Bed Bugs vs. Fleas? What Kind Of Bites Do I Have?

Have you ever felt like you’ve been bitten by something but can’t quite guess what it is? You might have asked yourself a few times. Is it bed bugs or fleas?

Whatever it is, knowing the difference between these usual suspects can give you a huge advantage on the treatment you’re going to use. But where do you start? What signs do you look for? And how do you tell them apart?

To answer those questions, follow this quick guide in how to differentiate these two pests. Learn how to tell where those itchy red marks come from, so you can finally get rid of them!

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 What’s Causing That Itch? Is It Bed Bugs or Fleas?

Fleas have a completely different anatomy compared to bed bugs. CC Image courtesy of Pixnio and Jiří Humpolíček on Wikipedia

Differences in Appearance

Just by looking at them, fleas and bed bugs look totally different. Both insects may feed on your blood, but they don’t have the same bodies.

Let’s start with bed bugs. They have tank-like bodies that move slowly. They’re reddish brown in color, vertically flat and look a lot like seeds. Individually, a bed bug is fairly easy to catch since it can’t jump or fly.

Fleas, on the other hand, are laterally flat. Meaning, if bed bugs are flat like crabs, fleas are flat like Blue Tangs.

Fleas also come in reddish brown, but they’re typically smaller than bed bugs.

When you do manage to take a good look at one, don’t count on observing it even longer. Fleas can jump out of sight in a flash which makes them a pain in the neck to catch.

So how do you “catch” a flea or a bed bug to identify it?

Here’s a neat trick. When you feel that something is biting you, resist the urge to scratch. Instead, try not move that part of your body. Then maneuver yourself so that you can get a good look at what’s feeding on you.

Bed bugs are generally easier to spot since they’re slower and bulkier. But for fleas, you have a slight advantage. They can’t jump if they can’t see you. That’s right. Since fleas are laterally flat, their eyes are placed on the sides. And unlike flies, they don’t have compound eyes that can see in a lot of directions. They basically can’t notice what’s above them from a visual standpoint.

With this, you’ll be able to tell if you’re dealing with a bed bug or a flea.

Differences in Bites

 What’s Causing That Itch? Is It Bed Bugs or Fleas? 2

Flea bites (left) and bed bug bites (right) look somewhat similar, but they’re really not the same. CC Image courtesy of Michael Voelker on Flickr and James Heilman, MD on Wikipedia

But what if you don’t see any bug at all? And all you’re left with are the grueling and irritating red marks? Is it bed bugs or fleas? How can you tell?

Luckily, there are several indications on which insect bit what. Here’s a checklist taken from Terminix that can help you.

  • Flea bites look like a cluster of mosquito bites. The wheals are bigger than your usual mosquito bites with dark red centers that mark where the fleas bit you.
  • Bed bug bites are raised flat red welts. This is due to the allergic reaction that you’re having on the bug’s saliva.
  • ​Flea bites are randomly placed. Flea bites appear in random places because they just feed in places convenient for them.
  • ​Bed bugs follow a breakfast-lunch-dinner pattern. This means that bed bug bites are typically arranged in a way that there are three bites connected to each other. The three bites can form a straight or curved line.
  • A flea wheal swells less than an hour after a bite. The bite enlarges quickly, but it disappears quickly too.
  • Bed bug welts can take weeks to show up. Bites gradually appear a few days after. They will then itch more as time progresses, turning into sores or blisters if continuously scratched.
  • Fleas bite any time of the day. Fleas don’t have a schedule to follow when they’re hungry.
  • Bed bugs usually bite at nighttime. These insects are nocturnal, so they prefer the cover of darkness when they feed. This isn’t always the case though. Bed bugs will feed any time if they really need to.

Differences in Habits

One last clue you can look into when trying to discover what pest you’re dealing with is these insects’ habits.

Fleas mainly live in your pet’s fur. So if you suspect something, head directly into your pet’s fur to see if there are fleas living in there.

These bugs also like to stay in your carpet. And when they reach a certain population, they can invade other things like beddings, personal items and even couches and other furniture.

In contrast, bed bugs are very picky on where they live. True to their name, they usually reside in your bed, but in the smallest holes and crevices. You can usually spot them lying around because of their messy lifestyle. They like to leave egg shells, blood feces and spots where they dwell.

So there you have it. That’s everything you need to know about these two pests. We hope you got helpful info out of this, so you can finally stop asking yourself; “Is it bed bugs or fleas?”

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