We have 2 customers in two different counties in northern California, and both have complaints of being bitten all over. They say they have red marks that itch and hurt. They have never seen mosquitoes or mosquitoes are not a problem. One customer thinks they are being bitten by spiders. We currently treat the perimeter with Talstar and alway de-web the home. The surrounding brush may be conducive to spiders, but it seems unlikely they would be spider bites. What do you think?? I was thinking bed bugs, but unlike every place else, we have received very few calls for bed bugs. We are scheduled to do an inspection on both properties. Any ideas what to look for??? Bill, CA
This is always a fascinating problem to be called out for, and one precaution I guess I should toss in right now is that a contract for a regular service on a residential property should carefully indicate that certain pests are not included in that standard fee. Bedbugs are one of them. If your service contract is such that you will accept “callbacks” at no extra charge, you’ll lose your shirt if you are suddenly faced with eliminating bedbugs without being able to charge as needed for that work. Interior stuff, in general, might be outside the scope of the regular service.
The list of reasons why a person suddenly begins experiencing itchy red spots on them is pretty long. It includes insect bites, allergic responses to various things, and their imagination, which we’ll lump under Delusory Parasitosis (DP). This last one is a well documented medical condition whereby a person is so convinced that bugs are crawlng on them that they, themselves, create those spots and sores on their skin by attempting to dig the bugs out. DP often is triggered by drug use or just by entomophobia – an overwhelming fear of bugs. I go into this because you cannot rule out that these folks could be having DP, and if so you really don’t want to start spraying pesticides to control imaginary bugs.
I fault the medical profession in this area too, as doctors still are far too willing to make the knee-jerk diagnosis that the red spots or lesions on someone’s skin are “spider bites”, “bug bites”, “bites from rat mites”, etc., when in fact no bug was ever observed biting the person and no specific test was done other than visually observing the bumps, and these bugs have not been seen in the home. The University of California continues on its frustrating campaign to educate the medical profession, with the insistence that the overwhelming percentage of skin lesions is caused not by spider bites, but by bacterial infections. I think I may have wandered off the path a tad here, but the message is that itchy, painful red marks could be caused by a LOT of things, and your role needs to be to identify whether or not there is an arthropod cause that YOU, with your license, could address. Avoid spraying for things that you have not identified as being present.
While we are advised NOT to identify the cause of red bumps on people’s bodies, there are hints as to the possible culprits if it is bug related. Flea bites tend to be around the ankles, mosquito bites the upper arms and around the neck, and bedbug bites just about anyplace on the body. Spider bites simply don’t happen in clusters. A spider bites only as a means of self defense, and spider bites are, frankly, rare. It would happen if a spider were trapped in clothing or the bed, and it should be a single event as the spider attempts to escape. Being bitten “all over” just is not consistent with spiders. I would not rule out mosquitoes, for night-biting species could be feeding on people unobserved, particularly during sleep, and with our hot weather we tend to leave windows open more, which could admit mosquitoes.
If these folks are being bitten by bugs, and it’s not mosquitoes, then it would be more likely to be biting mites such as rat or bird mites, or perhaps that awful newcomer – bedbugs. While you have enjoyed some measure of lack of them, these insects are continuing to expand their presence, and they are a common complaint now in many areas of northern California. It should be expected that you will receive more legitimate calls for them, so a careful inspection of the homes for bedbugs would be appropriate. Bedbug inspection is done with a flashlight and good eyes, whereas an inspection for biting mites may be better with insect glue traps. There really is no way that I know of to look at the marks on the skin and definitively say what caused it, so you need to either verify or rule out the presence of biting bugs in the home. According to some surveys about 80% of the bedbugs will be found on and around the bed itself, so your inspection should begin there, looking for bedbugs, shed skins, eggs, and blood spots on the mattress and boxspring. Look carefully in all the folds, under buttons, in any and all crevices. Look carefully along the edges of carpets and behind coving.
But, don’t let the customers talk you into spraying or fogging indoors if you have not found a specific reason to do so, and hopefully they won’t insist that you wage all-out war on every spider on their property. These beneficial arthropods really don’t deserve that.
Mr. Pest Control