Are you being bitten by something in your bed that looks like a bed bug, but isn’t?
Given the tiny size of bed bugs, it’s easy to get them confused with other commonly confused pests.
Especially if you’ve never had bugs in your bed- because then it’s like “WHAT IS THIS THING?”
We’ll go over all the bugs that are similar to bed bugs in this guide. You’ll be able to identify the difference and see what bug you’re dealing with- and how to get rid of it!
If you skim through this guide and you still don’t know what bug it is, take a screenshot, post a comment, and let me know at the end of this page.
I’ll try to help you out if I can (as usual).
Let’s find out what that bug is (that’s not a bed bug).
What do bed bugs look like?
To understand if you have bed bugs or not, it’s imperative to identify the bug that’s…well, bugging you.
Bed bugs are nearly seen through which they’re born.
They don’t get their red-brown color until they get their first blood meal feeding on YOU.
The bug will slowly grow and molt, each time producing a bigger bug.
If you notice big bed bugs, that means they’ve been in your bed for quite some time, friend.
There are many types of bugs in bed that look similar. Everything from lice to booklice to mites.
They have a flat, oval-shaped body. They’re about 5mm long when they reach adult size.
They have the shape of an apple seed with a segmented head and body, which means you can see where the body ends and the head starts.
They have 3 segments total, with a striped body that has alternating bands of dark brown then light brown.
Bed bugs have 6 legs total with a front wing, however, their wing isn’t capable of flight.
Bed bugs are easily seen with the naked eye.
You may also spot the other signs of bed bugs:
- Brown or black streaks on your sheets, mattresses, or bed frame
- Bites that look like small ticks or mites
- Rashes on the skin or allergic reactions to it
- Visible spider or beetle like pests
- Bites that only show up overnight
- Odor in bed
If you don’t know what type of bug it is, try to capture it and show it to a pest control specialist. They can identify the pest and give suggestions on how to get rid of it.
If you don’t know what’s biting you in your sleep, try doing the following:
- Get a flashlight nearby your bed that you can quickly access.
- When you feel a bite or something crawling on your skin during the night, quickly get the flashlight then flip it on. OR set your alarm for a middle of the night time, then wake up to check for bites.
- Check your skin where you felt the bite.
- Shine the light on it to catch it in the act.
Warning: This technique can result in serious bug bites. If the bug decides to “fight” rather than “flight” while you scramble to shine the flashlight on it, it can result in lots of bites since it’s trapped under your clothes if you’re wearing long sleeves.
Do NOT attempt if you have allergic reactions or you’re dealing with pests that can potentially be dangerous. even if you’ve never had reactions before, the excess biting can trigger something in you.
Use common sense and proceed at your own risk.
Baby cockroaches, also known as nymphs, are commonly confused with bed bugs.
They both look very similar- a hard shell, a dark brown coloration, large antenna, distinct appearance, and a large, ovular body shape.
They both only come out at night, so it’s easy to mistake the two.
If you ever catch a baby roach roaming around during the daytime, it’s either desperately in search of food, water, or was recently disturbed from its environment.
Regardless, cockroaches are a common pest that are mistaken for bed bugs. The way to tell the difference is that the roaches usually won’t live in your mattress or bed frame since it’s constantly being disturbed by you.
They prefer quiet places with easy access to water nearby. They also need humidity to successfully hatch their eggs.
Cockroaches will poop where they sleep. If you notice dark brown streaks all over your mattress, they’re probably not roaches since roaches rarely infest beds that are clean.
However, if you have a roach infestation in your bedroom, it could very well be roaches, not bed bugs.
Roaches will infest your room for a variety of reasons:
- Food crumbs in your bed or desk
- Spills of soda, water, coffee (even the tiniest drops are enough)
- Cardboard boxes can provide a great meal for them
- Peeling paint or wallpaper are edible to cockroaches
- Books, magazines, paper, newspapers, or other paper goods are food sources
- Fungus, mold, mildew are also edible to roaches
- Leaks or plumbing issues behind your walls are a roach hotel
So the next time you see a bug, it’s important to distinguish between cockroaches vs. bed bug.
