How to Tell Bed Bugs vs. Fleas Apart

picture of a bed bug in a hand

Parasites in the Home

Fleas and bed bugs are tricky to control indoors. Once inside, bed bugs or fleas will reproduce and feed on human or animal blood. These parasitic pests use their small size and ability to enter homes undetected by hitching rides on:
  • Clothing
  • Luggage
  • Mattresses and box springs
  • Pets that are let outside
  • Used furniture

With so many similarities, flea and bed bug infestations can be hard for homeowners to tell apart. Since both pests bite, it quickly becomes important to discover the culprit and find a solution. Knowing specifics about these parasitic insects aids in effective control.

Differences Between Bed Bugs and Fleas


Both pests are reddish brown and large enough to see with the naked eye. However, bed bugs are flat and oval-shaped, while fleas have long, narrow bodies, which appear flattened from the top to bottom of their body.

Hosts Fleas and bed bugs consume the blood of mammals. Bed bugs prefer humans and rarely bite animals if people are nearby. On the other hand, fleas would rather feed on cats or dogs, but may settle for humans when necessary.

Keep in mind that simply finding bites on people or animals is not a sufficient way to identify bed bugs vs. fleas, nor is the appearance of the bite. Since everyone reacts differently to the pests, not all bed bug or flea bites look the same.


Method of travel is another noticeable difference between bed bugs and fleas. Bed bugs crawl slowly and cannot fly or jump. In contrast, fleas have strong legs and move by leaping long distances.

Treatments for Bed Bugs vs. Fleas

Because fleas and bed bugs live on or near their hosts or in homes, getting rid of either pest presents some challenges. Cleaning mattresses and bathing pets may reduce populations but will not stop an infestation. Contact the specialists at Orkin for help with identification and removal.