How to Tell If You Have Bed Bugs or Fleas

Getting rid of bedbugs or fleas can be a challenge, especially since they require different approaches. The first step is to figure out which type of insect you're dealing with. According to the World Health Organization, bedbugs tend to reside only in the bedroom, while fleas like to infest other areas of the home, including furniture, carpets, area rugs and pets. Use these tips to figure out whether you have bedbugs or fleas.

Unmade bed with pillow and gray blankets top view
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How to Tell If You Have Bed Bugs or Fleas

Examine Your Body for Bite Marks

Inspect your body for bites. Bed bugs bite in the torso region. If you see a cluster of bites around the torso, then you have bed bugs. Fleas bite around the feet, ankle and leg region. Inspect each bite carefully. The difference between a bedbug bite and a flea bite is that the center of a bedbug bite is red.

Look At Your Bedding

Remove the bedding from the mattress. Inspect the seam of the mattress and bedding closely. Look for red or brown oval-shaped insects that resemble seeds. These are bedbugs. Also look for tiny red blood stains on your bed sheets. Peek inside mattress folds, creases, zippers and tags and inside the crevices of drawers and nightstands, the folds of drapes and curtains and furniture, such as sofa and chairs, for bedbugs. Bedbugs tend to live only in the bedroom, and don't stray too far from the bed. Fleas can and will live in any part of the house. Fleas tend to leave tiny black specks of excrement, so if you find black specks on your mattress and throughout the home, you have fleas, not bedbugs.

Examine Your Pets

Look for black specks as well as for living bugs on pets, who often serve as carriers for fleas. Use a flea comb on your pet. Start at the base of the tail and comb through the pet's fur, lifting the hairs gently so that you can examine the skin underneath. This may require two people if you've got energetic puppies or uncooperative cats. If you find insects or black specks, your home is infested with fleas, not bedbugs.

Inspect Your Furniture

Inspect your soft and upholstered furniture as well as any throw blankets and accent pillows. Look closely at the seams, in folds or pleats and around zippers. Use a magnifying glass and search for small black specks as well as for tiny, seed-like bugs. Bedbugs reside primarily in the bedroom, so if you find evidence of bugs on furniture in other parts of your home, you are probably dealing with fleas. One exception is a sofa with a fold-out bed. If you have one that is used often, open the sofa and carefully examine the mattress for signs of bedbugs.

Set a Trap

Fill a wide, shallow glass bowl with water and add a few drops of liquid dish soap. Place the bowl near a nightlight on the carpet overnight. The bowl of soapy water will attract fleas, but will have no effect on bedbugs. So, if your soapy water contains bugs in the morning, you're dealing with fleas.