How to Identify Bed Bugs

Bed bugs, the nightly attackers terrorizing beds near you, may be harder to identify than you thought. Not only are bed bugs small, but many other South Florida bugs also look like these dreaded insects. So, if you think you’re infested, contact O’Hara Pest Control for your bed bug exterminator needs in West Palm Beach today! 

The main complicating factor is that 22 other bugs look very similar to bed bugs. The following descriptions will leave you without question about what is and isn’t a bed bug. 

What Are Bed Bugs? 

Of all the bugs you may see under a microscope in your life, bed bugs are far from the ugliest. These small, reddish-brown bugs are members of the parasitic class of bugs. Their overall size is equivalent to an apple seed.  

Bed bugs are notorious for biting unconscious victims in the dark of night while sleeping helplessly in the relative safety of their beds. These nighttime invaders sneak up to exposed skin to feed on the blood of their prey.  

Bed bugs are excellent at hide and seek and can often go unseen by those who aren’t bed bug exterminators. On top of that, West Palm Beach is home to many other insects that are actively trying to get into your home.  

Bed Bug Slang Names  

Bed bugs have several names, including red coats, chinches, or mahogany flats. So be aware of this when moving to new places as a new locale may refer to a species by another name. This is commonplace, as slang names are very prevalent for fish species across the world as well.  

No matter what name you use, make sure you get them treated as soon as possible. Even just one pregnant red coat can reinfest your home or apartment in a matter of three months.   

Evidence of Bed Bugs in Your Home 

  • Bloodstained sheets and/or pillowcases 
  • Small, black specks (fecal matter) on bedding  
  • Eggshells or shed skin near or in bed 
  • Musty odor 

Random blood on the sheets from time to time is by no means a surefire sign of bed bugs; however, make sure to check for the other clues as well as bites. Insect droppings closely resemble ground coffee beans, so finding small collections of them around the house is a clear indication of bugs or other bugs in the home.   

Bed bugs are stinky bugs, literally; they’re known to emit offensive smells from their glands. These stinky bugs are prone to bite anywhere they have easy access to exposed skin. Sleeping shirtless leaves your arms, chest, stomach, back, neck, and face defenseless against bites. Bites can be described as:  

  • Burning sensation 
  • Itchy and raised 
  • Red in color with a slightly darker center 
  • Bites can appear in a zigzag pattern 
  • The surrounding area is prone to break out in hives  
  • Inflammation

While it is nice to know what to expect from a bed bug bite, you probably won’t be able to determine the assailant by it. So, if you get bit in bed, your first course of action is to check for fecal droppings and other telltale signs around the bed.  

Bites may lead to the following complications: 

  • Breathing difficulty 
  • Blisters 
  • Fever 
  • Nauseousness 
  • Tongue swelling 
  • Irregular heartbeat 

Bed bugs are not to be taken lightly. The bites they leave behind are numerous and can look gnarly. Not only that, but the bites could also potentially affect your heart. While thankfully not to the extent as ticks, this is still something you should actively avoid by actively deterring bed bugs from entering your home.   

One thing to help you rest a little easier tonight is that bed bugs cannot transmit disease. According to the CDC, there has only ever been one death associated with bed bugs, which occurred in 2011.  

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How to Check for Bed Bugs  

To prevent bed bugs from entering your home, you must first be aware of what attracts bed bugs in the first place. Bed bugs like three things above all else when looking for a place to settle – lots of foot traffic, warmth, and carbon dioxide. 

Do these things sound familiar? Bed bugs tend to be in the places where they have access to human blood. So, the places where you spend lots of time are excellent spots for bed bugs. Despite their name, beds aren’t their only choice for a hiding spot. Other places bed bugs have been found before include:  

  • Cushioned furniture 
  • Curtains 
  • Ceiling/floor cracks 
  • Drawers 
  • Outlets 

Bed bugs are like professional hitchhikers. They have a knack for getting around. Common ways they enter homes are through bedding, furniture, clothing, and boxes. Always double check furniture you bring home that isn’t brand new. You just never know.   