The easiest way to tell the differences:
- Cockroaches rarely infest beds, unless it’s very dirty with plenty of hiding places
- Roaches need water and high humidity, which isn’t common in the bedroom
- Roaches don’t bite humans, so if you’re getting bug bites from something in bed, it’s likely not a roach
If you have a roach infestation, here are some guides you may find useful:
You’ve probably asked yourself:
Are there bugs that look like lice but aren’t?
Yes. Bed bugs.
Booklice are exactly what they sound like- they’re tiny little bugs that are easily confused with bed bugs.
They’re small, brown, and almost translucent when young.
Booklice, also known as psocid, infest places in your property that are high in moisture content. Similar to cockroaches, booklice will feed on mold or mildew.
Since these food sources are usually microscopic, you can’t see them.
Booklice are pale brown or sometimes yellow. Their extra long antenna can span their entire body.
They also look like the common termite with their phenotype. Each booklouse is up to 5mm in length with a segmented head (distinguishable head from body with a neck).
Booklice can have wings, but not always. If they do, they have 4 wings.
But if you have leaky pipes, fungus buildup, or even mold spores floating around that you can’t see, there’s a good chance you have booklice feeding on them.
While booklice do infest and eat books, they also like cardboard, magazines, or other paper products in your room.
This is why you should never store anything under your bed unless you use airtight plastic storage bins. Anything else is prime real estate for bugs to infest.
They’re commonly found in places with high humidity, such as bathrooms, attics, garages, crawl spaces, basements, or damp sheds. These bugs only hang out in areas that are wet.
They don’t bite, but they can trigger reactions in sensitive individuals.
Just like roaches, the easy-to-tell difference between booklice vs. bed bugs is that booklice don’t bite.
So, if you’re getting bitten in the night, it’s not booklice.
But if you see small bugs that are rummaging around your bed, it could very well be booklice.
If your room is humid, wet, or you have some kind of mold in your room, booklice will come.
Common sources of psocid foods are the following:
- Wet towels, rugs, or clothing
- Molding or old paper magazines or newspapers
- Cardboard boxes that have mold
- Wet or dirty bed sheets
- Mold in the walls or ceiling
- Mold in the mattress
You can get rid of booklice in your bedroom by airing out the mold.
Use dehumidifiers, keep it dry and prop that window ajar.
This will circulate the wet air for dry air. It may also be in your best interest to get a hold of a mold inspector. They can determine the source of the mold and get rid of it.
But you can first attempt to do some DIY remedies before calling in the professional.
If the booklice don’t disappear and you keep finding them in your bed, then call a licensed mold specialist near you.
Do some research and find a reputable company with guaranteed results promise. Local companies will appreciate the business!
Booklice look like small bed bug nymphs, so they’re very similar in appearance.
Check out this guide for booklice control at home with DIY remedies.
Spider beetles are just like bed bugs because they both have 6 legs.
They also have a similar brownish hue. If you look quickly, you may never even notice the differences in their body shape! These beetles are usually found where there are dry goods or food.
They’re not likely to infest your bed unless you keep food in your room (bad habit!).
If you have crumbs, leftovers, or other food waste in your bedroom, then it’s a good environment for spider beetles to infest.
They’ll hide where food is readily available- they eat everything from dry grains to beans to chips.
Since they’re so small in size, they can fit into packages that have been opened.
They can get inside the chip bag that you clipped or that bag of peanuts you have on your nightstand.
Because of this, it makes them a real nuisance when they infest your bedroom.
Spider beetles also come in yellow to black with spotted patterning on the back. Their long thin legs are clearly visible. They have very long antennas which extend outwards.
One thing you’ll notice is that they don’t have a neck, unlike bed bugs. These tiny species are only around 3-5mm in length, so they’re difficult to see.
Their ovular body supports full wingspans which allows them the ability to fly. If you have a lot of wood furniture in your room, they can infest.
