14 Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs (With Photo Comparison)

If you landed on this page, you are undoubtedly trying to figure out if the bug you found is a bed bug. There are many bugs that look like bed bugs to the untrained eye. As a matter of fact, there are even some that look almost identical to a bed bug but they are a different species.

This article will show you 12 different types of bugs that can resemble a bed bug and provide photo comparisons to identify better what kind of bug you are dealing with.

Some of our NYC clients confused these various bugs for bed bugs over the years. We are a bed bug inspection company in NYC, and we help people figure out whether or not they have bed bugs.

We will first cover the other species of cimicid bugs. Keep in mind that there are around 100 species of cimicid bug (family Cimicidae). The majority live with birds and bats, and many species are only host-specific.

The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is not host-specific and will feed on any warm-blooded animal. These include dogs, chickens, pet birds, rodents, cats, pet rabbits, etc. However, keep in mind that studies show that the common bed bug prefers to bite humans and not other animals with a lot of hair, feathers, or fur.

14 Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs

Please note that all photos are not to scale. The purpose is to get a general idea of the morphology  of the “bugs that look like bed bugs.”

Cimex hemipterus (the tropical bed bug)

Cimex hemipterus (tropical bed bug) vs Cimex lectularius (common bed bug) - Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs

The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) and the tropical bed bug belong to the genus cimex.  However, we find that C. lectularius is worldwide, whereas you will find C. hemipterus in tropical regions.

Remember that the tropical bed bug has been popping up in various countries worldwide due to international travel.

Both species of bed bugs will infest areas near people, like bed frames, mattresses, furniture, and more. The treatment protocols are similar for both species, and if you find a bed bug, most pest control professionals just assume that it is Cimex lectularius (the common bed bug).

There are some morphological differences between the tropical and common bed bugs. According to the study by – Lewis CD, Levine BA, Vargo EL, Schal C, Booth W. Recent Detection of Multiple Populations of the Tropical Bed Bug (Hemiptera: Cimicidae) Exhibiting kdr-Associated Mutations in Hawaii. J Med Entomol. 2020 Jul 4;57(4):1077-1081. doi: 10.1093/jme/tjaa022. PMID: 32083299 – the tropical bed bug is becoming more resistant to pesticides.

Size

The tropical bed bug is between 5 – and 7 mm.

Color

Reddish-brown to brighter red to dark blackish-brown depending on when they last fed.

Here are some of the significant differences:

  • The tropical bed bugs have a specialized tibial pad, fossula spongiosa, at the base of the tarsi. Having this anatomical advantage allows them to better grip smooth surfaces and, in turn, get out of climb-up traps.
  • Another difference in their anatomy is that the tropical bed bug has a more narrow pronotum (neck area). In contrast, the common bed bug has a broader, more U-shaped pronotum.
  • The common bed bug has a deep excavation on the top of the pronotum, whereas the tropical bed bug does not. See the arrows in the photo above.
  • The legs of the female tropical bed bug have more setae than those of the common bed bug. To note: leg 1 has more setae than legs 2 or 3.

Bat Bugs – Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs

Cimex adjunctus vs Cimex lectularius - Common Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs

Bat bugs live with bats; however, if the bats vacate the roost, then the bat bugs may crawl around and make their way into your home. Bat bugs are one of those “bed bug look alikes” often misidentified, even by pest control professionals.

Typically, though, unlike bed bugs, the bat bugs will attempt to crawl back to the bat roosts rather than stay near you. Sometimes you may see them on your walls, ceilings, attics, or other unusual places because they search for a blood meal.

First and foremost, take a look at our photo above, and you can see the setae (hairs) on the edge of the pronotum are relatively long when you compare it to the diameter of the eye. The pronotum isn’t the same shape as the common bed bug – the sides don’t flare out and forward.

Even though bat bugs are high up on the list of mistaken bugs that look like bed bugs, here are some tips to help you ID them. You can use a microscope that will attach to your phone via Bluetooth or wifi. Using some sort of magnification will allow you to see if the hair is long.

Size

The adult bat bug is 5.5 mm – 6 mm in length.

