Bed Bugs vs Scabies: 5 Simple Ways To Tell Them Apart

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Bed bugs and scabies are parasites that can cause itching, discomfort, and infection. Let us look at the differences between bed bugs vs scabies: 5 simple ways to tell them apart. These pests are often confused, but there are a few simple ways to tell them apart.

While the average person can usually handle bed bugs and scabies on their own, there are some times when it is best to leave it to the professionals. These include when an infestation is present, when there are many eggs or parasites, or when self-treatment has not worked in the past.

What are bed bugs, and how do they get into your home?

Bed bugs are also known as cimex lectularius. They are small, brownish insects that feed on the blood of mammals as a pest. This type of bug is often found in areas where people sleep, such as hotels, dormitories, or any other place.

real bed bug on wool knitwear, good details on enlarge view

They can cause a number of health problems, including skin rashes, especially on your hand, and body, and other allergic reactions.

These organisms typically enter your home by backing on your luggage or traveling in used furniture, clothing, and various soft items.

Once they’re inside, they can be very difficult to get rid of. Bed bugs are not known to spread diseases, but their bites can be extremely itchy and uncomfortable.

Bed bugs can nest anywhere in your house but typically take up residence along the seams of mattresses, inside walls, and in furniture. They thrive in dark, moist spaces and can be difficult to get rid of.

What are scabies mites, and how do they get into your house?

Scabies mites are microscopic parasites that live on the surface of human skin. They burrow into the skin and lay eggs, hatching and producing more mites. The mites are spread through close contact with an infected person, such as touching someone who is infested.

In other words, scabies mites can be spread through close contact with an infected person or object. You can also get these mites by coming into contact with clothing, towels, bedding, or other surfaces that have been contaminated with the mites.

Treatment for scabies usually requires a prescription from a doctor or dermatologist who will determine the best course of action and diagnosis.

Bed bugs vs scabies: 5 simple ways to tell them apart

Because scabies and bed bugs are completely different pests, it stands to reason that different factors trigger infestations of each. You’ll be better prepared to deal with or prevent infestations if you understand the difference between scabies and bed bug infestations.


 Bed bug crawling on the table
  1. Bed bugs are difficult to detect with the naked eye and can be very hard to get rid of from your home. Bed bug infestations have increased in recent years, and they can be found in various places, including hotels, schools, offices, and even private homes.
  2. Bed bugs are small, oval-shaped insects that often live in cracks and crevices near beds and other furniture. They can be identified by their reddish-brown color and by the fact that they leave small blood stains on sheets and pillowcases. Bed bug bites typically cause itchy, red welts on the skin.
  3. The clearest way to differentiate between bed bugs and scabies is by looking at the bite marks left behind. Bed bug bites are small, red, and itchy. On the other hand, scabies can cause much more serious symptoms, such as a rash, intense itching, and sores. Additionally, bed bugs will generally live in furniture or mattresses, while scabies tend to infect the skin directly.
  4. They can be difficult to detect and often go undetected for long periods of time. If you notice any of these signs, you may have a bed bug infestation in your home.
  5. Bites on the skin that appear as red welts. Bloodstains on sheets or mattresses. Eggs or droppings near beds or furniture


Scabies mites in the dermis of the skin
  1. The scabies mite causes a skin disease known as scabies. They are spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person and can also be contracted by sharing clothing with someone who is infected.
  2. There are two types of scabies: Norwegian and crusted. Crusted scabies is the more severe form, and it is highly contagious. 
  3. The microscopic mites that cause scabies can be identified by their characteristic burrowing pattern and the accompanying intense itching.
  4. To diagnose scabies, you will need to look for the signs of a scabies infection on your skin. If you have a suspicion that you may have scabies, it is best to see a doctor for confirmation.
  5. It itches intensely, especially at night causing rash or bumps on the skin. Brown crusts on the skin from scratching

Scabies vs bed bugs differentiation

There are a few key ways to tell bed bugs and scabies apart.

