Bed Bug or Flea? The most common confused pests.


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In the 2018 annual bed bug report, by The Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA), asked questions of pest control companies from around the country. One of the questions asked was what pest were you called to initially treat that turned out to be bed bugs. The answer by 71% of the respondents was fleas. The next highest bug was cockroaches at 28%.


What does a bed bug look like?

bed bug close up

Adult Bed Bug

Bed Bugs have small flat, oval bodies that appear brown to reddish brown after they eat. Full grown bed bugs can be 4 to 5 mm long or about the size of an apple seed. Bed bugs are wingless and do not fly or jump. Adults can be seen by the naked eye and like to hide in cracks and crevices. Bed bug eggs in enough quantity can be seen by the naked eye. Bed bugs are found in beds, sofas, and couches.


Adult Flea

Fleas are smaller in size being only 1-3mm long. They can still be seen with the naked eye. Fleas are wingless but do jump in comparison to a bed bug that walks. Adult fleas can be dark brown or a dark reddish brown color. They appear not to be as flat as a bed bug and appear to be very narrow side to side. It is hard to see the eggs of a flea. Fleas can be found throughout the house and your pet will usually show signs of biting or excessive scratching. Walking through a home with a high flea population you can see them jump on your legs as you walk through.

Are the treatments different for bed bugs and fleas?

The treatments are different for fleas and bed bugs. While thermal heat will kill both insects, fleas are more susceptible to a chemical only treatment. Flea treatments can take 30-45 days to work and the application is focused on areas where the fleas and eggs are.  This might be where your pet sleeps or rests.

These areas are different than where a bed bug is found. Fleas are less resistant to chemical products available and respond to the insect growth regulators. You can use a combination of products and achieve elimination. Bed bugs tend to be more resistant to chemical products and do not respond well to Insect growth regulators.

Pets must be treated in order to control fleas while for bed bugs they do not. Your yard may also need to be treated for fleas if they are found there.

If you are not sure what the bug is:

If you are sure what the bug is get a pest control professional to ID it for you. Even if you plan to try DIY treatments it is important you know what you are trying to kill. The treatments for the two pests are different and can vary widely in price. A professional flea treatment can be between $100.00 and $250.00. A bed bug treatment using heat can be between $500.00 and $2500.00.

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