We often get queries from our readers and most of them are pertaining to the identification of bed bugs. Pet owners especially want to know ‘the difference between ticks and bed bugs’. We thought that is a great question so we decided to go ahead with a blog post on that. Today we will answer the question: ‘does a bed bug look like a tick?’
Bed bugs and Ticks: Similarities and Differences
Ticks are of different kinds but the main classification is done on the basis of their exoskeleton. Based on this you can have either hard ticks or soft ticks. Humans and pets tend to pick up ticks from yards, camping grounds, bushy or grassy trails and woody, infested areas. Tick season starts from early spring and continues until fall. However, many species of ticks can be found all year round, especially inside heated buildings. Ticks are oval, like bed bugs, and also have similar reddish brownish color. Soft and hard ticks both reside near their hosts’ dwellings. Soft ticks prefer humans, dogs, cats, raccoons, mice deer and other mammals as their hosts. Hard ticks prefer humans mostly but in their absence, could go in for other hosts too. Some species of ticks also feed on birds. The reason why ticks are difficult to eliminate, like bed bugs, is that they lay hundreds of eggs which can remain dormant in the environment for months. If you find ticks in bed from your dog, you must take all precautions to control the infestation.
Bed bugs and ticks have many similarities. They are both wingless, have similar coloration and almost similar shape. The main differences between the two are: bed bugs have 6 legs while ticks have 8 legs. Bed bugs are significantly longer compared to ticks. A fully grown bed bug adult can measure up to 3/8th of an inch. The color may vary from brownish red to translucent yellow. Viewed from top, bed bugs are oval and flat. Freshly fed bed bugs appear robust. Similarly, freshly fed ticks are swollen and engorged.
Bed bugs belong to the insect class so their behavior and nesting habits are different than those of ticks. You will mainly find bed bugs indoors in mattresses, near beds and in cracks and crevices in sleeping areas. You might even see them on window sills, under frames of paintings, and couches. Bed bugs mostly stay away from bathrooms and moist places. Their infestations have become common in the United States thanks to more people traveling and living in motels. Many theaters in the country are also known to be infested. Bed bugs are even hitching rides on subway trains, planes and buses. Ticks on the other hand are usually seen on pets, pet bedding, and outdoors in the yards, in tall grass and woody underbrush. They belong to the Arachnida class.
Bed bugs generally do not carry any diseases-causing pathogens. Ticks on the other hand are known to be vectors of many deadly diseases including Lyme Disease, Rickettsia, and Ehrliosis.
Bed bugs feed on the host for a few minutes at a time following which they return to their hiding places. Ticks can remain attached for days to their host during which period they could transmit disease causing pathogens to the host. It is vital to seek medical help if you develop fever, joint ache or other symptoms.
Other bugs that look like bed bugs
Apart from ticks, many other bugs are confused for bed bugs including bat bugs, immature German cockroaches. Bat bugs look very similar to bed bugs but they do not bite humans. They also have different behavioral patterns. Immature German cockroaches are also often mistaken for bed bugs but can be differentiated based on longer antennae. Bed bug antennae are shorter and not easily visible.
How to identify bed bugs
- Refer to bugs mistaken for bed bugs pictures as well as bed bug pictures provided on this website.
- If possible, place the trapped bug against a white background. Use a light to examine it well. Invest in a magnifying lens to view the bugs. Most common bug similar to bed bug is the bat bug. Ticks are also similar to bed bugs so viewing these under magnification can help you see the differences.
- Apart from physical differences, bed bugs and bugs similar to bed bugs will also show differences in behavior and existing conditions. Take these into account as well.
- Bed bugs and ticks are very similar in appearance but on close observation, you might find many differences. They have different number of legs-bed bugs have only 6 whereas tics have 8 legs.
- Apart from physical differences bed bugs and ticks also show different nesting and feeding behaviors. Ticks like to remain attached to their hosts whereas bed bugs leave their host after they have had their fill of blood meal.
- You will usually find bed bugs indoors, near sleeping areas. Ticks on the other hand prefer outdoors.
- Bed bugs do not carry diseases but can wreak havoc psychologically on their victims. Lack of sleep can cause anxiety and stress. Ticks are carriers of many important and often fatal diseases including Lyme Disease and Rickettsia.
- Apart from ticks, many other bugs may be mistaken for bed bugs. Bat bugs and young German cockroaches are the main ones among these.