A flea infestation in your home can be dangerous for both human and animal family members as these tiny insects bite, feed on blood, and can spread disease. If you notice your pet scratching or find small flea bites on your body, you may assume you have a flea infestation. While that is entirely possible, there are other pests that look similar to fleas and have the same behavior, including biting and feeding on blood.
Here we take an in-depth look at fleas as well as the other bugs commonly mistaken for fleas.
- While fleas do bite humans, it is rare that they will actually live on a human body. They prefer four-legged family members where they can easily and safely reproduce and lay eggs.
- Many of the pests often mistaken for fleas also bite both humans and pets.
- If you do identify fleas in your home, it is important that you treat both your home and your pets in order to eliminate the infestation. Fleas are able to transmit many different diseases, such as typhus and the plague, and can be dangerous for both humans and pets.
What do fleas look like?
Fleas are tiny, thin, wingless insects that measure less than 3mm in length. Because they do not have wings, they are unable to crawl. Instead, these pests jump and can jump up to 100 times their body length. They are most commonly found on animals, such as cats, dogs, rodents, rabbits, squirrels, and birds.
Fleas are flat in shape but will fill with blood when they feast on an animal or human. They have large claws that allow them to hold on to their prey when feeding. While they can vary in color, most fleas are reddish-brown to dark brown or black in color.
Types of bugs that look like fleas
Because fleas are so tiny, oftentimes, they are identified in the home when they bite humans or when pets begin to itch. However, just because you find a bite, see a small bug, or notice changes in your pet’s behavior does not necessarily mean you have a flea infestation.
Here we take a look at some common pests that are often mistaken for fleas, and you will see that some of these pests can even bite.
Aphids are small bugs that often invade crops and vegetation in the garden. Young aphids look similar in appearance to fleas, except their legs are brighter in color, such as yellow. Aphids feed on vegetation, and, while they can bite humans or animals, they rarely do.
2. Bat bugs
Bat bugs are blood-sucking parasitic insects that are known parasites of bats. While most often found feeding on bats, bat bugs can move on to humans if their bat host is eliminated. A bat bug bite is painless and often goes unnoticed. These bugs are similar in appearance to fleas.
3. Bed Bugs
Because bed bugs have a similar size and color to fleas and feed on human blood, they are often mistaken for fleas. The easiest way to distinguish fleas from bed bugs is to monitor their behavior. Fleas jump to move around while bed bugs crawl. In addition, examine your pets. As we mentioned, fleas would rather feed on animals and are more often found on your dogs and cats. Bed bugs, on the other hand, will survive on your bed, hiding in creases on the mattress or spaces in bedroom furniture and waiting until you are asleep to feed. You are likely to wake up with bed bug bites, while flea bites can happen any time of day.
4. Black carpet beetles
Black carpet beetles are small insects similar in size and color to fleas. While some are entirely black, others can have patterns, making them much easier to distinguish from fleas. These tiny black bugs feed on natural fibers, such as is found in carpets and furniture. These pests will not bite humans or pets.
Booklice are a common household pest that feeds on fungi found on paper or cardboard products, such as books. Unlike fleas, booklice do not bite and are unable to jump. While they do have wings, they are too small for them to fly. Keeping humidity levels low in your home is the best way to keep booklice out, as the fungi they feed on thrive in humid conditions.
Chiggers are tiny mites that are found outdoors in grassy or wooded areas. Like fleas, baby chiggers do not have wings and jump to find their prey. They have small claws that allow them to hold on so they can feed. While fleas feed on human and animal blood, chiggers feed on skin tissue. When they bite, they inject saliva that is designed to decompose skin cells. These bites can be dangerous, especially to those with allergies.
7. Cricket nymphs
Baby crickets or cricket nymphs are considerably smaller than adults. As nymphs, crickets are similar in color to fleas, and they jump the same as fleas do. They do not, however, bite humans or pets.
8. Flea beetles
Just as the name says, flea beetles are often mistaken for fleas. While they may look similar to fleas, they do not bite humans or pets and instead eat vegetation. Like fleas, flea beetles are also known for jumping, similar to fleas.
9. Flour beetles
Flour beetles are small pests commonly found in kitchens and pantries. The main difference between the flour beetle and the flea is the elongated body of the flour beetle. In addition, you will only find these pets around food sources, such as bags of flour and bread. They can be very difficult to eradicate.
10. Fruit flies
Fruit flies are a common indoor pest that is often confused with fleas. While these tiny flies are close to the size of fleas, and their brown appearance is similar. These flying insects feed on overripe fruits. Seeing a flying insect and one that feeds on fruit is a clear sign that these are not fleas.
Biting gnats, such as sandflies or midges, are brown to black in color and similar in size to fleas. These pests do bite humans and pets and can cause skin irritation and itching, making them easy to confuse with fleas. However, gnats are able to fly, whereas fleas can only jump, making it easier to distinguish between the two.
Mosquitoes are small insects that also feed on blood. While their bite may be confused for that of a flea, they are much larger in size and fly. Mosquitoes can, however, spread diseases such as the West Nile virus and malaria.
13. Roach nymphs
Baby cockroaches, or cockroach nymphs, are often mistaken for fleas. They are brown in color and similar in size to fleas. The main distinguishing factors fall in how they move and their food preference. Cockroach nymphs feed on decaying food and crumbs and crawl around to find these food sources. Fleas, on the other hand, are not interested in food and only move by jumping.
Springtails are tiny insects that look for areas with heavy moisture. While often found in landscape that is watered often, these pests can come inside areas with water leaks, near sinks, or in the moist soil of houseplants. Like fleas, springtails jump to move around. However, they do not feed on blood but rather on decaying plant material. They pose no danger to humans or pets and are considered a nuisance.
Similar to fleas, ticks are small pests that feed on both humans and animals. You may find ticks attached to your skin or your pet’s skin as they feed. These pests can transmit diseases, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, to both humans and pets. The easiest way to distinguish ticks from fleas is again in how they move. Ticks will crawl while fleas will jump.
Is it really a flea?
While many of these bugs are commonly mistaken for fleas, learning how to identify a flea can help save you and your pets from becoming a walking buffet. When it comes to fleas, keep in mind that they move by jumping and are likely to stay in areas where your pets are, such as pet beds, kennels, or carpets. If you notice bites on your lower legs or see bugs jumping up from the carpet, it is likely that you have a flea infestation that needs to be addressed by a professional pest control service.
Stop fleas in their tracks
While no one likes to have a pest infestation, fleas present a painful problem for both humans and pets and can spread diseases to both. Once you confirm a pest infestation, it is important that you treat your home, yard, and pets in order to completely eliminate the fleas and eggs. At Arrest a Pest, our expert technicians are here to help you identify your pest infestation and create a unique treatment plan that will address all of your concerns.
To learn more, request an appointment today.