insects occurring in your home or place of business. However, the type of infestation you have is going to make a big difference when it comes to what you do about it and how you prevent it from happening again in the future.
Bed bugs and lice are two tiny, pesky insects that can often be confused for one another. Knowing whether you’re dealing with bed bugs vs. lice can be tricky, as they both leave itchy bites and can be a pain to get rid of.
But while bed bugs and lice have their similarities, they also have their differences, too. Take a closer look at how bed bugs vs. lice differ from each other and how to tell which is infesting your space.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are small insects that feed off of blood for sustenance. When they reach adulthood, they are typically around the size of an apple seed, and their body is oval shaped.
If they haven’t fed recently, they’re a brownish color, and their body appears flattened. If they’ve just fed, their body swells up and becomes more reddish-brown in color.
Bed bugs have a beak and antennae as well as wings, though they are flightless insects. You may also be able to see short, gold hairs on their body, and they tend to give off a musty odor.
When bed bugs are young, they are called nymphs and are much smaller than their adult form. They can be hard to spot not only due to their small size, but also due to their white, yellow, or even translucent color.
What Are Lice?
Much like bed bugs, lice are tiny insects that require blood to survive. Adult lice are slightly smaller than bed bugs and look like miniature crabs when viewed under a magnifying glass.
Nymphs, or young lice, look much like an adult louse but are smaller in size. A nymph will typically be roughly the size of a tiny seed, have six legs, and have a tan or grayish color.
Nits are louse eggs, which means they are significantly smaller than full-grown insects. However, their bright white or yellow color can actually make them easier to spot than nymphs or fully grown lice. Nits are often confused for dandruff or bits of leftover hair product.
Primary Ways to Tell the Difference: Bed Bugs vs. Lice
Bed bugs and lice are relatively similar to each other in a few key ways. However, there are some reliable ways to tell which one might be responsible for the infestation in your home.
Bed bugs and lice both feed off of blood for their sustenance, but they do so in different ways, which leads them to be found in different locations from each other. Lice are most typically found on the scalp or on items that the scalp may have touched, such as pillows, blankets, or towels.
Conversely, bed bugs are rarely found on scalps and are much more commonly found in the seams of mattresses or in bed sheets.
It’s also important to note that while lice will continue to live on the scalp between feedings, bed bugs will typically retreat to hiding places between feedings. This means that you’re less likely to find them on your person.
Shape and Size
Bed bugs and lice typically have noticeably different shapes and sizes, making it easier to tell them apart if their location didn’t make it clear. Lice are oblong in shape, while bed bugs look like flat ovals.
Additionally, adult bed bugs can grow as big as a quarter inch long, while lice will rarely grow larger than an eighth of an inch. Color can be a key indicator as well, as bed bugs are usually reddish-brown, while lice are gray or even off-white.
Typical Signs and Symptoms of Bites from Bed Bugs vs. Lice
If you’re noticing insect bites but aren’t sure whether they’re coming, ther are a few ways to tell the difference between bed bugs vs. lice bites.
First, consider where the bites were found. If you’re noticing itchiness and irritation on your scalp, this points to a lice infestation, while itchy and painful bites on your feet, ankles, and legs are much more indicative of bed bugs.
Though lice are most frequently found on the scalp, they can spread to the body as well. If you’re experiencing intense itchy spots or even rashes and sores from scratching, it may be a case of body lice.
Bed bug bites can take multiple days to develop, and they’re most commonly found on the lower extremities, but individual bites can be found on the arms, shoulders, hands, and back as well.
How to Prevent and Treat a Bed Bug Infestation
Since bed bugs primarily live inside mattresses, couches, and similar furniture pieces, purchasing bed bug-resistant furniture items and accessories can help to prevent infestations. Additionally, it’s important to always keep your eye out for signs of these insects, such as welt-like bites and dried feces on your sheets and mattress.
In order to treat a current infestation, you’ll need the help of a professional exterminator to locate the sources of the infestation and completely eradicate it.
How to Prevent and Treat a Lice Infestation
The best way to prevent a lice infestation is to avoid direct contact with a person who is infested.
However, not every infested person is aware of it, as lice can be residing on a scalp for weeks before any itching is noticed. Therefore, avoiding the sharing of clothing, especially headwear, can be an easy way to prevent a new case of head or body lice.
If a lice infestation is found, there are many salon treatments as well as over-the-counter products that you can use to eradicate the lice, nymphs, and nits currently on your scalp.
You will also have to perform a deep clean of your clothing, bedclothes, and any other clothing-like surfaces in your home that the lice could have spread to.
While encountering either of these infestations can be an unpleasant experience, treating them is definitely doable. Learning the differences between bed bugs vs. lice can help. And by taking a few simple precautions, you can prevent both bed bugs and lice from infesting your home in the future.
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