Color

Bat bugs are red, dark brown, to dark red. Color all depends on when they had their last meal.

Here are some of the significant differences:

  • Bat bugs have slightly wider back legs than bed bugs. The theory has it that it’s because they need to be able to cling and hold onto the bat when and if the bat suddenly flies.
  • The bat bug hairs on the pronotum are longer than the eye width.
  • Bat bugs also have long hairs along the body as well.

Swallow Bugs – Bird Bugs (Oeciacus vicarious)

Oeciacus vicarius vs Cimex lectularius (bed bug)

Swallow bugs are distinguishable from bed and bat bugs by their long pale hairs. Their body size is smaller, as well the front margin of the pronotum is less concave than in those two other species. Another distinguishing feature of the swallow bugs is that their 3rd and 4th antennae segments are equal in length.

The swallow bugs live with various bird species like swallows, pigeons, swifts, and chickens. More importantly, the swallows are the only host animal on which swallow bugs will develop and reproduce.

You may see some swallow bugs in your house in the late summer/early fall when the swallows migrate south. The swallow bugs can also overwinter and hide in cracks or crevices, conserving their energy until the birds migrate back.

You may also start to see them in early spring, right before the swallows’ return. The reason is that the swallow bugs will be starved and seek out a blood meal.

The first step to getting rid of the swallow bugs is to first remove the nests. So if you see bugs that look similar to bed bugs in the first step is to check your property for birds nests. In particular, check your chimney, rooftop, attic, and eaves.

Size

The adult swallow bug is 3 – 4 mm (smaller than a bed bug).

Color

Greyish and amber with a fine coating of pale yellowish/grey hairs.

Here are some of the significant differences:

  • Long pale hairs surround the body.
  • 3rd and 4th antennae segments are equal in length.
  • The adult swallow bugs are smaller in size than the common bed bug.

Pirate Bugs (nymph) – One of the Bed Bug Look Alikes

Minute Pirate Bug vs Cimex lectularius (bed bug) - One of the bed bug look alikes that our client found.

Pirate bugs are in the anthocoroid family, in the superfamily Cimicoidea.   The Cimicoidea superfamily contains bed bugs, minute pirate bugs, bat bugs, Lyctocoridae family bugs,  and Lasiochilidae family bugs.

Pirate bugs are considered beneficial predator insects. So if you find one, it just means that they are hunting for mites, thrips, aphids, whiteflies, and other bugs.

Recently we had a client find one of these minute pirate bug nymphs on their arm. As you can see from the photo, there are some similarities; however, there are far more differences. The client was pretty convinced that it was a baby bed bug nymph.

The actual size of the pirate bug nymph is a lot smaller than a bed bug nymph. The pirate bug nymphs are 0.2 – 0.48 mm long, whereas the bed bug nymph is 1.5mm – 2mm.

Size

The pirate bug nymphs are 0.2 – 0.48 mm, and the pirate bug adults are 2–5 mm.

Color

The nymphs are translucent and light amber.

Here are some of the significant differences:

  • The pirate bugs are scavengers and feed on plant material and other things. In contrast, the bed bugs are strickly parasitic blood feeders.
  • The pirate bug nymph is a lot smaller than a bed bug nymph.
  • Adult pirate bugs live approximately 35 days, whereas adult bed bugs can live up to 1 year (or even a little longer in some cases).

German Cockroach Nymph

Cockroach nymph vs bed bug - very commonly shown to us as Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs.

The German cockroach is one of the most common pests, and the nymph is often confused with a bed bug. They are small, about 1/2 inch long, and light brown. If any cockroaches look like bed bugs, it’s the nymphs.

Unlike the adult German cockroach, the nymphs have two prongs on their backend. They are also much smaller than the adult cockroaches but similar in size to an adult bed bug.

The German cockroach has a hard shell on its body, whereas the bed bug does not. The cockroach nymphs will be between 3 to 14 mm, depending on the life stage. They molt up to 6 times before becoming an adult roach.

If you think you might have found either a bed bug or a roach nymph, look for the 2 prongs on the backend. It will be a dead giveaway that what you found is a roach.

