Scabies vs Bed Bugs: Quick Guide to Spot the Differences

Scabies vs bed bugs: these are two common and notorious parasites known for causing us both distress and emotional turmoil. Both pests are infamous for inflicting itchiness, rashes, and interrupted sleep on their victims. 

There are, however, some important differences between the two. So we are here to help you identify the perpetrator so you can apply proper treatment methods.

The most notable difference between scabies and bed bugs is their appearance and habits. Scabies, caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, are microscopic arachnids mites that burrow into the skin to lay and hatch their eggs. Their tiny size renders them invisible to the naked eye. 

On the other hand, bed bugs are reddish-brown, oval-shaped insects that you can see without a microscope. Furthermore, bed bugs reside in dark crevices near where people sleep and only emerge to feast on their host’s blood. 

Understanding these disparities is crucial in diagnosing the problem and seeking appropriate treatment options.

Physical Appearance (Scabies vs Bed Bugs)

Scabies vs bed bugs

Understanding the physical and anatomical differences between scabies mites and bed bugs is essential for proper identification and treatment. In this section, we will explore the unique features of each parasite.

Scabies Mites

Scabies mites, or Sarcoptes scabiei, are microscopic arachnids that dwell on human skin. They are not visible to the naked eye, usually measuring just 0.2-0.4 millimeters in length. 

Scabies mites have a round body and four pairs of legs, with specialized mouthparts for burrowing into the skin and feeding on host tissue. These mites can cause itching, discomfort, and skin rashes as they burrow and lay eggs beneath the skin’s surface.

Bed Bugs

On the other hand, bed bugs are insects belonging to the Cimicidae family. Adult bed bugs are much larger than scabies mites, measuring 5 to 7 millimeters. Even the baby bed bug size is visible to the naked eye.

Bed bugs have flat, oval-shaped bodies with six legs, making them easy to identify with the naked eye. But keep in mind that right after feeding, they will be plumper. The color of these parasites ranges from straw/light tan in young stages (nymphs) to brownish-red in adulthood. 

Unlike scabies mites, bed bugs do not burrow into the skin; they remain on the surface to feed on blood and then retreat to a hiding spot. To learn more about where to look for them, read up on “where do bed bugs hide?

Both parasites have distinct habitats: scabies vs bed bugs

  • Scabies mites live and reproduce on human skin, burrowing into the outer layer to lay their eggs.

  • Bed bugs reside in the crevices of furniture, bedding, and dark spaces near where people sleep (or spend a lot of time), coming out to feed during rest periods.

Examining these distinctive physical characteristics makes it clear how different scabies mites and bed bugs are from each other. Identifying the correct parasite is essential to ensure proper treatment and relief from these unwelcome pests.

Lifecycle and Reproduction (Bed Bugs vs Scabies)

Understanding the lifecycle and reproduction of scabies and bed bugs is vital to differentiate between these parasitic pests. In this section, we will delve into the unique aspects of their life stages and how they reproduce.

Scabies Lifecycle

Scabies mites (Sarcoptes scabiei) undergo four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Adult female scabies lay 2-3 eggs daily, burrowing into the skin to deposit them. The scabies eggs are oval, about 0.10 to 0.15 mm long, and hatch in 3 to 4 days. 

The emerging larvae then migrate to the skin’s surface and continue to molt, transitioning through the nymph stage before finally maturing into adults. Males eventually mate with females, and the cycle continues.

Bed Bug Lifecycle

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) have a three-stage life cycle of egg, nymph, and adult stages. However, the bed bug life cycle, reproduction, and development differ from scabies mites. 

First, female bed bugs lay several eggs daily in secluded places such as crevices and cracks close to their human hosts. These eggs hatch within 7 to 14 days, releasing nymphs that must feed on blood to grow and molt through five developmental stages before becoming adults. 

From egg to adult, the process takes approximately 5 to 8 weeks, depending on the environmental conditions and access to blood meals.

