Scabies vs. Bedbugs: How to Tell the Difference

Scabies (Bacillus species) is a skin infection caused by the bacteria, Sarcocystis hominis. It is spread through direct contact with infected skin or contaminated objects such as clothing. Symptoms include redness, swelling and itching. Scabies may appear anywhere on your body but most commonly affects the face, neck and armpits. Scabies may cause severe itching and itchy sores which are difficult to treat.

Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius) are tiny insects that feed on human blood and other bodily fluids. They do not bite or sting humans; they live inside the bodies of their hosts and feed off the host’s blood. Bed bugs have been found in many different places including homes, hotels, nursing homes, schools, hospitals, restaurants and offices. Bed bugs are small, black and oval shaped insects with two long legs.

Their bodies are grayish brown in color. They measure less than 1/4 inch long and ¼ inch wide.

Flea Beetles (Toxocara cati) are round, flat beetles that live on the skin of mammals such as cats, dogs, horses and man. Flea beetles look like miniature versions of adult fleas except they have no wings and only one pair of legs. They feed on dried blood, flakes of dead skin and other materials found on the host’s body. Flea beetles are directly responsible for transferring dog tapeworm eggs into an animal or a human host.

When it comes to flea vs bed bug bites, it is important to know how to tell them apart. Although fleas and bed bugs may both bite you, their bites look different and they behave differently too. Flea bites are small and often appear in groups of three or four. Since fleas are tiny, their bites are also small and only visible with the help of a magnifying glass.

Flea bites generally appear on your ankles, lower legs and arms. If you have flea infestation in your home, you will most likely find lots of little black flecks (feces) on your pillows, sheets, blankets and pet’s bedding.

Bed bugs are found all over the world from China to Chile, from Sweden to Sudan and from Canada to Australia. They can be found in homes, apartments, hotels, hospitals, movie theaters, offices and anywhere else people gather. Their flattened, oval-shaped bodies enable them to hide easily in cracks and crevices. Adult bed bugs grow to 4-5 millimeters in length (about 1/6 of an inch) and have a red or dark brown color.

Younger bed bugs have a lighter color.

The life span of a bed bug is about one year. Under favorable conditions, a female adult can lay 5 eggs per day and more than 200 in a lifetime. When the surroundings become unfavorable, a pre-pupal stage occurs and after approximately three weeks, the eggs hatch into nymphs. The newly hatched bugs (nymphs) grow by molting 5 times before reaching adulthood.

The entire process from egg to adult averages about 5 months.

You may not realize you have a bed bug infestation. These tiny insects hide in cracks and crevices and they are mainly active at night. They feed on your blood, usually at night while you’re asleep. Their bites are painless, but soon you may notice red itchy welts on your skin in the places the bed bugs bit you.

These welts may look like a allergic reaction to some medications. This is a common mistake that most people make. Bed bugs can be diagnosed by hiring a professional pest control company or by seeing a doctor. You should also get the place you sleep inspected, since these insects often hide in beds, bed frames and headboards.

Sources & references used in this article:

Scabies, Fleas, or Bedbugs? Investigation of Skin Rashes in an Inpatient Eating Disorders Treatment Facility Unit by A Priddy, K Sperling – American Journal of Infection Control, 2020 – Elsevier

Bedbugs: Helping your patient through an infestation by O Ibrahim, UM Syed… – Cleve Clin J …, 2017 – …

High prevalence of bedbugs Cimex hemipterus and Cimex lectularis in camps for internally displaced persons in Freetown, Sierra Leone: a pilot humanitarian … by AA Gbakima, BC Terry, F Kanja, S Kortequee… – West African journal of …, 2002 –

Dermatologic infestations by E Shmidt, J Levitt – International journal of dermatology, 2012 – Wiley Online Library

Canine scabies in dogs and in humans by EB Smith, TF Claypoole – Jama, 1967 –