Difference between Bed Bugs and Carpet Beetles

Pest problems are never a comfortable topic for anyone and spotting an invader is always very bad news. However, there are notable differences between the two and while one is technically harmless, the second can cause skin reactions. Both types of infestation are a great nuisance and must be dealt with as soon as possible, yet knowing which is which can also help you know what course of action to take.


Bed Bugs vs Carpet Beetles
A bed bug on human skin

A bed bug is a ¼ inch long parasite that lives on the blood of its hosts, namely of humans. Its body is the shape of an apple seed and is reddish-brown in color. Bed bugs take shelter in warm habitats and, due to their flat bodies, can hide in the smallest of crevices. It takes a long time to find them, but their presence can be visible. Although they do not build nests, they will hide together in very tight areas. You could have bed bugs in the mattress, in the mattress lining, in the bed frame, in the headboard or on the springs. They can be transported on clothes and luggage or they can hide in the bed linen, stuffed animals and other items you keep close to your bed.

How can you tell you have a bed bug problem? When you wake up with itchy red spots all over your body or on one specific uncovered area of the body, it usually means that there are several bugs feeding off you during the night or that they are in a crevice near which you slept and they crawled back into the vicinity. They leave fecal spots, blood stains and egg shells as signs of their presence. Although they do not fly or jump, they move really fast.

Although they are usually very small and flat, their body mass increases after feeding (which usually can last between 3 and 10 minutes), when they become red and swollen. Their bites can cause itching, and scratching the area can lead to infections. No diseases are known to be transmitted by these pests. The best way to get rid of bed bugs is to contract a specialized company who will know exactly where to look and what type of substances to use.

A bed bug can last up to 1 year without eating and during the course of its life it will shed five times and will need to feed every time this happens. In time, and with the ban of very strong chemicals, they have become more resistant to the sprays used. Having bed bugs is not a sign of dirtiness as they are mainly brought in from the outside, even on clothes.

carpet beetle
A carpet beetle

The carpet beetle is about 1/8 of an inch long, it has brown and yellow scales and hair on the back of the abdomen. These pests can live in homes, warehouses, museums and other places where they can find a food source: fiber, animal products such as leather, fur, hair or feathers and stored food. Although they do not bite and would generally not even have anything to do with humans, their small hairs can cause allergic reactions and dermatitis. There are three types of carpet beetles: the black carpet beetle, the furniture carpet beetle and the varied carpet beetle.

Carpet beetles usually cause damage in the area where they pupate. In their larval state, they cause holes similar to the ones caused by moths. Due to their very small size and their preference for small places to feed, they are hard to find and to exterminate. The best way to deal with the problem is to spray in as many places as possible and try to get rid of the accumulation of debris which attracts them. Everything must be kept clean, including clothes and personal items.

Bed Bugs vs Carpet Beetles

So what is the difference between bed bugs and carpet beetles?

The first notable difference is that of size, as bed bugs are twice as big as carpet beetles. The second difference and the biggest nuisance is the fact that bed bugs feed on human blood, while carpet beetles feed on animal fibers. The presence of either one can cause skin reactions as the bites of bed bugs are itchy and can get infected if scratched or torn, but similar skin reactions can be caused by the larvae shells of carpet beetles as their prickly hairs can affect people who are allergic to them.

It is just as difficult to find signs of infestation because both insects are very small; they hide in the tightest of places and are very quick to disappear. Neither of them is a sign of a dirty house as they are mainly brought in from the outside. The best advice to get rid of either of these pests implies calling in the specialists as they are the ones who can correctly identify the source of infestation and what products to use.

Comparison Chart

Bed bugs Carpet beetles
¼ of an inch long 1/8 of an inch long
Oval shaped, reddish-brown bodies Round, yellow and brown body with hairy abdomen
Feed on human blood Feed on animal fibers and stored food
Cause itchy red blots where they bite Cause allergies due to their larvae hairs
Can be found in beds, bed frames, headboards, mattresses Can be found in carpets, in clothes in any small and dark place, in houses, museums or warehouses
Difficult to eliminate due to their increased resistance to chemicals Difficult to eliminate because they can hide in very small places