Knowing what you’ve been bitten by helps you quickly remedy the itchiness, and to identify the cause. These are essential steps to ensure you can 1. Stop the itching and 2. Prevent further bites. It is of the utmost importance to take immediate action to stop any possible infection and/or allergic reactions. This is why it’s so useful to be able to know the difference between bed bugs, fleas and dust mites.
Unfortunately there are many insects that look -- and in some ways act -- like bed bugs, this can cause a delay in identification and thus remedy. As the vast majority of us are not expert entomologists (a person who studies bugs) it is easy to mistakenly identify the bite of a bed bug for that of a flea and vice versa, this can obviously lead to steps being taken that are not going to prevent possible infection and/or future infestations.
So, let’s have a look at the differences between what these bugs are, where they like to “hang out” and how to make sure they no longer take you for a free meal!
Bed Bugs: What Are They?
Well, they are a small insect that feed wholly from the blood of their host, which includes pets, humans and birds. That’s right, they are like mini vampires, sucking on your blood to survive and not only that they can go up to an entire year without “eating”. That can make them incredibly difficult to get rid off.
Bed bugs are pretty small, with adults measuring around 5 mm long and 3 mm wide. This makes them relatively easy to spot, but you have to get up close and personal, as it were. With flat, oval-shaped bodies bed bugs can be easily confused with other insects, including hair lice or nits. However, unlike lice/nits, bedbugs are wingless.
Where they Hangout
Although they feed on a hosts’ blood, they don’t stick around. Bed bugs instead like to live in the gaps and cracks of your bed, the corners of wardrobes, in your mattresses and pillows, and other such places where it’s dark and “safe”.
Bed Bug Bites
If you actually got a good look at a bed bug’s mouth, under a microscope for example, you’d probably gasp in horror. Their mouthparts are sharp, ready to tear the hosts’ skin. In fact they are often described as “saw like”.
Having “teeth” like saws allows them easy access to your blood, as they effortlessly slice through a host’ skin like a knife through butter.
A bite is usually set in a single row of three, most likely found on the neck, shoulder or arm. Being in a row can make them easier to identify, but while some people don’t react too badly to bed bug bites, others can see their body go into overdrive, resulting in a nasty allergic reaction. This can cause larger, welt like bites that are insanely itchy. Although often mistaken for mosquito bites, they do tened to be smaller in size, and, more importantly, in a neat row of three.
Bites can be red and swollen, and they will be itchy. An allergic reaction caused by a reaction to the proteins contained in bed bug saliva can be severe. Any reaction can take hours or even days to become noticeable, which if you sleep in different locations, can make it even more difficult to identify where they are. Also, although not labelled as such, recent studies suggest they may be able to transmit diseases from one host to another.
Bed Bug Infestation
If you wake up itchy, or become itchy over the course of a few hours or days, you could have an infestation. Put down a white sheet or towel, then it is much easier to 1. Spot the bed bugs and 2. See the blood from their feasting. Once identified, you know you have a bed bug problem.
Bed Bug Bites: What to do
Remedies are aimed at reducing swelling and itchiness; as they are not only unsightly, itching them can cause scratches and thus infection. OTC (Over The Counter) creams and ointments are usually very quick at cooling down the bites, but if symptoms persist, see a medical professional and get help.
Dust Mites: What Are They?
Dust mites are microscopic, insect-like pests that generate some of the most common indoor substances – known as allergens -- that can trigger allergic reactions and asthma in many people. Millions of dust mites can live in the bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, carpets or curtains of your home.
As mentioned above dust mites are really small -- microscopic -- and are not easily spotted with the naked eye. They have translucent to whitish bodies and usually measure about 0.3 mm. To clearly identify them you may need up to a 10x magnification.
Where they Hang Out
Dust mites may be found in areas in the home where they can easily feed on the skin flakes you shed on a regular basis such as bed sheets, carpets, curtains, and the likes.
Dust Mite Bites
Most mites are risk-free to both you and your pets, but some species can take up residence on mammals, even acting as *vectors for disease transmission. They cause or at least contribute to allergenic diseases. (*Vector-borne diseases are human illnesses caused by parasites, viruses and bacteria that are transmitted by mosquitoes, sandflies, triatomine bugs, blackflies, ticks, tsetse flies, mites, snails and lice.)
Mites that colonize our skin are the cause of several types of skin rash that itch. These include gamasoidosis, rodent mite dermatitis, grain itch, grocer's itch, and scabies. The sarcoptes scabiei is a parasitic mite responsible for scabies, which is one of the three most common skin disorders in children. It is an unpleasant condition that can cause stress and discomfort.
Demodex mites, a common cause of mange in dogs and other domesticated animals, have also been connected to the human skin disease rosacea, although the exact way in which this works is still an unknown.
Chiggers are known primarily for their itchy bite, but they can also spread disease in some limited circumstances, such as scrub typhus
The house-mouse mite is, as of now, the only known vector of the disease rickettsialpox.
House dust mites love those warm humid places such as beds and cause several forms of allergic disease. This includes hay fever, asthma and eczema. They are also known to aggravate atopic dermatitis. These complaints and conditions can be annoying and stressful, even dangerous. Asthma attacks, for example, can be fatal.
