Bed bugs aren’t particularly life-threatening, as ticks can be, but they can be very unsettling and will ruin a good night’s sleep. Ticks, meanwhile, carry Lyme disease, which can be life-threatening. In 2017, there were nearly 30,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the U.S., according to the CDC. Ticks also carry Rickettsia and Ehrlichiosis.

Bed bugs and ticks are similar but different. Both are much the same in shape and color, but bed bugs have six legs, while a tick has eight. How else do they differ? And how are they alike?

How Do You Tell If It’s A Tick Or A Bed Bug?

Ticks and bed bugs are similar in size and color (although color can vary depending on species), both are irritating, attach to your skin, and cause red spots or rashes. So unless you are counting legs or looking at them very closely, it’s hard to tell one from the other.

Similarities Between Ticks And Bed Bugs

Both ticks and bed bugs are wingless. Bed bugs and some varieties of ticks are similar in size, but a bed bug can grow to nearly three-eighth of an inch, a bit longer than most ticks. The color of both ticks and bed bugs can range from yellow to brown, and when engorged, both bugs appear round and swollen.

Differences Between Ticks And Bed Bugs

However, bed bugs are generally found indoors, while ticks love the fresh air of the great outdoors. Bed bugs snuggle in mattresses, couches and other soft areas. They are also found in cracks and crannies, in headboards, box springs, and bed frames, but hate the humid areas, like bathrooms and kitchen sinks. It’s not uncommon to even find them in theaters around the U.S.

Ticks, on the other hand, are found out-of-doors. Under bushes, at the base of trees, in high grasses, in fields and backyards. Ticks can also be found on pets and pet bedding and can be deadly to both humans and their pets. Once ticks enter the house, they will also find their way to cracks and crannies around the house.

How Do You Know If A Tick Or A Bed Bug Bit You?

Initially, it may be a little challenging to tell if a bed bug or a tick bit you. Both leave a red pinpoint bite. It’s only after a few hours or a few days that you’ll really see the differences. Besides, mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, and other nasty insects also bite. So how do you know if it’s a tick or bed bug?

Similarities Between Ticks And Bed Bug Bites

Reactions from insect bites can vary from one person to another. Tick bites and bites from bed bugs can both appear as small red spots. Bed bug bites usually appear in a row because it’s not uncommon that more than a few bugs bite at once. However, it’s common that only one or two ticks will bite at once in one area of the body, according to the extermination company ORKIN

Both bites are known to itch, and the formation of a rash isn’t out of the question for both bed bugs and ticks. However, as bites can mimic other insects, it’s very difficult to tell the difference—at first. The best way to be certain if it’s a bed bug bite or a tick bite is to find the nasty rascal still attached to your skin. 

Differences Between Tick and Bed Bug Bites

Bites from bed bugs are usually arranged in a cluster and are found on the face, neck, hands and arms more often than other places on the body. Still, ticks can also attach to arms and hands but are more commonly found at the hairline or in the armpits, groin, torso, legs, feet, and behind the knees. 

Bed bugs bite using their pincers then move on to bite again elsewhere on the body, while ticks linger on the skin for a while. Then they embed their pincers into the skin while secreting an anticoagulant to prevent blood clotting. Bed bugs don’t go to such extremes.   

How Can I Protect Myself From Bed Bugs At Night?

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) offers a few tips for protecting yourself against bed bug bites at night, both in your home and while away from home. 

  1. Declutter. Bed bugs love small hiding places away from heat and humidity. That’s why beds and mattresses seem to be favorite spots in homes and hotels. But decluttering areas in your home, like closets and under cabinets will provide fewer places for them to hide. 
  2. Careful about sharing a closet. You may have done all you can to declutter your closet to ward off bed bugs, but if you share a closet at home or work, bed bugs can hitchhike a ride on someone else’s clothing. That means you have a better chance of bringing the little critters home on a coat or other clothing. 
  3. Check often for infestation. Washing and hand-vacuuming bedding, couch and chair cushions, and frequently checking for bed bugs in other areas of the home can help ensure they never become a problem. However, ORKIN says a professional is sometimes required to end an infestation completely. 
  4. Make a note of where bed bugs are found. If you find bed bugs in one area of your home, make sure to make a note so that you can be extra vigilant in that area. It’s not uncommon for bed bugs to show up in the same area multiple times. 
  5. Vacuum often. If you find a few bed bugs in your home, it can indicate a much larger problem. To make sure that they don’t get out of hand, vacuum areas of your home often (and don’t forget under sinks or between couch cushions). 

How Do I Permanently Get Rid Of Bed Bugs At Home?

