Bed bugs

Cimex lectularius

Description: This bug probably received its common name of bed bug from its close association with human sleeping beds where it often seeks refuge during daylight, only to come out to feed on the bed’s occupant(s) at night. The bed bug is an ectoparasite of primarily humans but will also attack poultry and other mammals and birds. It was introduced into the United States with the early colonists. It is found throughout the United States and the world.

Biology: Female bed bugs lay 1-5 eggs per day with the 1mm long white eggs being deposited individually in cracks or on rough surfaces and secured with a transparent cement for an average total of 200 eggs; maximum eggs per day is 12, with 541 for a lifetime. About 3-10 minutes are required for each blood meal, during which saliva containing an anticoagulant is injected.
Humans are the preferred host of bed bugs but in their absence bedbugs will feed on animals. Although the bite of bed bugs is painless, most people develop an allergic reaction to the saliva injected by the bug as it feeds. Swelling may be severe and extend beyond the immediate bite area in highly sensitive individuals.

Habits: Bed bugs harbor in cracks and crevices during the day and come out to feed at night. Typically they can be found around mattress buttons and beading, in boxsprings or their coverings, and in the crevice of a wooden bed frame, such as where members join. Other places bed bugs harbor are wall hangings such as picture frames, night stands, stuffed furniture, baseboards, floorboard cracks, behind loose wallpaper, light switches, door and window frames, etc. In heavy infestations, bed bugs may be found in wall voids, attics, and other enclosed places. They will crawl considerable distances to obtain a blood meal.

They can be introduced into a structure via used furniture or in the belongings of someone who has been living in a bed bug infested situation. Bed bug infestations have been found in transportation vehicles such as boats, trains, airplanes, and buses as well as in movie theaters where they typically harborage in seats and associated frames.

The primary clue to an infestation will be the presence of bed bug and/or small red to brown fecal spots here and there on surfaces and mattress. Small yet visible blood spots may be spotted on the mattress.

Cat flea

Ctenocephalides felis

Description: Fleas are one of the more important groups of insect pests because they not only cause discomfort by biting, but they can transmit several diseases such as plague and murine typhus. Cat fleas are found throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

Biology: Females lay 4-8 eggs after each blood meal, laying some 400-500 during their lifetime. The eggs are deposited on or between hairs, or in the nest of bedding material. Hence, eggs deposited on the animal either fall or are shaken off, and are frequently found in cracks and crevices where pets sleep or frequent.

Once on a host, they tend to spend all of their time on the host, feeding, mating, and laying eggs, unless dislodged. Cat fleas may transmit plague. There is a very strong circumstantial evidence that they may transmit murine typhus. Cat fleas serve as intermediate hosts of the dog tapeworm, and the rodent tapeworm. These tapeworms occasionally infest humans, especially very young children.

Habits: It is not necessary to have pets in the building in order to have fleas present. Since fleas can jump about 6 inches vertically, they can easily hitch a ride on shoes, trousers, etc. Many vacationers, who may have been unaware of the few adult fleas present, are often greeted and severely attacked by fleas upon their return.

Dog flea

Ctenocephalides canis

Description: Their common name comes from one of their favorite hosts, dogs, the other being rabbits. Like other fleas found in homes, they cause discomfort by biting, but they can also transmit several diseases such as plague and murine typhus. Dog fleas are found throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

Biology: Females lay 4-8 eggs after each blood meal, laying some 400-500 during their lifetime. The eggs are deposited on or between hairs, or in the nest of bedding material. Hence, eggs deposited on the animal either fall or are shaken off, and are frequently found in cracks and crevices where pets sleep or frequent.

Once on a host, they tend to spend all of their time on the host, feeding, mating, and laying eggs, unless dislodged. Dog fleas may transmit plague. There is a very strong circumstantial evidence that they may transmit murine typhus. Dog fleas serve as intermediate hosts of the dog tapeworm, and the rodent tapeworm. These tapeworms occasionally infest humans, especially very young children.

Habits: It is not necessary to have pets in the building in order to have fleas present. Since fleas can jump about 6 inches vertically, they can easily hitch a ride on shoes, trousers, etc. Many vacationers, who may have been unaware of the few adult fleas present, are often greeted and severely attacked by fleas upon their return.

Black flies

Various names

Description: The common name of the black flies comes fro their typical black color. In various areas, some species are called buffalo gnats, others turkey gnats. They are worldwide in distribution. Although found throughout the United States, about 143 species, they are more common in northern areas, especially around areas of fast-moving water such as mountain streams and rivers.

