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The Difference Between Bed Bugs & Fleas



Among many blood-sucking pests around us, many people often find it hard to distinguish the difference between bed bugs and fleas.

At a glance, both of these critters do look alike, yet these two actually have different appearances and characteristics as well as present different problems that differentiate them.

The major differences between bed bugs and fleas can be seen based on several aspects, including:

  • Appearance
  • Life cycle
  • Hiding places
  • Bites

Being able to spot the difference between bed bugs and fleas will ease you to get rid of the infestation for good. Last but not least, the prevention tips are ready for those of you who already know the difference between these blood-sucking parasites!


Although bed bugs and fleas have some things in common, such as small in size, wingless and reddish-brown in colour, yet there are ways to tell them apart.

Find out the differences between bed bugs and fleas based on their appearances below.

What do bed bugs look like?

What do bed bugs look like?

Appearance of bed bugs

  • Bed bugs are around 5 to 7mm long
  • Flat, seed-shaped body
  • They have six legs, three on each side
  • Adult bed bugs are red to brown in colour
  • After the bed bug has taken a blood meal, its colour will change from brown to purplish-red

What do fleas look like?

What do fleas look like?

Appearance of fleas

  • Fleas are small insects with a size of around 1.5 to 3mm long
  • Flat, oval-shaped body covered with hair
  • They have 6 legs, and strong hind legs which allow for running and jumping
  • Adult fleas are range in colour, from light reddish-brown to dark brown

Life cycle

One of the distinct differences between bed bugs and fleas is their life cycle. Unlike fleas that undergo complete metamorphosis, bed bugs are going through an incomplete metamorphosis or in simple they don’t pupate because of its nymph are very similar to adults.

Even though both bed bugs and fleas feed on blood, only adult fleas which require a fresh blood meal in order to reproduce. In contrast with bed bugs, both of their nymphs and adults feed on blood in order to survive.

Bed bugs life cycle

Bed bug life cycle going through several stages during its lifetime, including:

  • Eggs (1mm)
  • 1st stage nymph (1.5 mm)
  • 2nd stage nymph (2 mm)
  • 3rd stage nymph (2.5 mm)
  • 4th stage nymph (3 mm)
  • 5th stage nymph (4.5 mm)
  • Adult (approx. 5.5 mm)

At room temperatures, it only takes about 37 days for bed bugs to transform from eggs to adult bed bugs. Female bed bugs will lay eggs 5 - 20 eggs over 10 days. Adult bed bugs can live up to 10 months and can last without feeding for as long as a year.

Fleas life cycle

Fleas go through four main stages in their life cycle:

  • Egg (0.5mm)
  • Larva (1-5mm)
  • Pupa (2-4mm)
  • Adult (male: 2-3 mm, female: 4mm)

The process from egg to adults takes 30 - 75 days depending on some external factors such as temperatures and humidity. Female fleas will lay their eggs after the first blood meal. Female fleas are able to lay up to 50 eggs per day. Adult fleas can live more than 100 days up to a year in the ideal condition.

Hiding places

Bed bugs and fleas love to get comfortable inside your home and both are good at hiding. This is the main reason why it is not easy to get rid of bed bugs and fleas infestation at home.

Where does bed bug hide?

When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a wide range of places in the home such as:

  • Bed frames and headboard crevices
  • Mattress seams
  • Carpets and underlay
  • Skirting boards
  • Between timber floorboards
  • In cracked or broken plaster, behind peeling wallpaper
  • Inside electrical sockets and fittings
  • Drawers and cupboards
  • Wardrobes
  • Bedside cabinets

Where do fleas hide?

Fleas are very good at hiding and here are some of flea favourite hiding places around your home:

  • Carpet and rugs
  • Sofa cushions
  • Wall cracks and crevices
  • Bedding, mattresses and sheets
  • Pet feeding area
  • Pet’s beddings
  • On pets body parts including ears, tail, back of neck and head


Both flea and bed bug bites can cause itchy accompanied by red welts on human skins, but there are some key differences you can detect. This includes:

  • Symptoms
  • Patterns
  • Locations

Did you know? bed bugs prefer to feed on humans while fleas prefer to feed on animals like cats or dogs.

Bed bug bites

Bed bug bites

Bed bugs are known as a nocturnal animal, which means they are most active at night and rarely bite humans during the day.

What are bed bug bites symptoms?

Bed bug bites appear as a red itchy bump with a dark centre and lighter swollen surrounding area.

What is the bed bug bite pattern?

The bites can be in a line because bed bugs can line up once a good feeding spot has been found.

Where do bed bug bites show up?

Bed bug bites can occur anywhere on the body but will be seen more often on exposed skin, usually on the upper body. Check for signs of bites on your:

  • Neck
  • Face
  • Hands
  • Arms

Flea bites

Flea bites

On the other hand, fleas will feed several times during the day or night - without any time restrictions.

What are flea bite symptoms?

Flea bites appear in the form of tiny red bumps and surrounded by a reddened area.

What is the flea bite pattern?

Flea bites commonly appear in groups of or sometimes appear in a line, and will rarely appear in upper-body parts.

Where do flea bites appear?

Fleas primarily feed on animals, but it is not impossible if they also feed on humans. Flea bites are very itchy, and the skin around each bite may become sore or painful.

  • Flea bites on humans – Flea bites generally found on the lower half of the human body, including around the ankles and lower legs.
  • Flea bite on pets – Flea bites on pets like dogs or cats are commonly found on the back and neck, as well as on the base of the tail.

How to prevent bed bugs and fleas?

Bed bugs don’t jump as fleas do, they will crawl and are often hitchhiked on human belongings like clothing, bags or suitcase. While fleas infestation is closely related to pets, bed bugs are associated with human movement from one place to another during travelling.

Facing off with fleas or bed bugs infestation can be a huge hassle at home. The best way to avoid getting bed bugs or fleas in the first place is to remove and prevent both bed bugs and fleas from infesting your home. Here are the practical ways to prevent bed bugs and fleas at home!

How to prevent bed bugs at home?

  • Wash and dry clothes at the highest possible temperatures
  • Eliminate clutter in your house to give bed bugs fewer places to hide
  • Avoid spreading bed bugs to your friends and family by not taking any clothes, suitcases or furniture to their homes
  • Tidy all areas of your bedroom, especially the floor around/underneath your bed and bed-side cabinets
  • Vacuuming can greatly reduce the size of the bed bug population, but only when they’re clearly visible. It cannot guarantee total elimination. (Empty and clean the vacuum to avoid transferring eggs to other rooms)

How to prevent fleas at home?

  • Vacuum the floor and furniture regularly, change your vacuum bags frequently
  • Larvae feed on organic matter in carpets, bedding & furnishings. You need to try and remove any potential food supply to prevent fleas
  • If you have pets like cats or dogs at home, you have to ensure:
    • Keep your pets indoors
    • Groom your pets regularly with a flea comb
    • Wash pet bedding weekly, ideally at above 50°C
    • Put on flea repellent collars on your pets as an additional protection for your pet against ticks

Contact Rentokil today to know how we work to identify, remove and control both bed bugs and fleas infestation at home.

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