Pests Most Commonly Mistaken for Bed Bugs

The Common Bed Bug is a member of the arthropod family; they are small, oval- shaped insects with 6 legs, one pair of antenna, and no wings.  Bed bugs are red to brown in color and very flat, unless they have fed which will make them look rounded. In addition to the adults, there are 5 progressively smaller immature stages.  All stages feed upon the blood of humans and to a lesser degree, many of the warm-blooded animals that live with humans.  Bed bugs tend to live in groups in close proximity to human sleeping areas. Infested areas typically contain varying sizes of bed bugs along with shed skins (casts), black (fecal) spots and red (blood) spots. 

There are two groups of arthropods that can be confused with The Common Bed Bug when identification is attempted. Within each of these groups are a host of pests that can easily be mistaken for a bed bug, particularly if you are unfamiliar with specific physical characteristics of bed bugs.

The Common Bed Bug is a true bug, and as is characteristic of this group of insects, has piercing sucking mouthparts for feeding upon blood.  There is a whole host of similar species, which look a lot like bed bugs but typically feed on  hosts other than humans.  The Tropical Bed Bug also uses humans as hosts but is not typically found in the continental United States.  There are also: bat bugs, pigeon bugs, chimney swift bugs, poultry bugs, and swallow bugs which can all be easily mistaken for a bed bug, particularly to the layman’s eye.  If these other species of bugs infest the roost or nest of their hosts, it is possible for these bugs to attempt to feed on humans, especially if their natural (preferred) host is not available. The identification of all of these bugs is based upon characteristics associated with hairs on the insect.  Identification may be difficult and should be left to a trained entomologist who will use a microscope and identification keys to properly identify the insect.

Other arthropods may be confused with bed bugs because of their shape and size.  The following are commonly mistaken for a bed bug:  small immature cockroaches, carpet beetles, ticks, book lice, and spider beetles.  The ticks are the only ones in the group that suck blood and they also are very flat until they feed where they also become more rounded.  Ticks are not insects; they are of the arachnid family along with spiders and scorpions. Ticks have no antenna, and the most immature form has 6 legs but all of the larger forms have 8 legs.

If you are concerned about bed bugs and unsure if a pest found may be a bed bug contact us today, we will gladly assist you in a proper identification.

< Back