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bed bug on skin

Bed Bugs vs. Fleas: How to Tell the Difference

Bed bugs and fleas are common household pests that provoke much annoyance and discomfort. While fleas and bed bugs feed on the blood meal of hosts, they have significant differences in behavior, appearance, and health risks.

Can deciphering their bite patterns be the key to determining which pest has taken up residence in your home? Keep reading to uncover the distinctions and learn how to handle an infestation effectively.

Key Takeaways

  • Bed bugs are larger, feed on humans mostly at night, and hide indoors, while fleas are smaller, bite animals and humans, and can live indoors and outdoors.
  • Common signs of infestation may include pest sightings, bite marks, droppings, red spots from feeding, and a musty odor for bed bugs.
  • Combining natural solutions with over-the-counter products containing permethrin or imidacloprid can effectively eliminate fleas and bed bugs.
  • Regular cleaning routines, such as vacuuming and steam cleaning, are essential to prevent bed bugs and flea infestations.
  • If bed bugs or fleas persist after home treatments, contacting a professional pest control service can provide more potent treatments and tailored advice to manage the infestation effectively.

Bed Bugs vs. Fleas: Key Differences

flea vs bed bug comparison

Identifying whether you're dealing with bed bugs or fleas can be crucial in effectively eradicating these pests from your home.

Physical Appearance

Recognizing bed bugs and fleas requires a close inspection of their physical features. Here's what to look out for:


Bed Bugs



1/4 to 5/8 inch long

1/8 inch long



Dark reddish-brown


Oval-shaped, flat

Small and narrow



Wingless also, despite having a pair of hind legs adapted for jumping

Behavior and Habitat

The behaviors and habitats of these pests diverge significantly. Here are the specifics of how bed bugs and fleas differ in their behavior and preferred environments:

Behavior or Habitat

Bed Bugs


Active Time

Mostly nocturnal, feeding on humans at night

More active at dawn or dusk, though, will feed any time

Preferred Host


Cats, dogs, wildlife, and sometimes humans

Indoor Hiding Places

Mattresses, bed frames, furniture, box springs, couches

Pet bedding, carpets, furniture, and amongst animal fur

Outdoor Hiding Places

Rarely found outdoors

Tall grass, sand, sheds, or within animals' dwellings

Health Risks

Awareness of the health risks associated with bed bugs and fleas is vital for proper treatment. Here's a close look at their bite characteristics and reactions:

Health Risks

Bed Bugs


Bite Pattern

Red, itchy welts, usually in lines or clusters

Small, red bumps, often around ankles or lower legs

Immediate Reaction

Itchiness due to anesthetic in saliva

Small blisters, red welts, or hives; may lead to an allergic reaction

Disease Risk

Not known to transmit diseases

Can transmit pathogens like typhus


Over-the-counter antihistamines, hot water wash

Over-the-counter treatments, antihistamines, vacuuming

Signs and Causes of Bed Bug and Flea Infestation

Bed bugs and fleas are common household pests that can travel on luggage or pets and quickly make their homes in your living space. As homeowners in Florida, you must be vigilant of the following signs of bed bugs and fleas:

  • Insect Bites: Flea bites are typically found on the lower body, often around the ankles, whereas bed bug bites can appear anywhere on the skin.
  • Sightings: Witnessing the pests themselves, whether bed bugs on the bed frame, box springs, or fleas in pet bedding, serves as a clear sign.
  • Droppings: For bed bugs, look for dark specks around crevices near where people sleep. Fleas' feces appear as small, dark specks typically in pet bedding.
  • Red Spots: After feeding, bed bugs can leave behind small, red blood spots on sheets and mattresses.
  • Musty Odor: A pronounced, musty odor can signify a significant bed bug presence, especially around the bed, upholstered furniture, and baseboards.
  • Pet Behavior: Watch for unusual scratching and discomfort in pets, as it can signify flea infestation.

How to Get Rid of Fleas and Bed Bugs

Knowing the suitable remedies to get rid of fleas and bed bugs is crucial when facing an infestation. When used correctly, both natural solutions and over-the-counter products can be effective.

Natural Solutions

If you prefer not to use chemicals, opt for natural remedies to control these pests. Here are some methods for flea and bed bug control:

  1. Diatomaceous Earth: The diatomaceous earth powder can physically damage the exoskeletons of bed bugs and fleas, leading to dehydration. Sprinkle it around the affected areas and wait for it to take effect.

  2. Essential Oils: Certain essential oils, such as lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus, may repel fleas and bed bugs. They can be applied by diluting them with water and spraying them around infested areas.

  3. Heat Treatment: Exposing bedding or clothing to hot water (above 120°F) and drying it on high heat can kill bed bugs and fleas.

Over-the-Counter Products

Using commercial products can be a quick way to address flea and bed bug infestations. Consider these common active ingredients and their applications:

Active Ingredients

Pesticide Type

Application Areas



Bedding, flooring, and pet habitats (for fleas)



Similar to permethrin but often used in sprays


Insect neurotoxin

Spot treatments for pets and pet bedding (for fleas)

Piperonyl Butoxide


Often combined with other insecticides to enhance the effect

How to Keep Your Home Free from Bed Bugs and Fleas

Maintaining a home free from bed bugs and fleas involves adopting specific cleaning routines and vigilance during travel.

With the proper practices and mindfulness, you can prevent the start of re-infestation.

Routine Cleaning Practices

Keeping a home clean is critical in preventing bed bug and flea infestations. Regular cleaning disrupts the living environment in which these pests thrive.

Here are some cleaning tasks for fleas and bed bugs at any stage in their life cycle:

  • Vacuum high-traffic areas, such as furniture and under cushions.
  • Wash and heat-dry bed linens and pet bedding.
  • Steam-clean carpets and upholstery to kill adult fleas or bed bugs.
  • Check for bed bugs or flea eggs and clean areas where pets sleep and play.

Preventative Measures When Traveling

As travelers, you can inadvertently introduce adult bed bugs and fleas into your homes. So, you must follow these practices to reduce this risk:

Travel Practices


Inspect Hotel Rooms

Check the bed, headboard, and furniture for signs of pests.

Handle Luggage Carefully

Keep luggage on racks away from the bed and wall; avoid the floor.

Launder Clothes After Returning Home

Immediately wash all clothes in hot water and dry on high heat.

When Should You Reach Out to Pest Control Services?

If, after multiple attempts to eliminate bed bugs or fleas, you notice that the pests keep returning or the situation doesn't improve, you must contact a professional pest control company (like us at Native Pest Management).

As professional exterminators, we can access more potent treatments and offer advice tailored to the specific infestation. Ultimately, you can save time and ensure the infestation is handled effectively.