What Do Bed Bugs Look Like

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like

Until and unless you know what bed bugs look like, you cannot really begin eliminating these pests off your property. Proper identification is the first step to any sort of problem, and when it comes to bed bugs removal, this fact cannot be stressed enough. If you are unable to properly identify the type of pest you are up against, any of the methods you try for their removal are uncertain to provide you success.


Bed bugs are quite small in appearance and they have a reddish-brown outlook. Typically, you will find these insects to be the size of apple seeds. On top of that, they share the same color as the seeds as well. It is common knowledge for everyone that these types of pests live inside households and only feed on human blood, though they are also known to feed on animal blood as well. You should also know that they are not capable of eating skin cells, crumbs, or any other thing for that matter.

These bugs are flat, which makes them quite effective at hiding in crevices and small cracks. They are not able to jump, and neither do they have wings. At younger stages, these pests are even smaller. The nymphs are tan in earlier appearance but soon grow to a darken color as they grow into adults. If you encounter a bed bug which has recently fed, you will find it to have a swollen and reddish appearance.


Bed bugs are known and distinguished from a variety of similar insects due to their reddish brown appearance (which usually occurs after they have fed), as well as a lack of wings, and a back-to-stomach flattening (i.e. extreme dorsal-ventral appearance). You will not find the flattening in these bugs to be as obvious when they have recently fed. The largest they typically get is 7mm, which is roughly a quarter of an inch in length.

The most important aspect of bed bug infestation, as discussed earlier, is identification. An average person is likely to misidentify other insects’ nymphs and pests as bed bugs. This is why you need to confirm whether or not the bug you have encountered in your home is a bed bug or not. You can consult a pest management agency or entomologist in this regard. Your regional Public Health Unit can also help you out with the identification.

Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs

Do not confuse bed bugs with ticks, flees or spiders if you happen to see one crawling up your wall. Bed bugs belong to the class insecta and so they have 6 legs, whereas spiders belong to the class arachnida and have 8 legs.

Other critters that bed bugs resemble are: bat bugs, swallow bugs, ticks, spider beetles, carpet beetle larvae, cockroach nymphs, fleas and booklouse.

1. Bat Bugs


Bat bugs which also feed on blood and are active at night look identical to bed bugs but the difference is in the length of the hairs on their pronotum compared to the bed bugs. Differentiation requires microscopic examination offered by a professional pest control exterminator. The bat bugs typically have longer hairs. They feed primarily on bats and are found mostly in attics or abandoned bird nests. They will seek refuge in mattresses when their preferred hosts are not available and they occasionally bite humans. These bugs are from the same family as bed bugs (Cimicidae family). People often spot them on their ceilings and erroneously believe them to be bed bugs due to their uncanny resemblance.

2. Swallow Bugs


Look almost identical to bed bugs and microscopic examination of the hairs can determine the difference. These bugs feed on birds and live in their nests. When the preferred hosts are unavailable they can feed on humans as well, and our exterminators have spotted Swallow bugs in our clients houses in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

3. Ticks


Ticks are also oval, blood sucking nuisances that look like bed bugs, however they are 8 legged arachnids and they are usually found attached to the host and require removal, whereas bed bugs take their meal and hide away until requiring their next blood meal. Ticks are usually acquired from being outdoors in fields and thickets.

4. Spider beetles


Spider beetles are reddish brown to black and do not bite humans. Adults are 1.5-4 mm and are smaller than adult bed bugs that can reach a 1/4 inch in size. They have a shiny bulbous abdomen, their shape resembles a pear, and they look like apple seeds.

5. Carpet beetle larvae


The larvae are hairy and have horizontal segmentation like bed bugs. The hairs can cause irritation to human skin. They are not as broad and oval as bed bugs and they do not have a distinctive head. Carpet beetle adults have wings and no longer resemble bed bugs once they reach maturity.

6. Cockroach nymphs


Cockroach nymphs are reddish brown and have antennae that are longer than the size of their bodies. They are not as broad and flat as bed bugs. Their bodies have a more elongate pill-like shape rather than oval.

7. Fleas


Fleas are similar to bed bugs in that they are brownish red, wingless, biting insects. Fleas instead of being dorsoventrally flat (think of a book lying flat on a table) like bed bugs, they are flat laterally (like a book in an upright position in a shelf).

8. Booklouse


Booklouse appear similar to bed bug nymphs since they are transparent. Booklouse have a more elongate body compared to the bed bug and also have a well-defined head, whereas the bed bug head is not as well pronounced.


Myles, T., Brown, B., Bedard, B., Bhooi, R., Bruyere, K., Chua, A., Macsai, M., Menezes, R., Alka Salwan, A., and Takahashi, M., Bed Bugs in Toronto. Centre for Urban and Community Studies, University of Toronto, Research Bulletin #19. 2003.

Pinto, L.J., Cooper, R., and Kraft S.K. Bed Bug Handbook. The Complete Guide to Bed Bugs and Their Control. Pinto & Associates, Inc. Mechanicsville, Maryland: 2008.

Reinhardt, K., Siva-Jothy, M.T. Biology of the Bed Bugs (Cimicidae). Annual Review of
Entomology. 2007. 52:351-374.

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