An excellent routine to get into is checking your sheets and bedding for signs of bed bugs. However, you don’t need to do this more often than changing your sheets. On average, most people swap their bedsheets once a week, so use this time wisely. 

As it’s advised to rotate your mattress anyways, why not rotate each week to ensure you check for bed bugs regularly in your box spring and mattress? Inspect for all telltale signs once a week, and you should catch the infestation (if it happens) as soon as it starts.  

Is Florida Home to a Tropical Terror? 

In the 1930s, tropical bed bugs were first discovered in the city of Gainesville. After eight years of reports surfacing across the entire Sunshine State, they were officially documented in 1938. However, this devil in the sheets quickly vanished and hasn’t been seen again in the U.S. since 1940. 

Cimex Hemipterus

The Cimex Hemipterus is the genus and species of the tropical chinch that for a decade ran rampant across Florida. Many believe they entered Florida through Port Canaveral or other various ports along the coasts.  

The tropical bloodsucker came to the U.S. from either Asia or South America, where this particular species has been documented prior to 1938. Scientists are still trying to understand why these sub-species disappeared. 

Tropical bed bugs are 4-5mm long and also are a reddish-brown color. Microscopic differences are the only deviations, and the naked eye is incapable of noticing. The necks of tropical red coats are a different shape than regular ones. Other than that, there are no differences.   

However, these bed bugs are very different in terms of the harm they can cause to people. When these bugs bite, you’ll know. These bites look the same as regular bed bugs; however, the skin around the edges is very likely to allergically react. This happens more frequently with tropical bugs and looks horrific when it does.  

Shortly after they were discovered, these variants all disappeared from Florida. This was from exterminators doing their part in combating pests. However, as of 2016, tropical bed bugs came back and are still running amuck today.  

What Other Bugs Look Like Bed Bugs? 

There are 22 individuals that can mimic the bed bug. Whenever you have issues with insects such as bed bugs in West Palm Beach, make sure to contact your local exterminator. So, here is a list of bugs in Florida that look similar to bed bugs.   

Bat Bugs 

Under a microscope, these two differing bugs look like siblings. Bat bugs are brown and are the same size as bed bugs. The only difference is that they do not have any red coloring.  

Much like bed bugs, bat bugs also suck blood as their primary source of sustenance. As a result of their liking for bat blood, you will usually find these in the immediate area around bat nesting zones.    

Even if people are near bats, the likelihood of these bugs going after them is pretty low. Bat bugs know the difference between bats and humans and actively seek bat blood over human blood.   

What Happens if I Get Bit?  

Even though bat bugs would rather have bat blood, other victims have been discovered. Other family members at risk include humans, dogs, and cats. In addition to these, bat bugs have been speculated to attach to mice and rats to gain entry into homes.  

Bites from bat bugs usually go unnoticed until they are seen. They have overlapping bite symptoms as well, which makes identification based on bite profiles impossible. Bat bug bites are red, painless, and itchy.  

Spider Beetles 

Spider beetle coloring ranges from pale brownish-yellow to black. They can also be reddish-brown. These beetles get just as large as fully grown bed bugs. However, these are more elongated and are a slightly different color than bed bugs.   

Spider beetles are the only bug on the list thus far that can fly. The one upside with these is that they cannot inflict physical harm. While they do bite, they do not inflict harm. The only way they could harm you is by infecting food, which they tend to do when they infest a home.   

Spider beetles and food make for one gross combination. These beetles lay their eggs in substances that the offspring will eat upon hatching. This typically means in grain or flour products. Be sure always to keep them stored in sealed containers. 


These bugs can get up to the same size as bed bugs but aren’t similarly colored. These are a light brown to a creamy yellow, so they are easy to distinguish from bed bugs. Not all booklice have wings, but when they do, there are four that rest over the top of them like a roof.  

Booklice do not bite, but they are still believed to be potentially dangerous. How? Their corpses, in conjunction with dust, are thought to lead to asthma attacks. While unproven, scientists are still trying to figure this out.  

Booklice, as the name implies, are typically found in books in humid settings. This is due to the humidity making the pages damp, which supplies the bugs with enough moisture to drink.   

