OMG, you just found a bug on your bed - it must be bed bugs - or is it? Often, when a person observes a bug crawling across their bed, they automatically assume it's a bed bug. This assumption makes sense: a bug in your bed must be a bed bug. But, in many cases, it's not.
There are many bugs that look like bed bugs, and are commonly found in homes and resemble a bed bug's size, shape, and color.
Keep reading this article before you panic. We will cover what bed bugs look like and some common bed bug lookalikes.
Why It Matters
Why does it matter what kind of bug is in your bed? Regardless of what it is, it shouldn't be hanging out where you sleep.
Well, it is essential because the most crucial factor for the success of any treatment plan is correctly identifying the problem bug. Treatments can be very different for different insects in both approach and cost. You could end up paying for a costly bed bug treatment to treat carpet beetles, which requires a different approach.
Unfortunately, regular misidentification by homeowners and even Pest Control Professionals costs Americans a ton of money annually. They are treating for bed bugs when the actual problem is related to such things as Carpet Beetles, Book Lice, or even Cockroaches.
The scary part is that this "not knowing" or assuming can lead to extensive and hard-to-eliminate bed bug infestations.
Bed Bug Bites
First, let's talk about the bites. Yes, even the bed bug bites can be mistaken pretty easily.
Many people assume that any unidentified bite is from mosquitos. Bed bug bites resemble other bug bites in appearance and feel, so, understandably, people may not realize that they have a bed bug problem. There are a few telltale signs that your itchy bite is from a bed bug.
Here are signs to look for:
- Bed bugs prefer exposed skin around the neck, arms, hands, legs, and face.
- Bites are small, raised welts that are itchy and similar to a mosquito bite with many of the same reactions.
- However, bed bugs are different from other bugs in their bite pattern.
- Their triangular or lateral patterns of 3 bites set them apart from mosquitos.
- Often referred to as "breakfast, lunch, and dinner," the three closely clumped bites are often one of the first ways doctors and victims identify a bed bug bite.
Most of the time, bed bug bites heal in a few days. However, some people can have a more severe allergic reaction that requires medical attention. It's not unheard of to develop blisters and welts that become inflamed, infected, and require medical intervention. An anaphylactic reaction is also possible and needs the bite victim to go to the hospital immediately.
A small percent of the population doesn't react to bed bug bites and may never realize they are getting bit. Some people who take regular antihistamines may not respond to bites. And some may have a delayed response weeks later.
Bed Bug Identification
First, we'll look closely at the bed bug's physiology from egg to adult.
Bed Bug Egg
This is a photo of a bed bug egg, highly magnified. You can see the tiny "hatch lid" at the end, where the bed bug will emerge.
Bed Bug Nymph
Once they hatch, young nymphs' bodies are translucent. They always need a blood meal to transition from one nymph stage to the next.
Bed Bug Casting (Exuvia)
As they "outgrow" their previous skin, it molts and sheds off, leaving these skins behind.
Adult Bed Bugs
Full-grown bed bug (Left: Female / Right: Male)
Bed Bug Lifecycle
Bed bugs have five nymph stages before becoming fully developed adults. Each step requires a blood meal to move to the next stage. There is a molting process during each stage that will produce a casing. The bed bug will emerge from each molting slightly larger and darker in color.
Bed Bug Look Alikes
Now that you know what bed bugs look like in all stages of development. Let's look at "other" bugs that resemble the bed bug.
Carpet beetles are small, round, and brown and have distinct wings (bed bugs don't have wings). Their larvae (right) resemble furry little caterpillars. Carpet beetles do not bite; however, some people experience an allergic reaction to the tiny hair that covers them and develop welts in response.
Ticks are parasites that rely on the blood of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians for sustenance. They can transmit various diseases to both humans and animals.
Bed Bug vs Cockroach Nymphs (Baby Cockroach)
Cockroach nymphs hide in cracks and crevices near food, warmth, and moisture. They are more cylindrical than bed bugs, which are shorter, oval, or small, and apple-seed-like in form. They are most active at night and appear white after hatching or molting, quickly turning reddish brown. Exposure to cockroaches can lead to asthma and trigger asthma attacks.
Booklice are small, often translucent insects that feed on fungi, pollen, mold, and dead insects. They are commonly mistaken for bed bug nymphs. They are usually found under wallpaper or along the sides of windows and windowsills.
Earwigs have a pair of forceps-like pincers that protrude from their abdomen. They use pincers to capture prey and defend themselves. Male pincers are curved, while females are straight.
- Always keep the suspected bug (don't flush it!), and have it verified by a professional.
- Remember, discovering bed bugs early can help you eliminate them BEFORE they breed into a large infestation. It will always be cheaper to treat small infestations than a large one.
- Always keep an eye out during your regular cleaning. This effort will save you money and time.
- Bed Bug Lifecycles, ID Cards, and Bed Bug ID Projector Pens,
are available from many pest professionals; Click here to get one.
- Some pest control companies offer free bug identification on their website or by text. Talk to your local pest professionals.
We're here to help! If you find bed bugs in your home, at your business, or place of work, make sure the Convectex website is your first stop.