Bugs People Often Mistake For Bed Bugs

Since bed bugs are new for so many that have never heard about them, and people are used to insects they have grown up with, it is often that people mistake other bugs for bed bugs.

Sadly, professionals have treated for bed bugs when it was carpet beetles. Yes, even professionals have misidentified other insects for bed bugs. OK, so we are not perfect but let us all work on perfecting our skills.

Sadly, professionals have treated for bed bugs when it was carpet beetles. Yes, even professionals have misidentified other insects for bed bugs. OK, so we are not perfect but let us all work on perfecting our skills.

When a person observes a small bug crawling across their bed, because of bed bugs in the news, they automatically assume it is a bed bug. Well in many cases, it is, but in many cases, it isn’t.

I have been sent an array of insect pictures that people thought were bed bugs that included many of the insects below. The most important part of any professional treatment is identifying the bug for what it is and what it is not, because of life cycles, nature and treatments vary with each insect.

Some people are allergic to any bug bite like me. A flea, a fly, a mosquito, it doesn’t matter what it is, I get a reaction.

Now, it does make a difference in having “bites” and actually knowing the bug that bit you. Many people assume the bite they have is from a bed bug where in many cases it could be that evening bar-b-q or sitting out at dusk that yields a mosquito bite or two.

This, “not knowing or assuming can lead to infestations”.

I’ve been asked to take some of the information in my Bed Bug Health Effects – the Physical and Mental Implications of Bed Bugs book and share.

I specifically wrote this book to assist dermatologists and general practitioners when addressing a person with rashes, allergic reactions, and mysterious itchy bites. Strange but true, many doctors make the diagnosis as food, medicine or material allergies when it is a case of bed bugs.

OK, if you’re a practitioner don’t beat yourself up because you don’t automatically know if it is a bed bug that is biting your patient. Everyone reacts differently and it is hard to tell unless you have the “bug in a bag” to show us.

Another reason I was compelled to write this book was I had been receiving calls from Health Departments across the nation dealing with people calling in with these mysterious rashes and bites.

I remind people that you can’t just look at the rash or bite and know for sure it was from bed bugs and the best thing to do is search for bug evidence and bring a specimen to the doctor’s office.

The sky is not falling and bed bugs are not taking over the world (yet) but we all need to know the signs and symptoms that accompany having bed bugs before we run to the doctor.

Most of the time, bed bugs bites will go away on their own in a few days just like a mosquito bite. However, there are people that can get a more serious reaction that requires medical attention. In six years, I have experienced several calls where a person had blisters and welts that were inflamed, infected, and required immediate medical intervention. Two callers had an anaphylactic reaction and needed to go to the hospital.

Some people who take regular antihistamines may not react to bites. And some may not react for weeks.

The bite from a bed bug can irritate symptoms of other underlining conditions as well. Only you know your body and if at any time, you feel the need or are suspect of a more serious problem from any bite, rash or reaction, do not delay in seeking immediate medical attention.

So let’s take a look at some of the culprits that are often accused of being bed bugs.

First, let’s look closely at the bed bug and examine its physiology from eggs, through instar development to adult.

00huevos-post-calor-1g  These are highly magnified bed bugs eggs. Notice each egg has a small “hatch lid” at the end of it. This is where the bed bug emerges. Notice their small red eyes through the transparency of the eggshell.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Once hatched, the young nymph’s body is also translucent.

cimex-n1-feeding-front  As the nymph feeds, blood shows through its translucent body.

Life Cycle Close up  The bed bug will go through five nymph stages until they become a fully developed adult. Each a little larger in size and a little darker.

As they make the transition from one nymph stage to the next, a blood meal is always required.

They “outgrow” their previous skin and shed them, leaving these skins behind. (Exuvia shown in the middle of the LiveCycle)

male vs female

Full-grown adult male and female bed bugs

Now you know what bed bugs look like through all stages of development. Let’s look at “other” bugs that resemble the bed bug. A professional may not, but untrained eyes assume they are.

Bat Bugs

Bat bugs are almost identical in appearance to bed bugs and are best identified by an expert entomologist with a microscope. The primary difference is the longer length of fringe hairs located just below their head.

Also, as their name suggests, they feed on the blood of bats, commonly found in attics. If bats are eliminated and bat bugs left behind, feeding on humans and pets can occur.

Carpet Beetles

Although carpet beetles are small, round and brown, they have distinct wings, unlike the bed bug. Their larvae resemble furry little caterpillars.

Carpet beetles do not bite, but some people experience welts when exposed to their tiny hairs.


Ticks are parasites that live off the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Ticks are vectors of a number of diseases that affect both humans and animals.

Cockroach Nymphs

Cockroach nymphs hide in cracks and crevices preferring to stay close to food, warmth, and moisture. They are most active at night. They appear white immediately after hatching or molting, and quickly turn a reddish brown, (much like a bed bug).

However, the cockroach nymph is more like the shape of a cylinder, whereas a bed bug is shorter and oval, or small apple-seed in shape (not necessarily in size).

Exposure to these can lead to asthma and trigger asthma attacks.


Booklice are commonly mistaken for bed bug nymphs. They are smaller, ranging from translucent white, to gray or brown in color.

They can often be found under wallpaper and along the sides of windows and windowsills. Their primary food source is fungi, pollen, mold and fragments of dead insects.

Spider Beetle

Spider beetles are the shape and size of fleas, oval and dark brown. They may “appear” bloated and reddish brown, as if they had just fed on human blood. (Just like a bed bug)

Au contraire! Spider beetles are not bloodsuckers.


Earwigs have a pair of forceps-like pincers that protrude from their abdomen. Male pincers are curved, while females are straight. The pincers are used to capture prey and defend themselves.

So I hope this helps clear up some “mistaken identities” for some of you.

Always keep the suspected bug (don’t flush it!), and have it verified by a professional.

Remember, finding bed bugs early can help you to get them eliminated BEFORE they become a breeding ground in your home or offices.

Having Bedbugdot in place will assist you in early detection!

We’re here to help! www.ibbra.org

I’d like to thank our Scientific Advisory Board for some of the pictures and Wikipedia.org to help in this teaching blog.