Ouch! So you just discovered an itchy red welt on your body while lounging on the couch or upon waking up from your sleep. Sometimes finding out the culprit biter is not as simple as you may think. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bugs out there that can bite you and love to drink your blood.
If there’s an infestation around in your home, you’re in for a miserable time until you get to the bottom of what pest is present. Identification is important when it come to selecting a treatment approach because how are you going to know what to do and what control products to use if you don’t know what you are dealing with?
Bed Bugs or Fleas: Who’s Biting You?
Pests that often get confused for one another because of their similarities are bed bugs and fleas. If you or others in your household are suffering from itchy bites, it’s imperative that you find out exactly which one you are dealing with since both have different tendencies and a different method of control.
In this article, we will cover the differences between these two bloodsucking pests and share with you what you need to do to eliminate either threat from your home and stop the biting.
Bed Bugs vs. Fleas – Compare and Contrast
Fleas and Bed Bugs are both parasitic insects, meaning that they need a host to survive off of. Unfortunately, what they need for survival happens to be blood and their preferred host happens to be humans or animals–whatever is available to them.
They both are quite tiny and brown but fleas are much tinier than bed bugs and can be harder to spot. After this the similarities stop as bed bugs and fleas behave and operate very differently from each other.
Fleas are about 3 mm long, are brown and wingless. While they are a bug that is unable to fly, they make up for that lack of ability by being able to jump 7 to 13 inches high–enough to leap onto a pest or animal. Combine that with the strong claws that have for holding onto a host, it is very easy for them to jump onto a pet or person unnoticed.
Unlike Bed bugs however, fleas prefer an animal host because they like to hide in fur. Fleas also like to live on their host unlike bed bugs who like to stay close to a host but not live on them.
Fleas most often latch onto a host when they are spending time outdoors. They will actually be waiting on blades of grass for the right opportunity for a host to come by and will leap onto a pet and hold on to them to feed on their blood.
Bed bugs do not possess wings either and are about a quarter of an inch long. Adults look like a moving apple seed up close. Bed bugs don’t have leaping abilities or flying abilities but they are exceptional climbers and crawlers and have flat bodies that work to their advantage as they can squeeze through and hide in the tightest of nooks and crannies.
Bed bugs prefer to feed on the blood of humans and thus they tend to stay close to civilization where humans are.
Bed bugs are hitchhikers and will crawl unsuspected onto humans if they come close by or more often, will crawl onto human belongings or reused furniture which humans will they bring into their home. This is how they gain access to a home.
Bed bugs do not live directly on a human like a flea does, but they will live somewhere close by, like a mattress, furniture, carpeting, cabinets or dressers near where humans rest or spend most of their time.
Bed bugs are opportunists. They hide all day and wait patiently for the right moment when our guard is down to go on the attack. When we are asleep, they will crawl out of their hiding spots and crawl onto us and bite.
While doing so, they also inject a numbing substance so we aren’t able to feel the blood sucking right away. This gives the bed bug ample time to feed and then crawl back into their hiding spot undetected.
Bed Bug Bites or Flea Bites?
Bed bug bites and flea bites can be pretty tricky to tell apart because they look very similar and they are both very itchy. But there are ways that you can differentiate between the two.
What you will need to pay attention to when it comes to telling the bites apart is how long the bites last, where you are being bitten and the symptoms of the bites.
- Flea Bites are bites that you may see in a pattern of three and appear within an hour after you have been bitten. The bites will often be located where there is very little hair such as your feet, hands, ankles, elbows and other areas. Flea bites often remain for 2 days or longer if you have sensitive skin or if you are itching the bites a lot so resist the urge to scratch the bites.
- Bed Bug Bites also cause itchy raised welts on the skin. You will see multiple bites in a line rather than scattered around. Bed Bugs like to bite meaty areas of the body like the face, neck, back, arms and hands as well as legs and feet. Bed bug bites can take up to 2 weeks to heal because of the bed bug saliva causing reactions to those with sensitivities or allergic reactions. If you scratch the bites excessively, the bites can will take much longer to go away.