They also like wooden slats in your bed frame, closets, nightstands, or other wooden storage units. They tend to show up where hygiene is poor and dirty.
Spills, food debris, dirt, crumbs, or stains are all possible sources of food. Poor sanitization brings spider beetles to the property. Keep your room clean at all times to prevent ALL sorts of bugs!
Unlike bed bugs, spider beetles have two long antennae near their head. They have hard shells with a visible abdomen, just like a spider. They can be mistaken for bed bugs.
Spider mites don’t bite, so you have that going for you. If you’re getting bites overnight, it’s not spider mites.
Congrats. It’s probably bed bugs instead.
If you see these tiny bugs in your bed, but not bed bugs, they could very well be spider mites.
Getting rid of them is as simple as getting rid of the food source:
- Stop bringing food into your room.
- Vacuum your entire room, bed frame, under the bed, closet, carpet/hardwood, etc.
- Get rid of every last crumb in your room and never bring food in again.
- If you must keep food in your room, make sure it’s properly stored out of reach.
- Use tight containers for food storage.
- Clean up spills or liquid immediately (even water).
- Regularly clean your room and don’t skip out on hard-to-reach areas like behind the bed or within crevices between furniture.
This should stop the spider mites from bugging you while you sleep.
While they don’t bite, you can still see/feel them crawling on your skin when you’re trying to enjoy your favorite binge-series on Netflix. That alone can ruin the pleasure!
If you need to eat while you watch, do it outside of your bedroom.
This way, the spider mites will infest your kitchen instead of your bedroom.
(Seriously though, clean up after yourself and the mites will stop.)
Finally, we come to a bug on the list that actually bites! Ticks are those bloodsucking monsters that’ll leave you in red bumps everywhere.
Ticks will stick to you, so they’ll easily get into your bed if you’ve been carrying them around. They’re like a secret parasite that bites you but doesn’t ever let go!
Ticks will bite you in your sleep or when you’re awake. So the key here is to identify the bite itself.
Ticks look similar to bed bugs, but they’re part of the arachnids. Ticks bite their animal hosts with integrity.
They bite into the skin and stay there. Bed bugs don’t.
That’s one benefit of bed bugs if you wanna think about it that way. Either way, they’re both terrible pests.
Bedbugs are reddish-brown with six visible legs. Ticks are black or dark brown with eight legs.
This is the first way you can tell the difference between ticks vs. bed bugs.
Next is their home environment. Bed bugs like beds, as you know by now =].
Ticks don’t natively prefer indoor environments. They’re found outdoors in the grass, debris, leaf piles, bark, or woody plains.
When you brush them, they’ll bite your skin and pierce it. You often don’t even notice it until you see it drinking your blood.
Bed bugs do the same, but in the night when you’re asleep.
Ticks will stay the same size as they draw blood- they’re often only the size of a small plant seed.
Bed bugs swell and get bigger- up to the size of a cantaloupe seed.
If you have ticks visible on you, you can remove them from your skin and that should be the end of it.
Wash your sheets, clean your room thoroughly, and wear protective clothing next time you go out.
This should stop the ticks as they don’t fit the bedding.
What are little red bugs in your bed?
Bed mites are hard to identify because of their small size. Mites can be black, tan, brown, or white.
They don’t bite, but they do carry allergens that can trigger allergic reactions on the skin of sensitive individuals. Rashes, bumps, other serious reactions can occur.
Natively, mites will live in plant matter or parasitically in animals. Mites can also hide in dogs, cats, or people.
Because of their tiny size, they can be confused with bed bugs.
The easiest way to establish the differences between mites or bed bugs is the appearance of bite marks.
If you’re getting bit overnight consistently, it’s likely bed bugs.
If you’re just getting reactions on your skin (usually with no pain), it can be mites or fleas.
- Did you go out recently?
- Did you take your dog through tall grass or leaf litter?
- Has your pet’s free roam area been infested?
- Did you have other people in the house recently?
Mites can infest your skin in many ways, but they rarely will live in your bed. The best way to eliminate mites is to remove whatever they’re infesting.