Now that we have explored the distinct lifecycle and reproduction patterns of scabies and bed bugs, it is easier to comprehend how these pests are from each other. Further sections will discuss more critical differences between these two parasites. 

Learning more about them will give you the knowledge to identify and address potential infestations.

Feeding Habits (Scabies vs Bed Bugs)

Both scabies and bed bugs are parasitic pests that feed on humans, but their feeding habits differ in several ways. This section will explore the feeding habits of scabies, mites, and bed bugs. We’ll primarily focus on their distinctive approaches to obtaining nutrition from their hosts.

Scabies Mites

Scabies mites are known to burrow into human skin, where they reproduce and lay eggs. They primarily feed on the epidermis, or the outermost layer of the skin, and can cause significant discomfort for the host. 

Furthermore, scabies infestations are characterized by severe itching, skin rashes, and inflammation since the mites’ feeding habits trigger an allergic response in the host’s skin.

Dogs have their form of scabies, which is called mange. It is worth noting that scabies mites are species-specific, which means they only survive on human skin and are not known to infest animals. This targeted feeding behavior underscores their dependence on humans for survival.

Bed Bugs

In contrast to scabies mites, bed bugs do not live on or within their host’s skin. Instead, they prefer to inhabit cracks and crevices close to sleeping areas, venturing to feed on their host’s blood at night. 

Bed bugs are not picky eaters. Hence, they are not species-specific like scabies. In addition, they can feed on both humans and animals for their blood meals.

While scabies mites feed beneath the skin’s surface, bed bugs remain external, feasting on exposed skin in search of a blood meal. Lastly, each bed bug will only feed on blood once every 4-7 days. Learn more about how often bed bugs feed here.

Habitat and Infestation

When dealing with parasitic infestations, it is crucial to understand the differences between scabies and bed bugs, as their habitats and infestation patterns are distinct.

Scabies Infestations

scabies infests the body

Scabies is caused by the microscopic mite called Sarcoptes scabiei, which tunnels into the outer layer of human skin to lay and hatch its eggs. These mites prefer warm and moist environments, typically found in skin folds and crevices. 

More importantly, the mites can spread through direct skin-to-skin contact or indirectly via shared clothing, bedding, and towels. One way to identify a scabies infestation is by intense itching, a pimple-like rash, and sometimes visible burrows in the skin. 

You’ll need to see a Doctor to confirm, especially since many other things can cause scabies-like rashes.

Bed Bug Infestations

bed bugs infest your surroundings

Contrary to scabies mites, bed bug infestations are seen around places where you spend a lot of time, like beds, couches, and chairs. Unlike scabies, bed bugs do not live on human skin but rather live in the environment near the host.

Monitoring for bed bug infestations and learning the early signs of bed bugs includes checking for physical symptoms, such as:

  • Reddish brown bugs around the bed
  • Cast skins or molted exoskeletons

It is crucial to address these infestations promptly, as they can multiply quickly and become challenging to eradicate.

Have you ever encountered one of these infestations? Knowing the habitats and patterns of these two parasites can help guide proper identification and treatment. Understanding their differences is critical to effectively managing and preventing future occurrences.

Symptoms and Skin Reactions: Scabies vs Bed Bugs

When dealing with scabies and bed bugs, it is essential to understand the differences in symptoms and skin reactions caused by these two parasites. This section will look at the key differences and help you identify which parasite might cause the issue.


Scabies, caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, often results in symptoms and skin reactions (source). The primary symptoms of scabies include:

  • A rash that appears along pants lines, between fingers, toes, or inner elbows could be scabies.
  • Visible tiny burrows in the skin may appear as thin, wavy tunnels made up of small blisters or bumps on the skin.

Bed Bug Bites

On the other hand, bed bug bites can show up in similar spots as scabies bites; however, it’s not always the case. Bed bug bites may look different on everyone and can vary in size and pattern.

The symptoms of bed bug bites differ from those of scabies and often include:

Bed bug bites MAY appear small, itchy, and red welts on the skin. Therefore they may also initially be mistaken for scabies, mosquito bites, or many other things. 

