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Entomologists - comment on the "black pepper flakes"?

(24 posts)
  1. worrywart1

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Sun Aug 2 2009 15:51:22
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    There's been some recent discussion on here about whether black, loose, peppery-looking flakes/specks that can easily be brushed off the bed are a sign of bedbugs. Some people who are experienced with bedbugs have said no, they never saw that kind of feces with bedbugs. Others have said yes, they had that and after they got rid of bedbugs they didn't have it anymore. I've posted elsewhere about my efforts to find out if I have bedbugs. But as far as signs of feces, this black peppery-looking stuff is all I've seen. I greatly respect and appreciate the experience of people who have been through this. But if there's an actual entomologist reading this, please clarify: would there be some stage of a bedbug's life when they would leave black, peppery-looking stuff on the bed? (I showed this stuff to the PCO tech who checked our bed and he said, "That's nothing," which wasn't very reassuring or convincing, because it was definitely "something" that wasn't there the night before.)

  2. EffeCi

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Sun Aug 2 2009 16:47:02
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    would there be some stage of a bedbug's life when they would leave black, peppery-looking stuff on the bed?

    No... bedbugs leave the same kind of feces in all their stages.... it's something else not BBs related...

  3. spideyjg

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Sun Aug 2 2009 17:46:05
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    BBs poop very liquid feces and will soak into a fabric.

    The PCO shouldn't dismiss your "pepper flakes", although they aren't from BBs., because it may be a clue. Is it possibly some material the fell from the ceiling?

    Somebody a while back was all wigged out on these objects that kept appearing but clearly were not BB related. Turns out they had a blindfold they slept with that had a hole and these little seeds were falling out of it.

    Jim

  4. buggyinsocal

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Sun Aug 2 2009 18:07:49
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    I'm not an entomologist (I think maybe I saw Star Trek XI too many times because I seem to spend a lot of time in posts writing "Well, Jim, I'm just a bedbug sufferer, not a _________, don't i?).

    But as someone who cares about words, I did want to say this.

    All the fecal traces I saw from bed bugs were one of the two types of spots I've described before: the stains that look like a permanent marker with its cap off bled into the fabric or the little tar-colored dots that look like a very dark black, matte version of candy dots.

    However, not everyone is as precise in wording, so I don't want to mislead people. Some of those small black dots were very small. I could see someone thinking of them as looking like ground black pepper flakes.

    The difference in what I saw in my house, what I've read described here over and over by pros and sufferers alike, and what I've seen described in the literature on bed bugs versus the non-bed bug related might look like pepper flakes to someone things is that the bed bug related stuff doesn't blow or brush away easily.

    I'm happy to stand corrected if I've gotten the wording wrong or if people with a large sample size have seen exceptions to that fact.

    In other words, yeah, the fecal matter might be the same color as ground black pepper, but unlike pepper or flea dirt or lots of other things, I didn't have any bed bug fecal matter that could be easily brushed, wiped, blown, or even vacuumed away. It tended to stay put.

    It seems to me that if that's a definite characteristic of fecal matter, which seems to be the general consensus, that that particular detail would be useful information to people who are trying to figure out whether they have an infestation or not.

  5. spideyjg

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Sun Aug 2 2009 18:12:20
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    Flea droppings are hard little black objects. Run a flea comb across a cat you will get fleas and this little black "pepper". Place the "black pepper" onto a damp paper towel, give it time, and watch it turn red.

    Jim

  6. BBcoukHome

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Sun Aug 2 2009 19:46:20
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    Hi Jim,

    Can you do me a favour and have a look at this link.

    http://www.bed-bugs.co.uk/DB2/pepperflecks.pdf

    I am beginning to think that it may be fleas or more accurately a single flea getting in and causing some carnage.

    I saw a unknown case that turned out to be a single flea the other day but was luck enough to catch the flea in mid jump while inspecting the bed. I am working on tweezers to sterilise them in the air but it certainly shocked the client that I moved that quickly. I guess I have been practising the wax on wax off a little too much recently.

    It may be worth putting down a plug in flea trap to see if it uncovers anything.

    I can still say that in all the cases I have seen faecal traces have only ever taken two forms:

    • round, flat and soaked into the surface in the case of wood or porous materials
    • spherical or ball shaped in the case of non porous surfaces such as synthetic material

    I have never seen anything flat in a confirmed case of bed bugs and have only been presented with flat samples on a few occasions.

    David Cain
    Bed Bugs Limited

  7. de-selftreat

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Sun Aug 2 2009 20:48:35
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    I had some small black things on my bed, though larger than pepper flakes, and worried about them for a bit but they turned out to be seeds from a weed growing in my houseplant. It literally sprayed them out all over the room. Do you have plants? It could be that.

  8. spideyjg

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Sun Aug 2 2009 21:45:00
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    The smear reacts like flea dirt (feces).

    I'm on good terms with the neighborhood feral cats and next time at the store I'll get another flea comb and do your tests on the dirt.

    Back when I had my fleas and my old cats the dirt reminded me more of tiny poppy seeds than anything else.

