15 Bugs That Look Like Ticks But Aren’t

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By Bryan Peters

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Are you one of the many people who can’t stand the thought of ticks and their blood-sucking escapades? You’re not alone – ticks are among the most hated insects out there, and for good reason. Not only do they leave behind itchy bites, but they can also infect you with dangerous diseases.

But did you know that there are many imposters bugs that look like ticks, but aren’t nearly as harmful? In fact, you might even mistake some of these harmless bugs for ticks at first glance. That’s why it’s so important to be able to identify these bugs and tell the difference between them and ticks.

In this guide, we’ll explore the world of ticks, bugs, and arachnids, and help you identify the lookalikes that might be lurking in your home or yard. Whether you’re a seasoned bug hunter or a concerned homeowner, you’ll find valuable insights and tips to help you stay safe and keep your home tick-free.

So, are you ready to learn more about these pesky insects and how to identify them? Let’s get started!

What Are Bugs?

Typically, bugs are little creepy-crawly creatures that you will find around you. They are land arthropods that have at least six legs, which could include insects, spiders, and centipedes. Bugs belong to the Hemiptera group, and the major feature that differentiates them from other insects is their mouthparts.

In other words, real bugs tend to suck with their mouthparts, yet, like several other insects, they possess proboscises, even though theirs function more like straws, and they serve juice-sucking activities.

There are lots of bugs out there, but you will be more familiar with aphids, cicadas, and leafhoppers, alongside bedbugs, stink bugs, and water bugs. A good number of bugs suck up juices from plants using their straw-like mouths, while a few like bedbugs enjoy feeding on animals, including humans.

One interesting feature of bugs is that they go through incomplete metamorphosis; in other words, their eggs hatch as nymphs and can mature into adults.

What Are Ticks?

Ticks are tiny creatures that live on leaf piles and in the ground. These small insect-like animals are primarily native to North and Midwest America, Canada, and across Europe, and can survive throughout the year, but the summer and spring season is when they are most active.

In the winter and fall seasons, they search for a warmer area to migrate to, which is why you find them in your homes. However, you must beware of ticks, as unlike bugs, they are dangerous carriers of Lyme disease.

Even though you can hardly spot them, ticks can be mainly identified through their eight legs, and tube-shaped mouth, alongside two hooks at the end. They pounce on you and feed on your blood almost unnoticeable.

Bugs That Look Like Ticks But Aren’t

As we earlier mentioned, there are lots of bugs out there that look like ticks, and it is important to identify every one of them to help you control health threats and possible infestation.

Meanwhile, even though they are bugs and not ticks, you should be careful, as not all of them are completely harmless.

Let’s quickly highlight the various bugs that look like ticks!

1. Weevil Beetles

Weevil Beetle is one of the most popular tick look-alikes. As far as this little insect is concerned, you should have nothing to worry about, as it is just an ordinary weevil.

This bug features six legs, three body parts, and a stubby pair of antennae, which makes it a largely different critter from a tick, especially when sighted with a microscope.

On the other hand, like the weevil beetles, a robust adult tick also possesses eight legs, and two body parts, but unlike the former, it doesn’t have antennae. Again, this insect is not harmful and is of no consequence to humans.

2. Carpet Beetles

The carpet beetle is one of the most harmless bugs on our list, and a testament to that is the fact that it rather prefers to carry out most of its damage on your furniture than leave bites on your skin. You will see them moving around your cushion or even see them climbing up your arm, yet it won’t harm you. 

Adult carpet beetles feast on plant matter and unlike ticks, they will not bite you. But they both have similar colors and designs that will anyone to confuse one for the other. 

You can even be misled into thinking that carpet beetles are disease-transmitting insects like dog ticks. However, fortunately, you will find a few differences that will set your mind to rest.

For instance, ticks are popular for possessing small heads and oval-shaped bodies. They possess eight heads that protrude from either side of their bodies, while carpet beetles possess six slender legs, hiding under their bodies as they crawl around.

Hence, even though they look very similar, a much closer look will tell the differences.

3. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys)

Native to East Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug is invasive species that was somewhat circulated to the North American region during the mid to late 1990s.

The most common traits of this bug are its rounded shoulders and alternating white and brown spots on the outer edges of its abdomens.

Even though they look very much like ticks, one glaring difference is their dark red eyes. It is a very small insect with its ranging from a pin-head size to ½ inch long.

At a young age, its body is cream in color or a mixture of yellow and red, but with maturity, its color gradually changes to brown with patterns. 

4. Ash Plant Bug

It is called Ash Plant Bug because it feeds on tree saps, ash trees to be precise. It is another bug that looks like a tick and is pesky in between lines of ash trees since it dries the sap; hence resulting in the wilting or death of the tree.

However, the ash plant bug is a very small insect that you can compare to deer ticks instead of the real ticks that feast on humans.

Without a closer look, you can mistake them for ticks, as it has a rounded body and black color like that of the latter. You can only tell their difference through the six legs the ash plant bug possesses.

5. Spider Beetles

Photo by Steven Severinghaus via Flickr

Most people are often scared whenever they see spider beetles, as they often think they are the real ticks that harm humans. Well! You can’t blame them for that, as they both look very similar. This bug is a carbon copy of a tiny spider but is completely harmless to humans. 

