How to Identify Common Bug Bites

I often receive phone calls from people truly distressed by itches, who say, “bugs are biting me.”  Most of the time the callers are correct and they are suffering from insects we can take care of:  bed bugs, fleas, or bird mites. If itching isn’t caused by any of these household pests, and mosquitoes are not suspected, then the problem might be scabies or lice.

Identifying Bug Bites

Bedbug BitesBed bug bites often appear as red itchy welts in groups of three. Bites will be located in the areas of the body most easily accessed in a sleeping person: neck, arms and legs, the sides of the back. Some people have extreme reactions to bed bug bites and may experience very large welts. Thirty-percent of people do not react to bed bug bites at all.

Flea bites typically result in very small raised, itchy welts below the knee. In a residence with a high flea infestation, bites may be encountered on any part of the body, but still mostly confined to areas of exposed skin.

Bird mite bites usually appear as multiple small (pin-point sized) red lesions on the extremities. Bird mite bites may cause intense itching and irritation even when there is no visible sign of a bite.

Bed bugs, fleas, and bird mites can be exterminated by a pest control company.

Human itch mites (scabies) burrow into the skin, often between the fingers, or the bend of elbows, knees, and groin. This is considered a medical problem and is easily diagnosed and treated by a doctor.

Bites of a head lice

Head lice cause itching to the scalp and neck. The diagnosis of head lice infestation is best made by finding a live nymph or adult louse on the scalp or hair of a person. A fine-toothed louse comb is a very helpful tool for finding lice or louse eggs. Head lice respond to home treatment.

Now and then, however, a caller will suffer from an invisible itch—an itch caused by something we can’t see. While there are only half a dozen insect species likely to cause itchy bites, there are hundreds of household products, environment factors, and health-related conditions that can make you itch.  An excellent list of these itch triggers is found in “Invisible Itches: Insect and Non-Insect Causes,” from the University of Kentucky.

Itching is real and causes real distress. We hate telling someone we can’t find evidence of bugs. With a bug infestation there is a clear protocol for control, and for itch relief. When confounded by itching without a known source, consider non-insect causes.

Pest Control Links Round-Up: Fourth Of July Edition

Pest Control Links Round-Up: Fourth Of July Edition


FireworksFour Top Pests For The Fourth Of July

Mosquitoes, ants, stinging pests and flies can interrupt our parades, flags, cookouts and fireworks as we celebrate the Fourth of July and our country’s 237th birthday. More…

Managing Bees & Wasps

Bees and wasp’s love of man-made structures and food sources bring them into contact with people during July 4th activities; creating the opportunity for a painful sting. More…

Declare Your Independence From Pests This July 4th

Are you currently being oppressed by a nasty regime of pests; much like the colonists were back in 1776? If so, it’s time to declare your independence from these malevolent pests. More…

Keep Pesky Fleas At Bay This Summer

The last thing you want to be doing this summer is battling fleas. Here are some great tips from Hopper Environmental Services. More…

West Nile Virus Activity Increases Throughout Sacramento & Yolo Counties– Protect Yourself This Fourth Of July Holiday

The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control District announced that more evidence of West Nile virus activity has been detected in widespread areas throughout Sacramento and Yolo counties as 24 mosquito samples and 3 birds tested positive for the disease today. More…


Pest Of The Week: The Jumping Spider


Jumping Spider Eating CricketJumping spiders are one of the easiest spiders to identify because of their four pairs or eyes arranged in three different rows, their erratic rapid movements, and their ability to jump. Jumping spiders also have unbelievable speed, which is accomplished by a well-developed internal hydraulic system; which extends their limbs by altering the pressure of body fluid. This hydraulic system enables jumping spiders to jump almost forty times the length of their own body.

Jumping spiders are also very unique, in that they do not rely on their webs to catch their meals. These spiders actually stalk and hunt their prey much like a jungle cat does. Their incredible speed and eyesight makes these spiders natural born killers of insects. While jumping spiders do possess venom that can paralyze its prey, they are not considered to be dangerous to humans. Excessive numbers of these spiders found inside your home may require professional spider control.



Pest Control News: Weekly Links Round-Up

Pest Control News: Weekly Links Round-Up


Green Lacewing
Green Lacewing

What is that little red bug? Is it a spider? An Ant?

If you have little red bugs all over your side walk, or on the side of your house, you could possibly have Clover Mites. More…

A Different Approach to Pest Control

Smart pest control begins with prevention. There are a lot of ways you can make small changes to your home that will help keep pests out. More…

Masonry Bees

Here is some information from Graham Pest Control about Masonry bees; including appearance, biology, and importance. More…

How to Keep Cicada Killers or Digger Wasps Away

Here’s a great video on digger wasps of Cicada killers that includes the best ways to prevent them. More…

How Did I Get Fleas And What Can I Do So I Don’t Get Them Again?

The most common way you get fleas is from stray cats and opossums. As they run through your yard, they drop off fleas and flea eggs. Then while spending time in your yard the fleas jump on you or your pet, and are unwittingly brought into your home. More…

Brown Recluse Infestation: Extreme Spiders Require Extreme Measures

Brown recluse spider bites are well documented to be very horrific. There are treatment methods that exterminate these dangerous spiders. They include: direct contact treatment, exterior treatments, crack and void treatments, and spot treatments. More…

Pest Of The Week: The Green Lacewing


Green Lacewing
Green Lacewing

This week’s pest of the week is not actually a pest at all, but a very beneficial insect. The green lacewing is an all natural exterminator that feeds on garden pests like mites, aphids, and lace bugs; exterminating as many as 100 a week. In addition, these beautiful flying insects also feed on plant nectar, pollen, and honeydew. Gardeners prefer green lacewings because they offer a safe, non-chemical alternative for naturally controlling garden and plant pests.

