It would appear that our beds have become a hazardous place to be these days. Not only dodust mites live there, but bed bugs can, too, waiting anxiously for us to furnish them food in the form of skin and blood. There are special bed bug and dust mite mattress covers that can protect you from both, but how does one tell the difference between the two?
Bed bugs actively bite people to feed on our blood while we sleep. The bites themselves are painless, but may leave itchy, red scars the next morning. Typical symptoms indicating bed bug bites are small red spots in rows of three or more. Every person reacts differently, however, and some people may exhibit no symptoms while others can have severe skin reactions. Most people become increasingly sensitive to bed bug bites with repeated bites over time.
Dust mites do not bite, but are the major cause of indoor allergies. The mites themselves do not produce symptoms, but a protein in their fecal pellets does cause asthma, or aggravates existing asthma symptoms. Dust mites can also cause eczema, a skin condition also known as “atopic dermatitis,” whereby the skin becomes dry, itchy, red and scaly.
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius), while still small at 1.5-7 millimeters, are gargantuan compared to dust mites, which measure only about one-fourth of a millimeter. So, if you can see the creature with your naked eye, it is definitely not a dust mite. Other insects can be found in bed, too, such as the larvae and adults of carpet beetles, family Dermestidae. Carpet beetle larvae often feed on wool blankets.
Bed bugs have six legs in all life stages. Dust mites have eight legs, except for the microscopic larval stage, which has only six legs. Bed bugs have three distinct body segments: head, thorax, and abdomen. Mites have only one recognizable body segment.
Bed bugs are classified as insects, and dust mites are classified as arachnids, along with spiders, scorpions, harvestmen (“daddy-longlegs), and related animals. Both mites and bed bugs are in the phylum Arthropoda, the huge group of invertebrate animals with jointed appendages but no backbone. Bed bugs have six legs in all life stages.
Bed bugs feed on human blood, extracting a meal by biting us with beak-like mouthparts that pierce our skin and suck up the blood. Dust mites do not attack us, but wait for flakes of dead skin to rain down from our scalps and bodies. The mites then chew up the dead skin cells.
Bed bugs can live in our beds, but they are active at night and must hide by day, often under the buttons on mattresses, or in the seams along the edges. They also slip into the slots where the bed frame slides into the headboard and footboard. Bed bugs have also been found in crevices in bedside furniture, behind headboards and pictures and posters on the wall, and behind peeling wallpaper, just to name a few locations. Dust mites are tiny enough to slip easily between the threads in the fabric of mattress pads, and mattresses themselves.