Size

The German cockroach nymph size is 3 mm – 14 mm

Color

A cockroach’s color ranges from amber to dark brown to black.

Here are some of the major differences between these “Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs”

  • A cockroach nymph is between 3 – and 14 mm, whereas a bed bug will be 1.5 mm – 6 mm.
  • Even though a cockroach nymph is one of those bugs that look like a bed bug for many people, it has a distinguishing feature of 2 prongs in the back.
  • Cockroach nymphs are scavengers; they will eat just about anything. These bed bug look-alikes eat other bugs, food, mouse droppings, and dirt. Whereas a bed bug is only after one thing, and that is blood.

Book Lice – Psocids – Very Commonly Found by our Clients for “Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs”

book louse vs Cimex lectularius (bed bug)

Since the booklice are small and under some lights can appear to be the same color as a bed bug nymph, they are frequently mistaken for one. However, a psocid (booklice) is about 1mm whereas the stage 1 bed bug nymph is 1.5mm and they quickly grow to 2mm.

A booklouse likes to feast on molds as well as papers and books. If you see a lot of booklice, try to reduce the humidity in your living space. Booklice are attracted to damp locations with microscopic mold. By doing a  thorough cleaning, to remove any mold,  you will make the area more inhospitable to booklice.

If you are able to control mold and mildew while reducing damp conditions then you are well on your way to getting rid of booklice in your house or apartment.

Size

The size of a booklouse is around 1 mm.

Color

A booklouse’s color ranges from translucent whitish to light grey, to light brown.

Here are some major differences:

  • Adult booklice are much smaller than a bed bug nymph.
  • A booklouse is attracted to moisture, whereas a bed bug is attracted to  blood.

Flour Beetles

Flour beetle vs Cimex lectularius (bed bug)

Believe it or not, flour beetles are another one of those bugs that look like bed bugs to the untrained eye. If you see tiny bugs in your bed that is not bed bugs, they may be wandering flour beetles.

Some people see a flour beetle in their bedroom and panic, thinking it’s a bed bug. Flour beetles thrive on moisture and grains, so if you know a lot of flour beetles, it might be time to clean out your kitchen. Check for any stored grains that may have an infestation.

Size

The two primary flour beetles (confused flour beetle and red flour beetle) are 3 mm – and 4mm.

Color

Both flour beetles are reddish-brown.

Here are some of the significant differences:

  • The flour beetles are reddish-brown and slender. In contrast, the bed bug is not thin.
  • Flour beetles do not infest beds and furniture. However, you may see some on your bed if they are hatching somewhere in your home.
  • They eat flour meal, grains, and nuts. Unlike the bed bug, which only drinks blood.

Spider Beetles – Very Commonly Mistaken for a Bed Bug

spider beetle vs Cimex lectularius (bed bug)

Spider beetles are another one of those bugs high up on the bugs that look like bed bugs list.  Spider beetles have the signature round red body. It’s this round red body that causes people to mistake them for bed bugs.

A spider beetle might be the number one bug that people find and believe it’s a bed bug. The truth is, a spider beetle does not bite humans and they are more of a nuisance than anything.

A spider beetle forages for it’s food, they will eat almost any type of food sources like figs, almonds, berries, cereal, wheat, paper, plants, and more. If you are finding them around your house, it’s time to clean out your cupboards and seal up all of your food items.

So don’t let this bed bug look-alike fool you, take some good photos and send them to us or your local entomologist for an ID.

Size

The American spider beetle is between 1.5 mm and 3.5 mm.

Color

The body of the spider beetle is red.

Here are some of the major differences:

  • Spider beetles are scavengers and have a wide variety of things they eat. Whereas a bed bug only eats blood.
  • An American spider beetle is between 1.5 mm and 3.5 mm. On the other hand, a bed bug is between 1.5 mm and 6 mm.
  • A spider beetle has a very round hard shell

Carpet Beetle

variegated carpet beetle vs Cimex lectularius (bed Bug)

Many people think that carpet beetles are bugs that look like bed bugs. Unlike bed bugs, carpet beetles will feast on fabrics, stored food products, and carpets.

