A variety of pest species found around the home can bite you. Many insects and mites live in and around our home, feeding on pets, humans and debris that can accumulate around the house. These pests include bed bugs, fleas, house spiders and mites. If you come to think about it, very few people regularly dry clean their duvets and its duvets where the majority of dust mites are found in the home.
Bed bugs are a common pest found worldwide and throughout Britain and in recent years have been on the increase. With the increase amount of people traveling around the world, this is somewhat inevitable. Bed bugs are notoriously a hard pest to treat and this is because they hide away in the most awkward of places, such as your bed frame to the plug and light sockets. Before feeding the bug is very flat in appearance, which enables it to access very small places such as cracks and crevices around your home. They can hide deep in the skirting boards, around light fixtures and fittings, and behind wallpaper. The female lays eggs throughout her life (an unusual feature within the insect world), and will generally produce between 2 and 5 eggs per day. This can amass to around 400 – 500 eggs in her lifetime. The average lifespan of the bug can last for months and although this may seem short, the constant hatching of eggs means the problem will escalate and before long you can become overrun. The optimum temperature for the eggs to hatch must be above 10 – 13°C. The emerging nymphs resemble a miniature bed bug and will moult (grow out of their skins) 5 times before reaching the adult stage; this can take 6 – 18 months depending on temperature and food supplies. When feeding (biting you) they can ingest up to 7 times their body weight at any one meal time enabling the adult bug to go for long periods of time without feeding. The bed bug is easily transported from home to home via luggage and furniture used by people who spend a lot of time in B & B’s, hotels and hostels. Bites from bed bugs can result in a raised red lump, itching and in some cases secondary infection. If any of these symptoms occur you should always seek medical advice. You can often tell that it is bed bugs, because you should clearly see small specks of blood on bedding.
The most common fleas found around the home are cat and dog fleas. Dogs in particular can pick fleas up whilst out for walks or coming into contact with other dogs. Fleas can also be picked up by humans out walking or visiting someone with a flea infestation. The average flea is around 2-5mm in length, and is a reddish-brown colour. The female flea lays her eggs on the host and these eggs usually end up in the hosts bedding and resting areas. The eggs are about 1mm in length, oval and translucent. Within day’s of the eggs hatching the white, legless larvae then emerge and feed on a variety of materials such as animal protein debris. They also feed off the blood rich excreta of the adult flea. The larvae will shed its skin 2-3 times over a 3-4 week period eventually spinning a silken cocoon very near to their feeding area, this can be in cracks in floor boards and more often within the bedding of the host. This stage (pupae to adult) usually takes about a month depending on temperatures. Although the flea feeds off your pet’s blood, humans can also be bitten. Fleas feel the vibration as you walk by and will often jump on to a host and start to feed. In most cases the flea will taste your blood and realise it is not their usual host and jump off again, leaving you with a very itchy red lump. You may not realise you have been bitten for several hours, this is due to the flea injecting you with a mild anaesthetic so you do not feel the bite, once this has wore off you will feel a little discomfort and in most cases severe itching. Fleas can live up to a year without feeding so treating your pet and your home is essential, you will also need to wash your pets bedding on a hot wash to kill off any remaining eggs. Fleas are distinctive in shape, and with its large back legs can be easily identified. If you are unsure whether you have fleas, place a warm bowl of water in the corner of the infested room and this will act as a monitoring device. The fleas will jump into the bowl as they are attracted by the heat, and will be unable to jump back out.
The house spider is a large bodied hairy spider with a body length of about 1 cm and the leg span can reach as much as 5-6 cm. The house spider is a speckled brown in colour with a striped body appearance, and the female is larger than the male. Both males and females construct the web amongst debris and dirt found on floors of sheds, garages and out-houses. The young spiders emerge from the eggs and disperse around the web feeding off small insects. These spiders (as many other spider species) carry venom sacs and can issue a venomous bite, although these bites carry little public health risks they can lead to secondary infections and will take time to heal. Although they are not classed as a pest species they can be an unwanted visitor, and if treatment is needed most pyrethroid insecticides will do the job.
A number of mites can be found in and around your home, such as flour mite, clover mite, dried fruit mite, house dust mite, velvet mite, furniture mite, and the cheese mite. The most common mite around your home will be the house dust mite. Adult mites are around 0.3- 0.5 mm in length with a ribbed body appearance and pinkish in colour. They have 2 pairs of bristles at the rear, which are shorter than the actual body length. The female mite lays her eggs within a 15-20 day period and each female lays around 30 eggs. Once hatched the process from Laval to adulthood usually takes round 30 days but will depend on temperatures. The phases of the mite life cycle is egg, larva, protonymph, tritonymph then finally adult. Mites feed off skin shed by humans, which builds up around our home, in our furniture and on our mattresses. Mites are also associated with causing dermatitis, respiratory tract irritation and intestinal upsets. They are also implicated in the cause of asthma and other respiratory complaints but regular vacuuming of your mattress and the fitting of a protective sheet should help ease the problem. Many other species of mite can also be found living and feeding on birds nests and can often find there way in to your home. Research has shown that it is in fact duvets that carry the majority of dust mite infestation. According to research carried out by the University of Worcester they found that two in five do not wash there duvets every six months and it was this that could potentially lead to an infestation of over 2000 mites in a single duvet. Treatment for mites isn’t particularly difficult, duvets and bedding should be washed and if necessary a broad residual insecticide can be used and sprayed onto furnishing and carpets. For more information on biting insects such as bed bugs, fleas, mites and spiders visit our pest control homepage
Fred Walker is the author of this article. He owns and manages one of the top three DIY pest control suppliers in the country. This article was produced with help from his colleague Matthew Johnson, whom has over 10 years of professional pest control experience with some of the largest companies in the UK.