A-z - Animals

13 Bugs That Look Like Fleas (And How To Spot Them)

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Fleas are one of the most annoying and recurring parasites of dogs, cats, birds, horses and other animals. They may be small, but their ability to transmit disease and cause suffering to animal hosts should not be underestimated. People may argue about the benefits of fleas to our ecosystem, but if left unchecked, they can cause serious health problems and sometimes even death.

However, not all skin bites you see are from fleas. Many other skin-crawling insects look similar to fleas but are entirely different species. This doesn't mean that other parasites are better than fleas, but finding the right treatment depends on properly identifying the parasite you're dealing with.

This article discusses 13 bugs that look like fleas and how to spot the difference. But first, let's review what fleas look like.

What do fleas look like?

ceratophyllus-gallinae-known-as-the-hen-flea-or-european-chicken-flea-it-is-an-ectoparasite-of-birds-which-commonly-attacks-poultry-and-can-bite-humans- and other mammals
Adult fleas have powerful claws that they use to grab hold of their host's body.

© iStock.com/S. Rohrlach

"Flea" is a term that refers to the order Anophoptera , which includes approximately 240 genera. The biology of fleas changes through the four stages of their life — egg, larva, pupa, and adult. At all of their life stages, they do not grow wings.

Flea eggs are small and oval in shape. The larvae look like worms and grow larger as they feed. Then comes the pupal or cocoon stage. They only start to grow legs after they reach the adult stage. Adult fleas have a body that can withstand stress, long legs that can jump up to 7 inches vertically, and powerful claws that they use to grab onto the body of their host.

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13 Bugs That Look Like Fleas

1. Aphids

aphid
Aphids are parasitic insects that live on hardwoods and conifers.

© schankz/Shutterstock.com

Aphids are parasitic insects that live on hardwoods and conifers. They suck plant juices, spread plant diseases, and cause deformation. Their colors range from green, black and red to yellow, brown or gray. Various aphids can grow 0.06 – 0.12 inches long. They have needle-like mouthparts that can pierce plants to suck their sap.

Once the plant that hosts the dry mother (wingless female) becomes overcrowded, the offspring become adults and develop membranous wings. Adult male and female aphids then fly to the new plants to reproduce.

2. Bat bugs

European bat bug
Bat bugs are oval insects that grow up to 0.19 inches.

©iStock.com/Zdenek Macat

Bat worms refer to species of Batidae and Batidae , which are blood-sucking parasites of bats. Bat bugs are oval insects that grow up to 0.19 inches. Species may vary in color, from beige to dark brown. The bat bug's chest is covered with tiny hairs.

3. Bedbugs

Types of bed bugs - Cimex lectularius
Bedbugs are insects of the genus Cimex .

©Pavel Krasensky/Shutterstock.com

Bedbugs are insects of the genus Cimex . They feed on human blood while fleas feed on both mammalian and human blood. Their bites can all irritate the skin or cause a rash. On average, bed bugs are 0.19 – 0.27 inches long, which means they are larger than fleas. Bedbugs can't crawl, but fleas can't.

4. Black Carpet Beetle

Big Black Beetle - Carpet Beetle
Black carpet beetles are commonly found in kitchen cabinets, wardrobes and carpets.

© Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock.com

The black carpet beetle, known as Attagenus unicolor , is a parasite that feeds on animal products that contain keratin, such as leather, silk, wool, dead insects and dried plants. They are commonly found in kitchen cabinets, wardrobes and carpets. Adult cockroaches are about 0.11 – 0.19 inches long, with elongated bodies and wings.

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5. Confused flour beetle

flour beetle
The confused flour beetle has a flat oval body and right-angled antennae.

© Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock.com

The flour beetle, also known as Tribolium confusum , is a parasite that targets flour and grains. They look similar to red flour beetles. However, they are different species. The confused flour beetle has a flat oval body and right-angled antennae.

6. Crickets

Cricket (Acheta domesticus) on white background
Crickets are omnivorous insects that can grow up to 0.83 inches.

© iStock.com/Florian Dennis

Crickets, also known as Acheta domesticus , are omnivorous insects that can grow up to 0.83 inches long. Fleas and crickets have a remarkable jumping ability. However, this is their only similarity. Crickets grow wings, but fleas don't. Crickets have forewings and hindwings; however, sources say they sometimes shed their hindwings. Crickets chirp with their bodies. They have three life stages: egg, nymph and adult.

