How to Tell the Difference Between a Mosquito vs Bed Bug Bite

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Bed bugs bite very differently than mosquito bites, but both can be treated similarly. There are a few ways to deter mosquitoes from your yard, and there are many ways to rid your home of bed bugs. 

Symptoms of bed bug bites (+Pictures)

Bed bug bites are usually raised since they are swollen. They are often reddish and have a dark center where the bite happened. They mostly look like a red bump or irritated skin rather than bite marks. 

Bed bug bites tend to come in lines or close clusters; those are textbook indicators of bed bugs and a possible bed bug infestation. 

Bed bug bites picture

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17847-bedbugs

The bed bug bite symptoms include itchiness and burning sensation, and you might even have fluid-filled blisters from the bed bug bites. You may find bed bugs by looking for holes in your sheets/mattress and checking your bed frame areas. 

Another way to double-check that you are dealing with bed bugs is to check your bedsheets and mattress for blood spots from where you were bitten.

Bedbug bite sites and possible areas for a bite location are usually the abdomens and upper arms, but they can genuinely bite you anywhere on exposed skin. They will usually go for a fattier limb, only coming out at night. 

Bed Bug Identifiers

  • Appearance: Bed bugs are about 5mm, round when unfed, have six legs, and two long antennae. An unfed bedbug will appear a light brown or rust color, and they will be flat and round. Bed bugs change appearance after consuming a blood meal: they swell, become less flat, and are darker brown; that’s the blood they feed on. 
  • Bite type: Their bites are like red bumps in clusters, zigzags, or lines. 
  • Location: bed bug bites are typically found around your upper torso and arms, but they can bite you anywhere you have left expose skin, like your legs and ankles. 
  • Similar ailments: eczema or other insect bites can mimic bed bug bites
  • Where to find bed bugs: around your bedframe, mattress, or other furniture
  • Similar bugs: Bedbugs can be mistaken for head lice, mites, or fleas, but all of those are much smaller than bedbugs and have a more complex “shell,” too. Flea bites are random, not organized like how bed bugs bite. Kissing bugs bite in tight clusters closer to bed bugs, but you likely won’t find them in your bed. Lice bites can come in clusters, but they will not be in the exact locations on your body as bed bug bites. 
  • Cautions: be advised that bed bug bites can become infected; look for infection signs such as pus coming from the bite, inflammation that won’t recede, nearby lymph node swelling, fatigue, or a fever. 

Symptoms of mosquito bites (+Pictures)

Mosquitos are another biting insect. They have stiff, itchy bites that can cause similar skin reactions to bed bugs. Curiously, only female mosquitoes can cause mosquito stings; they are getting a blood meal to lay eggs, and they can’t lay their eggs without enforcing themselves on a blood meal first. 

Since mosquitoes fly, it’s elementary for them to transmit diseases from person to person, fly from place to place, mix blood, and transmit diseases. People can get many major and minor diseases from a “vector” or carrier of diseases, a.k.a. the mosquito. The leading cause of mosquito-borne diseases is the West Nile virus, but they also spread yellow fever, Zika virus, and malaria, to name a few. 

Ergo, mosquito bite symptoms can vary from nothing at all to fever, nausea, eye irritation, fatigue, body aches and pains, swollen lymph nodes, and more. In addition, some people can have an allergic reaction, gain a rash or hives, a hoarse throat, or even puffy, watery eyes. 

Their bites itch and leave a red bump that worsens with intense itching. That intense itchiness results from your body reacting to the mosquito’s saliva from the mosquito bite. The red bumps that follow are the swollen areas where the mosquito stung you, causing skin irritations. 

mosquito bite picture

https://www.cdc.gov/mosquitoes/mosquito-bites/symptoms.html

Based on visual aid alone, you can distinguish between bed bug bites and mosquito bites, but most people know when a mosquito has bitten them. 

Mosquito Identifiers

  • Appearance: About a ¼ of an inch long, mosquitos are mostly grey, with varying shades of iridescent blue and green, as well as white and brown. Their bodies are more oval than an unfed bed bug, and their legs are longer. They also have wings, a distinctive feature between bed bugs and mosquitoes. 
  • Bite type: Mosquito bites can vary in size and shape, but they always cause a raised bump on the skin where the bite occurred. The redness usually arises from excessive itching caused by your body reacting to the mosquito saliva. 
  • Location: Any area of exposed skin is free-game for a mosquito. 
  • Where mosquitoes are found: All mosquitoes need water to survive and breed; the first stages of a mosquito are in the water. They are more likely to live in areas with people, an easy source for a blood meal. 
  • Cautions: To reiterate, mosquitoes can transmit deadly diseases; it is imperative to wear bug spray when appropriate. Some people even like to plant lemongrass outside their homes to deter mosquitoes and some other insects. 

