Bed Bugs vs. Ticks: Who’s Worse? (Part 1)
July 3, 2018
In a previous article, we discussed some other animals that feed on blood other than the dreaded bed bug. Some of those animals were obvious, like mosquitos and leeches. Some were tiny, innocent-looking birds that you might never suspect of being blood-eaters.
Then there’s the vampire bat, the largest animal on the planet that subsists entirely on blood. We’re especially glad he doesn’t hide in our carpets.
But even though we detailed a number of parasites on that list, there was one that we thought we’d save back and write an entire article (or two) about the tick. Both bed bugs and ticks are ectoparasites, meaning that they feed on the outside of their host. Also, they are both flat-bodied creatures, meaning that they can hide in places that many other insects can’t.
But there are some key differences between ticks and bed bugs we thought we’d go over because even though they have key similarities, they’ll go about their disgusting business in their own way.
How Many Legs?
It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between ticks and bed bugs. Ticks have eight legs, putting them in the same class as spiders (even though spiders are cool and ticks are lame). Bed bugs are insects, meaning that they are in the same class as ladybugs (even though ladybugs are super cool and bed bugs are super lame).
But here’s where it gets tricky. Ticks hatch with only six legs, meaning that it’s very easy to mistake a larval tick for a bed bug. It’s only after a tick has its first blood meal that it will grow legs number seven and eight.
It all depends on the species. While there are 90 species in the bed bug family, the ones we handle with our bed bug killing spray get to be about .18 inches long. Many people say that’s about the size of the apple seed, but the size of that changes with the species of apple!
It’s the same with ticks; size depends on the species and how much blood it has consumed. One of the most common ticks you’ll pick up in grasslands in the United State is the deer tick, and adults tend to be about the same size as bed bugs adults. Dog ticks, another common type of tick in America, are even larger.
Where Do They Live?
Ticks live throughout the world, but they’re more likely to live in areas that are humid. That’s because ticks need a certain amount of humidity to keep their bodies hydrated. Ticks tend to live in the woods or in grasslands where prey passes by. Some ticks go in search of their prey, especially if they are the type that lives and breeds with its host (such as a bat cave. Bruce Wayne beware.)
Bed bugs live almost exclusively indoors because humans are their preferred (and usually exclusive) hosts. Our homes have been built with plush carpets and tiny crevices in which they can hide, and we essentially trap ourselves in there with them. We also give them a warm environment in which to live, so there’s no season in which they are less active. Once they’re in, you’ll almost always have them bothering you unless you get an all-natural bed bug treatment like Bed Bug Patrol.
How Do You Get Them?
The most common way that humans get ticks in America is via questing, where ticks grab onto grass or shrubbery with their four back legs while holding their four front legs out in the air, just waiting for something to brush past. Different species of questing ticks will alter their climbing height depending on the size of their preferred host, higher for deer and lower for mice.
Bed bugs are most often brought into a home via luggage that has been infected at an infested hotel. Bed bugs can also come in on second-hand furniture or bedding.
How Do You Get Rid Of Them?
Here’s the good thing about ticks: you never hear about anyone having a tick infestation in their home. It’s very disconcerting to find one on you, but at least you can see them fairly easily. After a walk in the woods, check your clothing jeans, and socks, and toss any ticks you find crawling on you. Once you get home, check again and flush any that haven’t yet latched on down the toilet. (Or burn them and hear that satisfying pop.) After your shower, have someone check your hair. If a tick has attached to you, the most common method for removing them is tweezers. Take a look at these instructions from the Center for Disease Control.
Bed bugs are a bit tougher to get rid of. First of all, you’re not likely to ever see the bed bugs that are bothering you. Sure, if you see them feel free to vacuum them up, but too often they’re hiding in places you just can’t see. That’s why it’s important to hit them from every angle with multiple bed bug treatment products such as bed bug traps, sprays, powder, and steam.
How Do They Feed?
Ticks and bed bugs feed in much the same way. They slice into your skin, spit in some anticoagulants so that your blood doesn’t clot, and drink your blood out. Why do they do this? Because they’re horrible and they should all die, that’s why!
The big difference between ticks and bed bugs tends to come in the amount of time they spend on you. Bed bugs are instinctively aware that humans have the ability to pick them off, so they tend to attack at night when humans are sleeping and don’t stick around on the skin for long. They’re usually done with feeding in 10 to 20 minutes. They’re more than willing to make the trip back and forth from the bed crevices every night if it means they can do so relatively undetected.
How long ticks feed all depends on what type of tick it is. Some ticks are like bed bugs, in that they might be done in under half an hour. Others might stay on for many days, engorging themselves on blood until they are multiple times their original size before they drop off and molt.
Goodness, they’re both pretty horrible so far, aren’t they? It’s going to take more than one blog to let you know just which of these bloodsuckers is truly the worst. If you have ticks, pull them off with tweezers. If you have bed bugs, it’s going to take something more dedicated. Check out our bed bug eradication methods right here, then come back to read our follow-up article.
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A closer look at where to use Bed Bug Patrol:
Safe for children and pets, completely deadly for bed bugs.
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