Bed Bugs vs. Lice

picture of a bed bug on a dime

Are Those Lice or Bed Bugs?

As they're both small parasitic insects that feed on human blood, lice and bed bug infestations can seem similar. However, these pests require different methods of control. It's important to know whether the pest problem is caused by lice or bed bugs before coming up with a plan of action.

Keep the following in mind when differentiating between bed bugs vs. lice:

  • Size: Bed bugs tend to be bigger than lice, measuring about a quarter of an inch in length. In contrast, lice are smaller than an eighth of an inch long. Coloration is an important differentiator since bed bugs are brownish-red or mahogany colored, while lice are somewhat light whitish or gray in color.
  • Shape: While bed bugs have flat, oval bodies, lice are oblong.
  • Location: The most common type of home infesting lice, the head lice, lives on the human scalp. People often wonder, can bed bugs live in hair, too? Although the pests bite anywhere on the body, residents are less likely to find bed bugs in hair. Instead, a bed bug retreats to a hiding place, like the seam of a mattress, after it takes a blood meal, while head lice remain on their host unless dislodged by scratching the scalp or when removed by haircutting or trimming the scalp area.

Bed Bug vs. Lice Damage


The major difference between bed bugs and lice is how they affect people. Lice generally need blood every day or so to survive. These pests stay on their human host, causing itchiness and skin irritation shortly after they feed. Not only are people able to see adult and immature lice if they look closely, but they can also see the pests' small, light colored eggs stuck to strands of hair.

Bed Bugs

On the other hand, bed bugs usually feed for a few days before any sign of skin rash appears on those affected, although in some cases a rash may show up shortly after a bed bug takes a blood meal. It's unlikely that residents will even see, let alone feel bed bugs since they feed mostly at night and their bite usually goes unnoticed. Blood flecks or fecal matter stains on mattresses and sheets are often the first sign of infestation.


Whether the problem is lice or bed bugs, the result is always unpleasant and demands action. Several shampoo treatments are available for lice, but bed bug infestations are usually much harder for homeowners to control. To efficiently remove lice or bedbugs, contact the professionals at Orkin.