Tick vs Bed Bug: A Guide with Photos

Tick vs bed bug: even though they are both awful critters that hitch a ride on you and feast on your blood, which are worse? Whether you have ticks vs bed bugs, both can be a real nuisance, but there are some significant differences to help you tell them apart.

This article will examine bugs’ anatomy, habits, and preferences. Let’s get started!

Tick vs Bed Bug: A Chart Showing Differences

FeaturesTickBed Bug
Adult Size3-4 mm (a fed female can be 10 mm)5-6 mm (fully fed can be 7mm)
ColorGrey, Red, Tan, Patterned, BrownReddish-Brown
Obligate ParasiteYesYes
HabitatOutdoors + Attached to AnimalsIndoors + Living Close to Animals
Disease VectorYesNo
How Many Species850+90+
Do They Jump?NoNo
Ticks vs Bed Bugs: A Simple Comparison

Do Bed Bugs Look Like Ticks?

A bed bug may look similar to a tick to an untrained eye, especially if you have a larval or nymphal stage tick. We have had a few clients find tick larvae in their beds over the years.

The tick larvae usually happen after they return from a camping trip or tick-infested area with their dog. Then they send us photos, thinking that they are bed bug nymphs. We can usually confirm via an image that they are not bed bugs.

adults and nymph Bed Bugs in various life stages
Bed Bugs
Plump Ticks in various life stages

How Many Legs Do Bed Bugs Have?

All stages of bed bugs have six legs.

How Many Legs Do Ticks Have?

Ticks have eight legs, but do all ticks have eight legs? No, all ticks do not have eight legs. Larval ticks, which are poppy seed size (ticks are high up on the list of tiny black bugs that look like poppy seeds), have six legs, whereas the tick nymphs and adults have eight legs.

Tick vs Bed Bug Pictures: Bed Bugs vs Ticks Side by Side

European Dog Tick vs Bed Bug - Side by side
When Ticks are unfed and flatter, most people mistake them for a bed bugs.

More pictures of ticks vs bed bugs side by side.

Castor Bean Tick vs Bed Bug - Side by side
Always count the legs. If you see 8 legs it is probably a tick, unless you find a larval tick (those have 6 legs).

For a complete list of bugs that look similar to bed bugs, check out our article!

Lone Star Tick vs Bed Bug - Side by side
The Lone Star Tick Side by Side with a Bed Bug

10 Major Differences Between a Bed Bug and a Tick

  • Bed bugs do not latch onto your skin the way ticks do. Ticks will find a crevice behind an ear, an armpit, or groin area and attach themselves to your skin. In contrast, a bed bug will hide in cracks and crevices NEAR you (not ON you), so they can feed and then retreat.

  • Ticks are in the arachnid class, whereas bed bugs are in the insect class.

  • A tick’s life cycle has four main stages: Egg – Larvae – Nymphs – Adult. In contrast, a bed bug only has three phases; the bed bug’s life cycle is egg – nymphs – Adult.

  • Nymphs and adult ticks have eight legs, whereas bed bug nymphs and adults have six legs.

  • There is a long list of diseases transmitted by ticks. Some diseases you can get from a tick are Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and more. On the contrary, bed bugs are not known to transmit any diseases.

  • A female bed bug will lay up to 113 eggs in her lifetime. On the other hand, a tick can lay thousands of eggs.

  • Another difference between a tick and a bed bug is when the eggs hatch. A bed bug egg will hatch in under two weeks, whereas a tick’s eggs will hatch in 2 to 12 weeks.

  • Hard ticks will attach to the host for days; on the contrary, a bed bug will drink their blood in a meal in 10 minutes or less. After a bed bug finishes its meal, it retreats to a hiding spot. Learn the answer to “do bed bugs bite every night?” here.

  • Most tick species thrive outdoors; the lone star tick prefers a deciduous tree forest. However, bed bugs thrive indoors, hiding around beds, furniture, moldings, couches, and chairs. The most common places bed bugs hide are close to a blood meal.