The spider beetles possess just six legs, yet have two long extensions close to their head, resembling legs; this feature deceives people into thinking that they are spiders rather than beetles. This tiny creature also has a round body alongside a smooth carapace, or outer shell, adding to its spider-like looks.

The Mezium americanum (American spider beetle) is the most popular variety of spider beetle, followed by the White-marked spider beetle and the Smooth spider beetle.

Even though it is not seen as a pest, with the proper conditions, you can see many of them consuming huge amounts of foodstuff; making them a nuisance.

6. Bat Bug

Bat bug is one of the most common bugs that look like ticks and is primarily seen in attics. It is called a bat bug because of its bat-like tendencies. For instance, in the wild, you will find them in caves feasting on bats.

They look like ticks because they possess tube-like mouths. However, the bat bugs seem to look more like bed bugs than ticks, but smaller and with a hairier thorax.

7. Flea

Flea is one of the deadliest pests on our list as is notoriously popular for its role in the death of over a million people through the plague in the Middle Ages.

Presently, a flea has more than 2,000 species, with dog and cat fleas being the most common and posing the deadliest threat to pets and their owners, due to the diseases they transmit. 

Flea possesses long, oval-shaped strong bodies, and is very tiny and mobile. It also has elongated, hard, hind legs that propel them up to 10 inches.

Fleas measure between 1/8 to ¼ inches long, with mahogany or dark red color. But their color can change significantly and darken once they consume blood. 

Their primary hosts are animals, even though they are also harmful to humans, as they often occur in a series of three bites around the ankles. Humans usually contract fleas via their pets that easily harbor them in their fur.

8. Bed Bug

If you don’t look twice, you will be confusing beg bugs for ticks, as they also feast on their host’s blood. Even though beg bugs suck the blood of humans or pets, they are not as dangerous as ticks, yet their bites can be very itchy.

Even though these bugs mostly exploit in the dawn, they can also work during the night whenever they discover a living space under your bed. They come in reddish-brown and are flat and oval-shaped. It can reach up to 0.25 inches long during the maturity stage.

9. Chigger

Chigger is also known as harvest mite or red bugs, because they look completely like mites, yet they are not real mites.

They are, more related to scorpions, spiders, and ticks, and can be differentiated by their red color and semi-transparent body. However, like ticks, they possess only six legs but are not harmful to humans.

10. Booklice Bug

 Also called Psocids, the Booklice bug is another common bug that looks like ticks. It has made its dwelling place in old books, which is where its name originates from.

However, unlike ticks, they are a harmless and only feast on book cellulose rather than on human blood.

However, it would help if you take adequate precautions and stay safe, as the booklice bug can sometimes be of health risk especially when they are seen in your home library feeding on algae, fungus, and decaying matter.

These bugs often possess a light, creamy brown color, darkening when they feed on binding glues from books.

11. Clover Mites

Clover mites are popular garden pests that infest your lawn or yard throughout the summer. As the name implies, these creatures primarily operate where clovers thrive, in dry and hot atmospheres.

They are little flexible pests with legs that resemble antennae. They often possess bright red color, and don’t feast on humans but are threats to gardens.

12. Cockroach Nymph

A cockroach nymph is a baby cockroach that is also known as a brown-banded cockroach, thanks to its light brown color and white bands.

It is another bug that you can often mistake for ticks without a closer look and can be seen mainly in floorboards, walls, and under your beds.

As we earlier mentioned, they possess a striking resemblance with ticks, especially when in their baby stage, because of their light brown, transparent body that changes to reddish-brown with age.

13. Deer Bloodsucker

Deer bloodsucker is a bug that does not just look like ticks, but also bears notable resemblance with other insects like fleas and flies.

They are hardy bugs that have strong claws, soft legs, and powerful bodies. Its most common habitat is in the woodlands, hiding in shrubs and trees.

The deer bloodsucker has one unique feature that differentiates it from ticks; three pairs of limbs and translucent wings. It mostly attacks animals like elks, deer, cattle, etc. But when their preys are difficult to find, they move into homes and consume human blood.

They transmit Lyme disease and others like ticks; hence it is harmful compared to most other bugs.

14. Drugstore Beetles

Drugstore beetle can be a real nuisance to your home, primarily in pantries and kitchens. In as much as they can survive long periods without feeding, they can mess up your cereals, grains, and flour if you keep them within their reach. 

Apart from their menacing tendencies, you can attract the drugstore beetle with light. It has oval-shaped bodies that make them resemble ticks and possesses brown, hard outer shells. These bugs often have wings, yet find it difficult to fly.

15. Harlequin Cabbage Bug

As long as the harlequin cabbage bug is concerned, you will often mistake it for ticks, especially its nymphs. The most glaring similarity is its dark brown and reddish color.

However, once they begin to mature, you will begin to see the differences, as they will possess hard forewings and colorful bodies, which could be white, orange, or black.

Unlike ticks that have eight legs, the harlequin cabbage bug comes with six legs, and since it comes from the stink bug family, it possesses stink legs underneath its legs.

This little creature also has snouted legs, red and black eyes, and antennae, which are fairly shorter than its body. 

Conclusion

From the article above, we have been able to highlight the most popular bugs that look like ticks, which will help you identify them as they come.

However, despite their striking resemblance, bugs are not as harmful as ticks, but that doesn’t mean you should feel very relaxed, as some of them can be a menace to your household structures or even to humans and pets.

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