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Insect Bites in New Jersey

Mystery bug bites? Mosquitoes in the winter? Spiders biting people?

Sounds like a common enough question, for sale one that I’ll take the time to address briefly now.  To be most brief: They’re not spider bites, or mosquitoes. I’ll elaborate:

Although spiders can and do bite, the actual occurrence of a spider bite can be quite rare and is a phenomenon which most people will most likely not experience in their lives.  Another caveat worth noting: Dermatologists cannot definitively prove which species of arthropod might be biting their patients.  There are no tests, the only identification method would be visual observation of the bite wound itself and then an extrapolation of the size and shape of the mouth-parts causing said damage. Sounds difficult right? Now imagine if you had no entomological training…. Considering the thousands (if not tens of thousands) of variations in mouth designs and feeding adaptations in the insect/arthropod world, I’d say leading entomologists would be unwilling to say positively which insect caused a bite.  As a matter of fact, a leading Arachnid researcher has publicly stated, time and again, that spider bites are constantly misidentified by the medical community. See what Dr. Rick Vetter from UC Riverside has to say here.

So what can they be? An overwintering mosquito trapped in the house?  Doubtful.  Possible yet improbable, at best.  There are very few mosquito species that can successfully breed indoors in this climate.  Also, mosquitoes are not cryptic (or hiding, reclusive) insects. They rely on flight to escape their victims retribution and are attracted readily to light, so the idea of having an undiagnosed mosquito infestation in a modern dwelling is extremely unlikely.  A little more info on our local mosquitoes can be found here, courtesy of Rutgers University.

So now we’re down to the more serious pests, namely Fleas and Bed Bugs.  Both can be difficult to detect in the early stages of an infestation due to the insect’s individual biology and behavior.  It is a possibility to address, but one you need to take realistically. And I’d like to state, for the record: Mystery Bug Bites do not equal Infestation!!!

First and foremost, make sure its an actual insect bite, and not a form of contact dermatitis or some other other mechanical, non-insect related damage to the skin.  Pokes, pricks, splinted, ingrown hairs are all on the list. Some other causes are of a strictly dermatological nature: rashes, shingles, scabies and lice are all viable causes of skin irritation and can only be treated by a dermatologist, not a pest control operator.

Secondly, an actual insect bite does not mean you even got bit in your home.  One time exposure to a biting insect does not necessarily mean your home is harboring an active infestation.  Active infestations are denoted by the following issues.  Bites are recurring.  Bites will increase in number/frequency as the infestation continues and increases.  Biting insects of all kinds leave some kind of evidence as to their presence.  There are no “Invisible” bugs.  None.

Bed Bugs are a huge concern and rightfully so, hire an accredited inspection company for accurate results and peace of mind. Here’s my suggestion. Don’t work on guesses, work on facts.

Do not, repeat, do not, just “Spray Everything Anyway” or hire a company to do just that.  Non-targeted application of insecticides is one of the leading causes of dangerous chemical over-exposure in the home.  Just don’t do it.  Have a specimen or evidence of some kind in hand before beginning pest control procedures.  Try and think your way through the problem instead of relying on knee-jerk reactions or chasing one hypothesis after another without investigating each one thoroughly.

Inspections, monitoring, self education and the utilization of the appropriate professionals (Dermatologist, Pest Control Pro, Entomologist, Inspecting Canine and Handler, etc) are the safest way to handle this type of issue.

Best of luck to any of you that may find them selves in this situation.  Feel free to contact me here or through my office, advice is free and we’d love to help.  Sometimes the brightest part of my day is being the bearer of good news and telling people they DON’T have a bug problem…..