Bugs that Look Like Bed bugs: 12 Insects Mistaken for Bed bugs


Reading Time: 15 minutes

Ever since their resurgence, bed bugs have been most people’s worst nightmares. And even so, most people don’t know what bed bug looks like. They just hear about how damaging and brutal bed bugs can be. If you have dealt with a bed bug infestation before, you can get paranoid at the sight of a bug-like insect in your home.

No matter how smart they are, bed bugs always leave a trail of evidence behind them. These include itchy skin from bites that occur at night. They also stain your mattress and beddings by leaving fecal matter and blood spots. This should be enough hints that indeed bed bugs are in your home.

Bed bugs are elusive creatures. They hide so well and only come out when it’s time to feed. If it wasn’t for the visible and itchy bite marks, you wouldn’t even know that there are bed bugs in your home. In fact, if you have never experienced a bed bug infestation, then you would have a hard time identifying one.

There are different kinds of bugs that highly resemble bed bugs. Their resemblance to bed bugs can be confusing not only to you, but also to trained pest control professionals. Such bugs can scare you tremendously. You might even irrationally result in ferociously combating them, only to later realize that they are of a different kind.

In this article, we will carefully and extensively look at bed bug look-alikes. The ultimate objective of this piece is to ensure that you don’t mistake other bugs for bed bugs. And end up freaking out, having sleepless nights, or investing in all manner of insecticides used to quell a bed bug infestation, only to find out that there are no bed bugs in your household. Without further ado, here is a review of the 12 insects mistaken for bed bugs:

1. Bat Bugs             

Just by their name, description, and appearance, bat bugs can easily be mistaken for bed bugs. Bat bugs belong to the same insect family (Cimicidae) as bed bugs. They rely on blood from mammals for survival. But unlike bed bugs, they mostly feed on bats.

According to various studies on the origin of bed bugs, bats once lived in the same caves as humans. Therefore, bed bugs may have possibly originated from bat bugs.

It is extremely difficult to tell the difference between a bat bug and a bed bug under a naked eye. Using a microscope could probably help. But you’d need to have some kind of pest control training to pick out the hair-splitting differences. Trained professionals would undoubtedly have an easier time differentiating these bugs.

At first glance, both bugs may appear identical as they have the same body, shape, and color. When closely examined, the notable differences start to manifest themselves. For instance, bat bugs have long hairs on the upper thorax. Trained professionals focus on this feature under a microscope to pinpoint the difference between the two.

Unlike bed bugs, bat bugs are likely to be found in areas with bats. This is because they need to feed frequently. They can be seen on the ceiling, attic, walls, and so on. Bed bugs have a different habit. Since these bloodsuckers feed on human blood, they like to live a few feet away from their hosts. That said, they can be found on furniture, headboards, baseboards, and mattresses.

Controlling bat bugs is relatively easy. A pest control technician just needs to first remove bats from the residence. And then exterminate the bat bugs. Getting rid of the bats only may not help. It may influence these blood-hungry parasites to feed on humans and pets.

On the contrary, bed bug removal can get complicated as these tiny vampires are more resilient. They can go for many days without feeding. And even if you move out of your home temporally, they can wait for your return and continue feasting on you as soon as you are back.

2. Spider Beetles

If you have ever fought your way out of a bed bug infestation, sighting a spider beetle may send you into a complete frenzy. Interestingly, these insects look like bed bugs. They might even prompt you to get on the phone with your local pest control center.

After a feeding session, bed bugs appear to be larger. Their abdomens become round and fuller. And this is exactly how a spider beetle looks like.

Apart from that, spider beetles have the same color (reddish/brown) as that of bed bugs. As much as spider beetles look like bed bugs, some tend to be hairier while others have shiny bodies.

Spider beetles don’t feed on blood. Instead, they feed on foods of all types. They mostly like to eat rodent droppings and trapped insects.

It is hard for a spider beetle infestation to go unnoticed because they multiply quickly. Both bed bugs and spider beetle infestations are difficult to eradicate.

3. Booklice

Hatched bed bugs are usually translucent to white. This is the same color that most booklice have. For this reason, one can easily mistake booklice for baby bed bugs. Also, booklice have thin and long antennae.

