​​Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs

  • Written By Dan Edwards on May 17, 2018
    Last Updated: December 10, 2020

Did you know that bed bugs don’t only show up in dirty houses? That’s right. It doesn’t matter how clean you keep your home, your bedroom, and even the bed itself. Bed bug infestations can happen to anyone.

Even more alarming, cases of bed bugs are on the rise, and they are a nightmare to get rid of once they’re in your house. This is because these pests are now resistant to many poisons and insecticides.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult for many people to identify bed bugs. It turns out there are quite a lot of other bugs that look like bed bugs. Here’s what you need to know about what bed bugs look like, versus their impersonators.

Bugs That Are Mistaken For Bed Bugs

People can get really upset when they find out they have bed bugs. These pests live on blood they suck from humans and animals, and they can leave itchy welts where they’ve bitten someone.

One woman evenburned down her own home accidentally because she discovered an infestation.

It makes sense then that before you attempt to treat an infestation, you first make sure you’re not dealing with something else. Here are the bugs most often mistaken for bed bugs.

Bat Bugs

Bat bugs are actually related to bed bugs. They are also small, flat, and reddish-brown. In fact, without a magnifying glass, they look and feed exactly like bed bugs.

That being said, it is far less common to have a bat bug infestation which causes welts and rashes on the skin of people, than it is with bed bugs. That’s because a bat bug’s preferred food source is–you guessed it–bats.

You’re more likely to have a bat bug problem if you’ve had bats in your attic, and these insects are usually found in upper levels of buildings.

Cockroach Nymphs

Nymphs are infant insects, and cockroach nymphs look nothing like adult roaches. This surprises many people, who do not realize that what they are seeing in their home are baby cockroaches.

A cockroach nymph is usually white or gray in color with a smooth body. It is smaller than an adult bed bug, usually around three millimeters in size. Cockroach nymphs do not bite.

Cockroach Nymph

Carpet Beetles

Carpet beetles tend to be smaller than bed bugs and are differently colored. They can be black and yellow, solid brown, solid black, or have brown, orange, and white scales. People mistake them for bed bugs because they appear in teems and enjoy hiding in some of the same places.

Carpet Beetle

One of the most distinctive characteristics of carpet beetles, in comparison to bed bugs, is that the beetles have wings. You will not see bed bugs flying. Carpet beetles also do not have protruding eyes, which distinguishes them from bed bugs. You probably will not be able to easily see a carpet beetle’s eyes.

Carpet beetles do not bite.


Booklice can look similar to bed bug nymphs (that is, young bed bugs). A primary difference, however, is that booklice have longer bodies. Their midsection is narrow with a wider head and lower abdomen. They will definitely look smaller than adult bed bugs and are lighter in color. Some booklice have wings, but not all of them. Booklice do not bite.

Book Lice
Book Louse

Spider Beetles

Spider beetles look kind of like tiny spiders, thus the name. They are easily mistaken for bed bugs because many of them have a similar, reddish-brown coloring, though others are black. In fact, of all the bugs listed here, spider beetles are probably the most similar in appearance to bed bugs, with the exception of bat bugs.

Spider Beetle

These beetles do tend to be a bit smaller than bed bugs, but if you’ve never seen either species, it could be difficult to distinguish the size difference.

Spider beetles do not bite.

Swallow Bugs

Swallow bugs have many similarities to bed bugs. Adult swallow bugs are reddish brown in colour, with flat, oval-shaped bodies. These bugs are flightless (like bed bugs) and also feed on blood. However, as their name suggests, they prefer the blood of swallows.

This is not to say that they will be opposed to a human host. In the event of an abandoned nest, swallow bugs may need to look elsewhere for a food source, although typically these bugs lay dormant for extended periods of time, while the swallows migrate.

On the contrary, it is rare to find swallow bugs in the home. Swallows tend to prefer nesting in barns or on the side of cliffs.

A key difference in telling these two bugs apart is that a swallow bug’s body is covered in fine long hairs.

Swallow Bug


Fleas, in my opinion, are much easier to differentiate from bed bugs with the naked eye. With the main reason being that they have longer hind legs, which are needed to make those monumental jumps. Bed bugs don’t jump.

Fleas also have longer, skinnier bodies, rather than a flat-shaped one.

