Fleas vs Ticks vs Bedbugs

Bed bugs, fleas and ticks are commonly misidentified and confused with one another.  These parasitic pests are actually very different from each other.  This will article will focus on what the differences are in identification, behavior and diet.


Ticks are classified as arachnids (8 legs), while fleas and bed bugs are actually insects (6 legs).  Ticks are easy to spot because they grow in size after taking blood meals.   Fleas are much harder to see because of their small size and ability to jump quickly out of sight.


female american dog tick
female dog tick
source: UFL.edu

Ticks are large enough to be seen with the naked eye.  Their small size allows infestations to grow unchecked, and large populations require professional removal. Ticks are also small but engorge themselves on blood until they’re double their original size, which makes it easier for people to detect their presence.


cat flea

Fleas and ticks have very different sizes. Fleas typically measure less than 1/8 of an inch in length.  Sometimes people confuse fleas with lice or gnats.

Bed Bugs

bat bug looks like bed bug
Image credit:https://extension.colostate.edu

In adult form, bed bugs measure roughly the size of a kernel of corn or an apple seed, which runs roughly 5 mm in length. With a trained eye, human beings can easily spot adult bed bugs against the typical whites of bed sheets.

Nymphs, on the other hand, measure at most 1 and 1/4 mm and are clear or off-white in color, which makes identifying the insects in the nymphal stage challenging.

The Difference Between Ticks and Bed Bugs
One of the main differences between ticks and bed bugs is that ticks are arachnids and not insects. They have eight legs, as opposed to the six that bed bugs have. Since newly hatched ticks are relatively flat and only have six legs until feeding for the first time, tick nymphs and adult bed bugs can be mistaken for each other.

Another difference between ticks and bed bugs is their host preferences. While ticks feed on animals in addition to humans, bed bugs typically stick to human hosts. Additionally, ticks thrive in outdoor environments, while bed bugs are mainly found indoors. Most importantly, while bed bug bites are irritating, they do not spread disease. Tick bites, however, can transmit Lyme disease, babesiosis, and tularemia.

Prevention & Control
Both ticks and bed bugs frequently infest homes. Bed bugs enter via luggage or clothing and then establish colonies in mattresses, furniture, and draperies. Bed bug populations quickly get out of hand. Ticks regularly attach to the skin of people and pets, which makes avoiding tall grasses and other areas where ticks breed essential to control and prevention.

Diet or Feeding Habits


Ticks will bite humans, but prefer the blood of animals.


Both fleas and ticks rely on blood meals for sustenance.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs prefer the blood of people but occasionally bite animals.


Ticks and bed bugs also live in very different environments. While ticks send most of their lives in wooded, grassy areas, bed bugs live indoors and are commonly found in mattress seams and the cracks in headboards.


Ticks latch on the body and remain feeding in one spot for quite some time.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs attack several areas of the body and then retreat once satisfied.


Disease Transmission

Fleas carry tapeworms and typhus, while ticks spread tularemia, babesiosis, and Lyme disease. Always check your pets and children for ticks and fleas after they’ve spent prolonged amounts of time outside.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are not known to transmit any serious diseases.


On the other hand, ticks are responsible for the spread of several debilitating illnesses, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrlichia, tularemia, and Lyme disease. Many of these cause flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, muscle aches, fever, and headaches.


Fleas are capable of infecting people with life-threatening diseases such as typhus.


Once an infestation of fleas or ticks has been identified, property owners should call a professional pest removal team. As both ticks and fleas carry diseases that can be deadly, it is important to act quickly. Bed bug populations can also get out of hand fats, which makes professional pest control the only option to guarantee proper removal.