Bed Bugs vs. Scabies

If you’ve been wondering how you can differentiate between bed bugs and scabies, then you’ve come to the right place. This article will tell you all you need to know about them, from what they and their bites look like to what you should do to get rid of them. So, let’s get started, shall we?

Differences Between Bed Bugs and Scabies

Both bed bugs and scabies mites are parasites, meaning that both use humans or other mammals as hosts to feed and survive, though their mechanisms may be different. Fortunately, there are many ways to identify scabies and bed bugs, so follow this “scabies vs. bed bugs” guide, and you’ll know what to do.


Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are considered small insects. Their scientific name is Cimex lectularius.


Conversely, scabies is the name of the condition that’s caused by microscopic parasites called Sarcoptes scabiei that can’t be seen with the naked eye. These parasites are a type of mites that belong to the class Arachnida, meaning that the mites’ body is closer to a spider than an insect.


Bed Bugs

Adult bed bugs are oval-shaped and have a striped, flat body, with six legs, large rear, and no wings. They’re generally described as having the same size and color as an apple seed, which helps them stay out of sight. However, once they’ve had their blood meal, they lose their flatness and become redder in color.


Scabies mites have eight legs, carrying a whitish-brown bulbous body, and have no eyes or wings. However, as the mites are microscopic, you won’t see those features by the naked eye. So, imagine a tick that’s about the size of a pinprick to picture this mite.


Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are typically found in places with lots of humans and high carbon dioxide levels. Research has shown that human odors, especially when sleeping, attract them, and increased CO2 levels make them look for their next meal.

Typically, bed bugs hide in the bedding or any other possible hiding places, like box springs, electrical sockets, and various pieces of furniture. They then dart out, feed using their unique mouths, and quickly run away back to their hiding spots to lay eggs (from 2 to 5 eggs a day).

They usually tend to bite the exposed skin of a sleeping person, mostly the face, arms, legs, back, and shoulders. However, they don’t exclusively feed on humans. A common bed bug can also live off other warm-blooded animals, like dogs.


Alternatively, scabies mites only feed on human blood. They don’t live on your bedding; they live underneath human skin. Once they reach the skin, they tunnel through it for a distance that can reach 1 cm.

Then, they start to lay eggs inside the skin, usually between two and three eggs per day. Once the eggs hatch, the young mites go to the skin’s surface, mature into adults, and mate. Then, the mites burrow back down again to lay more eggs and eat.

Generally, scabies burrows are found in warm, moist, and dark areas of the skin. The skin burrows are located in the skin between your fingers and toes, under your nail beds, and in your waist, elbows, wrists, armpits, groin, and chest.

In short, mites causing scabies prefer to bite your arms, legs, and sensitive areas, as well as any other parts covered by clothes or jewelry. Nevertheless, the bites may reach the head and neck when children are involved.

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Mode of Transmission

Bed Bugs

A bed bug infestation usually occurs when a person is in close contact with a place they already inhabit. The bed bugs are then transferred to that person’s home, and consequently,  bed bug bites occur.


Meanwhile, scabies bites begin after a person has had prolonged physical contact with an afflicted person. A less common way to get the mite than skin-to-skin contact is to touch or use that person’s clothes, bedding, towels, etc.


Bed Bugs

Bites caused by bed bugs or scabies mites cause different symptoms. Therefore, the two infestations can be differentiated.

Once an infestation occurs, bed bug bites can appear in a couple of days, though they can also appear after an incubation period of one to two weeks. In general, they’re described as welts of a dark red color. The bites usually come in the form of three consecutive flat red welts in a line, but they may also look like a cluster of bumps.

All bed bug bites are incredibly itchy, but the intensity of the itching can decrease after several hours. Thankfully, a bed bug bite will disappear on its own after several weeks, even without treatment. However, if the bed bug infestation continues, new bed bug bites will appear.


In scabies, the bites take the form of an angry red rash that’s accompanied by severe and intense itching, especially at night time before sleep. This is one of the first signs of a scabies outbreak, and it usually occurs two to six weeks from when the person came in contact with the parasitic mite. However, if it’s the second time the person has contracted scabies, the rash can form in as little as 1-4 days.

The rash from the scabies bites appears as patches of tiny red bumps or pimples when looked at closely, which represent the tunnels/burrows that the mites made in the skin. Moreover, it can look like grayish-white or skin-colored, raised, irregular rows or lines.

Other signs occur when the raised lines or bumps become infected and fester. You’ll then develop yellow crusts, scales, or even ulcers if scratching persists. Later on, an infection can occur in these ulcers, and unfortunately, without adequate scabies treatment, the scabies bites will increase, and the skin lesions will keep growing over time.

Sadly, scabies bites can look very similar to other insect or bed bug bites, making it hard to know that this is a scabies infestation. Still, keep an eye out for irritability or insomnia in babies and children, as this may clue you in on the scabies bites.


Bed Bugs

As previously mentioned, bed bug bites will go away on their own and heal without the need for medication as long as the infestation is remedied. If you’d like, you can apply ointments or home remedies in case the itching is annoying.

Then, make sure to call pest control, so they take the necessary steps to get rid of and kill bed bugs as well as bed bug eggs.


Scabies is another deal, unfortunately, where you have to seek professional help. Otherwise, you risk ruining your skin and your overall health. A scabies patient will usually get treated with scabicides, like permethrin cream. You may also need antibiotics if a lesion has developed an infection.

Since scabies mites tend to die after three days of no contact with humans, pest control isn’t necessary as long as you avoid the infested areas. Still, if you want an extra protective measure, wash your sheets, towels, and clothes with hot water and dry them under hot temperatures.


Bed bugs tend to bite a person’s skin when in a deep sleep and then go back into hiding. Conversely, scabies mites enter the human body and feed on blood from the inside.

If you suspect bed bugs have made their way into your home and contaminated your personal items, then calling pest control is your best bet to get rid of them. If not, the bed bug bites will torment you and your family for a long time, though they won’t pose any immediate danger.

However, a scabies infestation necessitates you go directly to a doctor to protect your skin and body from severe damage. If you don’t have any signs of scabies or bed bug bites, then consider other parasites and pests, like fleas or ticks, and seek the necessary treatment.

We hope this “bed bugs vs. scabies” guide has helped you with your problem, and now you can tell the two apart.

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