bed bugs or fleas

Are you plagued by itchy, sore bug bites?

Suffering through swollen, itchy bug bites that are painful is annoying at best. Especially if it’s happening more often than not in your own home.

The best way to prevent this from continuing is to find out what’s biting you. The most common culprits include bed bugs and fleas, but they can be hard to tell apart.

Don’t worry, we can help with that! Keep reading for our guide on how to tell if bed bugs or fleas are the culprits.

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Both bed bugs and fleas are small reddish-brown pests that feed off sucking blood. It’s unlikely you’ll see them both side by side, but it’s important to know the subtle differences.

Fleas are oval in shape and will be around 1.5mm-3mm in length. Bed bugs have a flatter shape though and look more like a seed. They can reach 1.5mm-5mm in length.

Favorite Host

Fleas and bed bugs have different hosts they prefer. Fleas want to feed off hairy animals like cats and dogs but a bed bug much prefers human skin.

Due to this, if you have fleas in your home it’s likely your pet brought them in. If you have bed bugs, it’s more likely that they came in on the skin of a person.

This isn’t to say that fleas don’t ever feed on people or bed bugs won’t feast on animals. Once they’re established, they’ll find their food on whatever of the two is easier to get.

How They Move

You’ve likely seen the cartoons of fleas jumping, well that’s true. They’re impressive jumpers and can jump lengths of 13 inches across and 7 inches up into the air. Bed bugs though can’t jump and you’ll see them crawling to their destinations.

Where They Live

Bed bugs and fleas come out at night as they’re nocturnal. Fleas cling onto their host and will hide in their fur or hair when they’re not feasting. Bed bugs hide away in mattresses, bed frames, and springs during the day instead.

Bed Bug Bites or Flea Bites

When it comes to their bites, there are some differences to note too. Everything from the pattern, where they like to bite, and what symptoms you have.

Bite Pattern

You’ll find flea bites often in clusters of 3, and they’ll look like a little group of mosquito bites. Within 3 days they can blister or open up into sores. Bed bugs often leave their bites (3-4) in a straight line or a row but this isn’t guaranteed.

Bite Appearance

Because of how they puncture the skin, a flea bite has a dark red dot in the middle of the bite. Bed bug bites look like raised bumps, from the allergic reaction to their saliva. Bed bug bites are often larger in size too than flea bites.

Bite Location

When a flea bites they tend to look for moist warm areas of skin. This includes elbow and knee bends, armpits, and other skin folds. Bed bugs like to bite on exposed skin, usually on the upper body. You’ll likely find these bites on your arms, neck, and face.

Bite Symptoms

As soon as they appear a flea bite will swell and itch. If you have an allergic reaction, it’ll start to blister and you might get a rash or hives too.

Make sure you don’t scratch, if you break the blister it could get infected. Fleas also can burrow into the skin to feed. While they will die after around 2 weeks, they could leave behind a nasty skin infection.

With bed bug bites, you likely won’t notice it until some time later. You might start to feel a burning feeling before it will start to itch. It can take 48 hours to a week for the red welts to appear, and it could cause inflammation too.

How Often They Bite

Fleas will bite whenever they can to get a meal so their bites come often. Bed bugs don’t need to eat so often though, usually only once every 5-10 days.

How to Treat Them

Apart from if they get infected, both bed bug bites or flea bites are easy to treat. Don’t scratch either of them. For flea bites put on calamine lotion or an anti-itch cream.

You can take an oral anti-histamine too or an ice pack to bring down the swelling. For a bed bug bite, you’ll need a topical steroid so you’ll have to speak to your doctor.

If they don’t go away after a week then call your doctor again. And make sure in the meantime you’ve called pest control. Exterminator services will remove them from your home, preventing more bites.


The average lifespan of an adult flea is around 3 months. In the right conditions though they can live for up to a year and a half. The female can produce 50 eggs a day.

Bed bugs can live much longer with the average being 6 months to 1 year. In her lifetime, a female bed bug can lay 500 eggs. Flea and bed bug removal is vital to stop them from bedding in.

Signs You’re Infested

If you, your family, or your pets are getting bites often, you need to check for an infestation. Here are the signs to look for.

Flea Infestations

One of the biggest signs is you’ll notice fleas jumping on your pets or in your home. You might find clear/yellowish eggs in your pet’s fur or your hair.

Fleas leave behind black specs of fecal matter, you might find this on carpets, bedding, or on you and your pets. You could notice a visible change in your pet’s health if they’re suffering. They might have pale gums and be more lethargic, both signs of anemia.

You and your pets are itching more and you notice that your pet is more anxious. These are all signs of a flea infestation that needs treating right away.

Bed Bug infestations

You may be able to see the beg bugs crawling over your mattress or on your skin in the evening. On the places they like to hide, you might find a rust-brown colored fecal matter.

Bed bugs shed, so you might find discarded exoskeletons in your bedroom or in the bed itself. Along with this, you might notice more of a musty smell in the room. It’s important to find a bed bugs solution to get your room back.

Treating the Infestation

In general, it’s not hard to get rid of a flea infestation. For bed bugs though, it’s harder to get them out of your home.


If your pet has issues with fleas consult your vet for flea treatment. Many are waterproof, kill fleas at all stages of development, and only need applying once a month.

Wash your pet’s bedding and toys on high heat to kill off any remaining critters. If this doesn’t fix the issue, then you’ll want to call in a pest control service.

Bed Bugs

This isn’t going to be easy or simple. Some people choose to use vacuums, steam cleaners, and insecticides themselves. But this isn’t safe or reliable. The only way to get rid of them for good is to call in the professionals right away.

Bed Bugs or Fleas: Know What you’re up Against

So, there you have it! Now you know what to look for you’ll be able to tell if your infestation is bed bugs or fleas. As such, you’ll be able to get the right treatment for the bites and the problem. The right treatment is the key to preventing more bites and ridding you of these critters.

If you have a bed bug or flea infestation and are looking for help, compare quotes today. At Pest Extinct, we’re here to put you in contact with quality pest control services near you.

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