Most of us already know that in the United States, bed bug infestations are on the rise. So it’s no surprise that seeing any type of small, beetle-shaped insect creeping around your home is going to set off internal alarm bells.
Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of, with many people spending hundreds of dollars on store-bought products and even thousands of dollars on professional pest control.
But before you panic and dish out the dough to rid your home of bed bugs, it’s important to make sure you actually do indeed have them.
In fact, it’s quite common for anxious homeowners to see bugs that look like bed bugs and assume the worst. With that in mind, let’s go over a list of bugs that look like bed bugs and determine if you actually are dealing with these blood sucking critters or not.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are arachnids that feed on human blood and are closely related to spiders.
Bed bugs are small arachnids closely related to scorpios, spiders and mites. They grow no larger than 2.0 mm and 2.5 mm in length, making them difficult to spot unless you know what to look for. They are brown in color, the size and shape of an apple seed, and do not have wings.
Though these pests don’t carry any transmittable diseases and are generally harmless to people and pets, they can leave behind red, itchy bumps on the skin from where they bite. But why do they bite?
Bed bugs survive on blood from a human or animal host. While they can and do feed on pets, they prefer people and, seeing as they are nocturnal, are typically known to come out at night like tiny vampires for a blood meal.
Worse, they reproduce rapidly throughout homes, with one pregnant female able to lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime. Even if a bed bug infestation begins in one section of the home, it’s not uncommon for these pests to spread throughout the home as their nests quickly become overcrowded.
Most of us won’t see bed bugs during the day and often won’t realize we have them until we either wake up with bites or physically see evidence of bed bug activity like shells, blood on sheets, feces markings, etc. (More on that further down).
This means that if you think you’ve seen a bed bug during the day, or if you have a suspicion you’ve just spotted a bed bug but have no other evidence of bed bug activity, you’re likely (and hopefully) dealing with bugs that look like bed bugs instead.
And surprisingly, there’s more bugs that look like bed bugs than you might realize.
Take a look.
Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs
The above three bugs look similar, but only one is a bed bug.
While most of the below bugs that look like bed bugs aren’t keen on living inside human homes like their arachnid counterparts, they can still find their way inside if conditions are ideal.
Coming across one of the below bugs that look like bed bugs can certainly be alarming, especially considering some of these bugs are no better than bed bugs themselves.
Still, it’s important to know exactly which type of pest you’re dealing with in order to come up with an effective remedy of removal.
Some of the most common bugs that look like bed bugs are:
Now, let’s take a closer look at bugs that look like bed bugs and learn a bit more about each one. Keep reading.
Bat bugs have longer hair than bed bugs and are generally not found in bedrooms and are found instead where bats live.
When it comes to bugs that look like bed bugs, you’ll get no closer than the bed bug’s close relative, the bat bug.
Bat bugs are nearly identical to bed bugs in size, shape and color. They are small, around 2 to 5 mm in length and look very much like an apple seed, just like their bed bug counterpart. They are also the same brownish hue with a dark center.
The only distinguishing physical features when comparing bat bugs to bed bugs is that bat bugs have longer hair, which will be impossible to see without a microscope.
So, how do you tell the difference between a bat bug and a bed bug? Pay attention to where you found the insect in question.
Bat bugs feed on bat blood, not human blood, so if you found this critter in your bedroom, you’re likely dealing with a bed bug.
Bat bugs, on the other hand, are prevalent in areas where bats live. Since bats have been known to invade our homes, including inside attics, walls, and chimneys, it could be possible to find bat bugs during or shortly after a bat infestation, but only in the area the bats were present.
The best way to get rid of bat bugs, if you’ve successfully identified them as such, is to remove the bat infestation in or around your home.
Booklice are small and often lighter in color than bed bugs. They also look more like ants or termites.
Booklice are more bugs that look like bed bugs but, unlike bat bugs, are much easier to distinguish from their blood sucking counterparts.
These insects are lighter in color than bed bugs with more elongated bodies like ants or termites. Their bodies are also segmented, with an obvious head and abdomen. Some booklice even have wings.
Like bed bugs, booklice grow to be between 1 to 6 mm long, which may be one of the reasons they are often mistaken for bed bugs. Another reason could be because booklice are often found in bedrooms or near beds.
They are highly attracted to humidity and often live inside our homes in wallpaper, books, and other moisture-rich places.
Unlike bed bugs, booklice do not bite and do not feed on blood. That said, their presence can increase the risk of breathing difficulty and chronic illnesses like asthma and allergies, especially in young children.
You can get rid of booklice by reducing the humidity levels. Booklice are highly sensitive and susceptible to dehydration, so reducing humidity to around 50% usually kills them off quite effectively. It is also recommended that you toss anything in your home that is infested.
Carpet beetles are easily to tell apart from bed bugs upon closer inspection.
Though carpet beetles look nothing like bed bugs upon closer inspection, a quick glance could raise your blood pressure momentarily.
Carpet beetles are around the same size and shape as bed bugs, and they are also the same color. Plus, carpet beetles can be found in homes and on carpets, as their name suggests.
