What's the difference between bat bugs and bed bugs? When it comes to looks, not much. Not only are they both capable of feeding on humans, but bat bugs and bed bugs are so close in appearance that identification often requires magnification and a trained eye.
So, how do you tell the difference between bat bugs vs. bed bugs when they look so similar? First, know what behaviors to look for.
Bat Bugs vs. Bed Bugs: What Do They Look Like?
Bat bugs (Cimex adjunctus) and bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are both part of the Cimicidae family, and let's just say the family resemblance runs strong between the two!
Both are small, six-legged parasitic insects. They are similar in shape, color, and size to an apple or flax seed, and they both feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. Though they have different preferred food sources, both are resilient pests known to survive without feeding for long periods of time.
If you compare a bed bug and a bat bug under a 30x magnification lens, you might be able to see that the hairs of the bat bug are slightly longer than those of the bed bug. Other than that, they look identical, which can make it difficult to determine the best treatment options.
Bed bugs and bat bugs are different pests that require different solutions. If you want to tell the difference between these two doppelgängers, you'll need to pay close attention to how they behave.
Signs of a Bat Bug Infestation
If you're dealing with bat bugs, you'll see them on the ceilings and walls, especially in top-story bedrooms where the attic is close by.
As their name would suggest, bat bugs' preferred food source is the blood of bats. If the bats suddenly disappear, the bat bugs will settle for other food sources like humans or pets, but they can't reproduce without access to bats.
Considering bats like to hang out in attics, wall voids, and chimneys, it's not uncommon for bat bugs to wander into the living space, especially if the bats were recently sealed out of the attic space.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
Bed bugs are a much bigger threat to human health and happiness due to the fact that humans are their preferred food source.
Where bat bugs will travel away from their bat hosts and venture into the house, bed bugs are more likely to remain as close to you (and your sleeping area) as possible. When inspecting for bed bugs, start by thoroughly inspecting all around the bed, looking for dark brown speckling (blood and droppings), insects, and shed insect skins.
Check the following areas:
- Bedding, including pillows, sheets, and blankets
- In the folds and tufts of your mattress, especially along seams
- In the cracks and gaps of your bed frame
- On or behind picture frames
- Under and inside electronics
- Under furniture
- Behind outlet and light switch covers
Be sure to launder your sheets, and use the highest heat settings on both your washer and dryer. Bed bugs and bat bugs can't survive the heat, but don't put your sheets back on your bed until you've verified that your bed is 100% pest free!
How to Get Rid of a Bat Bug Infestation
Considering bed bugs tend to stay well hidden and close to their feeding source, if you're spotting bed bug-like insects on the walls and ceiling, they very well could be bat bugs, and this likely indicates that you have a bat problem somewhere nearby.
Luckily, bat bugs are considered a source pest issue. Once their food source is addressed and removed, the bat bugs should go away. To remove bats from your home, focus your efforts on exclusion, sealing any holes or gaps where bats can get in. If you've sealed the bats out and bat bugs are showing up on your walls or ceiling, use a vacuum to reduce the interior population.
If you seal bat entry points during the day, you will seal the bats inside your house and create a variety of other issues, including excessive noise and smell. If you have bats in your attic, find where they are coming and going from, wait until dark, and when they leave to hunt in the evening, cover the hole with a black garbage bag. This will block the bats from using their sonar to locate their entry hole, and give you the chance to seal the hole the next day when the bats are gone and it's not dark outside.
How to Get Rid of a Bed Bug Infestation
Bed bug control should start with prevention. Everyone in your home should know how to identify a bed bug in case they are brought home from work, school, or extracurriculars. This is especially true in multi-family housing, where bed bugs can move from unit to unit with ease.
Beyond preventing bed bugs, once an issue is established, it's best to get professional assistance with the problem. With many pests, there are DIY options that are perfectly effective, but bed bugs are not a pest you want to mess with. If bed bugs are present, they can rapidly reproduce to infestation levels in little time, and cause immense discomfort and stress.
Professional eradication of bed bugs can involve a variety of steps depending on the severity of the issue, including:
- Bed bug inspection and identification, often using a bed bug dog team
- Heat treatment
- Steam treatment
- Chemical treatment
What Causes Bat Bugs?
Bat bugs are caused by a nearby bat issue.
Bats roosting under your eaves, in your attic, in your wall void, or in your chimney could result in bat bugs moving into your residence. Bat bugs cannot reproduce without bats, however, and prefer to feed on bats over humans if given the choice.
Once a bat issue has been addressed, the bat bugs should go away, but if they won't, it may be time to call for an IPM specialist for assistance.
What Causes Bed Bugs?
While used furniture and thrifted items are great finds, it is not uncommon to bring bed bugs home in used furniture. If you want to avoid introducing a full-blown infestation, think twice before picking up that couch by the side of the road! If you can't resist, make 100% sure to look over every inch of it before bringing it home.
Bed bugs aren't picky, but they prefer to feed on humans. They are very good at hiding and can be very difficult to eradicate once they are in the home.
Bed bugs come in from other locations, primarily through unsuspecting travelers or guests who bring them in unknowingly. Even the school classroom can become a 'central hub' for recurring bed bug problems.
Bed bugs also enter homes via used furniture and clothing. Their eggs can cling to shoes, pets, and other objects, meaning they can hitch rides all over the place!
Bat Bugs vs. Bed Bugs: How to Keep Them Away
Prevention is always the best option when it comes to pest control.
For bat bugs, make sure there are no gaps or spaces around your home where bats are hanging out. If the bats are hanging out, so are the bat bugs, and they might come inside and bother you if the bats decide to leave.
Preventing bed bugs starts with inspection and education. Everyone in your home should know what bed bugs look like and how they can be transported from place to place. Regular inspections of the home can identify any infestation early while they're still manageable.
Good habits for bed bug prevention include:
- Regular inspections
- Frequent vacuuming
- Laundering sheets and textiles on high heat with detergents
- Decluttering to reduce hiding spots
Where do bat bugs come from?
Bat bugs come from bats, of course! Bat bugs feed on the blood of bats and can end up wandering into your indoor spaces if bats are roosting nearby.
Do bat bugs bite?
While bat bugs prefer to feed on bats, they will bite humans if no other food source is available.
Will bat bugs go away on their own?
If the bats leave, so will the bat bugs. If the bats stick around, however, the bat bugs will remain close by, too.
Where do bed bugs come from?
Bed bugs are a widespread problem and are easily brought home from all kinds of places, including schools and hotels. They can travel on clothing and other items while remaining undetected due to their small size.
Do bed bugs bite?
Bed bugs are notorious for their annoying bite. Not only are some people very sensitive to bed bug bites, but bed bugs are known to cause sleep deprivation and great stress with their persistent feeding habits.
Will bed bugs go away on their own?
Definitely not. As long as bed bugs are able to hide nearby and feed off of you and your loved ones, they're not going to go away unless they're forced to.
“Bat Bugs, Bed Bugs and Relatives - 5.574.” CSU Extension,
Bat Bug. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: Horticulture and Home Pest News
Bat Bugs, Bed Bugs, and Relatives. Colorado State University Extension