7. Flea Beetle

A brown flea beetle
Flea beetles are herbivorous insects that chew through small holes in the surface of leaves.

©KAISARMUDA/Shutterstock.com

Another insect with an amazing jumping ability is the flea beetle. Flea beetles are herbivorous insects that chew through small holes in the surface of leaves. There are many species of flea beetles in the subfamily Galerucinae . They feature a third pair of thighs that give them amazing jumping skills.

8. Leapfrog

leapfrog
Leapfrogs are considered parasites because they leave tiny holes in the surface of leaves.

©iStock.com/Wirestock

Leapfrog refers to species in the Cercopoidea superfamily. Research has shown that leapfrogs use metal-rich spines on their hind legs to hop across leaf surfaces. They are considered parasites because they leave tiny holes in the surface of leaves.

9. Fungal Gnats

Dark winged fungal gnat, Sciaridae on plants. These are common pests of home ornamental potted plants.
Fungal gnats are small winged insects that infect houseplants.

© iStock.com/Tomasz Klejdysz

Fungal gnats are small winged insects that infect houseplants. They are attracted to wet places. They are characterized by elongated legs and segmented antennae. Adult fungal gnats are about 0.06 – 0.12 inches long. They have membranous, translucent wings with Y-shaped veins.

10. Grasshopper

Grasshopper close-up on blade of grass
Grasshoppers have a third pair of thighs that give them great jumping abilities.

©iStock.com/Eileen Kumpf

Grasshoppers are herbivorous insects that are divided into 11,000 different species in the suborder Caelifera . Unlike most insects, grasshoppers do not undergo complete metamorphosis. Nymphs look like little adults, except they don't have wings yet. Grasshoppers have a third pair of thighs that give them great jumping abilities. The largest grasshopper in the world is the hedge grasshopper.

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11. Head lice

head lice or head lice
The scientific name for head lice is Pediculus humanus capitis .

© iStock.com/toolipz

Head lice are parasites found on the human scalp. The scientific name for head lice is Pediculus humanus capitis . They are characterized by six legs and an oval abdomen that grows larger once they start sucking blood. Adult head lice are about 0.08 – 0.12 inches long.

12. Mosquitoes

elephant mosquito
The mosquito life cycle consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

© samray/Shutterstock.com

The term "mosquito" refers to the more than 3,500 species of mosquitoes found throughout the world. Their life cycle consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Their eggs are laid on wet or water surfaces. Mosquitoes may be small, but they are dangerous, especially when they carry malaria, dengue, West Nile and Zika viruses. Mosquitoes are characterized by segmented legs and needle-like mouthparts, which are used to pierce human skin to suck blood. Their membranous wings are slender, but veins are clearly visible under a microscope.

13. Ticks

Ticks have eight legs that help them move across their host's skin.

©iStock.com/TacioPhilip

If you're a pet owner, especially a dog or cat, you're probably familiar with ticks. If you've seen them on your pet, you've probably wondered why your pet doesn't respond to their bites.

Ticks are parasitic arachnids that contain chemicals in their saliva that are used to numb the area so that the animal and person do not feel the bite. Ticks have eight legs that help them move across their host's skin. Moreover, another point that distinguishes them from other bugs is that their abdomen and cephalothorax are fused together.

Next:

  • Find the Best Flea Collars
  • Types of Beetles: The Complete List
  • Best Flea and Tick Treatments for Dogs: Reviews
  • 5 Nasty Clothes-Eating Bugs (And How To Get Rid Of Them)

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featured image

grasshopper poo
Grasshoppers are herbivorous insects.

© RealityImages/Shutterstock.com


about the author

jeremiah wright


I have seven years of professional experience in the content field, focusing on nature and wildlife. Besides writing, I also enjoy surfing the Internet and listening to music.

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source
  1. , available here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/r3/resources/health/field-guide/sap/aphids.shtml
  2. PNAS, available here: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1814183116
  3. CDC, available here: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/index.html
  4. Penn State Extension, available here: https://extension.psu.edu/confused-flour-beetle-and-red-flour-beetle