I have often seen them along the seams of mattresses and under box springs. This is precisely why they are confused about bed bugs.

Carpet beetles, roaches, and spider beetles are among the more common NYC apartment bugs. It’s essential to vacuum around your bed frame and mattress at least once a month. Take your bed off its frame and vacuum all around the seams of the mattress. Don’t forget to vacuum every crevice of your bed frame; this will reduce the chances of carpet beetles infesting your bed.

After hatching, a carpet beetle goes through the larval and pupal stage. On the other hand, a bed bug only goes through a nymph stage after hatching. With carpet beetles, you will find worm-like larvae that are usually covered in hair. Some people can get bad reactions from being allergic to the hairs on the carpet beetle larvae.

Size

Adult carpet beetles are between 1/10 of an inch (varied carpet beetle) to 1/8 to 3/16 inches long.

Color

Black/brown/variegated

Here are some of the significant differences:

  • The life cycle of a carpet beetle is different than that bed bug. The carpet beetle goes from – egg – to larvae – to pupae – to adult. However, the bed bug goes from the egg – to nymph – to adult.
  • A carpet beetle is not a blood-sucking parasite.
  • Adult carpet beetle has wings, unlike a bed bug.

Bird Mites

bird mites vs Cimex lectularius

Both bird mites and bed bugs are parasites that drink blood. However, the similarities stop there. A bed bug problem and a bird mite infestation are two different pest situations requiring other treatments.

Bird mites are a type of parasitic mite that feeds on the blood of birds. Keep in mind that birds can get into our homes and drink our blood like bed bugs, but they will not be able to complete their life cycle relying on human blood alone.

Unlike bed bugs, which can live off of human blood and many other animals, bird mites rely strictly on avian blood for sustenance. Bird mites are not typically seen away from birds or bird nests, unless the birds abandon the nest then the bird mites may go looking for a new food source. 

Bird mite eggs are typically laid in nests or on feathers. They hatch in two to three days, and you will see adults about five days later if birds are present.

Bird mites are difficult to see with the naked eye, but you will see them if you have excellent eyesight,.

When it comes to getting rid of these critters, the first step is to find and remove any birds nests around your apartment or house. The next step is to vacuum thoroughly, then wash and dry all of your clothing and bedding. With no birds present, the bird mites will eventually die off.

Size

The bird mite is 1/32 of an inch or less than 1mm.

Color

  • Amber – reddish – greyish

Here are some of the significant differences:

  • Bird mites have 8 legs, whereas bed bugs have 6.
  • Bird mites will bite humans but not be able to reproduce on human blood alone.
  • The life cycle of a bird mite is egg – larva – nymph – adult (bed bugs are egg – nymph – adult)

Ticks

ticks vs Cimex lectularius (bed bug)

Between the two families of ticks, hard ticks, and soft ticks, there are about 900 species. Some regions like the NE are rampant with ticks in the spring, summer, and fall. If you are not sure if the bug you found is a bed bug or a tick, the first step is to count the legs.

Does it have 8 legs? If it does, then, it may be a tick. On the other hand, bed bugs only have six legs: ticks are,e in the same classification as six arachnids like spiders.s.

A few years ago, one of our clients found over 30 tick nymphs in her bed. She had just returned from a weekend trip to the Hamptons, which is known to be infested with ticks. She thought these red bugs in her bed were bed bugs; however, we confirmed right away that they were ticks when we arrived for the inspection.

Ticks are obligate blood-sucking ectoparasites and are vectors of many diseases.

Size

The adult ticks are  3 to 5 mm. However, the nymphs are the size of a poppy seed and are 2 mm or smaller.

Color

There are a variety of ticks, and the colors range from red to grey to brown.

Here are some of the major differences:

  • Ticks feed by attaching themselves to the host, whereas a bed bug feeds and then goes back to its harborage.
  • There are many diseases spread by ticks, however, bed bugs are not currently known to transmit any diseases.
  • A tick will attach to its host by cutting the skin and inserting a feeding tube. They remain stuck for a few hours up to a few days.

