangerous to people since they feed mostly on the blood of bats but will also bite humans if bats aren’t available anymore. Although they are not known to transmit disease to humans, their presence can induce anxiety and insomnia in certain people.
Ticks, like bed bugs, are blood-sucking parasites that can look similar until you examine them closely. What exactly is the main difference? The number of legs they have. Bed bugs are insects with six legs, whereas ticks are arachnids with eight.
Ticks not only feed on the blood of humans, but also pets, livestock, and wild animals by attaching to them. Ticks come in a wide variety, each with its own unique set of physical traits. While unfed, most ticks are small, dark in color, and flat.
Ticks are typically found outside in moist, shady areas with tall grass or overgrown plants. They can also be spotted attached to their host.
Sometimes a tick may be spotted inside after being brought in. Tick infestations inside homes are rare, but they can happen if a female tick lays her eggs there.
Ticks can spread many diseases to people, pets, and other animals, including Lyme disease. If you don’t treat these diseases, many of them can become life-threatening. It is just as important to know how to get rid of a tick as it is to know how to spot one.
Fleas can also pretend to be bed bugs. Fleas have slender bodies, spiny legs, and bristles that point backward, which enable them to move quickly through hair, fur, and woven fabrics.
Their hind legs allow them to jump really well. These bloodsuckers prey on cats, dogs, mice, birds, humans, and a variety of other warm-blooded animals.
Fleas love to feed on dogs as well as cats. In fact, fleas usually get into homes from the outside through pets. Check floor cracks, carpets, mattresses, and pet beds for flea larvae. Fleas like places where they can eat food, animal waste, and even the waste of other fleas.
Even though it is rare, fleas can spread diseases like typhus and plague to humans. Flea saliva can cause severe allergic reactions in some humans and animals. Your pet may get anemia if they lose too much blood.
8. Head Lice
Is it lice or a bed bug? These two pests are frequently confused with one another. Lice are host-specific; therefore, lice infesting your dog cannot move to you, and you cannot transfer lice to your dog.
Only people can get head lice, which are normally gray but can also adopt the color of their hosts’ hair. The female is approximately 1/16 to 1/8-inch long, while the male is slightly smaller.
Head lice are unable to fly or jump. If head lice are not treated, the insects will keep sucking blood from your scalp and may even excrete dark-red feces onto your scalp.
Usually, head lice congregate behind the ears and in the area of the lower back of the head.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that head lice can make the scalp very itchy and make it hard to sleep. If you scratch too much, you may be more likely to get a skin infection. Getting rid of lice in a safe and effective way can help you deal with these risks.
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Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa's work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.