Bed bugs are common. You may have a problem and not even know it. But once they overrun your home, it can be tough to get rid of them permanently. You may have to hire a professional exterminator, or you can DIY with some natural methods. So, if you smell a somewhat unpleasant musty smell, see fecal or bloodstains on your sheets or mattress, or shed bed bug skin, take a look at these tips to get rid of them for good.

  • Thoroughly clean your home and wash your sheets, mattress pad, and all other bedding. Vacuum or sweep and wash your floors. Also, wash any clothing you feel may have come in contact with the bugs. Actually, to rid your home of them permanently, it’s a good idea to wash EVERYTHING.
  • For any items you can’t wash, consider storing them in plastic containers. Even if bed bugs are on these items, they cannot live long without food.  
  • Bed bugs (and their eggs) don’t like heat or humidity. So, investing in a hand-held steamer can help rid your home of these pests. The steam, however, must be at least 160F to work effectively. Just spray along baseboards, in between couch cushions, around your mattress, and all other areas bed bugs congregate.
  • Inspect all the walls and baseboards in your home. Bed bugs are flat and can easily live in tiny cracks and crevices.
  • Use a natural powdery substance like Diatomaceous Earth. It is natural and will not harm your linens or clothing, or pets. Bed bugs do not die immediately when you sprinkle this powder on your mattress or into baseboards, but it is long-lasting. It is advised that you wear a mask when spreading this powder so you don’t inhale it. 
  • Call in the professionals. One of the best ways to rid your home of bedbugs for good is with high-heat. Professional heat treatments that raise the temps in your home to 130 degrees can kill bed bugs and their eggs in a matter of hours and with only one treatment. 
  • Use diluted rubbing alcohol. It’s safe and evaporates fairly quickly. You can spray it along baseboards, on your bedding (without the fear of staining), in closets, and elsewhere. However, it’s not long-lasting and may not completely get rid of your problem. 
  • You can also use industrial-grade insecticides, but understand that while they work, keeping children and pets away is vital, as many of these treatments are deadly—not only for bed bugs but also for your pets and family. 

Final Thoughts

No one likes to think they may have a bed bug problem, but according to an ORKIN’s representative, one in three homes in the U.S. have a bed bug problem. If that has you worried, you’re not alone. While similar to ticks and other nasty insects, bed bugs are not life-threatening. That said, they are pests that can bite, cause intense itching, red spots, and rashes. Besides, who wants to share a bed with a bug? 

There are many ways to rid your home of bed bugs—both DIY and by hiring a professional. In the meantime, or before they invade your home, cleaning, storing non-washables in plastic containers, and being diligent about spotting the telltale signs of an infestation is your first line of defense. 


Are ticks bigger than bed bugs?  Yes and no. Some bed bugs can grow to more than three-eighth of an inch long, while the size of most ticks is only a few millimeters. However, one variety of tick grows to more than one inch, but it is very rare and not in the U.S.

Can ticks be mistaken for bed bugs? Yes. Both are similar in size and color. Ticks prefer to live primarily outdoors, while bed bugs live primarily indoors. Ticks prefer animals, while bed bugs rather feed on humans. Bed bugs only have six legs, while ticks have eight legs. Both bite. Both can cause skin irritation and red spots, and both bites can itch. However, only ticks carry disease. 

Can ticks live in a bed?  Ticks love your bed, your sheets, pillows, and blankets. It is a popular area to attach and feed on their human hosts. Plus, once they attach, they can stay attached to you for days without you even knowing they are there. Likewise, if you sleep with your pets, these unwanted guests can attach to your pets and then show up in bed with you. 

What kills bed bugs instantly? The best defense against bed bugs that kills them instantly is heat. If a room is heated to 130 degrees F, any bed bugs in that room will be killed, along with their eggs. Other household methods to kill bed bugs, although not instantly, are Diatomaceous Earth, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, Lysol, and Clorox.

How do you draw bed bugs out of hiding? Bed bugs hate high heat.  So, it just makes sense that hot air from a blow dryer or steamer will have bed bugs scrambling out of hiding. 

Try inserting a thin sheet of cardboard, a credit card, playing card, or putty knife into a small crack in a baseboard, a shelf, or other thin cracks. This works great when you see a cluster of bugs. Insert the thin card and scape them out. It sounds odd, but it works. 

You can also try basic plastic traps that can be purchased at a hardware store, scotch or duct tape, or even Vaseline. Plastic traps are convenient as you can place them anywhere (but watch that pets don’t get into them). Tapes can also be left out in areas where you think bed bugs may be hiding. They attach themselves to the tape and are easily thrown away. Vaseline, although somewhat messy, can also be used to coax bugs from their hiding places. Experts say it’s the smell and taste of Vaseline that bugs like the most.