  • Most ticks will be out looking for a host in the daytime, whereas bed bugs are nocturnal and hunt for blood in the nighttime.

Tick vs Bed Bug Bites: What are the Differences?

First, let’s go over a similarity between tick vs bed bug bites: not all people react to tick and bed bug bites. Studies on bed bugs and their biting patterns have shown that at least 30% of the population does not respond to bed bug bites. Tick bites also have a large percentage of people with no skin reaction.

Those who get bit by a Lyme tick may get a bullseye rash. However, this bullseye rash is not 100% indicative that you got bit by a tick. Often, you’ll know you got a tick bite if you see the tick latched onto your skin.

Some people get bed bug bites in a line, others have large welts, and then 30% do not react. When a bed bug bites you, the red itchy spots are just an allergic reaction to the bed bug’s saliva.

So the thing to keep in mind is that you cannot diagnose what type of bug bit you based on the bites.

What Are These Tick-Like Bugs in My House?

Finding tick-like bugs in your house may be larval or nymph ticks that fell off of you or your pet. Ticks in these two stages do not stay attached for long because they need molt.

On the other hand, the tick-like bugs you see in your house could be bed bugs. The best thing to do is to get a clear photo and email it to us for a proper ID. You can email “R@ doctor sniffs . com” (remove the spaces). If you see ticks that look like bed bugs, they may be unfed ticks.

What Is This Bug That Looks Like a Tick in My Bed? (Tick vs Bed Bug)

Have you ever found a bug in your bed that looked like a tick? If so, you’re not alone. Many people mistake bed bugs for ticks, but these two types of insects have a few key differences. First of all, bed bugs are bigger than ticks.

Bed bugs are reddish brown, while ticks are usually dark brown, grey, red, or black. Finally, if you’re still unsure what type of bug you’ve found, look closely at its legs.

Ticks have eight legs, while bed bugs have only six. So if you see a bug with six legs in your bed, it’s most likely a bed bug or a beetle- not a tick! (unless it’s a larval tick, those do have six legs)

Check out our article “bugs in the bed that are not bed bugs.”

comparison of Deer Ticks in various stages

Are Bed Bugs and Ticks Related?

No, ticks are in the class Arachnid, while bed bugs are arthropods in the class Insecta.

Is a Tick an Insect?

No, a tick is an arachnid. There are two families of ticks under the class Arachnida. Those two families are Ixodidae (Hard Ticks) 

Argasidae (Soft Ticks). Also, hard ticks are the more common ones you hear about since soft ticks are in dens, caves, and burrows.

So Where Do Ticks Hide on Humans? 

According to Dr. Neeta Pardanani Connally, who studies ticks, they like to hide out in our crevices. So, where exactly are crevices? Think, behind the ears, armpits, groin, and just about anywhere if fair game. Check out Dr. Neeta Pardanani Connally’s interview and learn about ticks on the Ologies podcast.

Did You Find a Flat Bug That Looks Like a Tick?

If you find a flat that looks like a tick, it may be an unfed tick or an unfed bed bug. There are plenty of differences between ticks and bed bugs, but the similarity is that they can both be flat when unfed.

What Is a Brown Bug That Looks Like a Tick?

A brown bug that may look like a tick to the untrained eye could be the stink bug. Stink bugs are much bigger than ticks and bed bugs and don’t bite. Learn about the difference between a bed bug and a stink bug here.

Comparison of Bed Bugs in various life stages

Final Thoughts for Tick vs Bed Bug

So, which is worse? Tick or bed bug? It’s a difficult question to answer definitively because they can cause such misery. However, if you have to choose one, ticks are probably the more harmful of the two.

They can transmit many serious diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever to name a few. Nevertheless, while bed bugs cause some skin problems, they are often more psychologically traumatizing than ticks. Of course, getting rid of either pest is no picnic, so hopefully, this article has armed you with enough information to learn the differences!

For More Related Articles, Check Out:

Bed Bug Feces: What do they look like?

How to Find Bed Bugs During the Day: Tips and Tricks from Real-Life Examples.