10 Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs, But Definitely Aren't

<p>JasonOndreicka / Getty Images</p>

JasonOndreicka / Getty Images

Bed bugs aren’t the easiest to identify. They mostly hide during the day and come out at night like many other pests. Plus, their bites can take several days to show up and often look like those of fleas and mosquitos.

Further complicating things, there are a handful of small bugs that closely resemble bed bugs yet each one should be managed differently.

So, how do you know if the intruder is actually a bed bug? Below, we’ve listed 10 bugs that look like bed bugs and included their key differences to help you differentiate them.

How To Identify Bed Bugs

Visually, adult bed bugs have a rusty brown, oval body—somewhat resembling a flattened apple seed. They’re visible to the naked eye and typically range from 3/16 to ¼ inches in length.

Once fed, these insects inflate like a balloon and turn reddish-brown. Conversely, immature bed bugs (or nymphs) are cream-colored and can be as small as 1.5 mm, sometimes almost invisible when on an empty stomach.

Bed bugs can neither fly nor jump, but their crawling skills make up for it. They can crawl across ceilings, climb along walls, and even scale bed frames to reach their favorite feeding ground: the mattress.


If you've seen bugs in your home that look like bedbugs but you're unsure, consider where you found the bug and what could be attracting them to help differentiate between different bugs.

Besides that, these bloodsucking pests also tend to hide inside upholstered chairs, sofas, headboards, and wall voids—basically anywhere dark, protected, and close to their human host.

Apart from the bed bugs themselves, other signs of an infestation include black waste spots, reddish smears, pale yellow discarded skins, and pearl-colored eggs.

If none of these identification tips apply, here are 10 other options for what bugs may be in your home.


<p>Pat Gaines / Getty Images</p>

Pat Gaines / Getty Images

Both of these parasitic pests are tiny, wingless, oval-shaped, and similar in color.

The main difference, though, is that fleas are flattened from side to side rather than top to bottom. They have large and long back legs that they use for jumping, while bed bug legs are thin and generally no longer than their bodies.

Characteristically, fleas are more likely to reside in pets but often inhabit household furnishings too.


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Booklice are small insects that get their name from their love of humid books. Unlike bed bugs, they do not feast on humans and animals but prefer mold and fungi instead.

Appearance-wise, these pests are also flat and white-grayish/yellowish, which makes them easy to confuse with bed bug nymphs. The key distinction between these two is that booklice have wings and bigger heads compared to bed bugs.

Spider Beetle

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As you would expect, spider beetles look like spiders—they have long legs and a bulbous abdomen. Regardless, these insects are often mistaken for engorged bed bugs due to their tiny size and dark reddish-brown coloring.

Bed bugs are flatter, less shiny, and slightly larger by a few millimeters. Their habits greatly differ too, with spider beetles feeding on anything plant and animal-related, from carcasses to feathers to cereals.


<p>Nataba / Getty Images</p>

Nataba / Getty Images

Other than a similar reddish to dark brown color and flat appearance, ticks and bed bugs are relatively different in various aspects.

For instance, ticks aren’t insects, but arachnids. As arachnids, they have eight legs, while bed bugs possess six. Moreover, their bodies become lighter in color after a blood meal, in contrast to bed bugs that get darker.

Another noticeable difference is their dorsal shield—the hard plate on their top side. Those on ticks have varied markings while bed bugs appear to have horizontal stripes.

Carpet Beetles

<p>Tomasz Klejdysz / Getty Images</p>

Tomasz Klejdysz / Getty Images

True to their name, carpet beetles are particularly fond of carpets and fabric materials, such as wool, silk, and leather. While oval-shaped like bed bugs, these household pests are a bit smaller—adults are usually 1/16 to 1/8 inches long.

What really sets them apart is that carpet beetles feature wings and speckled patterns of white, yellow, brown, and orange on their bodies. Others can be fully black too. Other than that, carpet beetles don’t bite and are mainly active in the daytime.

Bat Bugs

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Bat bugs and bed bugs look identical to the naked eye, primarily because they’re related to each other. Not only are they the same size, but they’re also similar in shape and color. For this reason, you’ll need a microscope to differentiate the two.

If the little insect has a hairy body with hairs longer than the width of its eye, chances are it’s a bat bug—and there may be a roosting bat somewhere in your house. Bed bugs, on the other hand, have very short, nicely trimmed hairs.

Swallow Bugs

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Swallow bugs are also a member of the bed bug family, but develop on nesting swallows instead of beds. And just like bat bugs, they must be observed under magnification to tell them apart from bed bugs.

If looked closely, swallow bugs boast long, fine hairs all over their bodies. You can also distinguish them from other insects by their antennae, as their last two antennal segments are the same length.

Head Lice

<p>Oxford Scientific / Getty Images</p>

Oxford Scientific / Getty Images

Small and six-legged, head lice are sometimes mixed up with bed bugs when found on pillows and bed sheets.

These parasites are only about an eighth of an inch (roughly as small as a sesame seed) and are more oblong—not to mention, they have sharp claws at the end of each leg.

Coloration is another distinguishing factor since they tend to range from tan to grayish-white.

Baby Cockroaches

<p>ViniSouza128 / Getty Images</p>

ViniSouza128 / Getty Images

Baby roaches and bed bugs can have pretty similar characteristics to the untrained eye. They both have flattened shells and are wingless, brown, and nocturnal.

The differences lie in the small details—in that cockroach nymphs have relatively long antennae, spines on their legs, and tail-like structures (called cerci) at the end of their bodies.

Oribatid Mites

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S.E. Thorpe / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

Oribatid mites are extremely tiny arachnids that generally live in soils and eat fungi and bacteria.

Though much smaller than bed bugs, their brown color and bloated body often gets people confused, especially when they make their way into homes.

But even so, these mites have eight legs along with a very rounded appearance that separates them from bed bugs.

Read Next: The Best Bed Bug Exterminators of 2023

Read the original article on The Spruce.