Before you look at Lou’s bite photos or read his description of them, I have to clarify, for those “newbites” who are unaware, that Lou Sorkin (American Museum of Natural History entomologist) keeps a bed bug colony so he can do research on them. Bed bug newsreels commonly feature one of a number of US entomologists feeding a lone bug. The idea that people do this voluntarily is surprising to people with bed bugs, but we are so lucky they do– because without more bed bug research, the future would be very bleak indeed.
I am adding these to the bite photos page, though they’re slightly unusual: they depict what happens when Lou feeds hundreds of bed bugs in one spot on his arm. Your bed bug bites won’t look like this.
However, I think Lou must be a lot less allergic to bed bugs than many of us to be able to withstand such a concentrated assault. We know that some Bedbuggers react quite badly (though not like this by any means) to even single bites, and hundreds in one spot could be quite harmful. At least one active member of our blog was rushed to the emergency room. Serious allergic reactions are rare, but the bed bug bite reaction is a histamine reaction to the substance the bed bug injects during feeding. Your level of allergic reaction may be worse or better than someone else’s. It might be worse or better depending on the size of the bug. It might be worse or better one day, or another. The truth is we don’t know enough about bed bug bites, yet.
The captions below each photo are what Lou added to the descriptions over at flickr.com.
My arm after feeding a few minutes by the hundreds of bed bugs in the colony. Note individual welts when compared to other pictures in which the individual welts have coalesced into a large welt. After about 10 minutes of feeding, you cannot readily discern individual welts from individual bites.
About 10 minutes after having fed hundreds of bed bugs through the 1/3 mm mesh cover of colony container which is inverted on my arm during feeding. Since many crawl over one another during feeding frenzy, they produce the characteristic bed bug odor similar to a mixture of cilantro and citronella.
10 minutes after feeding colony of bed bugs. Hundreds feed through 1/3 mm mesh holes at one time. Inflammatory reaction, but no itching to speak of. I experience a slight itchy feeling during feeding, but hundreds feeding at one time. When finished, they leave and others take their place.
About 1 day after having fed bed bug colony. Note that swelling is appreciably down and pink diffuses out from central area. Bright red in area where feeding occured. This leaves in about a day, 2 days and skin back to normal level, just slightly darker than normal coloring for a week or so. Also not much itching to speak of: lucky for me. The itchiness can definitely vary from person to person.
I will link to this from the bite photos page, but I won’t put it all there, because Lou’s situation is a bit unusual and these bites aren’t really what most people should be looking for when they’re trying to diagnose their problem.