While bed bugs are commonly found in home mattress and furniture, fleas usually infest furry hosts like cats and dogs. They are both parasitic insects that can cause severe problems to humans, ranging from rashes and itches to psychological effects. Fleas can even transmit infectious diseases. It is easier to control flea infestation in the home than it is to get rid of bed bugs.
Adult bed bugs are light brown or reddish-brown, flattened, oval-shaped and have no hind wings. Their front wings are vestigial and reduced to pad-like structures. They have segmented abdomens with microscopic hairs that give them a banded appearance. Adults grow to 4–5 mm in length and 1.5–3 mm wide. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent, lighter in colour and become browner as they moult and reach maturity. Bed bugs may be mistaken for other insects, such as booklice, small cockroaches, or carpet beetles, however when warm and active, their movements are more ant-like. They emit a characteristic disagreeable odor when crushed.
Fleas are wingless insects 1.5 to 3.3 mm long. They are agile, usually dark colored (for example, the reddish-brown of the cat flea), with tube-like mouth-parts adapted to feeding on the blood of their hosts. Their legs are long, the hind pair well adapted for jumping: a flea can jump vertically up to 7 inches (18 cm) and horizontally up to 13 inches (33 cm), making the flea one of the best jumpers of all known animals (relative to body size), second only to the froghopper.
edit Identifying Bites
Bed bugs cannot usually be identified by bites alone, as they look similar to mosquito and spider bites. Signs include dark spots on bedding, eggs and eggshells (which are about 1mm across and white), and rusty or reddish stains on sheets caused by crushed bugs.
To see if a pet has fleas, part their fur. Fleas will be visible running and hiding from the movement. You can check the fur more thoroughly using a special flea comb. Any fleas caught in the comb can be killed in soapy water.
When not feeding, bed bugs can be found near the piping, seams and tags of mattresses, and in cracks in the bed frame and headboard. In heavily infested rooms, they can also be found in chair seams, between cushions, in curtain folds, under loose wallpaper and in drawer joints.
The most common type of fleas can be found on pets and hiding in the carpet and in upholstery. Fleas rarely live on human hosts in the US, although they can bite them.
edit Health Effects
Bed bug bites (cimicosis) can cause itchiness, skin rashes and blisters. Scratching may lead to secondary infection. In addition, they can have damaging psychological effects. However, bed bugs are not known to be a vector for transmitting diseases.
In contrast, fleas transmit not a variety of viral, bacterial and rickettsial diseases to humans and other animals. Flea bites are very itchy and annoying. Some people and animals suffer allergic reactions to flea saliva resulting in rashes. Flea bites generally result in the formation of a slightly raised, swollen itching spot with a single puncture point at the center (similar to a mosquito bite). The bites often appear in clusters or lines of two bites, and can remain itchy and inflamed for up to several weeks afterwards. Fleas can also lead to hair loss as a result of frequent scratching and biting by the animal, and can cause anemia in extreme cases.
Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to kill or get rid of. The EPA suggest integrated pest management (IPM), which uses both chemical and non-chemical treatments. Suggested treatments include putting bedding and clothing in a dryer at high temperatures (as general washing will not kill bedbugs). Infested areas should be heated to at least 113F for an hour. Pesticides designed for indoor use on bedbugs can also be used. It is estimated that an average american family spends roughly $5,000 for bed bugs treatment.
Flea infestations can be treated by vacuuming carpets, furnishings, cracks in floors and upholstery, plus any place pets sleep, to remove fleas and eggs. Rugs and pet bedding should be beaten outdoors. Fleas on pets should be killed using specially designed products on their fur.
Bed bug infestations can be difficult to prevent. You should check secondhand furniture careful for signs of infestation and can eliminate hiding spots by using protective covers to encase mattresses and box springs. In hotel rooms, use luggage racks to hold luggage, and unpack directly into the washing machine when you return home.
Flea infestations can potentially be prevented by washing pet bedding every week.