    Jim

  9. Winston O. Buggy

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Mon Aug 3 2009 10:00:45
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    Try rubbing with a damp cotton swab if it turns red it might be blood. Also works for fleas as well. The pepper thing does not sound likely for bbs. Perhaps spilled pepper then?

  10. bait

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Mon Aug 3 2009 13:23:00
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    This may sound silly, but it's true. If you're in professional treatment - and treatment for bed bugs is relatively extreme - all bugs in your residence are going to be under attack. Other bugs may be seeking out your sleep area because it's one of the only places not being doused with chemicals. It stands to reason all bugs will look for shelter in your bed.

  11. spideyjg

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Tue Aug 4 2009 10:14:13
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    Cats cooperated and I bagged the flea comb and boiled it to kill the fleas themselves. Hopefully the boiling didn't afect the dropping from condensation.

    Will harvest the dirt and see what I can do tonight.

    Jim

  12. spideyjg

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Tue Aug 4 2009 23:34:45
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    Flea droppings as Black Pepper flakes.....

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v186/spideyjg/BBs/Fleas017.jpg

  13. Cablekat

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Sat Sep 5 2009 19:22:27
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    My elderly mother got a new comforter made in India about a year and half ago. She kept finding patches of these hard black and brown specs on top of her comforter but nowhere else. They were not on the mattress nor in the bedding. they appeared in the same spot over and over even though she would remove them all. She washed everything in hot water and dried in a hot dryer. Eventually, the numbers decreased and they disappeared. She was never bitten or saw anything move.

    Last week she noticed a large round patch of the same things on top of the pillow she does not sleep on. Over the last week she left them there and the population increased over the week but the size of the spot (like a small dessert plate) remained the same. These spots were also on the back of the mattress but always on the outside cover. Nothing was inside any of the sheets or covers. She found a small group of the same stuff inside a dresser drawer in a far corner.

    We are extremely puzzled what could be making this. They look like small poppy seeds, but some are black, some are dark brown and some are light brown and all the same size. Could this be bedbug excrement. It doesn't match up with the information I have been reading. The fabric itself looks untouched so I have ruled out a fabric eating insect. I am not sure what the fabric is. We live in Southeast Florida so we have very hot and humid weather. Any information would be appreciated.

    Thanks.

  14. respectablefish

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    Posted 5 years ago
    Tue Sep 8 2009 11:25:57
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    Last week 9/1/09 I woke up to 40 bites, all on both the sides of my torso only. For the previous few nights, before bites appeared, I'd wake to lots of peppery stuff in the bed, didn't think much at the time and brushed it off. When I woke the morning with the bites, I immedeitly shook sheets out and laundryed them. So evidence is gone. I did not carefully inspect sheets at the time. Here is my question, if it is bed bugs will there still be evidence of feces on the sheets after a laundry?

    I have slept in my car the past few nights, too afraid of more bites.

  15. bgroovin

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    Posted 4 years ago
    Tue Jan 26 2010 11:57:58
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    I have been finding these droppings on my pillow and in my bed only where my upper body (shoulder , torso) is. They are squishy putty like. I am confused because it's there in the morning and I check back in the day and I find specks. Sometimes I find longer ones like in the picture. I have no bites but tend to feel slightly itchy prickly. Have yet to see any bugs except this on in pic. It's known there are cockroaches in this building but have yet to see one or trap one. I do find coffee type specks throughout apt and on kitchen counter but they keep coming during the day as well, after I clean. Same with the bed.....I clean it in the morning and later there are a few more. I am thinking these droppings are not bed bugs as I have found no blood or droppings anywhere in the mattress or in the rest of my sheets. Same droppings found on the yellow light bulb package and throughout the apt. Please help.

  16. bed-bugscouk

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    Posted 4 years ago
    Tue Jan 26 2010 13:00:38
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    Hi,

    The beetle pictured is a grain beetle of some variety known as a stored product pest, usually found in kitchen cupboards or places they can live of carbohydrates. Unless you are seeing them in significant numbers (more than 20) a good deep cleanse and clean of the area will usually suffice.

    The items lifted in the sellotape look most likely to be dirt and artifacts and are 100% not BB related as are the things on the yellow box.

    I am not sure what is causing the symptoms you are experiencing but from the images it is not likely to be bed bugs. Sometimes allergens can build up and just need a good spring clean.

    Hope it helps.

    David

    In accordance with the AUP and FTC (legal requirements) I openly disclose my vested interest in Passive Monitors as the inventor and patent holder. Since 2009 they have become an integral part in how we resolve bedbug infestations in domestic and commercial settings. The patent numbers are GB2463953 and GB2470307.

    "Astral Entomologist - because so many people say my ideas are out of this world"
  17. jeremat

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    Posted 2 years ago
    Fri May 11 2012 20:14:22
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    I do have a same problem as Cablecat posted above Sat Sep 5 2009 19:22:27
    <here it is>
    I kept finding patches of these hard black and brown specs on top of her comforter but nowhere else. They were not on the mattress nor in the bedding. they appeared in the same spot over and over even though she would remove them all. She washed everything in hot water and dried in a hot dryer. Eventually, the numbers decreased and they disappeared. She was never bitten or saw anything move.

