Identifying bed bugs: a pest identification service may help

by nobugsonme on January 25, 2010 · 4 comments

in bed bugs

Are you sure you have bed bugs?  Lots of people find a suspicious bug, and need to know (asap) what they’re dealing with.

Some people are able to visit a local entomologist or university extension service, and others will ask a local pest firm to identify their bug.

And some people even put their samples in an envelope and send them away to a pest identification service.

The New Yorker has a new article on Carolyn Klass, who is just retiring from her position as Cornell University’s diagnostician for insect pests, after 38 years.  (Note: she says she did not see any bed bugs for the first twenty years.)

Meribah Knight visited Klass’s office:

On her left was a pile of letters from potential infestees. Some were panicky: “[Found] a few weeks ago, not sure. Would like to know if they are bedbugs. I was seen in the E.R. approx. three weeks [ago], and was told I had insect reaction on my calfs.”

Klass’s conclusion: Bedbugs negative.

Some were breezy: “Woke up to see this bug; crushed it and blood stained the white quilt. Looked for more bugs but did not find any. I placed the squished insect in Clinique Clarifying Lotion 2 with alcohol.”

Bedbugs positive.

Some were in denial: “I think it might be a tick.”

Bedbugs positive.

Scrawled on the envelope of one specimen were the words “Red Bug.” Klass peered into her microscope. “Red bug—well, it is a red bug, but it’s a red bedbug,” she said. The bug was crushed. “My guess is it went through the postage meter.”

It’s a service which cost $25, but as the article notes was an unbiased one — unlike pest management firms, who can turn a positive pest identification into business.

And now the future of the service is unknown: according to the article, Klass has not been replaced.  The department’s website says the office is closed through mid-February (which sounds promising).

Rutgers offers a pest identification service, but charges $40 in-state or a whopping $95 out-of-state.  Harvard charges $20.

Pest pros and even some experienced bedbuggers who frequent the Bedbugger forums will generally be able to identify a clear, close-up photo of a domestic pest.

If you can’t post a photo and don’t want to pay the above fees, make sure you get good advice: if there isn’t a local university extension or entomology department, consider taking your pest sample to a reputable pest control firm — one which is well-known  and cares more about its reputation than selling you an unnecessary service.

1 Strabat April 25, 2010 at 6:25 pm

One more resource for id.

2 nobugsonme April 25, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Thanks, Strabat! I looked all over the website. It was clear they were doing identifications in person for Cal Day (4/17).

Did you find any information on getting a bug identified either by dropping in or by mail? If so, please post the link. I could not find this. Thanks again!

3 Strabat April 26, 2010 at 5:06 pm

The folks there would have to answer one. I found the research being done using time-lapse cameras to track the spatial distribution of bed bugs in response to environmental stimulation of interest.

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