Whether it’s you, your dog, or other pets (rats, mice, birds, etc.), they need to be treated with an OTC mite killer. Once you get rid of the mites, continually check for reinfection from eggs.
Mites can come from the garden as well.
If your dog plays with other dogs, this is also a source of infestation. Basically, treat them like fleas. There are too many infection vectors to name.
Vacuum your room frequently. Do a complete cleaning of all fabrics in your bedroom.
Take warm baths with soapy water after a day out, and wash your head. Do the same for Fido.
While mites aren’t hard to eliminate, they can be a nuisance.
Bat bugs look very similar to bed bugs, just like the rest of the bugs on this list.
You can tell the difference between the two by looking for their active location.
In other words, where are they hiding in your bed?
Bat bugs tend to stay hidden from view and will always infest somewhere that’s close to their source of food.
Physically, bat bugs have a visible thorax where bed bugs don’t. This means NOT in your bed unless you have crumbs or food debris wedged into your frame. Bat bugs rarely infest beds.
Or on bats, as the name implies. If you have a bat infestation, get it under control.
Bat bugs infesting your bedroom is common when you have bats present nearby. If you have a real bat bug infestation, you’ll wish you have a bed bug infestation instead.
Bat bugs are a lot more difficult to get rid of compared to bed bugs so you’ll be able to easily spot the differences. These bugs are the closest species to bed bugs compared to all the others on this page.
They have a similar body with two visible feelers up on the head. Bat bugs have wing pads, but they can’t fly. They also rarely bite humans unless they’re starving.
The main difference is to look at the fine hairs that bat bugs have on their heads, which bed bugs don’t.
The hairs are on both sides of the head between the front legs and antenna, but they’re hard to see without a microscope or phone camera.
Plus, catching one is a pain in the first place.
If you can’t tell the difference, hire a professional exterminator to identify it. Bat bugs need to be ridden by completely getting rid of their food source (usually bats, guano, etc.)
Once you do that, they can’t sustain their population and will likely leave. Bats can enter your home through open windows, doors, or poorly sealed exterior walls.
They can also come in through portable air conditioning units, attic windows, or damaged grates.
Head lice obviously stay with you no matter where you go.
These invasive pests can live in your hair, body hair, pillowcase, mattress, or bedsheets. They can really drive you crazy.
Head lice can be white, brown, black, or any shade in between. Lice will feed on the blood in your scalp and will require OTC products to kill the lice and eggs.
This is one of the few bugs that will bite you that’s not a bed bug.
They can be transferred to the pillow or bed and to other people. Lice are tiny and can be found in the bed.
They’re about the size of a strawberry seed and commonly mistaken for bed bugs.
Fleas are the one bug that’ll bite you AND stay in the same place as bed bugs.
Unlike the other nuisances on this list of commonly confused pests with bed bugs, fleas are the exception.
They can definitely infest your bed provided that there’s a stable food source (i.e. your blood) and they will bite- just like bed bugs.
Fleas can come from anywhere- the outdoors, your bedroom window, or even your dog (sand fleas).
There are thousands of flea species and many of them will live in your sheets, pillowcase, hair, or mattress.
To tell the difference between fleas vs. bed bugs, look for their sizing. Fleas are tiny in comparison to the point that they’re almost microscopic.
Bed bugs are about 0.25” in size on average. Fleas are about 0.01-0.32cm in size.
Flea bites are also different in appearance compared to bedbug bites:
- Flea bites cause welts in the skin that look like small bumps
- Flea bites can be white, brown, or red
- Flea bites may cause allergic reactions to sensitive individuals
This video shows the differences between bug bites which you may find useful:
Whether it’s bed bugs or fleas, it’s not easy to deal with.
Both types of insects can cause bite damage that remains on the skin for a long period of time.
They usually fade and end up as a brown or tan marking. Different fleas will also leave behind different types of bite marks. You can use natural ointments, oils, or extracts like aloe vera to help reduce scarring.