Besides having a soft body, they are also slightly smaller than bed bugs. Booklice have wider heads than bed bugs and some of them have wings.

So where did booklice get their names? Before air conditioners were invented, it was common to find these insects in books. Bookstores without air conditioning had an accumulation of mildew. And this provided a perfect environment for these creatures because they like to live in moldy and humid areas.

Unlike the blood-sucking bed bugs, booklice feed on fungi, dead insects, pollen and mold. You can’t find booklice on your mattress or the cracks and crevices in your home. They prefer to live in damp areas. If not so, they can easily become dehydrated.

Booklice like to stay under wallpapers as well as window sills. If you encounter what you think is a baby bed bug on your window sills, you are probably mistaken. It could be booklice.

You don’t need to be worried about booklice. They won’t even bite you. The only damage they are likely to cause is contaminating your stored food. For this to happen, they’d have to be a huge number of booklice. But given that creepy, crawling insects are unsettling in most households, you’d still have to exterminate them.

4. Carpet Beetles

Carpet beetles are another type of home pest that can be mistaken for bed bugs. They like to hide in the same areas of your home as bed bugs. It is not uncommon to find them perched up on upholstered furniture and beds.

You might not be familiar with baby bed bugs, but you’ve probably seen an adult bed bug. Carpet beetles look nothing like the baby bed bugs. They are, however, almost indistinguishable with adult bed bugs.

Given that they are found in the same places as bed bugs, carpet bugs can be scary. More so, they resemble bed bugs to some extent. If you come across them, you might think that they are bed bugs. But what are carpet beetles? AnthrenusVerbasci is a tiny flat insect. Carpet beetles assume the same oval shape as bed bugs. No wonder it’s easy to mistake them for bed bugs. As they become larger, they tend to look more like furry caterpillars

Fortunately, carpet beetles don’t have the same feeding habits as bed bugs. This doesn’t mean that they are not a nuisance in your household. They have a fibrous diet that revolves around eating your cereal grains, fur, fabrics, and pet food. It is always disconcerting to have carpet bugs moving around your home.

On the surface, their color looks like that of a bed bug. It is, however shaded with unique stripes as well as light color patches. Upon closer observation, the stripes will tell you that carpet beetles are different from bed bugs. These beetles aren’t as stubborn as bed bugs. The only costly damage they can cause is destroying your fabric. Otherwise, they won’t bite and ruin your good night’s sleep.

In as much as carpet beetles don’t bite, their tiny hairs can bring about welts on your skins. This is likely to happen, especially if you are allergic.

5. Fleas

Fleas are overwhelmingly similar to bed bugs in appearance. Their shape and size bear resemblance to that of bed bugs.

Fleas have a flat body with bristles and a tough cuticle. They might be found indoors, especially if you have pets that roam outside.

When an opportunity presents itself, fleas will not shy away from biting you. And what’s even scarier is that fleas can jump.

Their bites are characterized by itchiness and the bite marks can turn into sores. Due to the itchiness that emanates from flea bites, you can easily mistake them for bed bugs. The only difference is that bed bug bite marks appear much slower than flea bites. Also, fleas are known to notoriously spread diseases. You don’t want them anywhere in your home, lest you catch some nasty disease.

6. Cockroach Nymphs 

If you were lucky enough to see a cockroach nymph in your bedroom, you would strongly believe that it’s a bed bug. Even trained professionals are sometimes convinced that cockroach nymphs are bed bugs. This can be attributed to the fact that they have a stunning resemblance to bed bugs. It is only through a close examination that they can tell the difference.

But what are cockroach nymphs? These are infant roaches that barely look like an adult cockroach. If you were told that they would later grow to resemble cockroaches, you would hardly believe it. Cockroach nymphs are slightly smaller than adult bed bugs. They are gray and white in their molting stage, but later become reddish-brown just like bed bugs.

Cockroach nymphs may not bite, but they are exceedingly active at night. That is why most people who see them at night mistake them for bed bugs.

