bed bugs vs fleas

Signs of Bed Bugs and Fleas – Fleas vs. Bed Bugs Bites

In terms of domestic pest control, bugs and fleas can be among the most difficult to diagnose.  Both enter the home from the exterior, both are very minuscule in size and both cause irritating bites that affect humans.  These two insects, however, are very different in terms of both diagnosis and treatment.  As such it is very important to know the signs of bed bugs and fleas and the difference between these pests before moving forward with a bed bug treatment.

close picture of a flea

One important distinction between the two is on who and where the insects feed.  First off, although they do bite humans fleas are primarily interested in feeding off of animals.  The fur coats of dogs and cats are ideal as the insects can feed while remaining sheltered and hidden.  Bed bugs, on the other hand, are far more concerned with feeding off of humans, and reside primarily in warm houses and especially near or inside beds and bedding or other sleep areas where blood meals are more readily available. Given this distinction, it is also important to note that fleas are typically introduced into an area by animals and bed bugs by humans.  Another important consideration is where bites are found.  If fleas are feeding on humans the primary target areas would be the most accessible, in most cases feet and ankles.   Bed bug bites, however, can be found on any areas of exposed skin, preferably the face, neck, and arms of a sleeping person.

Bed Bugs Vs Fleas

A Close up of a Bed Bug (Cimex lectularius)
A Close up of a Bed Bug (Cimex lectularius)

Even though both insects are parasitic insects and may look very indistinguishable at a first glance, they are still two distinct insects each having different behavioral patterns and breeding habits. For starters, bed bugs rely on human blood for their blood meals and prefer to stay as close as possible to their hosts. They stay tucked away in between the seams of the mattress. Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs do not just stay in the bed, but rather take up any space where the host is sleeping, rest, or relaxing. This can also mean that they can infest clothes, the couch, and they can even resort to wooden furniture to avoid human detection. This is the reason why they prefer to attack at night when the human is fast asleep. They strike on any uncovered part of the skin which can include the stomach, arms, hands, and even the face.

Flea in animal fur close up. The destruction of parasites in pets.
Flea in animal fur close up.

People could mistake the bites for mosquito bites.  Fleas, on the other hand, prefer animals and they prefer to stay long-term, unlike the bed bug who goes away as soon as it is done feeding itself. This is why dogs and cats may seem agitated and cannot seem to stop scratching themselves. Fleas do have the ability to go from pets to humans, but that is only as a last option.

How To Find Out You Have Fleas  In your Bed.

Fleas on a background of white fabric close-up.

Fleas are minuscule insects that rely on the blood of most warm-blooded animals. They do not usually infest human territory, unlike bed bugs. If your best friends happen to share a bed with you it may be very well the reason why you are seeing some fleas around. Fleas stay long-term on pets and do not feed on human blood unless there is no other option available. You find out that your dog or cat is scratching themselves more than usual, it may be very well because of the irritation flea bites cause the animal. If you are worried about fleas infesting your bedding and mattress, the best option is heat-treatment by washing all your bedding at a high temperature. As for the animal, the best solution is to wash the pet with flea shampoo and a flea comb.

Difference Between Flea and Bed Bug Bites

Bed bugs and flees bare an uncanny resemblance to the untrained eye. It can be equally difficult to tell a bed bug bite apart from a flea bite if you don’t know what to look out for. Unexplained bites and blood spots on your bed sheets are early signs of an infestation even before you see a live bed bug. It is important that you are absolutely sure the bite you are looking at is from a bed bug before taking further action.

the bed bug anatomy
the bed bug anatomy

Fleas are commonly mixed up with bed bugs, but there are significant differences between the two that can help you determine which pest you have in your home and what to do about it. If you see any kind of bugs in your home continuously please call professional pest control services

Fleas and bed bugs look very similar. They are both amber brown in colour usually, but beg bugs are slightly larger, with a flatter oval-shaped body than that of a flea. Fleas are more fat and don’t have the same sensitive antennae that beg bugs have. Fleas will often be spotted where your pets like to go, but bed bugs are most likely to be found, as their name implies, nesting at the seams of your mattress. Bed bugs are flightless, and though fleas are as well, fleas have the annoying ability to jump high in the air without warning, making them hard to catch and kill. You’re not likely to see bed bugs moving as often as fleas do.

Both these pets are notoriously difficult to get rid of, so avoid quick online fixes and do-it-yourself pesticides, which can be dangerous to you and your loved ones. If you believe you have fleas or bed bugs, call a licensed, reputable exterminator in your area. They’ll be able to remove the insects safely without damaging your property or hurting your pets or children. They’ll also be able to help you identify whether you have fleas or bed bugs. To reduce the risk of bed bugs and fleas, frequently wash mattresses, stuffed toys, pillows, hair, sofas and other household furnishings. Check your pets as often as possible, and use flea collars and flea control shampoo to keep the risk of parasites down. If you shop at thrift stores, remember always to wash any clothing or fabric you purchase before wearing it to keep down the risk of fleas or bed bugs from being carried to your home.

Bed Bug Bites vs Flea Bites

Bed Bug Bites vs Flea Bites
Bed Bug Bites vs Flea Bites

The most noticeable difference is the appearance of bites. Flea bites can be recognized because their presence looks like a group of small mosquito bites, whereas bed bug bites appear as raised red welts and are larger in size. If you suspect to have fleas or bed bugs in your home, take photographs of the bites. When you call an exterminator to get rid of the pests, this will be useful in telling what type of bug it might be. Fleas are commonly transmitted as parasites from rodents, raccoons and even your own beloved pets. Brush your pets regularly if they’re frequent outdoor animals, and watch for the appearance of fleas in their fur or hair.

