Editor’s note from Nobugsonme: As promised, the much-anticipated third part of S’s and G’s Bitefest 2007. You can click on any of the photos to open the photo on flickr.com, then click “all sizes” to see it at its largest. If you missed part one, it’s here. Part two is here. We promise to keep you posted as these bites develop.
By 3 pm on the second day, the two bites were fully swelled and majorly itchy.
Waaaaaay itchier than the “bites” I’ve been feeling for the past two months. This is definitely making me doubt myself, in the weirdest way – was it all a joke? It’s hard to pin down exactly when my “really itchy” bites stopped and my “less itchy” bites began, but it was probably at least two months ago. Were the past two months all “phantom bites?”
I don’t know the answer to this. For example, there was one time back in January when I saw a nymph run across my hand. I looked down because I felt a hot itch on my knuckle, and then I saw the bed bug. So I’d say that was a “confirmed bite.” That bite itched, for sure, but not like these. It swelled up for about two days, and then it faded to a small pink non-itchy bump on my knuckle.
Perhaps that bug was interrupted halfway through its bite, and that’s why the bite never got huge. Or perhaps different locations on the body elicit different bite responses. Last year, when we first had bed bugs (for about two weeks in April 06) I had bites all up the inside of my arm, in similar locations to these new test bites. And those were just as big and itchy as these. So maybe the inside of your forearm is just a particularly sensitive, reactive location, and your knuckle, not so much.
Either way, these bites are raging. They itch all day and night. There is definitely a difference. I know you guys know. It’s the kind of itch where you want to chew your own arm off.
By 11 am on the third day, I’d say the adult bite is slightly larger.
But the nymph bite is still far larger than any of my recent “bites.” All the skin around the adult bite is pink, in like a 2-inch circle. They are both swelled like crazy, and they both itch like mad. It makes me wonder, does the bites’ proximity to each other make a difference? I am not about to go back for another Bite Fest, but the new questions I’d love to answer are:
1. Does the length of time the bug takes, make a difference? What if it only feeds for say, 5 or 10 seconds?
2. Does the location on the body make a difference?
3. Does bites’ proximity to each other make a difference?
I know this sounds like a long shot, but the only way I could see that I’m still getting actual, new bites, is if bed bugs (adult or nymph) are biting me for like five seconds, on “tough” parts of my body, and not near each other. I guess they could be biting me for five seconds while I sit on the couch, but I don’t feel like my face and neck are “tougher” than my inner arm.
And still, zero reaction to the cast skin. I’m continuing to monitor that arm as well as the rest of my body. So far, incidentally, nothing on the rest of my body either.
So my initial conclusion is that while I’m NOT hypersensitive to chitin, I’m also NOT currently being bit by bedbugs. What is my skin doing? I have no freaking idea. But hey. As long as it’s not new bed bugs, I’m fine.
Last night, for the first time in four months, I experienced a brief moment – maybe ten seconds – where I actually accepted that this might be over. I was putting my bag into a ziploc as I came in the door, and I pictured not doing that. The feeling went away, sadly, almost right away! But this feeling rushed over me that for the first time, I actually believed that this might indeed be over.
These are the marks S has gotten on her skin for the last 2-3 months before Bitefest began. She now thinks they were “bites” (in our parlance here at bedbugger.com, “bites” are marks someone is not sure are actual bites from bed bugs).
I actually started composing S a long email on Wednesday, posing just some of those questions she notes above. And I did not send it–deciding to wait and comment after the last installment. While I hope very much that S is bed bug-free, I do want us to be skeptical about the conclusions that can be drawn from this limited experiment.
What I think S and G proved was this:
(a) G can be bitten and not react (at least for three days), and
(b) S reacts the same to nymph and adult bites (at least on her arm), and
(c) Nymph bites and adult bites, at least sometimes, look the same.
I know my conclusions will seem stingy to many, but if we want solid information, we need more research to be done.
Remember, S said a few weeks ago she wants to keep people from getting caught up in “groupthink,” the sharing of incorrect information among members of a group until everyone believes it? One fact that was becoming gospel among many bed bug sufferers around the internet was that nymph bites are small and adult bites are large. I was always skeptical of this idea, since we just did not have any proof. I am immensely grateful that S tested and shattered that belief. Doesn’t mean they can’t be different sizes in different circumstances, mind you, but on S’s arm, this week, they were not. That’s quite a nugget of information.
As S says above, “…perhaps different locations on the body elicit different bite responses.” In my own experience, I know this to be true. I have not undergone testing, but I am fairly certain. Bites on my face always looked the same: less swollen, looking like pimples but with a distinct bedbuggy itchiness that set them apart. Nevertheless, they never itched like bites on my back, shoulders, or elsewhere. They often faded quickly. Those on my toes were always tiny, but again, characteristically itchy.
It’s possible that length of time you were bitten may matter, that distance between bites may matter (both possibilities S also posits), that even variables such as your own immune system, the degree of histamine reaction at that time or to that bug’s saliva, even how dry your skin is, or how much water you drank in the day, all of this may be a variable. I am sure there are other factors that are possible. My point is, we don’t know: this is the tip of the iceberg.
I think S is probably bed bug free as she suggests. I just don’t think she can rule out that the other marks in the composite photo were from bed bugs. Both possibilities can co-exist at the same time, in the form of bed bugs who just hadn’t crossed the poison yet when they bit her–they could now be dead, though they bit her. That’s my hypothesis, but we won’t get to test it. Let’s hope all S’s and G’s only future bed bug bites, if any, are by choice– “from a can,” if you will.
Thanks again to S. and G for sharing this amazing experience, and for the nugget of wisdom we’ve gotten from it.
Thanks also to our readers, for coming back to parts two and three!