What is Biting Me?
Mysterious Insect Bites
Green Giant Rep: “Hello, Green Giant Pest Control. How can we help you today?”
Customer: “I have spider bites all over me. I have seen spiders everywhere. I need someone to get rid of them.”
Some version of this conversation happens every week in our office. Of course, the first thought is… Let’s go and get rid of some spiders! The second thought is… Bed Bug inspection! Well neither of these pests may even be the culprit, and often times, customers and technicians lay blame on innocent insects.
Spiders can and do bite. A spider usually gets caught up in a bed sheet then – as we move around we pinch the spider against our skin – and the spider bites us. We usually don’t feel the bite because we are sleeping, but we notice the bite the next morning or notice the itching or rash from the bite. But, do spiders typically invade beds in populations high enough to cover your body in bites? No.
Bed Bugs. Just the two words said together can make anyone’s skin crawl. Bed Bugs are always a potential suspect when we get a biting insect call, but what happens when we don’t find these dreaded critters during the inspection?
The truth is that sometimes the pest may not be something we can effectively treat or even see. Most of the controllable biting insects potentially found in the home are visible with the naked eye, such as fleas, bed bugs, lice, mosquitoes, and spiders. There are many other causes of skin irritation, rashes, blisters, and allergic reactions that may be falsely identified as bites. Of those other causes, allergic reactions due to dust mites are commonly mistaken for insect bites.
Dust Mites are microscopic arthropods (ironically, related to spiders) that live in our carpets, mattresses, and pillows with populations in the millions. They typically feed on dead skin cells and other matter that get trapped in those items. Dust mite allergies can vary from person to person, and the severity and symptoms vary wildly as well. Dust mites don’t typically bite humans, but their feces and dead debris can elicit allergic reactions in some people. Those allergic reactions can manifest themselves as hives, rashes, or even blisters which resemble insect bites and can cover large portions of the body. When this first happens, some may attribute those “bites” to the last spider they saw crawling on their wall.
Dust mite treatments are generally not effective, and the best approach is often encasing pillows and mattresses with mite proof encasements or replacing the items altogether. These encasements trap the dust mites and their debris inside. Curtains may also be a source of dust mites, or any other fibrous material such as couch cushions or throw pillows. Regular vacuuming, using a HEPA filter, dusting, and frequent laundering of blankets, sheets, and other fabrics with hot water are all great ways to reduce dust might populations in your home. Reducing the amount of carpeted space and using closed cell foam pillows and mattresses have been recommended by the medical community to help people suffering from dust mite allergies.
The next time you wake up in the middle of the night with an itch, remember…sometimes it’s the critters you can’t see that get you. Until then… sleep tight and don’t let the dust mites “bite”!
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