Dust mites vs bed bugs. There is a lot of confusion around these two pests that are more than happy to share our homes with us.
And we get it. These little buggers have a lot in common. Both bed bugs and dust mites:
- Are common household pests
- Are extremely small
- Breed prolifically
- Cause skin irritation
- Can make your life miserable
But that is where the similarity ends.
If you’re trying to determine whether you’re dealing with dust mites vs bed bugs, we’re going to show you exactly how to tell the difference.
But first, let’s start with the basics.
Are Dust Mites Bed Bugs?
A surprisingly common question is whether dust mites are just bed bugs by another name.
We can see where the confusion comes from. After all, these are both horrendous pests 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.
To add to that, both of these species are very good at hiding. They need 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. In fact, they’re not even the same species.
Are Bed Bugs Mites?
Bed bugs and mites may seem similar at first glance but bed bugs are not mites at all. Bed bugs are actually insects and belong to a group known as “true bugs.” True bugs truly suck – literally. This group of insects are characterized by their specialized mouth parts that come equipped with a proboscis.
Many true bugs use this sucking mouth part to draw fluids from plants. But bed bugs, of course, prefer to use their special needle-like mouth to suck blood.
Dust mites, on the other hand, aren’t insects at all. These creepy crawlies belong to the arachnid class and are much more closely related to spiders than bed bugs.
Dust Mites vs Bed Bugs
Despite their initial similarities, dust mites and bed bugs are 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.
How Big are Dust Mites vs Bed Bugs?
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, even a baby bed bug is an absolute giant. Dust mites are tiny. In fact, they 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 a dust mite vs bed bug? Count the legs.
While they are often confused with one another, we must stress that bed bugs and dust mites are from entirely different groups of bugs. 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 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.
What Dust Mites vs Bed Bugs Eat
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.
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.
Dust Mite Bites vs Bed Bugs
One of the biggest confusions surrounding the dust mite vs bed bug debate is which one is causing the bites on your skin. Here’s an easy hack to identify whether it is dust mite bites vs bed bugs: Dust mites don’t bite.
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, definitely do bite. 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.
Signs of Dust Mites vs Bed Bugs
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.
And that means the clues that they leave about their presence are very, very different. Here’s what you need to know about the signs of dust mites vs the signs of bed bugs.
Signs of dust mites
As you know by now, dust mites don’t bite. And because they are so very small, you won’t be able to see them. So how do you know if you have dust mites?
Here’s how you’ll be alerted to the presence of dust mites:
- Runny nose
- Itchy nose or throat
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy, red, irritated eyes
- Skin rash
- Facial pressure and pain
As you can see from the above list, the signs of dust mites are simply common allergy symptoms.
Unlike other pests, you won’t see an actual dust mite or their eggs or feces. Instead, those who are allergic to dust mites will feel the effects of the their presence since the waste products of dust mites trigger reactions.
Signs of bed bugs
When it comes to bed bugs, the clues they leave behind are entirely different. Here are some common signs of bed bugs:
- Itchy bites
- Blood stains on sheets
- Dark pen-like marks on sheets
- Bed bug eggs
- Shed skins of bed bugs
And of course, the gold standard in determining whether you do have bed bugs: finding an actual bed bug itself.
As you can see, the difference between dust mites and bed bugs becomes very clear when you look at the signs they leave to their presence.
Where Do You Find Dust Mites vs Bed Bugs?
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.
A dust mite’s favorite places to live are in mattresses, bedding, stuffed animals, upholstered furniture, carpets and places where dust gathers in your home.
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 can 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.
What Kills Dust Mites vs Bed Bugs?
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. The good news it that it is possible to completely get rid of bed bugs in your home.
For dust mites, it is virtually impossible to kill every last dust mite. Plus, killing dust mites doesn’t solve the problem since it’s the waste products of dust mites that act as allergens.
So when it comes to dust mites, the key is removal rather than extermination.
Those key differences aside, there are a couple things you can do that work against both bed bugs and dust mites.
Washer and Dryer
One of the easiest ways to kill both dust mites and bed bugs is to simply wash and dry your bedding and the clothes you wear.. Dust mites are not impervious to heat so hot water that is at least 130 Fahrenheit will kill dust mites as well as remove allergens.
Even a quick 15-minute dryer session can kill dust mites, as long as the temperature is above 130 Fahrenheit.
Heat also 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.
Both bed bugs and dust mites love to live in the bed. One simple way to quickly put an end to both pests bothering you in the safety of your bed is to put dust mite covers on your bed.
That simple act of sealing in your mattress provides immediate relief against both bed bug bites and dust mite allergens.
And of course, wash your bedding regularly, since dust mites often hide in these fabrics.
The simple act of vacuuming is a great way to fight both bed bugs and dust mites. A good HEPA vacuum is a significant tool for removing dust mites and dust mite allergens.
For bed bugs, a vacuum won’t get rid of the problem entirely. But it will help reduce the number of bed bugs in an active infestation, as well as remove bed bugs eggs and shed skin, which you don’t want lying around your house anyway.
Bed Bug vs Dust Mite Treatments
The above are natural ways to quickly treat both bed bugs and dust mites. But the similarities stop there.
To get rid of bed bugs, you can use diatomaceous earth on your furniture and carpets, bed bug sprays, heat, and a host of other bed bug killers. But what you really need is a full battle plan, especially if you plan to do it yourself.
For dust mites, on the other hand, the best treatment is to change the environment. For example, by reducing the relative humidity of your home to less than 50%. Then, you’ll want to invest in products that remove or neutralize the allergens that dust mites leave behind.
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!