Dust Mite Infestation
Dust mite infestations cause real problems. They can trigger asthma attacks, and may also contribute to, if not be a direct cause of, allergic reactions. The symptoms of dust mite infestation may include but are not limited to red and itchy eyes, a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, shortness of breath, swelling in the tongue and lips, broken skin, rashes, stomach-ache, confusion, vomiting, and nausea. All very real and at times dangerous, if not life threatening, conditions.
Dust Mite Bites: What to do
As with bed bug bites OTC treatments can alleviate the symptoms of a sufferer. However, as always, if symptoms persist, you should contact a medical professional.
Although not as a result of being bitten, but by being in the mites’ environment, people who experience asthma can have an attack triggered. Asthma suffers should already have an inhaler at hand, if not, act immediately. Inaction can lead to possible serious consequences, even the possibility of death.
Fleas: What Are They?
Fleas are parasitic insects that live on both mammals -- that means you and your pets -- and birds. They feed on the host’ blood.
Fleas are flightless insects with sideways-flattened bodies. They are relatively small and can be spotted with the naked eyes. An adult flea measures about 3 mm long. They have hind legs that are adapted for jumping, which allows them to jump a distance that is up to 50 times their size. The mouth parts of fleas that bite are also designed for tearing into the skin of their host for easy feeding.
Where they Hang Out
If you suspect that you have flea bites, then the best place to confirm your guess is on your pets. There are species of fleas known as host fleas and nest fleas. While the former lives on the host, the latter finds a comfortable nesting place close to the host for easy feeding. It is important to note that the population of host fleas may grow bigger thereby allowing you to find them all around the home.
Flea bites can appear very similar to bed bug bites and are often accompanied by a red welt and a very itchy itchiness. However, unlike bed bugs, fleas usually bite around a person’s ankles and/or the lower regions of the legs.
Vectors of different bacterial, viral and rickettsial diseases fleas can transmit extremely dangerous illnesses, ones that can even result in death. These include murine typhus, bubonic plague, Rickettsia typhi, Bartonella henselae, Rickettsia felis, myxomatosis virus, Trypanosome protozoans, and Hymenolepiasis tapeworms.
Flea Bites: What to do
Treatment for flea bites, as with other bites, is aimed at relieving the associated symptoms, which can include swelling, itching, headache and fever. Where there is no infection, symptoms may be treated at home with OTC medicines. You should always contact a medical professional if symptoms persist for more than a few days or suddenly worsen. Never take a chance that “everything will be Ok”.
Other, unrelated insects, can easily be incorrectly identified as bed bugs. The cockroach nymph, book louse, black-carpet-beetle, and spider-beetle, are just a few that can get people panicked into thinking they have a bed bug infestation. Here’s a few that can set the alarm bells ringing when they shouldn’t:
1. Swallow Bugs
Swallow Bugs appear vey similar to bed bugs. Tiny, and difficult to see, they have a flat, oval-shaped exoskeleton that is covered in hair that just so happens to be longer than that of bed bugs. Yet, unless you have super-human eyesight, you’re probably going to need a microscope to see the difference, because -- as stated -- they are nearly identical to bed bugs in appearance. Swallow bug adults are roughly 4mm in length and reddish brown in color.
However, unlike bed bugs -- which are commonly active year-round -- swallow bugs are typically dormant during periods when swallows are not present for nesting purposes.
Swallow bugs emerge in late winter to early spring anticipating the return of their swallow hosts.
It is now that we may experience bites and infestations of swallow bugs seeking meals when their host is unavailable. Swallow bug infestations may also occur when nests are empty although typically, during that time of year, swallow bugs are inactive, waiting for the return of the swallows in spring
Immature swallow bugs (nymphs) may be much smaller and tan or red in color depending on how recently they have obtained a meal. Like their bloodsucking relatives, swallow bugs cannot fly.
Even though various viruses and other pathogens are usually transmitted to swallow bugs from a host, the diseases are rarely passed to other hosts.
2. Bat Bugs
Bat bugs, as with swallow bugs, look very much like bed bugs and are again often mistaken for the other. The major differences between a bat bug and a bed bug is the fringe of hairs found on their pronotum. While the hair is longer in bat bugs the difference is very difficult to identify with the naked eye.
Just as with bed bugs, bat bugs feed on blood -- hosts usually being birds or bats. Their bite is considered more of a nuisance than a danger -- not being vectors -- but can cause localised problems, even fever, if a person who is bitten is allergic to bats.
They can be found in attics, cracks, chimneys and other similar places, including, unfortunately, you guessed it, beds.
No matter the kind of pests invading your life, we have it covered. Explore the site and find all the answers you need, our Pest Removal FAQ has articles about getting rid of every kind of pest you can imagine. And if you still have questions, contact us: We’ll do our very best to help.
For example, if you’re having problems with cockroaches check out this page. Got a bat problem? Click here. Whatever your pest problem, we have detailed information that will help you tackle the issue head on with clear, easy to understand steps that work.
Hello, my name is Chris and I am a pest control expert. Got a question? Worried about insects, rats, bats? Well, worry no more, sit back, relax and read our site as my team and I share everything we know about pest control with you.
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