How many times have you reached to scratch an itch, or noticed a new bump on the skin and thought to yourself, “What did that?” Or, if you have children, “Dr. Dad” or “Dr. Mom” is called to the rescue, but what happens when “Dr. Dad” doesn’t know the cause either? Could it be a bug bite? Or, is it something else?
At Wil-Kil Pest Control, we occasionally have a client tell us that he or she is getting bit by something but they can’t seem to figure out what. He or she may experience what feels like a bite, along with welts, a rash or an itch. If this happens to you, your first reaction may be to just “spray” with a pesticide to kill whatever it might be. Unfortunately, pesticides may not be the answer.
We have all experienced at one point or another various skin bumps, sores or itching that have no obvious source. You may self-diagnose these as being “bug bites” of some sort. Sometimes this thinking is correct as some species of insects and arachnids can bite humans. However, what are thought to be “bug bites” often have different origins.
Start The Investigation
When determining the cause of a “bug bite” it is best to take a systemic approach, using process of elimination. First, observe your surroundings at work or at home; take note of any conditions that may have changed since the irritation has occurred. Or, maybe you have started a new medication and this could be a side effect? Possible causes could include:
- Environmental conditions such as abrupt changes in humidity or weather
- Reaction to chemical agents such as personal care products, cleaning agents, inks, etc.
- Health conditions such as bacterial infections
- Soaps, detergents and cleansers
- Paper or corrugated cardboard (if you have ever bagged groceries you will know what I mean!)
Several insects and arachnids in Wisconsin can bite humans, the following is a list of common culprits that should be considered first when a bug bite is suspected:
Fleas- Although fleas are small, (1/8th of in inch) they are relatively easy to detect. Dogs or cats are usually the source. However, if there is no pet involved, fleas may originate from a wild animal, such as a raccoon in close proximity to your home.
Mites or Chiggers- Mites that infest birds may sometimes bite humans. These situations arise only when a wild bird nest is attached to the home or your place of work. Mites tend to migrate away from a bird nest once it has been abandoned. Take a look around your home or office for bird nests. Chiggers are also mites that can occur outdoors during warm months. They are usually found in areas of lush grass or near waterways. A picture of a chigger bite is included above for your reference.
Spiders- Spider bites usually occur when the spider is confined or threatened, like when someone is lying in grass, climbing trees, etc. Against common belief, spiders do not attack humans, and spider bites are often miss-diagnosed by either the victim or by medical personnel.
Mosquitoes- Mosquitoes are present during the warm months if local conditions allow their breeding. All mosquitoes develop in water and large populations can occur after a large rain event.
Bed Bugs- In recent years bed bugs have been found in homes and businesses across Wisconsin at an alarming rate. Bed bugs can be brought home through used furniture or may crawl into your suitcase from a hotel stay. Bed bugs feed at night when you’re sleeping, and the bites are painless. Most people react to the bite, which ranges from an itchy spot to blisters that usually occur on exposed body parts when you sleep such as the head, neck and bare arms.
What You Should Do:
- Capture the bug that you believe has bitten you. Then you can send it to a pest management professional for proper identification. Please try and send it in the best condition possible.
- Ask co-workers if they’ve actually seen or captured any bugs.
- Are several co-workers being affected or just one?
- Has there been an association between the symptoms and certain maintenance activities such as installation of new carpet, or work on the HVAC unit, etc?
- Review possible sources such as pets, bat or bird roosts or other wild animals.
- Never attempt to diagnose the cause of a “bite” based on symptoms. You cannot diagnose a bug based on a bite unless you actually see the bite occur.
- Install glue traps for identification. These glue traps are thin sheets of cardboard with sticky glue. They work when insects and spiders crawl onto them and become stuck, allowing an opportunity for identification.
About Shane McCoy
Shane McCoy is an Associate Certified Entomologist with 17 years of experience in Pest Management and is the Technical Training Director for Wil-Kil Pest Control servicing Wisconsin and Illinois. You can find more information about Wil-Kil at www.wil-kil.com or contact your local office at 800-236-8735. You can also follow Wil-Kil on Facebook and Twitter (@WilKilPest).