Bedbug Phonies and Fakes

All it takes is seeing small bugs scurrying at the edges of a room or the sudden appearance of irritating bumps on your body to get the worry wheels turning when it comes to bedbugs. But don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions.

There are several other indoor pests that resemble bedbugs, so just because you see something that looks like a bedbug doesn’t mean that you have an infestation (thank goodness!). We’re here to help you identify insects commonly mistaken for bedbugs.

WHAT IS A BEDBUG?

Bedbugs are parasitic insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals while they sleep. Adult bedbugs are the size of an apple seed with a reddish-brown coloring. They have a flat, oval-shaped body that can balloon after feeding.

These critters are skilled hiders, which allows them to easily grow in numbers before being discovered. Even though they do leave behind traces of their presence, a bedbug infestation cannot be diagnosed until an actual bug is found.

Signs bedbugs leave behind are brown-colored stains (blood or excrement), skins, or eggs. When bedbugs are present, their evidence is usually found along mattress seams and headboards, at the edges of carpeting, in furniture cracks, and in crevices in a room.

Bedbugs can be spotted with the naked eye, though the eggs and nymphs may be harder to see. Correctly identifying a bedbug problem is critical since treatment can be time consuming and at times costly. Taking the wrong approach to any insect infestation can not only cause frustration, but also give bugs the time they need to breed and grow in number.

Here are some of the insects that resemble bedbugs:

CARPET BEETLES

What do they look like?
Carpet beetles are oval-shaped beetles that can grow up to 1/8-inch long and range from black coloring to patterns of white, brown, yellow, and orange. These small insects are mostly known for the destruction caused by their larvae. Though adult carpet beetles have a taste for pollen, their larvae prefer to feed on carpet, wool, felt, and other similar items. Carpet beetle larvae will leave behind molted skins and fecal pellets as they feed and develop.

Where do you find them?
Carpet beetles lay eggs on fabric items. They’re found on stored clothing in the back of a closet, areas where pet hair congregates, and even on taxidermy. An ideal spot for carpet beetle larvae are spaces that are dark and undisturbed. Adult carpet beetles may congregate on windowsills, which is a good indication to check for signs of the larvae.

Why are they mistaken for bedbugs?
The shape and coloring of bedbugs and carpet beetles differ, but one commonality is the places they choose to hide. Like bedbugs, carpet beetles can often be found along the edges of carpets or furniture. Carpet beetles, however, don’t bite. Another way to tell these look-alikes apart is by whether or not they have wings. Carpet beetles have wings, but bedbugs don’t. If you see a bug flying inside your home, you can rest assured that it is not a bedbug.

FLEAS

What do they look like?
Fleas are tiny (1/16 of an inch) and brown to reddish-brown color. Their long hind legs allow them to jump up to six inches vertically (quite a feat for such a small insect!). Fleas feed on the blood of animals and humans and can eat up to 15 times their body weight in blood in a single day. Their bites can cause skin irritation, rashes, and itchy bumps. Within 24 hours of finding a host, fleas can mate and lay eggs, allowing them to multiply quickly. Pest management for fleas may require an indoor and outdoor approach depending on the severity of the infestation.

Where do you find them?
Fleas prefer the blood of animals to humans, so households with outdoor pets may find fleas in indoor areas their pet commonly visits. Pets can transport fleas from kennels, groomers, or flea-infested wildlife. Flea infestations can also happen in lawns. The “White Sock Test” is a great way to diagnose this type of infestation. Walk around your property with white athletic socks pulled up as high as they can go on your legs. If fleas are present, they will latch on to the socks and can be seen on top of the white background.

Why are they mistaken for bedbugs?
Though their coloring is similar, one reason a flea infestation may be mistaken for bedbugs is because both species rely upon and feed on a host. Flea bites may produce similar itchy welts to the ones bedbugs cause on some people. If you get close enough, it can be relatively easy to spot the difference in shape a flea has to a bedbug. And if you see the suspected bug jump, you can eliminate bedbugs as a possibility.

SPIDER BEETLES

What do they look like?
As their name suggests, spider beetles resemble spiders with their long legs and round abdomens. These insects feed and breed on a multitude of organic material that can range from dried fruits to taxidermy. The three different species of spider beetles only grow up to around 4 millimeters. Like many stored-food pests, the elimination of this insect depends greatly on finding and getting rid of its food source.

Where do you find them?
Spider beetles prefer dark, damp areas. When indoors, they tend to gravitate toward attics, within cracks in floorboards or walls, and in other similar locations. Commercially, they are mostly found in bakeries and granaries.

Why are they mistaken for bedbugs?
Besides their small size and rounded shape, spider beetles have a reddish-brown coloring, similar to that of bedbugs. They are also elusive like bedbugs and primarily feed at night, so spotting one may be rare. Unlike bedbugs, spider beetles do not bite.

Other bedbug look-alikes include bat bugs, booklice, and swallow bugs. However, these critters are seldom found within homes, and it’s unlikely that many people will come into contact with them.

Treating your home for a variety of seasonal or nuisance pests can be a challenging task to take on yourself. No matter what pest you come across—inside or outside your home—our pest control experts are ready to help! Give us a call to schedule an inspection.

SOURCES

https://joshuaspestcontrol.com/blog/how-to-prevent-bedbugs/
https://pestseek.com/bugs-that-look-like-bed-bugs/
https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/spider-beetles
https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef602
https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef601