Swallow bugs are often confused with bed bugs.
In this guide you’ll find out what is a swallow bug and where swallow bugs come from in your home.
You’ll also find out the critical differences between swallow bugs and bed bugs in the swallow bugs vs. bed bugs section of this post.
You’ll also learn how to get rid of swallow bugs from your home, forever, in 5 easy steps
What’s A Swallow Bug?
Swallow bug is one of the bugs that look like bed bugs. But these bed bugs look-alikes are a lot different from bed bugs.
Swallow bugs infest the nests of swallow birds.
Swallow bugs are parasites that specifically target swallow birds and their nestlings to suck their blood.
That’s how swallow bugs got their names.
Swallow birds make nests out of mud pellets. They also use organic matters like grass, hair, feathers, and fur. These nesting materials make the swallow bugs hide easily inside the birds’ nests.
There’re two kinds of swallow birds – cliff swallows and barn swallows.
Both have different nesting habits.
Cliff swallows build their nests in groups or colonies, nicely queued up one after the other.
In contrast, barn swallows’ nests are solitary. You won’t find barn swallows building their nests in groups.
In the nests of swallow birds, the swallow bug infestation can get so severe that many adults abandon their nests and hatchlings.
But it doesn’t end there.
Swallow bugs latch on the adult swallows’ feathers. That’s how swallow bugs move from one nest to another.
Many swallow birds, especially cliff swallows, return to the same nests. At least 44% of them prefer to get back to their old nests than build a new nest again.
Swallow bugs can go without food (blood) for a year. So, they lurk and wait in the nests till a new swallow bird shows up.
The most exciting fact is that swallow bugs cannot multiply if they don’t drink blood.
So, once they drank the blood of swallow birds, they reproduce.
And the newborn swallow bugs wait for a year for the next swallow birds to show up.
Swallow Bug Lifecycle
A female swallow bug can lay 20-30 eggs at a time.
These eggs take 30-40 days to hatch.
The newly hatched, known as nymphs, take another two and a half months to turn into an adult.
An adult swallow bug can easily survive for 2-3 years. And female swallow bugs can lay 100 eggs in their lifetime.
They don’t multiply as fast or in as big numbers as other bugs. It’s because their ability to reproduce is dependent on their blood meals.
Can There Be Swallow Bugs In Your House?
Yes, there can be. If swallow birds are nesting in your home’s compound or building, there can be swallow bugs in your house.
Some swallow bugs fall from the nests of the swallow birds in your home.
That can be the moment when swallow bugs can crawl into your home.
In your home, swallow bugs can hide in places like cracks on the floor, in the gaps of upholstery like couch foam, mattresses, and even in closets or wardrobes.
But it’s improbable that swallow bugs will infest your homes unless there’s a swallow bird nest in and around your home.
Hotels and high rises in Colorado and Ohio have reported swallow bug infestations. That’s mainly because swallow birds are quite common in these states.
Do Swallow Bugs Bite Humans?
Yes, swallow bugs can bite humans if they’re living inside the home.
The main reason swallow bugs biting humans is that their primary food source, swallow birds, is not around.
If swallow bugs don’t find any swallows, then they can bite humans, mice, other birds, and bats.
How Does A Swallow Bug Bite Looks Like?
The swallow bug bite looks more like bed bugs’ bite. But many people don’t get any red spots or itching when swallow bugs bite them.
It’s only a sting like feeling that you feel when a swallow bug bites you. Some people can also have an allergic reaction to swallow bug bites.
How To Get Rid Of Swallow Bugs In Your House In 5 Steps?
Getting rid of swallow bugs can be tricky because the source lies in the swallow birds’ nests.
Also, the signs of swallow bugs infestation in your home are not as prominent as bed bug infestation.
Apart from bite marks, physical sightings of swallow bugs in home, and presence of swallow birds’ nests in your property there are no convincing signs of swallow bugs infestation in your home.
But you can get rid of swallow bugs in your home and property despite these limitations.
Here are the 5 steps to get rid of swallow bugs.
Step#1 – Check For Any Swallow Birds Nests
Swallow bugs come from the nests of barn swallows and cliff swallows. So, the first job to do is to look out for any possible nests of these birds in your home and property.
But keep in mind that swallows are protected species. So, we don’t recommend killing them or destroying the nests with hatchlings in the nests. Doing that will be going against the law.
But if the nests are empty, you can get rid of the nests.
Swallow birds make mud nests in the under the eaves and overhangs of a home.
So, the nests being so high, it’d be best if you take professional help to do the job.
Step#2 – Vacuum Clean The Places Where Swallow Bugs Hide
Like bed bugs, swallow bugs also prefer to hide in thin gaps and cracks inside your home.
