As a provider of comprehensive bed bug service in Ventura, I get a lot of questions about bed bug bites during my inspections, and my response is always to rely on better evidence than just assuming you have bed bugs because you’ve been bitten by something during the night. In fact, I actively ignore bites at a sign of bed bugs because there are far too many variables with “bites” to be consistently sure of anything.
There are many misconceptions out there about bed bug bites, and I’ll help dispel some for you today.
You Can Identify Bed Bug Bites By Sight
I hear “I can tell these are bed bug bites” from a lot of clients. Unfortunately, these type of definitive statements are simply not true. From fleas and ticks to spiders and mosquitos, there are simply too many bugs that bite for anyone to definitively know for sure that a bite came from a beg bug. No one can distinguish a bed bug bite just from appearance alone.
While waking up to notice you’ve been bitten is certainly not something anyone would enjoy, don’t immediately assume you’ve been the victim of bed bug bites. A through inspection of your home will help me determine with far more certainty whether you have bed bugs than any reports of being bitten.
You Can Identify Bed Bugs Bite From Their Shape
Bed bugs bite in clusters of three is another common misconception I hear from client. The so-called “breakfast, lunch and dinner” way of identifying bed bug bites is another myth that’s commonly spread Unfortunately, bed bugs don’t bite in such a precise, easy to identify manner. They bite as many times as necessary to effectively break into a capillary and feed. If they do this on the first attempt, they will not bite you twice more for the sake of consistency. Conversely, they may make many more than three attempts at a capillary. This is the type of myth makes very little sense when properly scrutinized.
Bed Bug Bites Spread Disease
While bed bug bites can cause stress, anxiety and many sleepless night, they do not spread disease. That bed bug bites do not spread disease is an established fact backed up by creditable research. So unlike their cousin the Kissing Bug – which can transmit disease – bed bug bites are simply annoying, and pose no serious threat to your long-term health.
Bed Bugs Only Bite Certain People
I often hear this from people who swear that only one room is infested because “no one else has bites.” These same people are shocked when I show them other bedrooms where no “bites” are present, yet freshly fed bed bugs live- sometimes in very large numbers. In these cases, clients are actually being bit but not showing any signs. How can you be bitten and not notice, I’ll explain that in just a minute.
Your Diet Determines Whether Bed Bugs Will Bite
Another popular myth is that by eating diets heavy in garlic, onions, pickled beets or whatever will make you unpalatable to bed bugs and keep them from bitting. This too is false. While I suspect this myth originates from vampire lore, it’s impossible to know where this kind of stuff starts. Unfortunately, I hear this from enough of my customers over the years that it makes the list.
To a bed bug, tick, mosquito or any other type of insect that feeds on blood, your blood is not like a fine wine. They do not care what it tastes like. More importantly, what you eat does not change how your blood tastes, so don’t change your diet hoping to receive a few less bites at night.
Understanding Bed Bug Bites
Now, I’d like to take a closer look at “bites” to help illustrate how this process works and help you understand why it’s so variable.
A “bite” by common definition is an itchy welt caused by feeding from an insect. This is wrong. The bite itself causes very little injury. Just a tiny hole poked through the dermis and into a capillary. By itself, this would go unnoticed. The complications that make you notice a bite is actually the response of our very own immune system.
When our skin is punctured and the anticoagulant, numbing saliva of the bed bug flows into our body, the immune system activates and sends histamines and white blood cells to the area to attack and confine the intrusion. The itching is your small blood vessels expanding in response the histamines. These processes are different in their severity relative to their proximity to blood vessels and lymph nodes. The closer a bite is to both the lymph nodes and major blood flow, the faster and more itchy the response. This typically involves itching, swelling, and localized heat at the site.
This is where variables begin. If a bite occurs far from either major blood flow or lymph nodes, there may be no immune response at all. This means that the same person could have two bites in different places on their bodies and the immune response would range from extreme to none at all. This gets even more complicated when you take into account how many people take antihistamine medications for allergies, and even more so when we consider medications that control inflammation, like ibuprofen, arthritis medications, naproxen sodium, aspirin, etc. Then we must take into account diet, general health, and any immune system compromise or complication, whether acute or chronic. Now we can begin to see how someone could be sleeping in an infested bed, getting bit, and have no “bites”.
Next you must consider that there are many other things that cause an immune response, like skin allergies, heavy metals in the body, bites from pests other than bed bugs, bacterial infections, fungal infections, ingrown hairs – the list can go on forever. The shear variety of causes by what may appear to be a bite is precisely why I ignore “bites”. I cannot go down that road without overstepping the bounds of my license. Very often I will encounter a case where there is a person with “bites” but no bed bugs are present. At this point I’ll explore and inspect for other insect blood suckers like kissing bugs, fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, or certain types of mites. If we cannot find any evidence of an insect problem, this is officially where my license ends and someone else’s begins.
I encourage them to stop referring to them as “bites” so they can open their mind to other possibilities. I recommend a dermatologist appointment at this point. I suggest skipping right over a general practice doctor because they don’t have the same level of expertise needed for this kind of mystery. They’ll almost always send you home with a topical anti-itch cream and some anti-inflammation medication. This is not a solution, it’s merely treating the symptoms. A dermatologist, in my opinion, is best for this situation.
If you’re getting “bites” and would like to rule out bed bugs, you should call Spearhead Pest Control for a free and expert inspection. I also offer $100 off on comprehensive bed bug service in Ventura and other surround communities. Call today to receive your free inspection at 805-746-4547.