The idea of a bug sharing the space where you sleep is not one to take lightly—especially if it’s one that bites! If you spotted a tiny bug wandering around your bedroom, your first instinct might have been to assume that it is a bed bug. However, more bugs look like bed bugs than you might expect. While the complete list could be pretty long, the shortlist is fleas, immature roaches, booklice, carpet beetles, bat bugs, and ticks.
So, how can you know if that minuscule visitor was a bed bug? Here are a few characteristics of bed bugs that can tip you off to the presence of these bloodsucking creatures:
- Adults are reddish-brown to black.
- A bed bug that hasn’t had a blood meal recently is usually oval-shaped and flat. After feeding, these parasites will swell up, become longer and change color to redder to match their food source—blood.
- Newly hatched bed bug nymphs appear translucent. Their color changes as they molt; they eventually become brown.
- These pests are wingless, and their body length is approximately a quarter to just under half an inch. The body width of an adult is just about the same as its length.
- Bed bugs look like apple seeds after feeding.
Now that we’ve described bed bugs, we’ll go into more detail about these lookalikes and advise what to do if you find these bugs in your home.
What Are Those Tiny Black Bugs In My Bed That Aren’t Bed Bugs?
If a bug has decided to make your resting spot its own, it’s natural for your brain to jump to the conclusion that you have bed bugs immediately. But there are a number of similar household bugs in Florida and other parts of the country that might find their way into your sleeping quarters.
Like bed bugs, these insects are often reddish-brown and can almost be the same size as an adult bed bug. To make distinguishing the two creatures even more confusing, these immature roaches like to hide in cracks and crevices, so you might find them in the same impossibly tight gaps in your bed that bed bugs might occupy.
However, roach nymphs are usually cylindrical rather than oval, unlike bed bugs.
In terms of behavior, you don’t have to worry about getting bitten by a cockroach nymph. What you should worry about, though, is the fact that larvae are newly hatched cockroaches and a red flag for possible roach infestations. Homeowners who want to know how to get rid of cockroaches often try home remedies unsuccessfully before seeking professional help to resolve the problem. If you see a nymph—in your bed or otherwise—call an expert quickly to deal with the problem before your population multiplies.
Booklice also goes by the name psocids, a shorthand for Psocidae, the family to which these insects belongs.
A booklouse resembles a bed bug in its younger (nymph) stage. Adult booklice, however, differ from bed bugs by having a termite-like appearance. Their bodies are long and soft with thin antennae. They may also have wings.
Booklice like humid areas and are pretty attracted to damp books. If your bed or bedding is wet, you could find them nearby.
Contrary to what the common name might indicate, booklice are not actual lice since they are not parasites. Why does this matter? A booklouse won’t bite you. It also doesn’t transmit any diseases to humans. However, if you feel you’re being overrun, you can try vacuuming infested areas, reducing the humidity inside your house by opening doors and windows, and discarding infested food. If these initial efforts don’t succeed, your best bet is to contact a pest control expert.
Of all the bed bug “wannabes” here, the carpet beetle is probably the one that least resembles a bed bug, but we’re mentioning them because these bugs can end up in your bedroom. The antennae and hard exoskeleton are dead giveaways that it’s a carpet beetle in your home instead of a bed bug. The carpet beetle’s body is black or dark brown and may or may not have white patterns and reddish-orange scales. Their bodies also have tiny hairs.
Typically, these beetles are found on fabrics—primarily, as you might suspect, the carpet. These insects are often brought indoors on fresh-cut flowers. Even though a carpet beetle may stray onto your bed, there’s almost zero chance you’ll get bit.
However, the bug can precipitate allergic dermatitis in sensitive people. Also worth noting: carpet beetles can eat and destroy your fabrics. How to handle a carpet beetle infestation is similar to how you might deal with other unwelcome insect houseguests: frequently vacuuming and cleaning your floors, then promptly emptying what ends up in your vacuum canister in your outside trash. You can also inspect cut flowers to make sure you aren’t unknowingly bringing in some hitchhikers. If you still find unusually high numbers of carpet beetles in your home after taking these steps, calling an expert is probably a good idea.
Spider beetles—not spiders—are most commonly found in wooden structures, especially near places where food is stored. They resemble bed bugs in that they are oval and can be any color from brown to reddish-brown to almost black.
That being said, they’re distinguishable from bed bugs by their wings, the fact that they’re covered with hairs, and because they have no “neck” (their heads connect directly to their bodies).
Spider beetles don’t bite, and they’re not considered a serious pest. The best way to keep these insects away is to remove infested food items. However, spider beetles are foragers that will go after various foods. So while you may clean out your pantry, you may not realize these beetles feed on insects within your walls, animal droppings in your attic, or a nest in your crawl space. If you continue to see many of them after addressing the usual problem areas, hiring a pro can help.
Tiny Black Bugs On Skin—Are They Bed Bugs?
Good (or bad) news: Those tiny black bugs on your skin are probably not bed bugs.
Bed bugs are nighttime marauders. They mostly come out to feed at night, only if they think someone is resting or sleeping. Generally speaking, they won’t remain on your skin after feeding, and they mainly attack those parts of your skin that are in contact with the bed or beddings.
That being said, finding bed bugs hidden in or under your clothes is technically possible, but that’s rare. So, what tiny black bugs might you see on your skin? There are a few possibilities.
Scientifically known as Cimex pilosellus, the bat bug is a very close relative of the bed bug. The two are essentially indistinguishable from each other to the naked human eye. The only observable difference is the long fringe hairs below the bat bug’s head.