Fleas

flea vs Cimex lectularius (bed bug)

Fleas can cause bites that may look similar to bed bug bites on some people.  Fleas are not one of the bugs that look just like bed bugs. However many of our clients still think that the flea they found is a bed bug.

Many flea treatments will kill the adult fleas but not the pupae. The flea pupae can over-winter and wait until optimal conditions emerge, which is part of the reason why fleas are so difficult to eradicate.

Since the flea lifecycle is so short and they lay up to 50 eggs per day, you can get wholly infested with fleas in no time.

Size

The flea is between 1.5 mm and 4 mm.

Color

A flea is usually black, brown, or reddish-brown.

Here are some of the major differences:

  • A flea will lay between 20-50 eggs per day, whereas a bed bug will lay 1-5 eggs per day.
  • Fleas jump, whereas bed bugs do not jump.
  • A flea can transmit tapeworms to your pets, whereas bed bugs are not known to transmit disease.

Head Lice and Body Lice

Although head lice and body lice each have different behaviors, they look almost identical. We will cover them separately below.

The two types of body lice below do not go after pets, they are specific to humans. Dogs and cats have their forms of lice that are species-specific to them.

Head Lice Pediculus humanus capitis

head lice vs Cimex lectularius (bed bug)

Both head lice and bed bugs feed on human blood and have a life cycle with eggs and nymphs.  However, the similarities stop there.

Head lice live in your hair; they lay eggs (just like body lice) which hatch in 6 – 9 days. Then they will go through a nymph stage for about a week; after that, they will become adults. You need a male and female louse in order to produce nits and babies.

If you wonder, “can bed bugs get in your hair?” The short answer is “no.” Bed bugs do not like to climb through hair, like lice. A bed bug does not have claws on the feet to grip a piece of hair.

Size

The human head louse is two mm-3 mm long.

Color

They are transparent but will turn reddish-brown after they have a blood meal.

Here are some of the major differences:

  • Head lice live in your hair, whereas bed bugs do not.
  • Head lice have claws at the end of each leg, which help them to grip each strand of hair.

Body Lice Pediculus humanus humans

body lice vs Cimex lectularius (bed bug)

Body lice live within your clothing and crawl onto your skin to feed. If you frequently wash your clothing in hot water and a hot dryer, you will avoid becoming infested with body lice.

Over the years, we have encountered numerous cases of people mistaking body lice for a bed bug nymph.

Lice will quickly spread from person to person, so it’s important to catch an infestation early. Lice are species-specific to humans, so your dog or cat will not get the lice.

The life cycle of body lice is egg – nymph – adult. The louse will lay the eggs within the clothing close to the skin. By doing this, they are guaranteeing their newly hatched babies get a meal. Lice eggs hatch in 6-9 days. Then the nymphs will turn into adults in about 7 days. After they are adults they can begin laying more eggs.

Size

The body louse is 2 mm -4 mm.

Color

The body louse is greyish/transparent in color but turns reddish-brown after drinking blood.

Here are some of the major differences:

  • Just like the head lice, body lice also have claws at the end of each leg. The claws allow them to grip your clothing and scurry about.
  • The females lay eggs along the seams of your clothing, this gives them easy access to a blood meal since most people carry the body lice around with them on their clothing.

Final Thoughts for Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs

If you’re looking for a little reassurance that the insect you found crawling around your bedroom is not a bed bug, we hope this article was helpful. Bed bugs are definitely nothing to mess with, and if you think you may have a  bed bug infestation it’s best to call in a professional.

However, there are many other types of pests that can look like bed bugs, so don’t panic if you see something small and reddish-brown scurrying across the floor- it might not be a bed bug after all! Learn about some of the most common bed bug look alikes so next time you know just what to look for. Thanks for reading!


For More Bed Bug Help Keep Reading:

Do bed bugs come out during the day? Learn tips and tricks on how to find a bed bug in the daytime.

A mattress encasement is important for not letting carpet beetles, mites, or bed bugs infest your mattress and box spring. Learn about the best bed bug mattress cover here.

Did you find a female bed bug or a male bed bug? Learn the differences here.