If you’ve observed swallow bugs in certain areas of your home, check out for any crevices or gaps in and around those places.
Then vacuum clean the entire place.
Step#3 – Steam Clean The Soft Furnishings Of Your Home
Like the bed bugs, swallow bugs will prefer to hide near places from where they get the blood meals.
So, it’s possible for them to hide in places like couch, mattress, carpets, rugs, and chairs with soft foams.
Steam cleaner is the best tool to kill any hiding swallow bugs in these places. Steam cleaners produce heat which swallow bugs and bed bugs can’t survive.
Steam cleaner kills the hiding swallow bugs instantly.
And a steam cleaner is also a great tool to kill bed bugs, their eggs, and baby bed bugs.
So, steam clean the soft furnishings to kill any swallow bugs hiding in the folds and gaps of these soft furnishings.
Step#4 – Use Insecticide Sprays To Kill Swallow Bugs
Now insecticide sprays can be risky to you if you don’t know how to handle it.
So, it’s highly recommended that you let a professional do the job.
Spraying insecticide sprays directly on the swallow bugs will kill the swallow bugs.
Professional pest controllers will use professional grade insecticides with high residual toxicity on places where swallow bugs can hide.
If you’re using any insecticide sprays on the swallow bugs, please read the instructions on the label before use.
Also, do not spray the insecticide sprays when the swallow birds are around. Insecticide sprays can kill the swallow bugs and their hatchlings.
Don’t use any insecticidal soap or bug bombs. It’s because the aerosol release from these repels the swallow bugs. It drives them into the inaccessible corners of the home.
It makes getting rid of them and treating your home complicated.
Step#5 – Prevent Swallow Birds From Nesting In Your Property
The best way to get rid of swallow bugs forever is to stop the swallow birds from nesting in your home and property.
As swallow birds come back to the same nests, getting rid of the nests when they’re gone is the best way to stop them from nesting in your home.
Also making minor structural and design changes on the places where swallow birds nest goes a long way to stop swallow birds from nesting in your property.
Do Swallow Bugs Fly?
No, swallow bugs don’t fly, and they can’t fly. Swallow bugs don’t have wings either.
Swallow bugs have strong hind legs that help them to crawl and climb on the swallow nests.
Swallow Bugs Vs. Bed Bugs – The 5 Differences
Swallow bugs and bed bugs are quite similar looking, but there are some stark differences when you see them closely.
Bed bugs are 5-7 mm in size, whereas swallow bugs are smaller, 3-4 mm in size.
The significant difference between the two is that swallow bugs have visible antennae.
Their hind legs are quite visible as well. Both features are absent in bed bugs, even though bed bugs have back legs.
Another feature that distinguishes swallow bugs from bed bugs is body hair. Swallow bugs have a fine hair coating on their body, which is missing from the bed bugs’ bodies.
And, finally, it’s the color. Swallow bugs are grayish, whereas bed bugs are reddish.
It’s uncommon to find a swallow bug infestation in homes. Because humans, pets, and other warm-blooded beings are not a food source of swallow bugs.
But every home has a risk of bed bug infestation.
- 3-4 mm in size
- Visible antennae
- Visible hind legs
- Grayish in color
- Cannot reproduce inside your home
- 5-7 mm in size. Bigger than swallow bug
- No antennae
- Hind legs are not visible
- Reddish in color
- No hair coating on the body
- Can reproduce inside your home
Swallow bugs are one of those bugs that are mistaken for bed bugs.
Now that you know the differences between swallow bugs and bed bugs, it’ll be easy for you to tell when swallow bugs are actually in your home.
The best part about swallow bugs is that even though they bite, they don’t spread or reproduce as fast as bed bugs in home.
It’s because swallow bugs can’t reproduce or breed in the absence of their natural hosts which are swallow birds.
Swallow bugs are parasitic bugs on swallow birds present in the swallow birds’ nests.
If there are swallow birds’ nests in your home and property, then swallow bugs can fall off the nest and land up in your home.
Swallow bugs and bed bugs are different in many aspects which this post reveals. The most critical difference between swallow bugs and bed bugs is that bed bugs carry an infestation risk in your home.
Where as the swallow bugs don’t.
It means that bed bugs will breed and reproduce in your home. Swallow bugs can’t in the absence of their natural hosts, which are the swallow birds.
Nang Chen is an Entomologist and Arachnologist who is associated with Vienna’s museum of natural history. He’s also a consultant with real estate groups, insecticide conglomerates and law enforcement groups as a forensic entomologist. Nang Chen holds an M.S. from South China University and he’s a regular contributor to our site.