Bat bugs are usually parasitic to bats. They don’t live on bats but rather next to bat nests. Bat bugs invade human environments only when bats have been exterminated, chased away, or left their nests. This means unless you’re close to bat nests, you’ll probably not see them.
What if you do have bats in your area, though? Or even just dealt with a bat infestation in your home?
They could be an issue, as bat bugs will bite humans and suck their blood if no other hosts are nearby.
Since the average homeowner can’t tell a bat bug from a bed bug, the best thing you can do is collect one and hold on to it until you can have a pest control specialist look for proper identification. If bat activity has brought bat bugs into your home, you’ll also likely want to call in an experienced pest professional to relocate these winged mammals since they pose health risks to humans. The good news is that bat bugs cannot reproduce without their preferred host, so any infestation you might have after moving bats off your property will likely be short-lived.
Most of the tick species that are likely to invade your home are tiny. Additionally, most will have a reddish-brown appearance. Sounds a lot like bed bugs.
Except that the biggest problems with bed bugs are usually that they’re annoying and really, really hard to get rid of. Ticks, in contrast, can transmit some dangerous diseases to humans.
Also, when a tick bites a host to feed, they tend to cling onto the host until they are delighted. If a bug isn’t letting go, assume it’s a tick and do not try to pull it off.
Given the disease-transmission risk associated with ticks, it is highly recommended that you visit a health center as soon as you discover a tick on your body and have your home inspected to ensure there are no other ticks that may have made their way into your home.
Fleas: The Most Common Tiny Black Bugs That Bite In The House
The most notorious blood-suckers that look like bed bugs and will most likely bite you at home are fleas.
That’s right. You thought they were just Fido’s problem, but nope.
How closely do fleas resemble bed bugs?
Measuring a mere one-eighth of an inch, fleas usually look like minute jumping dots. They don’t have wings, are black to reddish-brown, oval, and their bodies are flattened vertically.
These two creatures are similar in the most noticeable way: they will bite you and suck your blood.
Fleas are probably the culprit if you start getting bitten at night and have a pet. And if they’re biting you, there’s a good chance that things have gotten past the flea collar stage, and you may want to call in a pest control company to pinpoint the source of your infestation and implement treatment measures both inside your home and out in your yard.
Bugs Mistaken For Bed Bugs: Questions To Ask Yourself
You are still, having trouble deciding what you’ve been seeing? When determining whether the intruder was a bed bug, you may want to ask yourself a series of questions.
Did The Bug Bite?
Check yourself for bite marks. Marks are one of the first telltale signs of a bed bug infestation. A bed bug’s bite leaves behind small, red, itchy bumps, rather similar to a mosquito bite. Of course, there are differences between bed bug bites and mosquito bites. In addition, there is a long list of other insects that can bite, too, including a flea. Because of this, the next thing you should do is attempt to hunt down the culprit and examine its other features more closely.
What Color Is The Bug?
Looking closely, what do you see? Review these distinguishing characteristics to help you decide which bug is in your home:
- A mature bed bug has a copper-brown color, while nymphs are translucent white.
- A flea has a reddish-brown-to-black color.
- A carpet beetle is black-brown.
- A booklouse may vary in color, ranging from gray to light to colorless.
- A spider beetle is reddish-brown.
What Size Is The Bug?
These differences can be difficult to detect with the naked eye, but size can sometimes help confirm or deny what you suspect you’ve seen. Keep in mind that:
- A bed bug measures a quarter and almost a half inch in length.
- A flea is smaller, measuring about an eighth of an inch long.
- A black carpet beetle is even smaller, reaching one-eighth and one-sixteenth of an inch long.
- A booklouse is often too small to see with the naked eye, being at most one-eighth of an inch in length.
- A spider beetle can measure anywhere between one-sixteenth of an inch and about a quarter inch long.
What Shape Is The Bug?
Sometimes, the shape of the insect can aid identification. Here are some pointers:
- A bed bug is horizontally-flat, with an oval contour and four-segmented antennae.
- A flea is vertically-flat with an oval contour.
- A black carpet beetle is oval with a tapered, hairy bottom.
- A booklouse has a ridged bottom and three body segments.
- A spider beetle has a globe-shaped bottom and two body segments.
Does The Bug Have Wings?
Can they fly? Here’s a rundown of these indoor insects and whether they have wings:
- A bed bug can’t fly, and it’s tough to distinguish its wing pads.
- A flea has no branches, but its jumping ability is very well-developed.
- A black carpet beetle has branches.
- A booklouse can’t fly, so distinguishing its wing pads is tough.
- A spider beetle has wings.
What Does the Bug Eat?
Chances are that you noticed one of these tiny bugs in the first place because you were bitten. Let’s review the preferred food sources of these creatures to determine whether they are likely to stick around our living spaces:
- A bed bug feeds on blood—primarily humans.
- A flea feeds on blood—mostly from furry mammals such as cats and dogs, but humans can be hosts.
- A black carpet beetle eats fabric, carpets, and stored foods.
- A booklouse feeds on mold and fungi.
- A spider beetle eats droppings, seeds, and whole grains.
ABC Can Help With Your Bug Problem
Of all the bugs we’ve described, bed bugs are likely the most resilient blood-suckers you will ever deal with in your home. Because of this, it’s vital to quickly handle any possible infestation as soon as possible by calling in an experienced pest control professional. ABC Home & Commercial Services has been helping families with bed bug infestations and other unwanted insect houseguests for decades. If you’re unsure or having trouble catching pests, our experts can assess the situation and implement an effective bed bug treatment plan as soon as possible.