Biology: Females of pest and disease-vector species require a blood meal in order to lay viable eggs. They vector various protozoan diseases to poultry in the United States. Bites are very painful. Black flies feed from the pool of blood exuding from the bite/wound, requiring 4-5 minutes for a blood meal. Bites occur on exposed skin, where clothing fits snugly, and also under clothing. The bite typically has a small central red spot surrounded by a pinkish swollen area. Apparently a toxin is injected. Symptoms typically include headache, fever, nausea, and inflammation of 1 or more lymph nodes. Bites become increasingly itchy and swollen, and remain irritating for several days.

Habits: Depending on the species, acceptable water conditions for larval development range from torrential mountain streams to slow moving lowland rivers, and include irrigation canals and ditches. Black flies enter structures accidentally and typically fly to windows where they crawl about until death. Adults of some species readily feed on humans while others prefer other mammals or birds.

Chiggers, Redbugs

Various names

Description: The common name of redbug probably comes from the usual bright red color of the larvae, which attack humans. They are found worldwide including the United States.

Habits: They nymphs and adults are free-living predators. Adults live in the soil of grasslands and forests, in mammal nests and burrows, crevices of decaying wood, bat caves, lawns, and marsh areas. When humans are attacked, the larval mites most frequently attach themselves at fair follicles in areas where clothing is tight fitting such as the ankles, waist, and armpits. Itching is usually not felt for 3-6 hours after attachment and may persist for up to 2 weeks. Scratching often removes the offending mite but can result in secondary infection.

American dog tick

Dermacentor variabilis

Description: This tick’s common name comes from the fact that it is only found in North America and that domestic dogs are the favorite host of the adults. Although not a structural pest, it is commonly found on dogs and readily attacks humans. It is of medical importance because it vectors the causal organisms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia, and also causes tick paralysis. It is found throughout the United States, except for the area of the Rocky Mountain.

Biology: American dog ticks are the primary vector of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the eastern United States, which they transmit from small animals. This is a severe, acute, infectious disease of the small peripheral blood vessels caused by a rickettsial organism whose characteristic symptoms is a rash which develops in 2-5 days, starting with the wrists, and ankles and then spreads all over the body. Mortality in humans is 20% or more.

American dog ticks can cause tick paralysis when they attach on the back of the neck or at the base of the skull and feed for at least 5-6 days. Paralytic symptoms usually start in the extremities and become evident as unsteadiness and loss of reflex actions.

Habits: American dog ticks are attracted by the scent of animals and are therefore most numerous along roads, paths, and trails. The adult American dog tick crawl up grass or other low vegetation, cling to it with their 3rd pair of legs, and wave their other legs about ready to grasp onto any passing host; this is called their “waiting position.” They prefer larger mammals as hosts and these include the preferred dog and others such as man, opossum, squirrel, skunk, deer, domestic cat, and more.

Blacklegged/Deer/ Bear tick

Ixodes scapularis Say

Description: The common name blacklegged refers to their dark legs, which are in contrast to the paler body, and that of deer because the preferred adult host is the white-tailed deer. This tick is of medical importance because it is an important vector of Lyme disease. Blacklegged ticks are found primarily in the northeastern, midwestern, and southeastern states in the United States.

Habits: Blacklegged/deer ticks climb grass and shrubs to wait for a passing host, and move very little laterally. They concentrate on such vegetation located in transitional areas/zones such as where forest meets field, mowed lawn meets unmowed fence line, a foot/animal trail through high grass or forest, etc.

A favorite feeding area for these ticks on humans are the back of the neck or the base of the skull. Long hair makes detection more difficult. However, the ticks will usually wonder about for up to 4 hours or so before they attach. Then, a tick has to be attached for a period of 6-8 hours before a successful transmission can take place.

Brown dog tick

Rhipicephalus sanguineus

Description: This tick gets its common name from its overall reddish brown color and that it is common on dogs. Although the brown dog tick is the species most commonly encountered indoors, it rarely attacks man. This tick is found throughout the United States and the world.

Habits: the brown dog tick does not do well outdoors in the woods in the United States. They prefer warm, dry conditions where dogs live. They do not travel far after engorgement and dropping off the host. They typically move upward, and a behavior which usually promotes host encounters.

Brown dog ticks may attach themselves anywhere on a dog. The adults typically attach on the ears and between the toes, but the larvae and nymphs typically attach on the back.