Dust mites and bed bugs. Two bugs that are more than happy to share our homes with us.
Two disgusting animals that live off us, and rely on us for survival. Two pests that, if you find them in your house, you’re going to want to get rid of right away.
Both of these species are very good at hiding. They need to be to live close to us without being detected. For that reason, dust mites and bed bugs often get confused with one another.
But actually, they are very different creatures and surprisingly easy to tell apart once you know what you’re looking for.
So what do you look for? Here’s a quick guide on how to quickly tell if it’s a dust mite vs bed bug.
Dust Mite vs Bed Bug: Size is Key
This is the most noticeable and most fundamental difference between these two species. In terms of size, while both are significantly smaller than humans, these two creatures are very far apart.
Bed bugs are small. The adults never get bigger than 3/16 of an inch, which is less than 5 mm. This small size, along with their flattened body shape, allows them to squeeze into cracks and crevices in furniture and around the home to avoid being seen.
And while the adults are small, the young bed bugs are even smaller. When it first hatches out, a bed bug may be no bigger than 0.09 inches, or 2.5 mm.
At this stage, bed bugs are so small that they can be difficult to see with the naked eye. And this isn’t helped by the fact that when bed bugs first hatch out, before they consume their first meal, they are almost transparent.
But compared to a dust mite, a bed bug is an absolute giant. Dust mites never get bigger than 1/64 of an inch, or 0.3 mm.
This makes them far too small to be seen without a microscope or other optical equipment. So, if you’ve seen a bug and you’re wondering if it’s a bed bug or dust mite, you can say with confidence that it isn’t a dust mite.
Because if it was, you wouldn’t see it at all.
Still Not Sure? Count the Legs
Want to know a very easy way to determine if the creature in question is dust mite vs bed bug? Count the legs.
While they are often confused with one another, bed bugs and dust mites are from entirely different groups of bugs. In fact, dust mites aren’t even insects. They belong to the arachnid family, along with spiders and scorpions, and like these creatures, dust mites have eight legs.
Bed bugs, on the other hand, are what is known as true bugs. They are insects, which means that they have six legs. Of course, if you get a close enough look at a dust mite to count its legs, you should already know that it isn’t a bed bug. Because you don’t need a microscope to count bed bug legs.
Both of these creatures become a problem in human homes because they feed off of us. But that diet, and therefore their behavior, couldn’t be more different.
Dust mites feed on dead skin. Our dead skin. The average adult sheds around 140 mg of dead skin flakes every day. As a result, a significant component of the dust in our homes is made up of the skin flakes. Think of that next time you find a dust bunny under your bed.
Dust mites are scavengers and feed off dead skin flakes. Since they only need dead skin, they don’t bite people. And even if they did, with their tiny mouths, you’d never feel it.
But dust mites aren’t particularly interested in being on people. They’d rather hide somewhere dark and moist and wait for a rich bounty of skin flakes to drop from the sky.
Bed bugs, on the other hand, feed on blood, and only blood. They will feed on the blood of cats and dogs if they have to, but human blood is what they prefer.
And they are not interested in old, dried blood. They take their food straight from the source: your veins.
Like tiny, six-legged, far less charming versions of vampires, these bugs seek out people while they sleep and use their needle-like mouthparts to pierce the skin in search of a blood vessel.
So if you’re getting bites, you may have bed bugs. You may also have dust mites. But they are not what’s causing the bites since again, dust mite don’t bite.
Dust Mites vs Bed Bugs: Behavior
The differing diets of these two creatures mean that their behavior is quite different. While both are happy to live inside homes with humans, and in fact, rely on us for both shelter and food, they live very different lives.
Dust mites need high humidity to thrive. Unlike bed bugs, about the only thing they have in common with vampires is an aversion to sunlight.
Generally, dust mites can live anywhere in the home. However, they tend to prefer to stay close to beds and upholstered furniture, where they can not only easily hide but also have access to an excellent food source, since people often spend long periods in these areas.
Bed bugs like to stay close to people, too. As the name implies, they are usually found in beds, where they hide along the seams of the mattress and in cracks and crevices in the bed frame. They can also easily infest upholstered furniture.
But as a bed bug population grows, they will spread throughout the entire house. And unlike dust mites, bed bugs don’t worry too much about the humidity level. These resilient bugs can survive a wide range of environments, just so long as they have blood to eat and somewhere to hide.
Controlling Bed Bugs vs Dust Mites
Okay, now you’re sufficiently grossed out, let’s talk about the different approaches you need to take when dealing with these two very different species.
Bed bugs are tough to get rid of because they are so good at hiding. Also, their reproductive rate is extremely fast. If a treatment misses a single adult female, she can restart the population in a shockingly short space of time.
So to get rid of bed bugs, you’re going to need to track down and kill each and every one.
You can do this by washing and drying your bedding and the clothes you wear. You can also use diatomaceous earth on your furniture and carpets, or an appropriately labeled bug spray.
Additionally, heat kills bed bugs. So a commercial steamer or a full-scale heat treatment can often be effective in getting these creatures out of your home.
For dust mites, on the other hand, the best treatment is to change the environment. Reduce the relative humidity of your home to less than 45%.
Also make sure to put dust mite covers on your bed for immediate relief and wash your bedding regularly, since dust mites often hide in these fabrics. There are a few sprays you can use to kill dust mites, but environmental controls will go a long way towards reducing the number of these pests.
Is It Possible to Get Rid of Them?
Finally, the biggest difference of all: the awful truth is that you probably have dust mites already. You probably always will. These creatures are extremely hard to get rid of and extremely easy to catch.
Like diamonds, dust mites are forever.
Anytime you go to somebody else’s house or any public space, you run the risk of bringing some of these microscopic bugs back with you. So methods to control dust mites are aimed at just that: controlling them.
Bed bugs, on the other hand, can be gotten rid of. It isn’t easy, but it is possible. You don’t have to live with this red menace. Which is a good thing, given that they love to bite.
Now that you know which ones you’re dealing with, go forth and take back control of your home!