Fleas Vs. Bed Bugs

Although all of us are familiar with the irritating bites caused by fleas and bed bugs, not many of us are clear about the differences between the two. This AnimalSake post gives you more information on these parasites.
AnimalSake Staff
Bed bugs and fleas are two of the most troublesome insects known to us. The main concern with these small insects is, they prefer to dwell near areas inhabited by humans. If you own a cuddly pet dog at home, you might be already aware about the blood sucking insect called fleas. Yes, this parasite is present in the external surface of the host organism (ectoparasites). Another equally difficult to deal with parasite is a bed bug. To take up effective control measures, get yourself clear about the differentiating factors between fleas and bed bugs.
Differences between Bed Bugs and Fleas
Both of these wingless insects have the ability to bite and feed on human blood and blood of other warm-blooded animals. So, what is the difference between fleas and bed bugs? Well, except for the fact that both are small ectoparasites and flightless, there is no distinctive similarity between these nasty critters. Taxonomically, fleas are not even a distant relative of bed bugs. Following is a brief info for your understanding on how to differentiate fleas from bed bugs.
Flea vs. Bed Bug
Taxonomy
  • There are several types of fleas which are grouped according to their respective host organisms (cat fleas, dog fleas, and human fleas). All of them are categorized under the taxonomic order Siphonaptera, and the scientific name differs for each type.
  • Regarding bed bugs classification, their taxonomic order is Hemiptera and genus is Cimex. The common name 'bed bug' is coined with reference to their commonly inhabited site.
Description
  • Fleas are very small, hardly 3.3 mm in size and dark in color. If you get a chance to observe them with a magnifying glass, you will notice that they have exceptionally long hind legs, an adaptation for jumping over a long distance.
  • On the other hand, adult bed bugs are oval in shape, flat (before sucking blood meal) and reddish-brown in color. They are visible to our naked eyes, measuring about 5 mm in length.
Hiding Places
  • Fleas are prevalent in bedding, carpets, pet enclosures, and other areas, where they readily get their prospective hosts.
  • Almost similar to fleas, bed bugs are mostly found in dark places, especially in bed frames, cracks of bed (if any), mattresses, and places where people usually sleep. Though they are not purely nocturnal, these bugs tend to come out in the dark and bite humans.
Reproduction
  • Within 1 - 1½ days after having blood meal, the female fleas lay several number of eggs (about 50). But, egg laying is not possible until they suck blood from the hosts. The eggs hatch to larvae, then pupate and become adult fleas.
  • On the other hand, life cycle of a bed bug consists of 6 stages. The whitish colored eggs after hatching undergo 5 molts before they become adults.
Feeding
  • The mouth of a flea is adapted is such a way that it can pierce the host's skin and draw blood. At the time of feeding, fleas introduce saliva to the host through a tube like structure, and suck blood up to 15 times of their body weight.
  • Bed bugs suck blood in the same way as fleas, i.e. by delivering saliva and drawing blood. In a single feeding, they can suck human blood to about 6 times of their own body weight.
Bites
  • You can distinguish flea bites from bed bug bites by examining the skin. Of course, both bites result in itching, irritation, and small raised bumps. A flea bites randomly on exposed skin areas, whereas a bed bug bites in a specific manner, mostly in a linear pattern.
  • In flea bites, a punctured spot is found in the middle of the skin bumps, while it is absent in case of bed bug bites. Learn more on flea bites vs. bed bug bites.
Disease Transmission
  • Not all fleas serve as vectors for disease-causing pathogens, but some do. These specific flea types are responsible for carrying feline tapeworm, murine typhus, and other virulent micro-organisms.
  • When it comes to disease transmission by bed bugs, there is no such major concern. Other than the usual skin itchiness, rashes, and similar allergenic symptoms, no potential health risks have been reported due to bed bug bites.
Life Cycle
  • Believe it or not, an adult flea can survive for as long as a year without feeding blood. Similarly, studies claim that the adult bugs survive for about one year before they land on a prospective host and feed.
  • On an average, bed bugs can live up to 140 days without sucking blood from the host. This ability to live without feeding for a long period increases the survival rate of both fleas and bed bugs.
Infestation Signs
  • The obvious sign of flea infestation is flea excrement in the pet's fur, carpets, bedding, pet enclosures, and other places. When you put a small drop of water and crush this dirt-like particle, it becomes dark red in color.
  • Contrary to this, bed bug infestation can be confirmed from the red stains in linens, minute black matter (feces) in infested sites and skin casings that are light brown in color.
Thus, both insects leave behind certain signs, by which you can confirm their presence. You can also look for live fleas and bed bugs in the suspected hiding places. Once confirmed, do not delay in taking stringent actions for controlling these parasites. For flea control, you should be extremely careful, as they live on pet's fur, on carpets, yards, and many other places. If required, take the help of a professional pest control service for exterminating fleas and bed bugs successfully.
Bed bug bites
mattress on bed
Rolled carpet on the floor
Bed Bug insect
Closeup of flea
Unmade bed.