The Ultimate Guide to Comparing Ticks vs. Bed Bugs

Updated June 8, 2022
A bed with white sheets
Photo: devmarya / Adobe Stock


  • Ticks and bed bugs may look alike, but they’re really quite different.

  • Ticks prefer to feed on animal blood, whereas bed bugs enjoy feasting on human blood and skin cells.

  • Ticks can carry a range of diseases, whereas bed bugs generally do not, though they can cause skin rashes.

  • Ticks tend to live outdoors, while bed bugs reside indoors, though both can infest your home.

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Thinking about all of the critters that can invade your home is enough to keep you up at night, but properly profiling these pests is the first step in preventing them. Both ticks and bed bugs are some of the most fearsome insects you may come across eventually, but the more you know, the better you’ll understand what makes them, um, tick (Sorry: We couldn’t resist). 

Below we’ve broken down all of the nuances between ticks and bed bugs so you can properly identify them and send them packing.

Key Features of Ticks

A tick on a finger with a dog in the background
Photo: Chalabala / iStock / Getty Images

You may know ticks are the reason why it’s wise to wear long pants on hiking trips and check your pup’s fur after a summer walk, but if that’s where your knowledge ends, then a quick primer is in order.


You’ve probably never wanted to look too closely at a pest, but it can be essential to identify them properly, especially if you’re calling in the local exterminator. 

As a general rule, ticks are significantly smaller than bed bugs, ranging from 3 to 4 millimeters. They also have eight legs, two more than bed bugs. Ticks also tend to be dark brown or black, while bed bugs may appear more reddish-brown.

Preferred Habitat

In most cases, ticks prefer to live outdoors. When they make their way into your home, it’s usually because they’ve hitched a ride on some unsuspecting human or pet. 

Preferred Food Source

We hate to break the news, but both bed bugs and ticks are parasites that enjoy snacking on blood. However, the critters differ in their choice of cuisine. Ticks prefer to make a meal of animals, but, as anyone who’s ever taken a long walk in the woods knows, ticks will feed on humans, too, in a pinch.

Health Risks

It’s never exactly healthy to share your home with colonies of creepy crawlies. When it comes to health risks, though, ticks sort of win the day (in a bad way)—ticks can carry a range of potentially serious illnesses, including Lyme disease, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and more, according to the CDC.


As mentioned above, you’ll want to take precautions when outdoors to prevent ticks from coming indoors. Wear light-colored, long-sleeved clothing when hiking and tuck your pants into your shoes and socks if you can. Avoid wooded areas where ticks love to hang out, and be sure to check your family members, including pets, for ticks after spending time outdoors.


You can get rid of bed bugs in your home in various ways. You should always hire a local bed bug exterminator to tackle the job, and they’ll suggest a treatment type that works best for you, whether it’s steam treatments, pesticides, heat treatments, or more.

Key Features of Bed Bugs

A closeup of a bedbug
Photo: Mainely Photos / Adobe Stock

You know not to let the bed bugs bite before heading off to sleep, but what else should you know about these pesky home inhabitants?


Bed bugs are usually about 8 millimeters, which is around twice the size of a tick.

Additionally, bed bugs have six legs and are usually reddish-brown in color.

Preferred Habitat

Bed bugs are homebodies. Literally—bed bugs usually prefer the indoors and take up residence in the soft surfaces inside your home. This includes, yes, your mattresses, upholstered furniture, and even your linens.

Preferred Food Source

Both ticks and bed bugs like to feed on blood. However, bed bugs, unlike ticks, prefer human over animal blood. They’ll also feed on the skin cells we shed, especially when we cuddle up in bed.

Health Risks

Bed bugs, unlike ticks, don’t typically carry diseases. However, bed bug bites can cause some painful skin reactions, including producing itchy, red bumps that may cause some mild burning or swelling. In fact, the bites may be your first real sign of a bed bug infestation.


If you’re looking to prevent bed bugs (who isn’t?), you’ll want to follow some general tips for home maintenance. Keep your home clean, including vacuuming, decluttering, and regularly laundering linens, especially after traveling. You may also want to regularly inspect your mattress and couch cushions for signs of bed bugs.


Generally, ticks hang out outdoors, and you may run across them in spaces other than your yard. However, you can take steps to prevent them from coming into your yard, like removing leaves, moving regularly, and creating a barrier with wood chips or gravel between your yard and any heavily wooded areas, according to the CDC. You can also speak with a lawn pest control pro near you to speak about any other treatment options if ticks are a big issue.

Bed Bugs vs. Ticks

By now, you’re probably not eager to find either of these bugs on your property, but comparing the two can help you know what steps to take next.


Bed bugs can cause itchy bites and are never fun to find. However, ticks can also bite and burrow into your skin. Their bites can also cause serious health issues like Lyme disease.

Most dangerous: Ticks


Ticks are more common outside, but bed bugs are by far the most prevalent inside the home.

Most common in your home: Bed bugs


While neither is a welcome sight, bed bugs tend to be much larger than ticks.  

Biggest: Bed bugs

Most Difficult to Eradicate

Bed bugs can increase quickly and are excellent at hiding in the nooks and crevices of your home, making it difficult to get rid of them completely. On the other hand, while ticks often travel solo, they can make pretty much any outdoor space, from a blade of grass to a tree stump, their home. That makes it easy for them to inconspicuously hitch a ride on your shoes, socks, pants, or skin when you walk through the yard.

Toughest to get rid of: Tie

Most Expensive to Treat 

The cost to treat your home for bed bugs ranges from as little as $300 to as much as $5,000. On the other hand, the cost to treat a property for ticks can range from around $50 to $500, but will vary widely depending on the size of your yard.

Most expensive: Bed bugs

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