Bedbugs or Fleas: How to Tell the Difference?

Many people don’t know how to tell the difference between fleas and bedbugs, because they look so similar. Bedbugs belong to the Cimicidae family (the bloodsucking insects family) and are wingless insects. They have long antanae and large mandibles (chewing mouthparts) and lay tiny pale yellow eggs. In Australia, there are two species of bedbug: the Common Bedbug (Cimex lectularius) and the Tropical Bedbug (Cimex hemipterus). Quite often, you won’t be able to feel bedbug bites as they use an anaesthetic to remain undetected.  Bedbugs are hemimetabolous meaning the young look like smaller versions of adults, making them easy to identify at all growth stages.

Fleas belong to the Boreidae family and lay white oval eggs. Their tough body is covered in hard platelets which makes them exceptionally difficult to squash. Fleas have a proboscus (or feeding tongue) and unlike most insects have very simplistic eyes. Their hind legs well adapted for jumping. Fleas are holometabolous, meaning the young look different to the adults and can lay up to several dozen eggs on hosts. The larvae look very worm-like. Fleas are closely related to Scorpionflies.

If you think you may have a flea or bedbug infestation call your trusted Maryborough pest control today.

Bedbugs in mattress
Bedbugs in mattress

Key Identifiers: 


  • Reddish brown in colour
  • Flat on top and seed shaped
  • 1.5-5mm long
  • Nocturnal
  • Found in and around mattress or bedframe


  • Reddish brown in colour
  • Oval appearance, narrow when viewed from the side
  • Longer than bedbugs
  • Nocturnal
  • Found on pets, in areas frequently visited by pets and in carpets

Differences in Bites:

Bedbug bites tend to appear in a straight line or in rows and generally take a few days to show up and itch. They are generally larger than flea bites, appear swollen and occur around the shoulders, arms, neck and upper body. Flea bites appear more randomly on the skin and are generally located on the legs, feet and lower body. Flea bites look a lot like mosquito bites and start itching straight away.

What else to look for:

As well as the live bedbugs, look out for tiny blood spots on your bedding, dark spots in the creases of your mattress or the fabric and signs of pale yellow eggs. Other signs of fleas include bugs jumping from surface to surface (particularly on pets or carpet) and pets with symptoms such as excessive itching, hair loss and red patches of skin.

It is important to know that fleas can lay dormant in your carpet for long periods of time. The best way to be sure these pests are completely gone is to consult a professional pest control technician.

Flea prevention is important
Flea prevention is important, talk to your vet.

How to get rid of them:

If you live with pets it is important that your pet is always up to date with its flea treatment. Talk to your vet if you’re unsure about flea treatment options.

There are many products available on the market that target fleas and/or bedbugs. Unfortunately the majority of these products are ineffective. This is because these bugs are particularly good at hiding in nooks and crannies that are unreachable by many of these products. The best way to eradicate these pests is to call your local Maryborough pest control team to have them professionally removed.