Fleas Versus Bed Bugs: How to Tell the Difference

Aug 31, 2022 | Bed Bugs, Fleas

Fleas Versus Bed Bugs: How to Tell the Difference

When it comes to pests within the home, nothing is worse than pests that can bite you, your family, or your pets. In most cases, the main culprits for these irritating bites inside the home are fleas and bed bugs. But how can you tell the difference between bed bugs and fleas? Do these different bugs require different eradication treatments? Here we take a closer look at bed bugs and fleas, how to identify which one is biting you, and how to treat a possible infestation.

Key takeaways

  • Fleas are tiny, reddish-brown insects that feed on animals and humans, causing itchiness and spreading diseases.
  • Bed bugs are also reddish-brown pests that feed on human blood and cause itching but are not known to spread diseases.
  • To differentiate between fleas and bed bugs, consider their hosts, movement, behavior, lifespan, bites, and infectiousness.
  • Treating infestations of fleas and bed bugs requires professional help, but prevention is possible by inspecting items and using flea prevention treatments for pets.
  • Flea infestations are likely to show signs in pets, while bed bug infestations show visible bugs, feces, exoskeletons, and a musty odor around the bed.

What are fleas?

Fleas are tiny, dark reddish-brown insects that survive by feeding on the blood of animals and humans. They have an oval-shaped body, six long legs, antennae, and no wings. Their bites cause irritation and itchiness, and, in some cases, these pests can also spread diseases, such as cat scratch disease, tapeworms, flea allergy dermatitis, and even the plague.

Bed bug on a sheet

What are bed bugs?

Similar to fleas, bed bugs are small, flat, wingless pests that are reddish-brown in color. They survive off the blood of humans or animals and typically live within your bed. While their bites can cause itching and a loss of sleep as they tend to feed at night, these pests, unlike fleas, are not known to spread any other diseases or health concerns.

How to differentiate between fleas and bed bugs

Given that these two pests appear so similar, how can tell these bugs apart? To best identify these bugs, you have to look at other characteristics aside from just appearance.


One big difference between bed bugs and fleas is what they feed on. Fleas prefer to feed on hairy animals, like your dogs and cats. Bed bugs, however, would rather feed on humans. While they do have their preferences, both pests will feed on what is available, so it is not uncommon to find bed bugs on your pets and flea bites on your legs as well.


Another major difference between these pests is how they move. Fleas are known for their ability to jump great distances for their size. In contrast, bed bugs are unable to jump and only move by crawling.


Both bugs are nocturnal in nature and feed at night. During the day, fleas will often hide in your pet’s fur or deep in the carpets while bed bugs will hide in the corners of your mattresses, box springs, and bed frames.


In most cases, an adult flea will live for about three months, however, under ideal conditions, they can live for over a year. During this time, a female flea can lay about 50 eggs a day. Bed bugs can live for six months to a year, with the female laying about 500 eggs during her lifetime.


Bites from these pests can also differ in many ways. Flea bites, for example, often start itching right away and, if you are allergic, can cause an additional rash or blisters to form.

Bed bug bites often take up to 48 hours before itching begins and can produce red welts. Fleas also bite often, feeding at every chance they get, while bed bugs typically only eat once a week or so.

When fleas feed on your skin, they often create clusters of bites in the same area. Bed bugs, on the other hand, will often create bites in a straight line across an area. Flea bites are often nothing more than a small dot on the skin while bed bug bites are larger and often create welts.


Bed bugs are not known to spread any infectious diseases through their bites. Fleas, however, can spread many different diseases, including the plague. Other conditions include typhus, tularemia, cat scratch fever, tapeworms, and flea allergy dermatitis.

Signs of infestation

For flea infestations, you are likely to see more signs in your pet than anything else. These can include itching, scratching, hair loss, and restlessness. In addition, you may see fleas in your pet’s fur, on their bedding, and in your carpets. You may also see signs of flea dirt, or feces, in these areas.

Signs of a bed bug infestation can include visible bed bugs, rust-colored areas of feces, exoskeletons of dead bugs, and a musty odor around your bed.

Man cleaning and disinfecting mattress with vacuum.

How to get rid of fleas and bed bugs

Treatment for fleas can be done with at-home treatments and flea treatments for your pets. However, in the case of infestations, professional pest treatments and prevention is recommended to ensure that the fleas are completely gone and do not return.

In the case of bed bugs, professional treatment is necessary. These pests can be difficult to eradicate and require a professional that understands their behavior.

Preventing bed bugs and fleas in your home

Preventing bed bugs and fleas is much easier than treatments for an infestation. Bed bugs often enter your home through luggage or furniture you bring into the home. Thoroughly inspect all items for signs of bed bugs before bringing them in. As for fleas, they typically enter the home on your pets. Talk to your veterinarian about flea prevention treatments.

Keeping your home flea and bed bug-free

If flea or bed bug bites are keeping you up at night or making your pets restless, it may be time to check for possible infestations. While at-home flea treatments are possible, it is recommended that you still choose professional treatment options to ensure your home is pest-free.

At Arrest a Pest, our technicians understand flea and bed bug behavior, where they hide, and how to best eliminate them from your home. Our technicians will identify which pests are the problem and create a treatment plan designed to rid them from your home, as well as a prevention plan to help keep them away for good. To learn more about how we can help, schedule an appointment today.

Adam Judnich

Adam Judnich

Owner @ Arrest A Pest

Serving the entire Coachella Valley

Arrest A Pest is your top-rated pest and bug control solution in the Coachella Valley! As a family-owned and operated business, our technicians grew up in the Coachella Valley and have a deep understanding of the pests in our area.

We understand that every pest infestation is an emergency, and we offer quick, safe, and thorough pest solutions and preventions for your home or business. No matter what pests are invading your space, our technicians are armed with state-of-the-art technology designed to rid your home or business of pests and help you stay pest-free long into the future.

Contact us today to schedule your FREE evaluation and let our team send the pests packing!

Coachella Valley California Map

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This