Nevertheless, they are reddish-brown in color and can cause red bumps after biting you. However, fleas prefer the blood of animals, so if you have pets, it may be worth checking them over for fleas, before determining that you have a bed bug infestation.

Adult Flea
Adult Flea

Head Lice

Head lice are much lighter in colour, so you are more likely to confuse a nit with a nymph bed bug. They are both wingless and have 6 legs.

Though, that’s not to say that there aren’t distinctive differences between them both. Head lice tend to be much smaller than bed bugs, and their bodies are oblong in shape, as opposed to flat. 

They both cause itchiness after feeding on their human host, although these occur in different places on the body. If you find that your head and hair is itchy, then it is most likely a nit. If your skin is irritated, however, it is far more likely to be a bed bug.

Checking your bed could be another tell-tale sign. If you find bugs on your pillow in the morning, you probably have head lice. This is because bed bugs are nocturnal and usually retreat to their hiding places during daylight. Traces of bed bugs are more commonly found on the bed sheets and mattress, rather than the pillow.


Best Way To Identify Bed Bugs From Look-Alikes

Obviously, the differences between bed bugs and look-alike bugs can be difficult to distinguish with the naked eye. That’s why so many other insects are mistaken for bed bugs in the first place. Still, finding the right pest treatment depends on making a correct identification first.

Here are some of the best ways to tell the difference.

Look for bites

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do in determining whether you have a bed bug infestation is to check yourself and others in the home for bug bites. If you have red, itchy welts or rashes, then it may be a bed bug problem.

Bed Bug Bites

Of course, other bugs can bite too, so if you haven’t actually seen any insects, you will want to rule out other biters like fleasmosquitoes, and spiders.

Bed bugs tend to feed on blood while you are sleeping or sitting still, but the bite marks may not appear until several hours after you’ve been bitten. Some people may also be bitten but not develop welts or a rash, making it more difficult to discover the bugs.

Take a good look at the insects

If you have actually spotted the bugs, which tend to appear together in high numbers, you can try to make a physical identification. Based on the descriptions here, rule out other possible insect infestations. You may have something that is, although considered gross, completely harmless to humans.

Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of, so if there’s a possibility that you have something else, you may not need to take such drastic measures.

It’s also worth noting that bed bug bites are annoying, but are not known to spread diseases.

Note where the bugs are located

Bed bugs are going to be found hiding in places close to a food source. Since they eat blood, they will often be in the crevices of couches or bed frames, and under mattresses.

When Do Bed Bugs Come Out

As noted, look-alike bugs are usually found in other places. Bat bugs prefer attics and second floors or higher, and they’ll be found in kitchens and bathrooms.

Bugs that do not bite humans are not typically found in close quarters with humans, like beds and furniture. Instead, you’ll find them where their food source is.

Spider beetles are not common, but they eat a huge variety of different foods. They will not relegate themselves to parts of the house where human contact is likely. In fact, they prefer to hide and eat things in pantries or where rodent droppings are found.

Carpet beetles may enjoy anything made from natural fabrics or upholstery that holds hair and pollen, which means they may be in bedding, furniture, or clothing. Booklice enjoy fungus and mold, and you may find them on decaying food matter or in book bindings, which is where they get the name.

Cockroach nymphs tend to stay in one area–the place where they hatched–until they are able to find their own food sources. You’ll likely find them in cracks and crevices in kitchens and bathrooms.

Check your bedding and furniture for stains

Bed bugs can leave behind small blood stains after feeding, if they get crushed. They also leave behind waste, which can be seen on sheets and furniture coverings.

Send a sample to an entomologist

Entomologists are a type of scientist, specifically insect experts. You can send a specimen of one of the bugs in your house to an entomologist, and they can make a definite determination for you, of whether the pest you have is a bed bug.

Bring in a pest control expert

Pest control experts can also aid you in making an appropriate pest identification. They’ll also be the best source for determining a treatment plan if you do have bed bugs.


Bed bugs are no fun. No one wants to be wondering whether the tiny things crawling around their house are going to feast on their blood or not. Know the obvious differences between bed bugs and bugs that look like bed bugs, and then follow the advice here to make certain of what you are dealing with.

Knowing the pest you have means you can treat the infestation quicker and more effectively.