Ticks and bed bugs are two parasites that you certainly don’t want in your home, in your bed, or on your body. These two pests are often confused with one another, and while they’re both unpleasant and look similar, ticks and bed bugs are actually very different. 

Read below to learn about the differences between ticks and bed bugs so you can properly identify and treat them before they become an issue. 

3d rendered illustration of a tick on white background
A bed bug isolated on white





The key difference between ticks and bed bugs is the number of legs they have. Ticks have eight legs while bed bugs only have six. You also may notice that ticks have two legs significantly longer than the others closer to their head. 


Ticks and bed bugs are roughly the same size dependent on their stage of life. Bed bugs are roughly eight millimeters long, or the size of an apple seed. Ticks vary from the size of a pinhead to the size of an eraser. They tend to be much smaller than bed bugs, but swell when fed. 


Bed bugs are consistently a deeper shade of brown compared to ticks, and bed bugs also turn red after feeding. Ticks come in a wider variety of red to brown, and turn to a grey or blue color after feeding. If the bug has markings such as tan stripes or white spots, it’s a tick. 


Ticks are typically narrower than bed bugs and will elongate after feeding. Bed bugs match the shape of an apple seed, with their head being the tip of the seed and a wider body extending behind them. 

Feeding habits

Bed bugs and ticks are both blood sucking pests. But there’s more differentiation among the two parasites’ consumption habits than you may think. 


Generally, ticks will feed on animals while bed bugs are more likely to feed on humans. However, both will feed on animals and humans if they can’t find their preferred host, putting you and your pet at risk of ticks and bed bugs alike. 


The way these two pests feed looks slightly different, which can make them easy to properly identify if you catch them in action. While both parasites attach on to their hosts, ticks bury their head to suck blood. Bed bugs will scratch the surface but never actually penetrate beneath the host’s skin. It’s also important to note that ticks will stay attached for up to 24 hours—bed bugs are much quicker and will only feed for a maximum of 20 minutes. 

Time of day

Bed bugs got their name for a reason—they feed while you’re asleep. This means that they’re most active at night, while their hosts are deep in slumber. Ticks are less predictable. They feed both at night and during the day depending on the species.  


While they may not follow a specific feeding pattern, ticks feed less often than bed bugs, sometimes feeding just three times in their life cycle. Bed bugs may also go extended periods without feeding, but will often feed multiple times in one night. 

Insanitation concept. Woman holds lens, shows there are bugs in bedclothes, detects bad insects demonstrates dirty conditions. Dirtiness, unhygienic conditions and uncleanness


Bed bugs live, as you would expect, in beds. They can also survive in other furniture such as couch cushions, but you can always expect to find them indoors. Ticks, on the other hand, thrive in nature. They prefer wild, grassy areas and typically don’t infest indoors unless transported by a host. 


Ticks are independent creatures, while bed bugs are rarely found alone. Bed bugs reproduce quickly and form clusters of thousands. Mature female bed bugs can lay roughly an egg a day, so it’s best to catch a bed bug infestation in its early stages. 


Both ticks and bed bugs can cause discomfort, itching, and a rare allergic reaction—though tick bites may have much more serious consequences. Unlike bed bugs, ticks can transmit serious diseases including Lyme Disease, Tularemia, and Ehrlichiosis. 


Even with knowing how to identify a tick or a bed bug, the best case is not having to identify any parasites at all. There are certain steps you can take to reduce the chances of an infestation. 

Here are some tips for protection against bed bugs: 

  • Purchase a protective mattress encasement 
  • Inspect hotel beds and suitcases after trips to ensure you didn’t pick up any extra travelers 
  • Declutter to eliminate hiding spots inside your home 
  • Limit purchasing second-hand furniture off the street or from consignment stores

For ticks, here are a few prevention tips: 

  • Make your yard less inviting by mowing the grass regularly and eliminating wood piles 
  • Wear protective gear and tuck pant legs into socks when hiking or doing outdoor activities
  • Avoid wooded or grassy areas where ticks regularly hideout 
  • Check yourself, children, and pets regularly for signs of ticks or tick bites 

Professional pest treatment

One thing ticks and bed bugs have in common is that they don’t stand a chance against professional pest control. If you find signs of an infestation, we recommend calling on the experts at Terminix or Orkin to handle the situation. 


Terminix offers a tick defend system and bed bug removal process that will identify and eliminate any growing infestations. The tick defend system is a dual-action treatment of liquid and granules that creates a barrier to keep pests out. For bed bugs, a powerful, effective, and non-toxic RapidFreeze solution is used. 

Both of these services include a satisfaction guarantee to ensure you’re receiving the most high-quality treatment. For a free quote, call 866-783-3517 or go online to fill out a form. 


Orkin’s specialized bed bug treatment uses a targeted process that gets to the root of the problem. Additionally, it implements ongoing monitoring to prevent bed bugs from returning. Orkin also treats ticks with a similar year-long solution. 

Orkin offers free quotes and tailored treatment plans for each property. To get started, call 877-544-4104 or fill out their online form

Editorial Contributors
Sam Wasson

Sam Wasson

Staff Writer

Sam Wasson graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Film and Media Arts with an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering. Sam brings over four years of content writing and media production experience to the Today’s Homeowner content team. He specializes in the pest control, landscaping, and moving categories. Sam aims to answer homeowners’ difficult questions by providing well-researched, accurate, transparent, and entertaining content to Today’s Homeowner readers.

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Lora Novak

Senior Editor

Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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