In the fight of bed bugs vs. fleas, there really are no winners. However, it’s important to know which pest you’re dealing with when it comes to dealing with an infestation. Both bed bugs and fleas are blood-sucking parasites that reproduce quickly and cause itchy red welts when they bite. But you may be surprised to learn there are more similarities and differences between these two bugs.
Bed Bugs vs. Fleas: What Do They Have in Common?
The many similarities between bed bugs and fleas make it easy to misidentify them. But when it comes time for an eradication plan, it really does matter which creature is which. Here are five disturbing things these pests have in common.
- Host Subsistence. Both need the blood of a host to survive. Fleas and bed bugs both suck the blood of mammals as they bite and must regularly feed on humans or other mammals’ blood.
- Appearance. Fleas and bed bugs look similar. Both are wingless, reddish-brown in color, and small but visible to the naked eye. However, fleas are smaller and have an oval-shaped body, while bed bugs have flat, seed-shaped bodies.
- Nocturnality. Both pests are classified as nocturnal. They are more active at night and do most of their biting after dark.
- Itchy Bites. Flea bites and bed bug bites are both intensely itchy and appear as red welts on the skin. Bites from both pests can cause hives and blisters that become infected if you are allergic or scratch the affected area.
Bed Bugs vs. Fleas: The Differences
Though fleas and bed bugs are both parasites, there are many differences between the two pests.
- Host Preferences. While both pests need blood from mammals to live, bed bugs prefer to use humans as their hosts, and fleas prefer furry mammals. However, both will take food from whatever source they can get.
- Lifespan. Though both bed bugs and fleas can survive long between feedings, bed bugs require more frequent meals. Fleas can live up to 100 days without blood from a host, but bed bugs can only make it a few weeks.
- Jumping Abilities. Fleas are excellent jumpers, able to hop nearly 70 times the length of their own body. The culprit is most likely a flea if you see bites around your ankles or in skin folds such as armpits of your knee/elbow bends. Bed bugs do not jump. They only crawl.
- Bite Reactions. Firstly, flea bites can appear in clusters, but it’s not uncommon to see single bites spread out over a larger area. Bites from bed bugs are almost always in clusters or lines. Remember, fleas can hop, so it’s easier for them to cover a large area. Bed bugs only crawl. Their bites can appear anywhere but are most common on the face, neck, arms, and hands. Secondly, bed bug bites rarely cause illness, and when they do, it’s because their host is allergic to them. However, fleas can spread blood-borne pathogens such as typhus, plague, and cat-scratch disease.
- Activity. Fleas can burrow into your skin. Though they love to burrow in blankets and mattresses, no type of bed bug burrows into their host’s body. A skin infestation is called tungiasis and is most likely to occur around the toes and feet. Only a certain kind of tropical flea causes this type of infestation, but it can be a serious health threat if it happens.
Fighting an Infestation
Interestingly, the key to eradication also highlights one of the main differences between fleas and bed bugs. When it comes to bed bugs vs. fleas, both pests are difficult to get rid of. Bed bugs cannot survive in temperatures over 113°F, and fleas do not survive under 37°F.
First, perform a thorough cleaning of your household that includes the careful removal of clutter. Vacuum every nook and cranny of a room, including the furniture, and wash affected items with detergents that are specifically formulated to kill either bed bugs or fleas. Use heat or cold as a final step to rid your home of an infestation.
Portable heat sources can be placed near furniture, beds, closets, and other places where bed bugs are found to kill any remaining pests and their eggs. When using heat, every item in the room must reach the desired temperature of 113°F.
Killing fleas with cold temperatures isn’t quite as realistic as killing bed bugs with high temps. Unless your infestation happens in the winter in an environment where near-freezing temperatures occur naturally, it’s not a practical solution. Instead, you’ll most likely need to rely on chemical pesticides to get the job done.
Hopefully, you’ll never need to compare bed bugs vs. fleas information. But if you do find yourself scratching an itchy bite one day, don’t procrastinate. Taking care of an infestation as soon as you suspect a problem will make it that much easier to solve.
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