Bed bugs are best described as apple-seed shaped. However, cockroach nymphs have a somewhat cylindrical shape. These insects have longer bodies than bed bugs. And despite being active at night, they don’t bite.

7. Swallow Bugs

Among the bed bugs impersonators, swallow bugs (PetrochelidonpyrrhonotaVieillot) bear the most similarities with bed bugs. First off, they come from the same family with bed bugs (Cimicidae).

Like bed bugs, adult swallow bugs have a reddish-brown color. Their bodies are flat and oval.

Swallow bugs feed on blood from warm-blooded animals. Nonetheless, they have a high affinity for blood from swallows.

As much as swallow bugs prefer the blood of swallows, they don’t mind feeding on a human host. In case of an empty nest, swallow bats look for another food source. During the migration of swallows, swallow bats are known to remain dormant for long periods.

Far apart from bed bugs, it is rare to find swallow bugs disrupting the comfort of your home. They prefer to stay onside cliffs and barns.

It might be confusing to differentiate these bugs. But there are telltale signs that can help you recognize a swallow bug. The most common is the fine long hair that covers its entire body. So, if you’ve encountered a hairy bug within your home, the chances are that it is a swallow bug.

8. Poultry Bugs

The Mexican chicken bug ( haematosiphoninodora) which is commonly known as poultry bug is another insect that can be mistaken for a bed bug. Like a bed bug, poultry bugs predominantly feed on blood. It is only that their chosen hosts are birds such as turkeys, chicken, red-tailed hawk, eagles, and so on.

Poultry bugs are not known to frequent homes. More so, humans are not their primary hosts. The only time they make their way to households is when humans keep getting in touch with them. You could easily carry poultry bugs into your house, especially if you rear chicken. These bugs can also move into your home if their primary host is suddenly removed. They’ll do so to look for an alternative source of food.

The appearance of a poultry bug is almost identical to that of a bed bug. The body shape and color of these bugs look alike. But there is a slight difference. While bed bugs have short beaks that elongate when feeding, poultry bugs have longer beaks.

Another notable difference between these bugs lies in their legs. Poultry bugs have visibly longer legs than bed bugs.

9. Dog ticks

In terms of appearance, ticks look like bed bugs. They both have a flat body without wings. And they depend on a blood meal for survival. Apart from that, each one of these insects has different behaviors. For instance, you’ll not find a tick in your house. Additionally, ticks have 8 legs while bed bugs only have 6.

Ticks may look like bed bugs but they come from the arachnid family. Dog ticks like to live close to animal hosts. They are not indoors pests like bed bugs.

These insects will feed at any given time, so long as they are hungry. Dog ticks prefer to embed their mouthparts on one part of your skin and feed until they are full. Luckily, you can catch up with them in the act. And if you do, it is advised that you remove them with utmost care. Dog ticks can be squished successfully, but bed bugs are much harder to squish.

On the other hand, bed bugs will come out, bite you, and scamper away for safety when you move. As soon as you are calm again, they will emerge from their hideouts and bite a different part of your body.

What’s more, is that ticks are known to transmit diseases to human hosts and animals. Bed bugs are less likely to transmit any diseases to humans.

Dog ticks are not known to infest homes. If you see one, it is a one-time problem. The same can’t be said about bugs. One bed bug is a hint that there is more hiding somewhere in your house. And if they go unnoticed, you’ll soon be dealing with a catastrophic infestation.

10. Drugstore Beetles

The drugstore beetle (stegobiumpaniceum) may be darker in color and smaller, but it looks like a bed bug. These bugs belong to the Ptinidae family. And if you see them crawling in your living room, you’ll freak out.

Drugstore beetles, which are also known as biscuit beetles can trigger a false alarm in many homes. Many are the times that these insects have caused a false alarm, only for the experts to visit the infested homes and identify them.

While bed bugs feed on blood, drug store beetles like to feed on whole grains and vegetative material. These bugs are common and don’t bite humans. For them, there is always a lot of food material to feast on once they get access to your home.

11. Lice

Like bed bugs, lice have an oval shape and a flat body. Their color may range from white to dark gray and brown, but their appearance is similar to that of a bed bug. These insects don’t fly.