Bed bug bite treatment

Apply anti-itch creams and steroid creams in a few hours to reduce inflammation and itchiness. An oral antihistamine will also aid in reduced itchiness, and some people also take a Benadryl to sleep assistance by decreasing the itching and making you tired. Also, drink plenty of water to help reduce inflammation and speed up the healing process. (Unlike mosquitoes, bed bugs are not known to spread diseases.)

Mosquito bite treatment

Like with bed bug treatment, anti-itch creams, an antihistamine, and Benadryl will help reduce skin inflammation and itchiness, and it will help you sleep well. However, if you start to experience more alarming symptoms such as a fever or fatigue, you might want to check in with your doctor to be safe that there wasn’t any exposure to something more dangerous. 

Other insect bites that look alike

  • Mosquito look-alike bites: Gnat bites are very similar in appearance and itchiness factor to mosquito bites. Their bites have been known to cause fluid-filled blisters that can swell up alarmingly fast.
  • Bed bug look-alike bites: The only other insect bite similar to that of a bed bug is a mite. They bite and leave behind small, red bumps that itch. The only glaring difference is that mite patterns are random, so you may have a series of mite bites that result in a cluster, zigzag, or what resembles a line, but mite bites are not consistent with a pattern. 

 How to get rid of bed bugs

  • Remove any infested furniture/items from your home to start with pest control. 
  • Any small items to fit into ziplock bags can be treated with pesticides. 
  • One do-it-yourself tactic is to either burn or freeze the bed bugs. You can gather them up with a vacuum and burn the bag if it is disposable, or you can place infested items, such as a stuffed animal, in the freezer for four days. (As long as your freezer is at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit, your item will be rid of bedbugs in four days.) 
  • Be sure to stay consistent with vacuuming; remember, there are various stages of bed bugs to be rid of, and you will always find some stragglers. 
  • Large items such as mattresses can be steam cleaned regularly, provided the steamer does not blow out steam but discharges it gently so as not to push the bed bugs away before getting hit with the real heat of the steam. 
  • On a final note, it is always wise to call a professional pest control person for information and advice on how to best proceed. 

How to get rid of mosquitoes 

  • Always use bug spray on your skin when going outdoors for long periods during the spring, summer, and fall to avoid mosquito bites. 
  • If you are dealing with mosquitoes outside your home or camp, you can start by eliminating possible areas where they can lay their eggs: standing water and darkness. Next, make sure your yard is free of debris, especially dead trees/tree branches and piles of leaves. 
  • Many people intentionally plant lemongrass outside their homes and camps to deter many flying pests. 
  • Electric bug zappers are ideal for evening outings, as are citronella torches for the yard to aid in pest control. 
  • There are chemical insecticides you can spray around the perimeter of your home or garden to deter certain types of insects, mosquitoes included. 

Frequently asked questions

Are mosquito bites itchier than bed bug bites?

It’s not that one is itchier than the other, but rather, mosquito bites become itchy much quicker

How long do mosquito bites last?

The itch of a mosquito bite can last up to three or four days, while the swelling can remain for a week. 

How long do bed bug bites last?

Unfortunately, bed bug bites have been known to last for one to two weeks. There isn’t any way to shorten this uncomfortable period; all you can do is whatever you can to ease your symptoms. 

How do I know it’s not a spider bite?

Spider bites don’t typically itch. Instead, they cause intense pain; you’ll want an ice pack for that. 

Conclusion

Bed bug bites and mosquito bites vary in many ways: bed bug bites are red bumps that come in clusters, zigzags, or lines. A mosquito bite is usually one large bite, leaving raised and swelling skin where the mosquito sting happened.

You can identify a bedbug or mosquito by its size, shape, color, and other physical attributes such as having wings or the lack thereof. Mosquito bites get itchier much quicker than bedbug bites, and they leave much faster, too, lasting only three to four days.

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