Pest Management

Bed Bugs

Bed Bug Bites
Bed bug bites on a woman's leg and a man's arm

Bed bug bites on a woman’s leg and a man’s arm.
Photo from www.bedbugger.com(left) and
http://urbanentomology.tamu.edu/ bedbugs/bedbugs.cfm(right)

Bites are usually the early warning sign of a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs feed only on blood. Each life stage feeds, except the egg. They insert the fine stylets from their beak directly into the skin in search of a tiny blood vessel, and may move and bite repeatedly until they find the right spot. At each point the beak releases saliva into the skin. The saliva contains proteins and enzymes that will cause an allergic reaction in many people. Allergic reactions vary widely from practically no reaction, to small itchy red or white bumps, to blisters or pustules. Not every person in a household will react the same way and many times only one person will show signs of bites, leading others to believe it cannot be bed bugs.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish bed bug bites from those of other biting pests without other circumstantial evidence that will link to a specific pest. It is critical to confirm bed bugs in the sleeping or living area through inspection to be sure that bites are caused by bed bugs. Bed bug bites can resemble mosquito and flea bites.

If you or someone you know has bites consider the following:
  • Bed bugs tend to feed on exposed skin, but can feed under loose clothing.
  • Bed bugs primarily feed at night in the dark, in a typical situation.
  • Under stressed conditions bed bugs may feed during the day. Stressed conditions include:
    • Bed bugs have no access to hosts because people are not sleeping nearby
    • When bed bugs are disturbed by cleaning or pesticides they may move to other areas
    • As the numbers increase, bed bugs may spread due to overcrowding
  • Bed bug bite reactions can take a few minutes or as many as 14 days to appear.
  • If bed bugs cannot be located in sleeping areas after multiple inspections, other biting pests must be considered.
  • If local temperatures are over 60° F and the individual is outdoors or has unscreened windows open, mosquito bites must be considered. Mosquitoes can also breed in standing indoor water in basements or unused sinks, toilets, drains, refrigerator pans, pet water dishes, plants, or dirty fish or reptile tanks. A quick inspection will help identify these conditions.
  • Pets or wildlife, including raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, and rodents may carry fleas that bite humans, especially in warmer months.

There are other causes of bites and lesions aside from bed bugs. While bites can vary, the activities of the person bitten may help determine the cause.