There are three types of lice and they all like to stay in different areas. Body lice are commonly found in clothing items. But will attach to the host when they need to feed arises. Head lice and pubic lice prefer areas with hair.

Bed bugs are troublesome compared to lice, but you don’t want any of these bugs in your home. Lice also bite and cause itchiness. In most cases, you’ll confuse them with bed bugs.

It is uncharacteristic of them to bite you all over as they prefer to stay on your scalp. The human temperature around the scalp aids their survival. They can’t survive for too long without it.

Lice will not hide in your mattress and they aren’t as resilient as bed bugs.

Compared to bed bugs, lice tend to be lighter in color. They live for a month and feed a few times a day. Bed bugs will always feed to their maximum.

12. Flat Brown Bugs

Apart from the bugs listed above, most flat brown bugs may resemble bed bugs. Therefore, if you see bugs that are flat, reddish-brown, and small, don’t automatically conclude that they are bed bugs. Only after a thorough examination can you determine what kind of bugs they are.

It’s important to refrain from spraying any bug with bed bug pesticide before you confirm that it’s indeed a bed bug. Otherwise, you might spend money on the wrong bug.

Common Questions

1. How do I tell if a bug is a bed bug?

Misidentifying a bed bug infestation could be costly in the long run. It presents these little vampires with a chance to multiply and wreak havoc to your residence. This isn’t something that you want to deal with. It can be tasking physically, emotionally, and psychologically. That said, it is imperative to accurately identify bed bugs.

Bed bugs are tiny, flat, oval, reddish-brown parasites that feed predominantly on human blood. They are difficult to find.

During the day, you won’t see them. They remain hidden in cracks and crevices, only to come out at night and bite you.

2. Do roaches look like bed bugs?

Newly hatched roaches resemble bed bugs, but they don’t remain so for a long time. As they grow and molt, they become distinguishable from bed bugs. Just like bed bugs, adult cockroaches are most active at night. During the day, cockroaches hide in cracks and crevices. However, adult roaches are much bigger and more visible than bed bugs.

3. What is the first sign of a bed bug?

As their name suggests, bed bugs like to stay in places where the hosts spend prolonged hours. Therefore, the first sign of a bed bug appears on your bed.

The first signs of bed bugs are uncomfortable nights caused by their bites. This is followed by spots on your mattress and beddings that emanate from blood residue and fecal matter.

4. Where do bed bugs hide in your body?

Bed bugs will only approach you if you remain motionless for a significant amount of time. This may be when you are sleeping or sitting for a long time as it makes you a soft target for a blood meal. Having said that, bed bugs, unlike ticks, will not attach or hide in your body. They suck blood from you and scamper away.

5. Can you squish bed bugs easily?

It is easy to squish and kill a bed bug that has already fed. A well-fed, engorged bed bug is as soft as a cooked bean. When you squish it, it bursts and leaves a blood stain on your fingers. Squashing a bed bug that hasn’t fed for a while tends to be much difficult. A hungry bed bug has a tough shell that can withstand the pressure applied with your fingers.

When you have an ongoing bed bug infestation, you begin to notice blood spots on your beddings. The stains come from well-fed bugs that are accidentally squeezed and popped by your body, as you turn in bed.

6. What kills bed bugs instantly?

Unfortunately, there is not a single insecticide or method that you can use to kill bed bugs instantly. Not even the heat treatment that has received much acclaim lately. Bed bugs are resilient parasites that are extremely hard to eliminate.

In the past, insecticides like DDT used to be lethal bed bug killers. But bed bugs have since evolved, and become resistant to most insecticides. Their cuticles have become tougher and impenetrable for many insecticides. This only means that bed bugs can’t be killed instantly.

Most bed bug extermination methods take days or weeks to clear these parasites. Heat treatment, which is one of the most effective bed bug extermination methods takes a few hours to kill these little blood suckers.

7. What is the main cause of bed bugs?

A bed bug survives on a blood meal. Being their primary source of food makes us their main cause. By sucking human blood, these parasites can live and reproduce.

