Before you cry “bed bug,” get to know the bat bug.

bat bug
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What is a bat bug? It seems like it might be the answer to a silly riddle, like “What do you get when you cross a bat and a bug?” But bat bugs are actual insects that you could come across in your home or business, especially if you live in the Midwestern United States.

But can you get diseases from bat bugs? And can they infest your home? Below, you’ll find some key facts that everyone should know about the bat bug.

Meet the bat bug

Bat bugs are members of the Cimicidae family of insects. They’re actually relatives to another household pest — the common bed bug.

Unlike the common bed bug, however, bat bugs do not prefer to feed on human blood, though they will if need be. However, as their name suggests, their first choice of food is bat blood. There’s a good reason for this choice, too. Bat bugs cannot reproduce without their bat hosts.

Additionally, they’re most commonly found in the places bats like to roost, such as attics or chimneys. However, if the bats take off for a new home or die out, bat bugs will move downstairs and can show up in mattresses and beds.

Comparing Bat Bugs and Bed Bugs

The bat bug looks a lot like its bed bug relatives. These two insects are very similar in size, shape and color. In fact, you’d probably need a microscope to tell bat bugs and bed bugs apart. The main physical difference between these two insects is that the hairs on the upper thorax regions of bat bugs are longer than those of bed bugs. Again, you’re not likely to see this with the naked eye.

Do bat bugs carry diseases?

Like bed bugs, bat bugs do not infect humans with diseases when they bite. However, that doesn’t mean their bites are pleasant. And they carry pathogens on their bodies that can be spread by their activities, so you definitely don’t want to find these critters in your bed, couch or office chair. In addition, where there are bat bugs, there are — or were — bats.

While bats play an important role in our environment, you don’t want them in your home, as they carry diseases that can be transmitted to people, including rabies. Also, even if the bats have flown off in search of another roost, their feces, which are called “guano,” can spread histoplasmosis to humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these diseases can sometimes be fatal if left untreated.

What should you do if you think you have bat bugs?

If you spot what you think is a bat bug, you should call your pest control professional as soon as possible. A trained technician can assess the situation and determine whether you might have bat bugs or bed bugs in your home. If you do have bat bugs, you’ll want to make sure your technician implements steps to account for the bats or leftover guano that may be in your house.  And if it turns out you have bed bugs, you’ll still need to work with a pest control specialist to customize a treatment plan.

Have you seen an insect that might be a bat bug or bed bug? Don’t panic. Your trained Terminix® technician can help you set up a pest control plan that suits the needs of your home.