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, there are more bugs that look like bed bugs than you might expect. While the complete list could be quite long, the short list is fleas, immature roaches, booklice, carpet beetles, bat bugs and ticks.
So, how can you know if that minuscule visitor was really 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 in color.
- 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 their own, it’s natural for your brain to immediately jump to the conclusion that you have bed bugs. 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 cracks in your bed that bed bugs might occupy.
However, unlike bed bugs, roach nymphs are usually cylindrical rather than oval.
In terms of behavior, you don’t really have to worry about getting bitten by a cockroach nymph. What you should worry about, though, is the fact that nymphs 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 they resort to seeking professional help to resolve the problem. If you see a nymph—in your bed or otherwise—call an expert in quickly to deal with the problem before your population multiplies.
Booklice also go by the name psocids, a shorthand for Psocidae, the family to which these insects belongs.
In its younger (nymph) stage, a booklouse is strikingly similar to a bed bug. 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 quite attracted to damp books. If your bed or bedding is damp, you could find them nearby.
Contrary to what the common name might indicate, booklice are not true 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 like 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—especially, 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. The way to handle a carpet beetle infestation is similar to how you might deal with other unwelcome insect houseguests: frequent 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 in an expert is probably a good idea.
Spider beetles—which are not actually 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 all kinds of foods. So while you may clean out your pantry, you may not realize these beetles are actually feeding on insects within your walls, animal droppings in your attic or a nest in your crawl space. If you continue to see a lot of them after addressing 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 and only if they think someone is resting or sleeping in bed. Generally speaking, they won’t remain onto your skin after feeding, and they mostly attack those parts of your skin that are actually in contact with the bed or beddings.
That being said, it is technically possible that you could find bed bugs hidden in or under your clothes, but that’s rare. So, what are those tiny black bugs you might 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 a naked human eye. In fact, the only observable difference between them 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’re probably not going to 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 there are no other hosts nearby.
Since it’s virtually impossible for the average homeowner to tell a bat bug from a bed bug, the best thing you can do is to collect one and hold on to it until you can have a pest control specialist take a look for proper identification. If it’s bat activity that 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 in the absence of 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, right?
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 a number of dangerous diseases to humans.
Also, when a tick bites a host to feed, they tend to cling onto the host until they are completely satisfied. If a bug just 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 make sure 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 are most likely going to 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: the fact that they will both bite you and suck your blood.
If you start getting bitten at night and have a pet, fleas are probably the culprit. 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
Still having trouble deciding what you’ve been seeing? When determining whether the intruder was a bed bug or not, 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 to 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 between a quarter and almost a half inch in length.
- A flea is a bit smaller, measuring about an eighth of an inch long.
- A black carpet beetle is even smaller, reaching between 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 in at 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 very difficult to distinguish its wing pads.
- A flea has no wings, but its jumping ability is very well-developed.
- A black carpet beetle has wings.
- A booklouse can’t fly, and it’s very difficult to distinguish its wing pads.
- A spider beetle has wings.
What Does the Bug Eat?
Chances are that the reason you noticed one of these tiny bugs in the first place is that 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—mostly human.
- A flea feeds on blood—mostly from furry mammals such as cats and dogs, but humans can be a host.
- 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 that you will ever deal with in your home. Because of this, it’s vital to quickly handle any possible infestation as quickly 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 not sure and you’re having trouble catching any of the pests, our experts can assess the situation and implement an effective treatment plan as soon as possible.