Telling SLC Bed Bugs and Ticks Apart

bed bugs

There are a few different pest types that appear similar and are sometimes confused for one another, and one good example here is the bed bug versus the tick. Both small insects, and carrying some similar feeding habits, it’s common for bed bugs and ticks to be mixed up – but in reality, they have some notable differences in terms of everything from their appearance and feeding habits through the health and other concerns they present to humans.

At A-1 Exterminators, we’re happy to offer wide-ranging insect control services among our overall SLC pest control program, including dedicated bed bug treatment – a service that, among other things, includes proper identification of your issue to confirm the necessary treatment we’ll move forward with. To keep you informed, plus able to spot the difference between these pests if either of them attempts to invade your home, here’s a primer on the differences between bed bugs and ticks, plus how to prevent both.


Firstly, it’s understandable that these creatures are often mixed up – they are similar in a few notable ways. Both are small insects that might be confused visually at first glance, and perhaps more notably, both are known for their practice of biting subjects to feed on their blood.

However, that’s roughly where the similarities end. Our next several sections will go over all the ways they differ, including how you can tell them apart and perform the proper pest control techniques based on this information.

Animal Class

Firstly, just from a scientific perspective, did you realize that ticks and bed bugs aren’t even in the same animal class? Bed bugs are considered insects, as they come with six legs in their adult phase; ticks, on the other hand, begin as insects in their larvae stage, where they also have six legs, but then grow into the nymph stage and eventually to adult status, both of which include eight legs – and this makes them arachnids, and they’re actually more closely-related to spiders than they are to other insects.

In addition, there are many fewer species of bed bugs than ticks.

Physical Appearance

The primary physical difference between these two is the one we just went over: Their number of legs. Adult ticks will have eight legs, while bed bugs will only ever have six. Beyond this, it’s understandable that some people confuse them – both are pretty similar in appearance, with flat bodies in an oval shape, no wings, and relatively similar colors. And of course, as we noted above, ticks in the larvae stage will still have six legs, just like bed bugs do, so using physical appearance alone is often a tough ask for telling the difference. Luckily, there are further pieces of evidence you can use as well.

Feeding Habits and Activity Timing

One of the key areas where you can begin to spot differences between bed bugs and ticks is how they behave and feed. Both are parasites, feeding on the blood of their hosts, but there are a few differences here:

  • Ticks remain attached to their host using their mouthpart, which will sometimes remain embedded on the bite site; bed bugs do not.
  • Ticks feed on both animals and sometimes humans, while bed bugs prefer human hosts.
  • Ticks are most active early in the morning and late at night, while bed bugs are most active during normal night hours.
  • Bed bugs often bite in multiple body locations throughout the night; ticks, on the other hand, bite a single time and then remain attached to that location until they’re either removed or satiated.

Habitat Differences

While their name might make this confusing, it’s important to realize that bed bugs don’t only live on or around your bed. They prefer a number of different crevice areas, from bed frames to furniture upholstery, floorboards, wall cracks and even inside books.

Ticks, on the other hand, are usually seen outside – and this is where they most often attach to their hosts, whether human or animal. They’re most common in places with tall grass, shrubbery and various wooded features.

Bite Mark Identification

We mentioned bite marks briefly above, and they’re a bit of a complex area. One common sign of a tick is the attached mouthpart remaining on your body after a bite, but beyond this, human reactions to bites – including the marks they leave – can vary somewhat widely. Some people might have a strong or even allergic reaction, while others will have no reaction whatsoever. Both bites may be itchy at times, but it’s tough to tell them apart in this way alone.

Health Concerns

Finally, perhaps the most important bit of information here is regarding the health concerns both these parasites pose. And while bed bugs are the greater fear among many homeowners, this is largely due to their difficulty to exterminate – actually, the pure risk of ticks is higher to human health.

The primary reason for this: Disease spread. While bites from bed bugs will be itchy and may cause site inflammation or a minor allergic reaction, they will not spread disease to their hosts.

Ticks, on the other hand, are known to spread several conditions, from Lyme disease to several other types. In fact, the CDC reports over 30,000 cases of Lyme disease every year, and some chunk of these are due to tick infestations or bites. Both should be prevented, and our team has tips and tools to assist you with both, but take particular care to clear tall grasses, mow your lawn regularly and take other steps that will prevent ticks from nesting in your yard.

For more on telling bed bugs and ticks apart, or to learn about any of our pest control services in Salt Lake City or other parts of Utah, including bird control themes, speak to the staff at A-1 Exterminators today.

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