Green lacewings are usually bright green to greenish-brown in color, with compound eyes that are noticeably golden in most species. The wings of the green lacewing are translucent, with a slight iridescence. Some may have green wing veins, or a cloudy brownish wing pattern. These insects are also nocturnal; extremely active at night.


Do Fleas Bite People?

Flea Under MicroscopeI was driving my daughter home from dance class the other day when we passed a dread-locked transient waiting at a bus stop. As we were waiting for the stoplight to turn green, we watched as this destitute looking individual furiously scratched the back of his neck.

My daughter asked, “what’s wrong with him daddy?”

I jokingly responded, “Maybe he has fleas… Just like our cat Cosmo did that one time.”

While my snide comment to my daughter was tongue-in-cheek, more of a reflection of the hippie’s appearance, it did get me thinking:

“Can people catch fleas just like a common house cat?”

“If so, can those fleas be spread to the other people on the bus that this guy was about to board?”

Do Fleas Bite People?


Technically, Fleas Don’t Bite

First off, it’s important to note, that technically fleas do not bite. The mouth parts of fleas are tube like, adopted for piercing skin and sucking blood—Kind of like a mosquito. There is no easy or familiar colloquial term that describes flea or mosquito feeding as “stabbing” or “piercing,” so we just use the term bite.

Do Fleas Bite People?

The short answer is yes. Any mammal is a food source. Most types of fleas, with the exception of the human flea (Pulex irritans) prefer the taste of animal blood over human blood. Even then, human fleas will still dine on multiple species of animals from monkey to chicken; and they are extremely rare in North America.

The most common domestic flea pest is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). The cat flea is the predominant flea on both dogs and cats, and readily bites humans in the home. Most flea species have a preferred host, but will bite and feed any mammal if they are hungry enough. If there are no pets around for a flea to dine on, then a human may be their only option for a blood meal.

Can People Catch Fleas?

Can people catch fleas like a common house cat can? Another short answer here… Yes! Just like pet fleas enjoy animal hair, they enjoy human hair as well. Hair provides warmth, comfort, food, and protection for the flea. The good news is that fleas can be washed out of hair with a warm shower, and a little extra shampoo. Sometimes, more extensive measures are needed to completely solve the problem.

How Fleas Are Spread

Fleas are most commonly spread from your pets. While cats and dogs are primarily the hosts, fleas will also feed on rats, mice, chickens, rabbits, etc. When a pet owner is treating a flea infestation, the fleas may jump onto someone/something else to avoid the treatment or pesticide.

When it comes to people being bitten by fleas, one of the most common scenarios that us pest control professionals hear about is when the victim moves into an apartment or house that had once had a pet with a flea infestation; and where the pet is now gone. Like I mentioned before, if there are no pets around for a flea to dine on, then a human may be their only option for a blood meal. The new tenants are now the flea’s new meal source.

In general, fleas will not spread as frequently or easily as a bedbug. If you were to share a bus or a bed with an animal or even a person that has fleas; you can catch them too. Nothing a little hygiene (shower) can’t fix though. Remember, fleas prefer animal blood to human blood.


Flea Bite Warning Signs & Symptoms

Flea bite reactions vary in humans from very extreme to totally non-existent, depending on immune reaction to the flea’s saliva. Most people will not notice the actual flea bite. This is because fleas inject a natural numbing agent into a victim’s skin when they bite.

Flea bite on the waist of a human with no reaction
Flea bite on the waist of a human with no reaction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Most people that are bitten by fleas will experience small red bumps that rise above the skin—Kind of like a mosquito bite. Just like mosquito bites, these red bumps will itch. If a victim’s skin is sensitive, these bites can quickly turn into a rash. If a flea bite victim has insect allergies, they may experience addition swelling, tingling, numbness, and difficulty breathing. In such cases, medical attention is a must.

Diseases Spread By Fleas

Pet fleas rarely carry dangerous diseases, but they can spread bacteria that will make you very sick. One disease that has been transmitted by fleas is endemic typhus (Rickettsia typhi). Human infection occurs because of flea-fecal contamination of the bites on human skin. This infection is commonly treated with antibiotics. Symptoms of endemic typhus include headache, fever, muscle pain, joint pain, nausea and vomiting. Additionally, 40–50% of patients will develop a discrete rash six days after the onset of signs. Up to 45% of victims will develop neurological signs such as confusion, stupor, seizures or imbalance.

Tapeworm proglottids
Tapeworm (Photo credit: Nathan Reading)


Fleas can also cause tapeworms. People don’t get tapeworms from the actual flea bite; they have to eat the fleas themselves to get infected with tapeworms. This isn’t an appetizing thought, but someone has to actually eat an infected flea.


In Conclusion

After doing a little research I can now answer the question that my daughter inspired: “Do Fleas Bite People?”

  • Yes, that dread-locked transient that we saw boarding the bus may have fleas.
  • Yes, those fleas can spread to others.
  • Yes, those fleas can feed on his blood.
  • Those fleas can cause disease or tapeworms, although it’s rare.
  • If he does have fleas, a hot shower will go a long way in solving the problem.