    Last week I noticed a large round patch of the same things on top of the pillow I slept on. Over the last week she left them there and the population increased over the week but the size of the spot (like a small dessert plate) remained the same. These spots were also on the back of the mattress but always on the outside cover. Nothing was inside any of the sheets or covers. She found a small group of the same stuff inside a dresser drawer in a far corner.

    We are extremely puzzled what could be making this. They look like small poppy seeds, but some are black, some are dark brown and some are light brown and all the same size. Could this be bedbug excrement. It doesn't match up with the information I have been reading. The fabric itself looks untouched so I have ruled out a fabric eating insect. I am not sure what the fabric is. Any information would be appreciated.

  18. endless_nightmare

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    Posted 2 years ago
    Fri May 11 2012 22:40:00
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    I'm no expert, but all I know is before I had bedbugs I did not have the pepper flakes which I now have, also I have read posts from others with BB that say that when they finally got rid of their BBs, the flake where gone as well.

    However, I would not use this sign as a telltale sign that you have bedbugs.

    The bedbugs droppings are a little bigger and they stick to your sheet and very ofter you'll see red, rusted dried up small blood stains, those plus the linear bites, plus some cast skins or actual live bbs, are sure signs.

    I also think it is possible perhaps to have fleas and bed bugs at the same time, the pic posted by spidey really looks like what I had at some point.

    Respectable fish, I'd say it depends on how hot you wash your sheets and what sort of material they are made. I have some white sheets where I still see a fainted trace of the smears after repeated washing.

    Andrea
    not a PCO
    Spinal Cord Injury Advocacy/Volunteer
  19. bbsnack

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    Posted 2 years ago
    Fri May 11 2012 22:45:21
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    The black pepper flakes sound to me like what it looks like when I squish a bb. Could the bbs be getting squished where you're seeing these flakes?

  20. washed-out

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    Posted 2 years ago
    Mon Jul 23 2012 20:29:40
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    Brittle black flakes in bed during the night.

    I began looking at bedbugs recently, not as an explanation for the spreading 'bite-like' marks but to try to find out what is leaving quite brittle small black pieces of some material in my bed overnight. I have now started gathering them. There aren't many but they make a dropping sound as I scoop them up into an envelope.
    I really don't want to become neurotic about this but I have had a bad time worrying since the lack of efficacy of the ointments/tablets to clear up the 'fungal infection' on my leg and ankles. I am looking for other explanations. since these marks haven't gone totally away and have been gathering for over 2 years. and spreading. I quite often have the itchy impression of crawling like something parting the hairs on my face etc, when nearly asleep, -particularly.
    I even stopped the dog from sleeping too close to the bed.
    I would be very pleased to hear what is causing these black flakes, which appear in 2 sizes - the size of a fatter version of the apostrophe on the keyboard, and others around half that, close to a full stop.
    They are there in the morning. If I get up early to visit the loo and there is no sign then, there are several and some small ones, in the morning from the middle of the sheet down to the foot end. I tried watering one of the samples but it didn't seem to turn red.
    It really is an unpleasant moment going to bed and waiting and wondering what is lurking somewhere out there, or getting up in the night and studying the sheets for movement/residue. I have had the bed upside down, vacuumed, sprayed disinfectant, and got a new duvet etc.
    Thank you for any comments that will help. It may not be bedbugs but what to do now? What is causing this? Sleeping is a problem.
    I've done the 'washing' etc just in case! In fact I am washed-out.

  21. BBbit bad

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    Posted 11 months ago
    Sat Nov 9 2013 0:10:07
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    spideyjg - 4 years ago  » 
    Flea droppings are hard little black objects. Run a flea comb across a cat you will get fleas and this little black "pepper". Place the "black pepper" onto a damp paper towel, give it time, and watch it turn red.
    Jim

  22. BBbit bad

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    Posted 11 months ago
    Sat Nov 9 2013 0:11:28
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    Curious, spideyjg, why do these black pepper flakes turn red when you put them on a damp paper towel? want to try this, but any thoughts why they turn red?

    curious,
    thanks....

    BB

  23. endless_nightmare

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    Posted 11 months ago
    Sat Nov 9 2013 2:45:55
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    it's blood BBbit, that's why

    you are responding to a year old thread, the mysteries of the black flakes.....

    I don't think it was fully ever solved

    1- could be flea dropping
    2- could be debris from pollution and all sorts of thing
    3- if they brush off they are not from bed bugs

    many posters have reported those, including an extra careful woman (not that long ago), where she was stating that she had clean sheets and clean clothes she go to sleep and nothing was there only to wake up in the morning to black flakes

    it's really weird, several people have reported those

    funny I can see an old post of mine where I still believe that the bed bugs bit in linear fashion, this is of course a myth, I didn't know better at the time

  24. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 11 months ago
    Sat Nov 9 2013 3:07:24
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    Actually, this thread is four years old!

    People have reported these, but that doesn't mean bed bugs caused them. In many cases, people are finding "black pepper flakes" but not bed bugs.

    All we know is the experts tell us this is not bed bug-related, and I have to trust based on their experience that this is true.

    I started and run the site but am "not an expert."

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