Nymph carpet beetles look like small caterpillars with long hair, but adults look like round beetles. They are often brown and white, with six legs and an obviously segmented head. They are around 2 to 4 mm in length once mature and adults have wings and can fly.
That said, these pests are completely harmless and much easier to get rid of than bed bugs and many of the other bugs that look like bed bugs on this list.
Carpet beetles feed on natural fabrics and animal products like leather or fur, so you can generally get rid of these pests by washing clothing, vacuuming carpets, and putting down Diatomaceous Earth or other forms of natural pest control to kill and eliminate these insets.
Pro Tip – Diatomaceous Earth also works wonders for bed bugs!
Shortly after hatching, roach nymphs turn dark brown and often resemble bed bugs.
No one wants to deal with cockroaches, and while you likely wouldn’t think that these insects are bugs that look like bed bugs, you may be surprised to learn that their nymphs are often mistaken for these blood-hungry creepy crawlies.
In fact, upon hatching, white cockroach nymphs turn the same brownish color as bed bugs. They are also around the same size, averaging 3 mm in length.
Cockroach nymphs also tend to hide in the same way that bed bugs do, preferring dark cracks and crevices and scurrying about if discovered.
Unfortunately, if you do have cockroach nymphs in your home, you likely have cockroaches. The good news is that cockroaches are considered easier to manage and get rid of than bed bugs, with most people finding that routine pest control remedies combined with a good and thorough home cleaning will do the trick.
Fleas can be identified by their much smaller size and their long back legs.
It isn’t just dogs and cats who can suffer from fleas. In fact, many American households deal with fleas everyday. While most of the time our four-legged friends are the hosts of fleas, these tiny pests have been known to feed on human hosts and invade homes.
Fleas are bugs that look like bed bugs and also feed like bed bugs, but they are much smaller and prefer animal hosts to humans. When they do invade our homes, they will generally stick near their blood meal, which is often around your dog or cat’s bedding, toys, blankets, etc.
Fleas have also been known to infest carpets and bedrooms, however, so it’s important to do a full once over in your house to make sure you have checked every room for these tiny insects.
Like bed bugs, fleas can reproduce quickly. They also do not have wings and cannot fly, but they can jump. They also leave behind similar bites to those of bed bugs.
That said, fleas are simple to distinguish from bed bugs due to their size. Adult fleas are less than one eight of an inch in length and have long back legs.
Prevention is key when it comes to flea control, especially considering these pests are responsible for some serious diseases like Typhoid fever.
We recommend protecting your pets and yard using a common flea control method like flea sprays, pet flea collars and ointments. If you find fleas in your home, it’s important to wash bedding and clothing on high heat, vacuum thoroughly, and use an indoor flea control product.
Even then, we should note it can take around three to four months to fully eradicate a flea infestation inside your house.
Head Lice can look very similar to bed bugs but they are much smaller and live in head hair.
Hide lice are often considered bugs that look like bed bugs and for good reason. They are small, flat, and feed on human blood.
Like bed bugs, head lice do not have wings, cannot fly and cannot jump. They are around 2 to 3 mm in length once fully mature and reproduce rapidly, with one female able to lay around eight eggs in a single day.
However, unlike bed bugs, head lice live in hair on the head. They are also easier to get rid of as they die off quickly without a food source. With proper care, treatments and lice shampoos, you can eliminate head lice in as little as one to two days.
Spider beetles resemble spiders, but when they are brown they can also resemble bed bugs.
Spider beetles are another insect on our list of bugs that look like bed bugs due to their size and color.
They are oval in shape and the same brown color as bed bugs. Spider beetles can grow to be between one to five mm in length and, while at first glance they could be confused for their bed bug counterparts, it’s pretty simple to tell the two apart upon closer inspection.
Spider beetles only have six legs and are not the same flat shape as unfed bed bugs. (Engorged bed bugs who have just feasted on a blood meal are no longer flat).
Spider beetles are also smooth and shiny, with no ribbed pattern on their backs or bellies, like bed bugs. Plus, they prefer wood and are often found in dilapidated homes or structures that are not well kept.
To remove spider beetles, simply keep up on home maintenance and repairs, and keep your home clean. And don’t worry, though their name is somewhat alarming, spider beetles are completely harmless to people and pets.
It can be difficult to tell swallow bugs from bed bugs, especially because they can get into your home and behave similarly.
Just as bat bugs feed on bat blood, swallow bugs feed on the blood of swallows. They are most commonly found in areas where swallows nest and live, like on cliffs or in barns. And when it comes to bugs that look like bed bugs, swallow bugs look almost identical.
They too are closely related to their blood sucking cousins, sharing the same size, shape and coloring. However, unlike bed bugs, swallow bugs have longer antennae. They can also sometimes be lighter in color and appear more gray than red.
The worst part about swallow bugs is that, unlike bat bugs, they can infest homes and feed on humans. To get rid of swallow bugs, it’s best to follow the same treatment methods and routines you would use to get rid of bed bugs, which we’ll cover below.
Like bed bugs, ticks also feed on human blood.
