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Ticks vs. Bed Bugs: How to Tell the Difference

Ticks and bed bugs both cause discomfort, yet they differ significantly. Knowing their differences is critical to effective pest management. But what exactly sets these two pests apart in terms of physical appearance and behavior?

Keep reading to uncover the essential information about ticks and bed bugs that could help you effectively deal with an infestation.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the physical and behavioral differences between ticks and bed bugs is essential for accurate identification and effective management.
  • While bed bugs primarily cause itchy and sometimes painful bites, ticks can transmit several serious diseases, making them a significant health concern.
  • Effective prevention techniques include using appropriate repellents and maintaining a clean environment, while eradication may require DIY and professional interventions.
  • Contacting a professional pest control service is advisable if DIY efforts fail or if the infestation of ticks or bed bugs is widespread or accompanied by other pests.

Ticks vs. Bed Bugs: Key Differences

tick vs bed bug comparison

Correctly identifying ticks and bed bugs is crucial, as each pest poses risks and requires unique management strategies.

Physical Appearance

Distinguishing ticks from bed bugs begins with their appearance. Consider knowing these differences to help you identify which pest you are dealing with:



Bed Bugs


Range from 1mm (larvae) to over 10mm (engorged adults)

Around 5-7mm (like an apple seed) as adult bed bugs


Can vary; often brown or black

Consistently reddish-brown


Flattened, oval shape; become engorged after a blood meal

Broad, oval, and flat; balloon-like after feeding


Wingless insects with eight legs

Wingless insects with six legs

Habitat and Behavior

It's crucial to understand where and how ticks and bed bugs thrive. Here’s a close look at the habitats and behaviors of these blood-sucking pests:

Habitat or Behavior


Bed Bugs

How They Get In

Often brought in inadvertently

Can be brought in with second hand furniture

Indoor Locations


Common in sleeping areas, crevices, box springs, and hiding places

Outdoor Areas

Tall grass, grassy areas, bushes, wooded areas

Not typically found outdoors

Host Seeking

Ambush predators; wait for hosts

Active at night, attracted to carbon dioxide

Feeding Habits

Feed slowly over several days

Feed for about 5-10 minutes at a time

Life Cycle

Understanding the life cycles of ticks and bed bugs reveals their different growth stages. Take a closer look at their life cycle stages to understand how to prevent them.



Bed Bugs


Lay eggs thousands at once

Lay eggs a few daily, hundreds over a lifetime


Six-legged stage, require a blood meal

Similar to adults but smaller, also require blood


Eight-legged, smaller than adults, need a blood meal

Several molts, grow into full size with continual feeding


Feed and mate, females become engorged

Reproduce and continue the blood-sucking cycle

Health Concerns and Disease Risks

Ticks and bed bugs pose different health risks. According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here's what you need to know.

Reactions to Bed Bug Bites

Bed bug bites often lead to itchy red welts, primarily caused by an allergic reaction to the bug's saliva. While these bites can be distressing, they aren't known to spread diseases.

If you experience bites, you must monitor for:

  • Itching or red welts on the skin
  • A burning sensation at the bite site
  • Symptoms of secondary infection, such as oozing or increased redness

Diseases from Tick Bites

All species of ticks are part of the arachnid family. They carry pathogens that can cause various tick-borne diseases, which can be severe and sometimes life-threatening.

Here are symptoms associated with a few well-known diseases from cat and dog ticks:



Lyme Disease

Fever, rash, facial paralysis, arthritis

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

High fever, rash, severe headache


Skin ulcers, swollen lymph glands


Fever, muscle aches, nausea


Fever, muscle pain, confusion

Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness

Rash, fatigue, fever, headache

How to Prevent and Get Rid of Ticks and Bed Bugs

Proper prevention and eradication techniques are essential to protect the home against the first signs of tick and bed bug infestations.

Prevention Techniques

Avoiding infestations of ticks and bed bugs is preferable to fighting established ones. As homeowners in Florida, here's how to do it:

  • Use tick repellent: Applying insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin can deter ticks outdoors.
  • Yard maintenance: Keep your lawn trimmed and remove leaf litter to reduce tick habitats.
  • Secure your space: Inspect and seal cracks around windows, doors, and walls to prevent bed bugs from entering.
  • Remove the food source: Regularly wash and dry bed linens, curtains, and clothing on high heat to eliminate potential feeding grounds.
  • Regular inspections: Check mattresses, furniture, and pet bedding often to catch early signs of bed bugs and ticks.

Control Strategies

Once an infestation has taken hold, several methods exist to attempt eradication at home. Consider some of these strategies:



Bed Bugs

Chemical Treatment

Use acaricides to target ticks.

Use insecticides specifically labeled for bed bug control.

Heat Treatment

Wash and dry clothing at high heat.

Employ professional heat treatments to penetrate mattresses and furniture.

Manual Removal

Remove ticks with fine-tipped tweezers, ensuring all mouthparts are extracted.

Dismantle bed frames and use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to dislodge bed bugs and eggs.

Professional Help

If DIY methods fail or tick-borne diseases are a concern, seek professional pest control.

When home remedies aren't effective, professional pest control can apply more intense methods.

Should You Get In Touch with Pest Control Professionals Now?

If you’re encountering a persistent itch and find small bites on your body, it's time to inspect your home. You might discover an infestation of ticks or bed bugs, which can be distressing.

If do-it-yourself measures have failed or the infestation appears widespread along with termites, fleas, or cockroaches, contacting a professional pest control company (like us at Native Pest Management) becomes essential.

While our services incur costs, you can save money in the long run by preventing further damage and health issues. As experts, we can offer reassurance that the problem will be handled thoroughly.