Fleas vs Bed Bugs: Which One Do I Have?

Fleas vs bed bugs: what are the differences between these two parasitic insects? If you are getting “bites,” there’s a good chance you’ve got fleas, bed bugs, an allergic reaction, or some other pest.

Remember that there is no way to diagnose what type of pest is biting you by looking at “bite marks.”

More importantly, if you notice small, dark jumping insects in your home, they may be fleas. Please keep reading to learn more about the difference between fleas vs bed bugs and how to treat them…

Flea vs Bed Bug Pictures

fleas vs bed bugs
Fleas vs Bed Bugs Pictures

Before we begin to get into the nitty gritty of differentiating between fleas and bed bugs, let’s first take a look at some pictures. Since bed bugs are one of those “bugs that look like fleas,” this will help you to get a general idea of what each insect looks like.

Bed Bug vs Flea Pictures

Bed bug vs flea
Bed Bug vs Flea: Pictures

Flea vs Bed Bug Pictures

flea on human skin looks different than a bed bug
bed bug on human skin looks different than a flea

Flea vs bed bug: pictures, what do they look like? Study the photos above, the flea has spines on its legs, whereas the bed bug does not.

As you can see, there are some similarities between the two insects. They are both small, reddish, can have an amber color in some stages, and have antennas. Additionally you wan to pay attention to the details, depending on if you have cat fleas vs dog fleas.

However, there are also some key differences to take note of. For example, fleas have longer legs, allowing them to jump great distances. On the other hand, bed bugs have much shorter legs and cannot jump.

Another notable difference is that bed bugs have a more oval-shaped body, while fleas are more elongated. Common bed bugs prefer to feed on humans, whereas fleas are more host specific to certain animals. For example, the cat flea feeds on cats, whereas the duck flea will prefer ducks.

Now that you know what each insect looks like, let’s take a closer look at the critical differences between fleas and bed bugs…

Size (Fleas vs Bed Bugs)

Flea Size

Adult fleas are about 3 mm long.

Bed Bug Size

An adult bed bug is 5-6 mm long. For a more in depth explanation on bed bug size, we answer the question: “How big are bed bugs?

Life Cycle: Fleas vs Bed Bugs

Flea life cycle

A flea goes from the egg ➡️ larvae ➡️ pupae ➡️ adult

Bed bug life stages

The bed bugs hatch from an egg ➡️ nymph (5 stages of nymphs, each one a little bit bigger) ➡️ adult


Flea Color

Fleas are amber reddish brown.

Bed Bug Color

Bed bugs are also reddish brown. The just born baby bugs will be whitish/clear/straw colored.

What Do They Eat? (Fleas vs Bed Bugs)

What do Fleas Eat?

Fleas eat the blood of their host, non-viable flea eggs, as well as the feces of other fleas. It’s mainly the larvae of the flea that will feed on the flea droppings.

What do Bed Bugs Eat?

Bed bugs only eat the blood of their host. Bed bugs vs fleas.

Bites of Fleas vs Bed Bugs

Flea Bites vs Bed Bug Bites

Flea bites will often be below the knees. The reason is that a flea will jump off an animal onto the floor. Then they will jump on your leg as you walk by and begin feeding on your blood. Mosquitoes can bite through clothes, whereas fleas and bed bugs cannot.

Like with bed bug bites, the reaction to flea bites is varied. Furthermore, some people are more allergic to flea bites than others.

Bed Bug Bites vs Flea Bites

With bed bugs, you can experience everything from single itchy welts to lines of bites to no reactions. There is no way to diagnose bed bugs based on bite marks.

How a bed bug bite looks on your skin depends on your allergies to its bite. Furthermore, about 30% of humans do not react to bed bug bites.

How Do They Travel?

Fleas vs Bed Bugs: Travel

Firstly let’s answer, “do fleas have wings?” – No, fleas do not have wings. Fleas travel by walking and jumping. Their primary way to get around is to crawl/walk, and they occasionally jump when they get on or off a host.

Bed Bugs vs Fleas: Travel

People often wonder, “do bed bugs jump like fleas? ” No, bed bugs do not jump like fleas; their only mode of transport is crawling. Bed bugs will travel on their own or can hitchhike into your home by latching onto clothes, luggage, or other objects.

How Long Do They Live? (Fleas vs Bed Bugs)

Flea Lifespan

Most adult fleas will live for 2-3 months on a host. However, according to the study by Michael K. Rust: (The Biology and Ecology of Cat Fleas and Advancements in Their Pest Management: A Review), the mean longevity of a flea on a host is 7.8 days, and this is due to grooming. At the same time, the animal grooms the flea off of its body.

However, a flea that is not on a host and undisturbed can survive for months in the environment. According to Dr. RC Krecek, a single adult flea that is on a cat or dog has the potential to survive, on average, 100 days.

Dr. RC Krecek also mentions that the lifecycle of a typical flea can last 1-2 years in an environment conducive to their longevity. This is why you’ll need a powerful vacuum for fleas if you find an infestation.

Bed Bug Lifespan

A typical bed bug can live up to a year. However, most bed bugs will die within 3-6 months. Bed bugs can also survive for prolonged amounts of time without feeding on blood. They do this by conserving their energy and staying still.

We are experts at how long bed bugs live because we keep bed bugs to train the bed bug sniffer dogs. We’ll often have vials of bed bugs with a few bugs still alive eight months after their last blood meal.

Are They Active in Day Time or Night Time?

Flea Activity

According to the paper by Robert L. Bossard, Alberto B. Broce, and Michael W. Dryden that was published in the January 2000 issue of the Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, fleas tend to be crepuscular, which means that they are most active in the evening hours.

Furthermore, the study determined that their respiration rates decreased during nighttime. Allowing the scientists to observe the creatures conserving their energy.

While fleas in your bed, may happen if your animal is infested, more often than not, a flea will spend their time on the host.

Bed Bugs

A bed bug is a nocturnal blood-feeding insect, which means that they are most active and will feed at night while you are sleeping.

During the day, bed bugs will often hide in mattresses, headboards, or other cracks and crevices. Remember that this does not mean you will not see them wandering in the daytime. If you often find one bed bug but can’t find more, it will be during the daytime hours.

How Long Does It Take Fleas vs Bed Bug Eggs To Hatch?


According to the CDC, a flea egg will hatch in one to ten days, depending on the environmental conditions.

Bed Bugs

Bed bug eggs depend on environmental conditions and will take seven to fourteen days to hatch.

Treatment for Fleas vs Bed Bugs

Getting Rid of Fleas

Flea treatment involves treating the animal and the environment. The pupae will be in cracks and crevices around the house, and you’ll need a way to kill the newly transformed adult fleas. It takes a good flea vacuum plus a well thought out comprehensive approach.

Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs, like fleas, will involve a comprehensive treatment plan. There are many low-prep companies out there that specialize in bed bug treatment. We advise you to learn about bed bugs and their behavior before coming up with a good plan of attack.

Final Thoughts on Fleas vs Bed Bugs

Fleas and bed bugs are both parasitic insects that can cause a lot of damage to your home and mental well-being. They’re also notoriously difficult to eliminate, so it’s essential to know their differences before starting treatment. In this post, we’ve outlined the critical distinctions between these two pests so you can make sure you target the right one.