Last on our list of bugs that look like bed bugs are ticks. While ticks are not generally known to invade our homes in large numbers like bed bugs, they do get inside homes if we unwittingly bring them in.
Ticks feast on the blood of both human and animal hosts, and they can cause serious diseases like Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
That said, not all tick bites will lead to disease, so don’t panic if you’ve been bitten by a tick. Still, we suggest contacting your doctor and letting them know you’ve been bitten so they can log it and watch you for any future symptoms.
Because ticks are most common outside of our homes, the best way to prevent them is to take proactive measures before adventuring outdoors. This includes wearing protective clothing like long pants and long sleeves, applying tick repellent spray to both you and your pets, and routinely checking yourself and your pets for ticks before going back into your house.
How To Identify True Bed Bugs From Potential Imposters
Keep in mind that bed bugs go through five life stages and look different at each life stage.
When trying to distinguish between bugs that look like bed bugs and true bed bugs, it’s important to know exactly what bed bugs look like.
Bed bugs go through five nymph stages before becoming adults, so their size and shape can vary. These stages include:
- First Stage Nymph (1.5 mm)
- Second Stage Nymph (2 mm)
- Third Stage Nymph (2.5 mm)
- Fourth Stage Nymph (3.5 mm)
- Fifth Stage Nymph (4.5 mm)
As we mentioned above, adult bed bugs are the size and shape of an apple seed, and often light to dark brown with an even darker center. When engorged with blood, bed bugs are even larger and their bodies become elongated.
Bed bugs do not have wings, cannot fly and cannot jump. They have six legs and a short antenna.
Another way to determine if you are dealing with true bed bugs vs bugs that look like bed bugs is to understand bed bugs’ habits.
You usually won’t see bed bugs during the day, and if you do it means you probably already have a pretty serious infestation. You can look for more signs of bed bug activity by:
- Setting Bed Bug Traps
- Stripping Your Bedding
- Checking Other Rooms and Furniture Including Cribs, Couches, Pillows, Etc.
You can also identify bed bugs by looking for:
- Bed Bug Bites
- Noticing Blood Marks On Your Sheets
- Finding Small, Black Spots On Bedding
- Finding Shed Bed Bug Skins
- Finding Bed Bug Egg Casings
- Spotting Live Bed Bugs In Your Home
The below video goes over how to identify true bed bugs in more detail.
How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs – Products We Recommend
Getting rid of true bed bugs may require specific products.
Getting rid of bed bugs and sometimes even the bugs that look like bed bugs can be difficult, but there are products that are known to work well.
Some of the below products are specifically designed for bed bug use only while other products can be used to help get rid of many of the above bugs that look like bed bugs as well.
HARRIS Bed Bug Glue Traps
Glue traps are an important tool you can use when trying to identify bed bugs because they help capture the pest and allow you to closely inspect it. Glue traps like the above HARRIS Bed Bug Glue Trap will work for a number of bugs that look like bed bugs and can help you determine if you are indeed dealing with bed bugs or if you have another pest problem on your hands.
What we like best about using glue traps for pest control is that they are a safe and natural way to monitor your pest problem without the use of harsh chemicals. They also allow you to ensure you are indeed dealing with the pest you are treating so that treatment is more effective in the long run.
Diatomaceous Earth Crawling Insect Killer
Diatomaceous Earth is made of fossilized algae, so it’s a natural and safe bed bug killer that works not only for bed bugs but for most hard bodied insects. It works by penetrating the exoskeleton of pests like roaches, bed bugs, beetles, ants, and even spiders, which dehydrates and kills them.
This product comes in a powder form that is safe to use both inside and outside of the home. It is also safe for people, pets and the environment and is simple to apply and clean up. However, it only works on contact so you will need to apply it directly around your bed and bedroom to ensure bed bugs crawl through it. It also works best when dry, so reapply it if it gets wet.
HARRIS 5 Minute Bed Bug Killer
The above bed bug killer by HARRIS is an insecticide killer that contains chemical ingredients which can be harmful to people and pets if not used correctly. That said, it is an effective and quick treatment against bed bugs in all their life stages.
It is made for use indoors and specifically to use against bed bugs. However, it should be used only as directed and kept out of reach of children and pets.
Tips On Preventing Bed Bugs And Other Pests
Whether you have bed bugs or you have bugs that look like bed bugs, dealing with pests can be aggravating, expensive, time consuming and stressful. Often, it’s easier to prevent pests than it is to get rid of them.
With that in mind, let’s go over a few tips and tricks you can use to keep bed bugs and bugs that look like bed bugs out of your home for good.
- Keep Up On Routine Home Maintenance
- Keep Your Home Clean and Reduce Clutter
- Vacuum and Sweep Often
- Wash Clothing and Bedding Routinely, Especially After Traveling
- Use Bed Bug Mattress Protectors
- Avoid Buying Second Hand Clothing or Furniture Without Careful Inspection
- Use A Year-Round Pest Control Remedy To Protect Your Home and Loved Ones
We hope this has been a helpful guide on how to identify bugs that look like bed bugs. We also sincerely hope you’re not dealing with the real deal. Stay safe, sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite!
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.