Avoid scratching or peeling the scab.
Similar to bed bugs, fleas can be eradicated from your bedroom by doing a thorough cleaning. I mean a real purge.
You’ll have to launder everything that they can deposit eggs in, which are usually hard and soft surfaces like:
- Stuffed animals
- Other fabrics where eggs can be hidden
They do also deposit eggs on hard surfaces, such as your bedframe. But these surfaces can be cleaned with soapy water. It’s the soft surfaces that really hide eggs.
Fleas and mites can also be wood bugs that look like bed bugs. They hide in the frame of your bed.
Fleas can be extremely difficult to get rid of and often will require months of work. This is because they come in cycles. It just takes a small batch of eggs to reinfest your room.
Often, you’ll need to contact a pest control company for assistance. However, there’s no harm in trying to DIY the flea infestation yourself first before bringing in the cavalry.
Don’t forget to find the source of the fleas.
Are they from your dog? Cat? Or other people in the house? Where are they coming from? Find out!
This is key to eliminating them for good.
If you don’t know, hire a professional exterminator to do it for you. Save yourself time.
Sometimes, it’s worth it rather than screwing around and wasting time only to cave in and hire someone anyway when you can’t find the source of infestation.
They can find the source and eliminate it.
But preventing them from infesting your room again is the hard part.
Fleas can be brown, black, or translucent. They can easily be mistaken for a bed bug or something else.
This makes them those tiny bugs that look like bed bugs, but not so it leads to the commonly mistaken confusion between the two pests.
Either way, doing a complete purge of your room aids in eliminating either species.
Whatever you do, try not to use those indoor foggers because do more harm than good.
How do you check a mattress for bed bugs?
Checking your bed should be done carefully so you can see if the bugs are breeding.
Tip: Use a focused, bright flashlight with your phone’s zoom function to see clearly.
Here are some telltale signs of bed bugs:
Visible bed bug eggs (clear white shells)
- Fecal marks (frass that looks like black or brown stains)
- Bed bug eggs (white cases)
- Bed bug bites (obvious one)
- Bloodstains on frame, sheets, or mattress
- Shell casings
- Shed skins (brown or white skins)
- Stink or odor that smells moldy or dirty
- Welts or bumpy skin bites
- Bugs on the inside of the your box spring
- Brown or red fecal spots on upholstery, walls, or frame
- Sticky white eggs
- Cluster bites
- Shed skin or eggs
Over time, if whatever DIY remedy you’re doing is working, the “damage” should stagnate.
Whether it’s frays from their poop on your mattress or bites on your skin.
But if you see the damage increase exponentially, then you know you need to change your plan so you can adjust to it.
It probably means that your remedy isn’t working.
Or it’s time to call in the professionals.
What does a bite from a bed bug look like?
The bites are easy to identify because they have a “signature” you can use.
Look for these commonalities:
- Bites on the neck, face, ankles, or other uncovered skin
- Bites on arms or shoulders
- Red marks with a darker spot in the middle (bullseye or target)
- Bites on the skin that are swelling or in a line
These references may be handy on your quest to rid what’s biting you in the dark:
- Bed bug – Wikipedia
- Bed Bugs – Entomology – University of Kentucky
- Bedbugs – Reddit
- Bed Bug Management Guidelines – UC IPM
- Bed Bugs – New York State Integrated Pest Management
Now you know if it’s bed bugs or not
Bed bugs are easily mistaken for other pests because of their small size.
They’re not that different from beetles, ticks, mites, fleas, or baby roaches.
Because most people never do any research on these buggers until they encounter them, their first thought is “is THAT a bed bug??”
Of course, by that time, they’ve probably been covered in bites with the signature brown streaks on their bed frame or mattress.
But for those that never can differentiate the difference between bed bugs vs. similarly confused pests, this guide was written for you.
If you have any questions identifying whatever is infesting your bed, post a detailed comment below and I’ll try to help you out.
Otherwise, if you found this guide helpful, please let me know as well =].
Thanks for reading.
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.