The thing is that 30% or more of the population does not react to bed bug bites. Therefore, some people may be getting bit and not even know it. 

Plus, bed bug bites can have a varied look: they can be in a straight line, clustered pattern, or just single welts. In addition, people’s reactions to bed bug bites can change over time. So this is why it’s impossible to identify bed bugs based on bites.

Bed bug bites do not cause any visible burrows in the skin. While bed bugs are not known to spread diseases, they can cause allergic or severe skin reactions in some individuals.

By understanding the distinct symptoms and skin reactions caused by scabies and bed bugs, you can better identify the cause of your discomfort and seek appropriate treatment. If you have any doubts, consult a medical professional for a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment and Prevention (Scabies vs Bed Bugs)

When dealing with scabies and bed bugs, it’s essential to understand the differences in treatment and prevention methods. Both parasites cause discomfort and require prompt attention to avoid further complications. 

This section will discuss the various treatments available for scabies and bed bugs.

Scabies Treatment

Scabies is caused by microscopic mites that burrow into the skin, resulting in intense itching and rash. The primary treatment for scabies includes prescription medications such as 5% permethrin cream or a few other topical creams. 

These creams are applied topically to the affected areas, usually following a specific recommended schedule by a healthcare provider. In addition to medication, it is vital to decontaminate personal items like bedding, clothing, and towels. 

You’ll need to wash these in hot water and a high-heat dryer. You are making sure to Pay special attention to towels, sheets, and clothing.

Bed Bug Treatment

Unlike scabies, bed bugs are visible insects that feed on human blood. To get rid of bed bug infestations, a well-thought-out plan is vital. 

Vacuuming can help remove most of the bed bugs. However, it would help if you used it alongside other measures like chemical treatments, cryonite, fumigation, or steam to ensure complete eradication. 

It’s crucial to seek the assistance of a bed bug specialist to guarantee a successful treatment. In the meantime, if you are the type that reacts to the bites, you can apply an anti-itch cream to minimize itching and swelling.

Preventing scabies and bed bug infestations can be challenging, but both parasite infestations are solvable. Adopting good hygiene practices and being cautious when frequenting shared or public spaces is essential to reduce exposure to these parasites. 

Regularly washing linens, exercising caution when using shared facilities, and inspecting hotel rooms and other short-term rentals for pests can vastly decrease the risk of infestations.

Can You Have Bed Bugs and Scabies at the Same Time?

It’s unfortunately true. It is possible to have both scabies and bed bugs at the same time. Though they are two different parasites, they can inhabit the same living spaces or infest a person simultaneously.

If you already have a bed bug issue, then visit a friend with scabies; you will have to get ready to wage war on both parasites.

Therefore, it is essential to be aware of their differences and how to prevent pest infestations in your home. If you have either of these parasites, seeing a doctor or pest specialist as soon as possible is best. Then you’ll get a more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

By understanding the unique signs and symptoms caused by scabies and bed bugs, you can take steps toward eradicating them from your home. The steps outlined above will help you combat either of them.

Final Thoughts for Scabies VS Bed Bugs

This article explores the significant differences between scabies mites and bed bugs, two common yet distinct parasites. By examining their physical and anatomical differences, we can better understand their different behaviors and methods of infestation.

Scabies mites, microscopic arachnids, burrow into the outer layer of human skin to lay and hatch their eggs. They are invisible to the naked eye and must be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional. 

On the other hand, bed bugs are small, visible insects that typically reside in crevices near where people sleep. They are flat, wingless, and red-brown.

Although both bed bugs are parasites that feed on human blood, scabies mites are thought to feed on the flesh. Their life cycles and infestation methods differ significantly. 

Scabies mites cannot survive long without a human host, while bed bugs can persist for months without feeding. Knowing this is an essential factor when considering strategies to control their populations.

So, with proper knowledge and understanding of these unique parasites, one can take necessary precautions and seek appropriate treatment should an infestation occur. Remember, staying informed is critical to maintaining a healthy, pest-free environment for you and your loved ones.

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