For such tiny little things, they do a lot of damage. Ticks and bed bugs share breeding habits, live in similar environments, and have the wherewithal to spread disease or related conditions. Neither of these pests is pleasant to have around and in order to deal with them, you need to know which is which.
Ticks versus Bed Bugs
It’s not easy, but knowing the difference between ticks and bed bugs is the first step in mounting a defense. Both creatures are oval-shaped, flat, and wingless. Ticks are arachnids (think spiders) with eight legs and bed bugs are insects with only six but without a microscope it’s tough to tell. As a general rule, however, bed bugs reside and wreak havoc indoors while ticks are outside critters.
The best (and sometimes nauseating with ticks) way to tell them apart is after they’ve had a meal. Bed bugs’ everyday appearance is reddish-brown and they turn darker after feeding. Ticks inflate after a big meal of blood, making it easy to spot and subsequently eliminate. However, some varieties of ticks, most notably the deer tick, are so tiny they can hardly be seen.
Habitat and Scourge
Without wings to fly and legs too small to get anywhere fast, bed bugs and ticks hitch rides. Passing dogs, cats, deer, mice or people are their favorite vehicles of choice, and they will even latch onto various objects for quick transport. People and pets are most likely to pick up these tiny hitchhikers when walking in the woods or tall grass, especially during the “busy season” from early spring to fall. Bed bugs like to sneak into stray luggage in a hotel room or linger in old furniture until an unsuspecting soul comes along.
The biggest difference in ticks and bed bugs is their increase in numbers through prolific breeding, laying hundreds of eggs at a time which can stay dormant in ideal environments for months. Once entrenched, bed bugs breed with great speed in a home’s bedrooms and other living areas. If there is a “good side” to ticks it is that they rarely reproduce indoors. However, if you have a pet that spends a lot of time outdoors and comes inside as well; conditions are ripe for ticks to rapidly repopulate.
Bite is Worse than the Bark
Unless you are a seasoned expert it is very difficult to discern a tick or bed bug bite, especially since people react in different ways. You can’t rely on “suspicious” bumps on the skin to make a reliable identification; instead, know the bugs’ habits. Bed bugs will sneak in, gorge on blood, and hightail it back to their nests but ticks sink their teeth into a host and stay there.
Whatever the approach, both critters’ bites are serious business. Bed bugs are generally more of a nuisance than anything, affecting some people’s allergies. Tick bites, however, can be very serious and spread debilitating diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis fever, and other dangerous illnesses.
If you encounter an infestation of these vile creatures, take immediate action.
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