  • Bed bugs feed on the blood, while scabies mites feed on the skin.
  • Bed bug bites will often have a red ring around them, while scabies bites will be more scattered. Additionally, bed bugs can be found in clusters, while scabies will be more spread out.
  • Bed bugs leave behind droppings that look like black pepper, while scabies’ droppings look like coffee grounds.
  • Bed bugs use their specially developed mouths to suck blood while scabies burrow underneath the skin to feed.
  • The bites of this pest are itchy, while scabies bites can be painful.
  • Bed bugs also leave bloodstains on sheets and furniture, whereas scabies do not.
  • Finally, bed bugs hide in crevices during the day, whereas scabies mites prefer to live on the skin.

How to identify bed bugs bites vs Scabies?

Bed bug bites and scabies bites can appear similar at first glance. When you look at the bed bug bite signs more closely, they’re incredibly different.

While the images and information below are intended to help you identify scabies and bed bugs, it’s important to see a medical professional.

Bed bug bites

Bed bug bites are raised with flat red welts. They can resemble mosquito bites, but for some people, they may experience swelling at the site as well.

Bedbug bites on woman

They are often found in mattresses, bed frames, and headboards, where they can easily bite exposed skin during sleep. Bed bug bites usually cause itchy, red welts on the skin and can sometimes become infected.

Scabies flea bites

Scabies are parasitic mites that live on the skin. They are tiny creatures that can only be seen with a microscope. When they burrow into the dermis of the skin, they cause a rash and intense itching. The rash is typically red and bumpy and can be very itchy.

Scabies bites

The first sign of scabies is typically the development of symptoms two to six weeks after exposure. However, people who have had scabies before may only experience symptoms within one to four days after being bitten.

Can scabies live in a bed mattress?

It is possible for scabies mites to live on bed mattresses, but it is highly unlikely that you would develop an infection just from the mattress alone.

You can do a few things to help prevent scabies mites from living in your bed mattress, including regularly cleaning and vacuuming your mattress, using a dust mite cover, and using a hot wash cycle to kill any mites that may be present.

A microscopic view of scabies on the skin

In addition, if you are worried about catching scabies from your bed, you should thoroughly wash and dry your bed linens. Scabies can live in a bed mattress for up to two months, so it is important to take the necessary precautions.

How to treat infestations?

There are ways to treat scabies or bed bugs infestations. The most effective way to kill bed bug infestation is by using heat. However, there are other methods that you can use as well.

  • There are five ways to treat an infection:
  • Place items in a clothes dryer on high heat or in a sealed, black plastic bag in a hot, closed car.
  • Use a steam cleaner to treat bedding, furniture, carpets, and cracks or crevices.
  • Set the temperature to a minimum of 130°F (54.4°C) and use a diffuser to prevent scattering the bed bugs.
  • Apply diatomaceous earth.

Final Thoughts

Though bed bugs and scabies mites are both parasitic mites that can cause itchy, red bites, they can be easily distinguished from each other.

Bed bug bites are not as scary as scabies mites, which often look like small pimples or blisters. Bed bugs are found in clusters, while scabies usually occur on a single skin patch.

In conclusion, it is important to be mindful of the various skin conditions that may arise and to take caution when identifying different species of insect bites.

By reading articles that identify insect bites as different from other skin conditions, one can educate themselves with the knowledge necessary to make an educated decision about their health.


Can you see a bed bug on your skin?

Bed bugs consume both human and animal blood, whereas scabies mites can only live on human skin. Bed bugs are similar to poppy seeds in size and can be seen without the use of a microscope.

Can bed bugs live on your skin?

Bedbugs do not infest human skin. Instead, they infest dark and dry places, such as mattress seams. They may also infest crevices in the bed frame, furniture, or curtains.

How long does scabies live on fabric?

Scabies mites cannot survive away from human skin for more than 2-3 days. So, they stay on fabric until they contact their host. 

Can you visibly see scabies?

Because scabies cannot be seen, they must be identified by the rash they cause. The most common scabies symptoms are a rash and intense itching that worsens at night. 

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.