The difference between Bat and Bed bugs

November 16, 2018

Bed bugs are an insect we do not want to find in the home. I have had bed bugs brought to the Extension office for identification, but fortunately not very many.

This does not mean bed bugs are not in our area; just that not many have been brought to my office for identification. A similar insect that has been brought in more often is bat bugs.

Bat and bed bugs are very similar in size and appearance. To tell them apart, they need to be viewed under a microscope to compare the length of body hairs to the width of their eyes, along with other comparisons.

I share this as a reminder of the importance of positively identifying any insect before attempting control.

Positive identification saves money, increases control effectiveness and helps avoid unnecessary insecticide applications.

Bed bugs feed on humans, and if not controlled, their numbers and bites will increase; eventually making control more expensive and more involved. The risk of bed bugs spreading to the homes of friends or family members could also increase.

Bat bugs feed mainly on bats and are only noticed if bats are present and then controlled, or if bats leave the roost. Without their preferred host, bat bugs may go in search of a meal and then bite humans.

If you find an insect you suspect is a bed bug, have it identified by a professional pest control operator or at a Nebraska Extension office. While neither bug is known to transmit diseases to humans, it is important to identify which is present as there is a vast difference in control methods and expense.

Bat bugs are prevented or controlled by excluding bats from the home. For information on excluding bats, go to extensionpubs.unl.edu website and search for “Bats in and Around Structures”.

Eliminating bed bugs from the home is more involved and complicated and is best done by a professional pest control operator.

Homeowners do not want the expense of bed bug control if they have bat bugs. However, they do not want to be aiming control at bat bugs if they have bed bugs.

Neither of these insects will just appear in a home or apartment. Bats must be present in the structure for bat bugs to be present. Bed bugs are usually moved from place to place by people.

The most common ways bed bugs are brought in are by travelers bringing them home from infested hotel rooms, being brought in on used furniture, or hitchhiking on clothing after a homeowner visits an infested home.

To learn about bed bug prevention and more, refer to resources found on the Lancaster County Extension website. https://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/bedbugs.shtml.

The newest resource is titled ‘Bed Bugs: Souvenirs to Avoid When Traveling’. But there are many others such as ‘Bed Bug Myths’, ‘Unsafe Pesticide Applications More Dangerous than Bed Bugs’ and ‘Do-It-Yourself Bed Bug Trap’ (used only to monitor for the insect).

If you have an insect you need identified or need help finding the above resources, contact your local Extension office or email kfeehan2@unl.edu.

Kelly Feehan is a community environment educator with Nebraska Extension.

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