Bed bugs can’t fly, but they are excellent hitchhikers. This is how they move from one household to another. You can accidentally pick them from your friend’s house, a train or a plane, and introduce them to your home.

These parasites are attracted to the heat emitted by humans. Their most common causes include travel, urban living, and the growth in population.

8. Do bed bugs bite every night?

As to whether bed bugs bite every night, it depends on the degree of the infestation. For a light infestation, you may experience bed bug bites occasionally. But for an extreme infestation, you are likely to experience bed bug bites frequently.

Bed bugs are opportunistic parasites that emerge from their hideouts at night when you are sleeping. It is estimated that a bed bug can feed 3-10 times a night. In between these sessions, bed bugs will rest.

These parasites take turns to feed, which makes it hard to conclude that bed bugs do indeed bite every night. Without a blood meal, these creatures will remain motionless in their habitats. Their main objective is to conserve their energy until other food sources are available.

9. How long are bed bugs contagious?

Bed bugs are not contagious. They only bite you for a while and then move on. These parasites don’t live inside you. Since bed bugs can live on your clothes or other household items such as furniture, you can easily transfer them to another person. If these items are transported to another location, then the bed bugs will settle in the new location. And if they encounter other persons, they will feed on them.

10. How do bed bugs start?

Bed bugs have been around for thousands of years. And since they are good hitch riders, they move from one place to another by hiding in clothes or luggage. If you are experiencing a bed bug infestation, then most likely, a guest or someone in your household brought them from an affected area.

You don’t want to pick up bed bugs when traveling and bring them back to your house. Experts advise that you wash your clothes in a washing machine right after spending nights in hotel rooms. Also, put your suitcase on a stand whenever you sleep in motels and avoid putting your luggage anywhere near the bed.

11. Can you see bed bugs in the day time?

It is possible to see bed bugs during the day in two circumstances. One, if the infestation is large. And two, if you work during the night and rest during the day. Since they are opportunistic feeders, they adapt to your routine, meaning that they come out to feed during the day.

12. What are bed bugs attracted to?

Most parasite infestations are driven by some form of dirt in our homes. But no matter how clean or polished your home is, it isn’t immune to a bed bug infestation.

If there was one thing that attracted bed bugs, then you could easily keep them at bay. Regrettably, bed bugs are only attracted to humans. And since humans are their primary food source, these stubborn creatures will always try to get close and live next to you.

When buying old furniture, you should carry out a thorough inspection to ensure that it’s not carrying any bed bugs.

13. Are bed bugs visible?

As much as bed bugs are described as tiny, they are visible. The only challenge is that you might not be familiar with them. This can lead to you confusing them with other similar bugs.

14. Can bed bugs live in your hair?

Bed bugs have a high affinity for your blood, but certainly not your hair. As soon as they are done feeding on you, they want to get away as soon as possible. Unlike lice, bed bugs don’t have suitable claws to crawl around your hair. Your hair is too much work for them that they prefer to bite where the skin is bare.

15. What do bed bugs look like on a mattress?

Bed bugs look disgusting on a mattress. Besides live bed bugs, you’ll find residue from their fecal matter, yellow like skins, eggs, and eggshells. It is an ugly scene that you wouldn’t want to see in your bedroom. Nonetheless, it all depends on the level of infestation. The heavier it is the uglier the site.

16. Do bed bugs go away on their own?

Bed bugs are bloodthirsty parasites. The only reason they infest your home is because of your blood as well as that of your loved ones. So long as humans are living in your house, bed bugs won’t just vanish. They will stay put and keep terrorizing you. In case you move out for a while, these creatures can survive for close to a year without a blood meal. And as soon as you are back, they will resume biting you. Extermination is the only method you can use to get rid of these resilient parasites.

  1. What can be mistaken for bed bugs?

Many are the times that people misidentify bed bugs. More so, given that there are other insects that resemble them, including wood tick, spider beetles, booklice, baby roaches, and so on.

As you can see, not all creepy insects crawling around your house are bed bugs. If you come across a bug roaming around your house, don’t rush to conclusions. In case you can’t identify it, call in an expert to help you. Only then should you move to the next step, which is extermination.