Bed bugs and fleas. Both are blood-thirsty parasites, and they can both make life miserable. Hopefully, you’ll never encounter either in your home. But should you ever feel just a little too itchy or begin to see bites on your body, how will you know which bug is bugging you?
Fleas or Bed Bugs?
Bed Bugs or Fleas?
If you’ve ever experienced a flea bite, you probably noticed the bite right away. However, bed bug bites aren’t usually noticed until some time after the initial bite. A bed bug’s saliva contains an anesthetic that prevents you from feeling it’s bite. Good one, bed bug. Good one.
Also, bed bug bites are most commonly noticed on the face, neck, arms, and hands. Unless a person moves around quite a bit while they sleep, these bites will also appear in more of a line than a cluster. Flea bites will usually show up as small groupings.
That being said, everyone reacts differently to bed bug bites. In some people, serious allergic reactions and secondary skin infections can occur, while in others, it may take up to two weeks after exposure for the bites to even show up. Some people may never see a red mark at all, even if they’ve been bitten.
How Did They get Here - Bed Bugs and Fleas Travel Differently
Flea infestations usually occur when you have pets living in your home. Fleas simply prefer
dining on pets while bed bugs like to dine on human blood. No pets around? Fleas will take a bite out of you, but they’ll go for Fido or Fifi first. Unfortunately, you don’t have to live with pets to have a flea infestation, and in fact, they can come in to your yard or home by hitching rides on rodents, jumping on to your shoes or socks, or sneaking in through cracks and crevices in doors and walls. Apartment and condominium units that share walls and outdoor space can be particularly challenging to de-flea because treatment works best when pets, carpets, bedding, and outdoor areas are all treated simultaneously and maintained consistently. Exercise caution when moving in to a new dwelling where previous tenants might have had issues with either pest. Fleas can live for several months without a meal and bed bugs can exist without eating for up to a year.
Bed bug infestations almost always start with your belongings. Typically, bed bugs travel in your luggage, backpack, or handbag. Bed bug infestations can also often be traced to furniture- mattresses, couches, chairs- wood, fabric, or metal- bed bugs are just fine hitching a ride on any of these surfaces.
Bed bug infestations almost always start with your belongings. Flea infestations usually occur when you have pets living in your home.
Looking For Someone? Bed Bug or Flea- You Can Tell the Difference
Fleas and bed bugs are similar in color, a reddish brown, but upon close inspection, they don’t look all that much alike. Fleas are thin and appear flat, while bed bugs have oblong bodies. Adult fleas measure around 2mm-3mm in length, and adult bed bugs are about 4mm-5mm.
So, how will you know what’s bugging you? If you have pets, carefully comb through their fur with a flea comb. You may find fleas or evidence of fleas in the form of what’s commonly
referred to as “flea dirt” which is a little-less gross way of saying flea poop. If you’re looking for bed bugs, to begin, you’ll want to check your mattress for evidence of the parasite. The EPA has created this helpful article for guidance. Monitoring for bed bugs is an important part of keeping your home (and most importantly, you) bed bug-free!