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Are Termites and Bed Bugs the Same?

You’ve probably heard of both termites and bed bugs, but are they the same insect using two different names?

No, termites and bed bugs are not the same insect. Termites are ant-like creatures that like to eat wood and can cause structural damage to buildings. Bed bugs, on the other hand, usually live in mattresses, and they drink blood. 

Termites Vs. Bed Bugs – Appearance 

Close-up photo of a termite.

The easiest way to determine the difference between a termite and a bed bug is through appearance. 

Termite Appearance 

The way a termite looks depends on its species and role in the colony. 

Thus, I’ll break up termite appearance by colony member and add how each species differs. 

Worker Termites 

Worker termites are the most common termites since they make up about 90% of a colony. 

These tiny insects are about ⅛ of an inch (⅓ cm) long and are such a light tan that they appear almost transparent. 

Worker termites largely resemble light-colored ants, but you can tell the difference between the two because ants have three distinct body sections, whereas worker termites have two. 

Worker termites also have tiny pinchers at the front of their faces. 

Overall, worker termites don’t look much different across species, although some may have a darker body. 

Soldier Termites 

Soldier termites look relatively similar to worker termites. 

Generally, they are about the same size as workers and have light tan bodies. 

However, some are black. 

The best way to identify a soldier termite is by its oversized head. 

They also have large pinchers that they use to protect the colony. 

These pinchers are usually a different color than the rest of their bodies. 

Swarmer Termites 

Swarmer termites are easily distinguishable from their other colony members because of their long wings. 

These wings are on the backs of swarmer termites, and they are tan and either outlined in black or a darker tan. 

Keep in mind, though, that it is easy to mistake swarmer termites for flying ants

You can differentiate between the two because flying ants have three distinct sections of their bodies, while the body of a swarmer termite looks more like a cylinder. 

Bed Bug Appearance 

Luckily, bed bugs are much easier to identify than termites because all adult bed bugs look pretty much the same. 

The average adult bed bug is the size of an apple seed with a rather flat body. 

However, if they have just eaten, they may be more of a cylinder shape. 

Furthermore, adult bed bugs are a medium brown color and have horizontal indentations along their bodies that kind of look like stripes. 

Bed bugs also have six legs, don’t jump or fly, and have tiny antennas and heads. 

Termites Vs. Bed Bugs – Diet 

When dealing with pests, the most important thing to know about them after you’ve discovered their identity is what they eat. 

Because pests come into our homes primarily to eat, understanding their preferred food sources can help you get rid of them. 

Termite Diet 

Termites are famous for their love of wood, but is that all they eat?

Well, ultimately, termites consume cellulose, and you can find cellulose in many items, including wood. 

Other substances that contain cellulose include: 

  • Paper 
  • Plants 
  • Fabric 
  • Cardboard 
  • Insulation 
  • Fungus 
  • Cotton

So, termites can and will consume any of these things. 

Bed Bug Diet 

Bed bugs only consume the blood of warm-blooded animals. 

However, they prefer the blood of people. 

This hunger for human blood is why they like to live in our mattresses so that they can always remain close to us. 

Are Termites or Bed Bugs More Dangerous to Humans?

Close-up photo of a bed bug.

In general, neither bed bugs nor termites are particularly dangerous to humans since they don’t spread disease and major health issues associated with them are rare. 

Yet, this information does not mean that termites and bed bugs can’t harm you. 

Bed bugs mainly affect people when they bite them. 

And although bed bugs, thankfully, do not spread disease like other blood-sucking insects, they can cause itchy and even painful rashes. 

This itchiness, if scratched too much, can then turn into a skin infection

Termites, on the other hand, rarely bite humans, so the threat of skin problems from termites is negligible. 

Instead, the main risk of a termite infestation has to do with the structural damage they can cause to homes. 

Since termites love eating wood, they can deteriorate the framework of a house to the point it is unsafe to enter. 

Oftentimes, injuries from termite damage occur when a person falls through the floor or a set of stairs that termites have destroyed. 

Despite their differences, though, termites and bed bugs do have one danger in common. 

Both of these insects can bring about allergic reactions. 

Bed bugs cause allergic reactions when they bite a person and inject their saliva into them. 

Termites, conversely, can generate allergy symptoms by stirring up dust and wood particles. 

Overall, I would say that neither insect is more dangerous than the other. 

In general, it is just that the dangers they cause are different, meaning that which is worse is mostly a matter of opinion. 

Are Termites or Bed Bugs Harder to Get Rid Of?

Termites and bed bugs are about equally difficult to eliminate. 

Termites are hard to get rid of because they tend to hide out in unseen places in your home, such as the framework. 

And because they hide so well, detecting and treating them can be challenging. 

These insects also produce huge colonies, making it tough to get rid of every single one of them. 

Bed bugs are difficult to eradicate for similar reasons. 

Their tiny flat bodies make it easy for them to hide out just about anywhere, and they can reproduce rather quickly. 

Bed bugs are also pretty hardy and can live for several months without food. 

Can Termites Live in Your Mattress Like Bed Bugs?

A stuffed toy on a mattress beside the pillow.

No, termites will not live in your mattress like bed bugs. 

Yet, termites can eat mattresses because they contain the same cellulose that is also in wood. 

Thus, you may see termites in or on your mattress, but they can not and will not live there. 

Can Termites Feed on People Like Bed Bugs? 

No, termites can not and will not feed on people as bed bugs do. 

Termites eat cellulose, which they most commonly find in wood and paper products. 

However, a termite may bite you if it feels threatened but will not actually drink your blood when it does this. 

Can Bed Bugs Destroy a House Like Termites?

The wood of a house was damaged by a termite.

No, bed bugs will not destroy your house in the same way that termites do. 

Bed bugs do not eat wood or anything else you have in your home. 

Instead, they only consume blood. 

Also, bed bugs do not have teeth, meaning they can not bite through walls or anything else. 

Is There a Treatment That Can Kill Both Termites and Bed Bugs?

Yes, a heat treatment performed by a professional exterminator can kill both bed bugs and termites at the same time. 

However, if you have these pests in your home, make sure you inform your exterminator so that they can ensure they do a heat treatment for both insects. 


Termites and bed bugs are not the same bugs. 

They look quite different, eat different things, and cause different types of problems.