Recommended Read: Bed Bugs Vs Ticks
Signs of Infestation
If you are still unsure of which pest is biting you, perform an inspection in your home and watch out for telltale signs of their presence. Bed bugs and fleas leave their own unique evidences of their activity.
Fleas Infestation Signs: The most obvious sign that you have fleas in the home is by observing your pet (if you have one). Are they itchy and irritable? Are they constantly scratching themselves? If so, run a flea comb through their fur to see if there are eggs or fleas on their body.
If you are unable to find fleas, another thing to watch out for is flea dirt. These are little pepper-like clods that may be found on a pet. This is dried up blood that has been released as flea dropping on the pet. To be sure it is dirt, you can wet them with a damp towel, if the black or darkish brown clods turn red, it is definitely flea dirt.
Bed Bug Infestation Signs: The best way to check for bed bugs is to first examine your bed. Strip off your bedding materials and look for small reddish-brown stains on your mattress and bed sheets that look like rush.
You should also examine your mattress, scanning the tufts and lifting the folds as these are prime area bed bugs hide. When doing this, you may find bed bugs themselves or an ample amount of black or dark stains which is old blood or bed bug feces.
Addressing The Flea or Bed Bug Infestation
So you’ve pinpointed which pest has invaded your home. Now what? You should act quickly to get rid of the infestation because every day you waste, the bed bug or flea population will just grow bigger and bigger. Both pest problems will take some labor on your behalf to fully eliminate the invasion. It won’t be a one and done task.
Start With Vacuuming
Bed bugs and fleas like to hide on furniture and in carpeting so you should start out a control program with regular vacuuming of your home. Thoroughly vacuum your carpet to capture any adult fleas and bed bugs or their eggs which may be deposited in the fibers of your carpet, on furniture or your mattress.
Use a crevice attachment to carefully go over your furniture, under the cushions, in between the tufts and folds of your mattress, your bed frame, box spring and any other prime area that they may be in hiding. Vacuuming should be done daily, especially during an infestation.
Upon completing your vacuuming, make sure you immediately discard the vacuum bag outside of the home after sealing the bag in a plastic bag. If you have a removable and reusable canister, this should be dumped outside in a sealed bag and the canister should be washed with hot water and soap.
Washing Clothing, Fabrics and Your Pet
If you have fleas, you need to make sure that you give your pet a bath with medicated flea shampoo to remove the fleas that are on them. Make sure to use a comb to go through all of their fur and dislodge the fleas.
For both fleas and bed bugs, you need to take all your fabrics, bedding, clothing and any thing else you suspect may be infested and run it through a washing and drying cycle in your laundry machines. Put the setting on high heat for both the washing and the drying to kill the bed bugs or fleas that are infesting your items.
Utilizing Insecticides for Flea and/or Bed Bug Control
There are many different insecticides out there for addressing fleas and bed bugs. What works best are ones that address the entire life cycle and not just the adults. There are aerosol sprays available that can kill adult fleas and bed bugs while also containing an insect growth regulator that can prevent bed bug and flea eggs from hatching, interrupting the reproductive cycle.
Bed bugs and flea eggs are surprisingly the majority of an infestation since both these species of pests are constantly breeding and laying eggs. So even if you kill all the adults, if a couple of weeks, the eggs they have laid will hatch and you will have a entirely new generation to deal with which is why we stressed that control is not a one time thing. You should apply insecticides regularly at intervals every two weeks to deal with the newly hatched pests so the infestation is wiped out completely.
No matter what you choose to eliminate the bed bugs or fleas, the best course of action is to use more than one product. That way if one method of control doesn’t work, the other will. There are insecticide concentrates available to control bed bugs and fleas, powder or dust products, aerosols and insect growth regulators available, so combine a few of them to really do damage to the population.
Whether you have bed bugs or fleas, they’re both an annoying pain to deal with. Knowing the difference between the two will clear up a lot of confusion and help you in directing your control efforts the correct way so you can eliminate the problem. The more you know about the pest, the better equipped you will be in getting rid of them from your home and stopping the bites once and for all.