Carpet Beetles 

These beetles are primarily black with white mixed in, along with orange or red scales. When looking at it from above, the head is barely noticeable, in contrast from its protruding antennas. 

Carpet beetles are also smaller than bed bugs. They range from 2-3.8mm to an eighth of an inch. However, these still fall within range of the bed bugs. The shape and size match well with bed bugs, making these and bat bugs the most likely to be misidentified as a bed bug. 

The World of Fleas 

Fleas will round out the rest of the list of possible bed bug lookalikes. These tend to look fairly different from bed bugs, but their sheer volume can make it confusing. Let’s dive into the anatomy of fleas so you can tell them apart from others.  

Fleas have longer legs than bed bugs and range from dark brown to black. Reddish-brown is also a very usual shade for these bugs to have. Their wide range of colors can make it challenging to identify a flea, making it more difficult to tell them apart from bed bugs.  

Overall, adult fleas are smaller than adult bed bugs. They are also flatter and more segmented, making them stand out a bit easier. Fleas can also fly, whereas bed bugs can’tOnly adult fleas can utilize the wingsthough, as younger fleas can’t get airborne.  

Be mindful of pets as they attract fleaswhich is a common way for them to enter your home. Both dogs and cats can get fleas, which is why when they scratch more than usual, you should have them checked for fleas sooner rather than later.  

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Frequently Asked Questions About Bed Bugs  

Are Bed Bugs Common in Florida? 

Bed bugs are active all year round in all 50 United States, maybe even more so in Florida. When it comes to wildlife in Florida, there just seems to be more of it. Bed bugs are no exception. There are roughly 90 different species of bed bugs, and Florida has a wide variety.  

 These are some of the main reasons why there are so many: 

  • A popular tourist destination for both U.S. and foreign vacationers 
  • Lots of incoming boat shipments 
  • Climate 

Bed bugs are easily spread by tourists who stay at hotels and motels on their way to Florida. The same is said for those entering Florida from other countries, as bed bugs can survive a plane trip.   

How Often Do Bed Bugs Feed? 

This is a tricky question as it depends on the situation. The feeding cycle for bed bugs is fascinating. So much depends on their blood intake, yet they may not feed as you predict.  

In ideal conditions, bed bugs feed once a week. This is both good and bad, but at least they hopefully won’t go undetected for long. With any luck, you’ll see the first bites and contact bed bug exterminators shortly after. Under less than ideal conditions, bed bugs can last longer than a year in between meals.   

In total, an adult bed bug can survive 14 months without tasting blood. Nymphs (babies) can survive five months without ever tasting blood. Lastly, females are unable to lay eggs until they consume blood for the first time. 

Do Bed Bugs Stay on Your Body? 

No, but ticks do. The only time a bed bug will be on your body is when it’s feeding. Other than that, it won’t linger. Bed bugs quickly retreat to where they came from after they drink their fill.  

Will Bed Bugs Stay in One Room? 

These infestations never involve just one room. Bed bugs travel quickly, and they go where they want to. All rooms will need to be inspected to verify if there are bed bugs in them or not.   

Where Are the Most Bed Bugs in Florida? 

Bed bugs spread with tourism, so the answer isn’t too hard to find. Orlando, the home of Disney, is also home to the highest volume of bed bugs in the state.   

Can I Get Rid of Bed Bugs on My Own? 

Yes, but it is a lot of work, and success isn’t guaranteed. The first step is to find and isolate the bed bugs. Look for them in the typical hidey holes mentioned above. Barricade the doors to help trap them in the rooms. When it comes to isolating further, many opt for the vacuum cleaner. 

Why? It’s fast and works very well. If you go this route, make sure that you clean it thoroughly after. Once the areas with bugs have been thoroughly vacuumed, gather your sheets (or anything else that bed bugs were on) and wash them with the utmost priority. Of course, you can always opt to throw them away.   

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Do You Need a Bed Bug Exterminator in West Palm Beach?

Come to the O’Hara bug-killing experts if you want the job done right. O’Hara has been around for decades and is sure to be able to help you. If you have unwanted bugs, Let us exterminate your pests.  

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