It is first worth noting that people react differently to insect bites. For some, a bite may leave only a small mark while the same bite on an allergic person can lead to severe and painful swelling. Generally speaking, you can identify flea bites vs bed bugs in the following ways;

A flea bite is often mistaken for a mosquito bite as the two are very similar in appearance. The flea bite leaves swollen, hard and red dots often in clusters. Bed bugs seem to be more methodical in their feeding habits and will leave linear rows of bite marks rather than clusters.

Bed bugs are indiscriminate in their feeding habits and will bite virtually anywhere on the human body but mostly hands, arms, face and necks. Fleas, on the other hand, prefer easy-to-reach areas mostly ankles and legs.

Both types of bites can lead to severe itching. Bites caused by bed bugs tend to be rough. Scratching a flea bite can cause a secondary infection so it is best to avoid this.

Both types of bites require different treatments so you need to be sure about the cause of the bite before taking any medication.

Another point of contrast between these two insects is the type and position of bite that is produced.  Flea bites typically occur in random clusters around the areas of the body and resemble mosquito bites.  These red dots can often have a dark red center as well, which is due to the single puncture wound from the flea’s mouth. Bed bugs bite however typically appear as raised dots and are not usually noticeable until a week after the initial wound.  They gradually become very itchy over time as the anesthetic from their saliva begins wears off.  Unlike clustered flea bites, they tend to occur in a straight line and appear as raised, flat red welts.

Fleas in Bed Signs

difference between bed bug and flea
difference between bed bug and flea

Many times it is not immediately obvious which pest is infesting your bed. Much as you might try keeping pets away from your bed it is not always the case that they stay away. Fleas infest beds just like bed bugs do so it necessary you are able to spot the signs of an infestation and take the necessary precautions. Successful extermination hinges on your identifying the correct pest and the corresponding pest control treatment.

The first sign of fleas in the bed is, of course, unexplained bite marks. Again, flea bites look a lot like mosquito bites and are most likely to be found on the feet, legs, armpits and waist. These may itch consistently and appear red and swollen.

Another common sign is dirt-like or black pepper-like specks on your bed linen. These are easier to see on white bed linen so you may want to use white sheets for a few days if you suspect you might have fleas in your bed. Blot the specks with a wet tissue and if the specks dissolve into rings of blood, you can safely assume you have fleas. These specks are actually flea feces.

Fleas are tiny and hard to see well without a microscope so attempting to identify one on sight may not be very useful. You may, however, spot one in your bed. If it jumps then it’s probably a flea. Fleas jump around 12 inches in a single leap so it’s hard to mistake one for any other insect and especially not a bed bug. As a rule of thumb, you can assume that there are at least 100 immature fleas if you spot even one adult flea.

Getting Rid of Fleas from the Bed

Flea - Extreme magnification
Flea – Extreme magnification

To get rid of fleas in your bed, wash all bedding including blankets, bed sheets, pillowcases and comforter in the hottest washer cycle your fabrics will allow and repeat with the dryer. A consistent temperature of at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 20 minutes should be sufficient to kill fleas in all life stages including eggs and pupae. Next, vacuum the mattress, pillows and rugs or carpet around the bed daily for at least a few weeks. Dispose of the vacuum bag after each cleaning since un-hatched eggs may continue to live and eventually hatch in the vacuum bag thus spreading the infestation. Place the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag before disposing.

Finally, finish off with an insecticide such as flea dust. Read the instructions carefully and follow directions to the letter. Make sure that the chemical is safe to use indoors. An added bonus for vacuuming is it agitates the fleas and exposes the survivors to the chemicals.

Keep in mind that this is only a superficial measure that may get you a few weeks of sound sleep before the infestation returns. There are probably still fleas lurking in your pets and other furniture. You best chance of dealing with the flea problem conclusively is to hire an exterminator.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

The best strategy for getting rid of bed bugs is to hire a professional exterminator. There are strict laws governing pest control in Ontario especially where active ingredients in pesticides and chemicals are concerned. This leaves you with little option for effective treatment with over-the-counter products. These store-bought pesticides also don’t match up to professional extermination agents and are less likely to resolve the problem.

You also need a thorough inspection first to identify the pest you are dealing with and to assess the extent of the invasion. Bed bugs are treated directly using chemicals so it is imperative that you get all areas where they are present. Only a professional exterminator in Ontario can guarantee to kill all the bed bugs.

Lastly, a professional can advise you on how to avoid bed bugs in the future. Insist on a warranty for the job for at least one year to protect you in the event the exterminator doesn’t successfully clear the infestation the first time around.

Unfortunately, both types of insect bites are a serious irritant and can cause allergies, swelling in addition to the emotional toll they can bring about.  As each insect requires a decidedly different extermination, it is important to recognize the differences between these two when moving forward with a treatment.  Be wary of the signs and ensure that you are armed with the necessary knowledge when diagnosing these unwanted pests. If you would like a professional exterminator Toronto to verify activity please call 647-496-2211. We also feature a variety of bed bug related products such as mattress covers and bed bug monitors.

Article Updated: October 19, 2020

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Joe The Exterminator
Joe The Exterminator

Joe is a professional pest control exterminator with over 15 years of experience and enjoys sharing his knowledge about different pests and how you can deal with them.