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Bat Bugs or Bed Bugs ?

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  1. P Bello

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Tue Jul 2 2013 17:58:33
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    Dear Folks,

    Some learning lessons & teachable moments to share:

    A family of five has apparent bed bugs within their home. Bugs were found in the MBR, Master bath and nine year old son's room.

    The mom, son and younger sister were being bitten. The Dad and MIL reportedly are not being bitten or, perhaps, they are simply not reacting to the bites.

    They had called professional pest services and were informed that they were bat bugs and not bed bugs and that this could only be determined for sure by using a microscope. (Note kids that this second part kinda-sorta raises an eyebrow for yours truly because attaching a really good microscope to an idiot does not necessarily turn that person into a friggin genious but, I digress.)

    Further along we learn that there are both a bird's nest and bats roosting in the attic. So, while I stand by my previous assertion regarding the microscope, we're allowing the latitude, for now, that it actually is bat bugs.

    Informed by her pest pro that they don't do bats or birds, I really luv that, Mom is referred to a company that "specializes" in bat & bird removal services. She is also informed that once the bats are removed that the bat bugs will not be able to breed successfully and will die off eventually so, all will be well. FLASHBACK: Remember the "double secret probation" before the school dean in the movie classic Animal House? You know, where the Delta House Bros were like sneezing and yelling bullshit at the same time? Good, insert that here ! (If you have yet to see that movie, that's your homework !)

    It is not true that bat bugs will simply die off or be unable to reproduce if no bats are present ! These critters will do just fine feeding on substitute hosts such as birds, other animals or humans if need be.

    When removing animal nests where ecto-parasites are suspected it is prudent to implement methodologies which will adequately address such pests such as mites, fleas, bat bugs, etc. in combination or simultaneously with the nest and animal removal work such that the humans do not become the next host of these critters once their nesting animal hosts have been removed. Makes sense right?

    This said, the bat/bird nest removal folks informed this Mom that they only do animals and not bugs. What's problematic is that she also found that she could not schedule for the bug guys to be there at a suitable time the bat/bird nest guys could be there. That just ain't good !

    A full service pest pro company would be able to handle both at once so, Mom was advised to call other service providers.

    Additionally, Mom wanted to know how to treat her large oak desk, her son's desk and other furniture just to be sure there would be no bugs. She was looking to rent a storage unit to use as a "treatment chamber" for pest strips and other products. Of note was that these furniture pieces were currently being stored in the living room to which I just had to ask: What makes you think that if there were bugs in these pieces that they'd just stay there and not crawl around your house?
    (And yes, I tried to ask this as nicely as I possibly could, even without laughing but that was tough.)

    One wonders the how, why & wherefore that people base these decisions on???

    Q: Whether it's bat bugs or bed bugs, is it a great idea to rent a storage unit to use as a de-bugging treatment chamber?

    A: Not so much. There are several reasons why but we don't have time to discuss them today, ok kids, good.

    Q: Should I just throw the furniture out because it could have or has bugs?

    A: Not really. Would you throw out your dog or cat just because it has fleas or would you get it treated to eliminate the fleas?

    Q: Is there a way to successfully treat the furniture in place without having to move it or pay for a storage rental?

    A: Yes there is. In fact, there are many ways to remove/eliminate bugs from your furniture.

    As you may be able to tell, the conversation went on from there and it seemed that we were able to successfully address the issues born of ill informed decisions.

    Mom got very upset, no one wants their toddler being bitten nor learn that they made a mistake which perpetuated the process. It was sad at times but we got Mom to laugh along the way too and the call ended on a positive note.

    I laughed, I cried, I wet my pants but it was worth it knowing that Mom is now on the right track and some of the key lessons learned could be shared with y'all too.

    It's all good, have a great day folks ! paul b.

  2. Louise

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Wed Jul 3 2013 0:06:22
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    Thanks, Paul, for the post.

    May I ask how often you have seen bat bugs successfully reproducing after the bats are removed from the premises?

    I only ask because:

    a.)we didn't actually treat for our bat bugs, but they seem to have disappeared nonetheless; and

    b.) (very anecdotally) I have followed with interest almost every bat bug case on this site since then, and it almost seems as if once the "bat bug diagnosis" has been received, we never hear from those posters again (with possibly one or perhaps two exceptions over the last four years).

    Granted, our bugs were only at our cabin, so we weren't there full-time, but neither did we bring them home with us, in spite of people wearing the same jammies there and then at home, clothes in duffle bags on the floor/under the bed/in drawers etc., and no care being taken to avoid bugs (due to our almost complete ignorance of them prior to finding that first one).

  3. P Bello

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Wed Jul 3 2013 6:54:41
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    Dear Louise,

    That's a good question !

    I'm not sure if hearing from posters again or not can help us determine much. Perhaps their problems are resolved and poof, they're gone.

    Thus far in the cases I've been involved with there are animals present and the people are getting bit as well. However, my tack is to remain conservative on such issues for the benefit of these folks such that they are better protected from bites. As such, I'm not going to discount the possibility that these parasites may be able to get along on alternative hosts. Now, have I observed this as a scientific fact in the field? No, and for very good reason. People that have such problems are looking for elimination of the problem and not for me to conduct a science experiment to see how long their bed bugs will survive and remain viable in the absence of bats.

    I wish I had better answers for you on this subject but my relationship with bugs is a rather simple one: folks get bugs, I eliminate the bugs. However, I won't sleep tonight till I know the definitive answer to this one so, that means I have to call some folks who may know for sure.

    Going forward, when such situations are encountered, perhaps we should ask these folks if they'd be willing to subject themselves to a few weeks or months of ongoing presence of their bat bugs for the betterment of science and to satisfy our BBR Forum based curiosities. Perhaps we could offer like a case of beer or coupons for free starbux mocca chocolatte crappacinos or something.

    Whaduhyathink ?

    Thanks and have a great day ! paul b.

  4. Louise

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Wed Jul 3 2013 8:58:20
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    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the response. I totally understand where you're coming from. Like I said, at this point (at least until I encounter another bat bug), I'm curious about this.

    P Bello - 1 hour ago  » 
    However, I won't sleep tonight till I know the definitive answer to this one so, that means I have to call some folks who may know for sure.

    Please let us know if you find out the definitive answer.

    P Bello - 1 hour ago  » 
    Going forward, when such situations are encountered, perhaps we should ask these folks if they'd be willing to subject themselves to a few weeks or months of ongoing presence of their bat bugs for the betterment of science and to satisfy our BBR Forum based curiosities. Perhaps we could offer like a case of beer or coupons for free starbux mocca chocolatte crappacinos or something.
    Whaduhyathink ?

    Snort! I think if you had suggested that to me in the midst of my bat bug woes, I would have laughed like a maniac before telling you, "Not a chance in the world! Just kill the buggers!!!"

    However, perhaps someone could send some bat bugs to a researcher (and perhaps someone has already done this) for some controlled experimentation. *That* might be more feasible, and rather worthwhile.

    Thanks again, Paul.

  5. P Bello

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Wed Jul 3 2013 11:37:03
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    Dear Louise (note that I'm typing that with my best French accent, as in every little breeze seems to . . . ),

    Yes, that's another good idea. However, and the reality is, most of the research efforts go toward projects with economic incentive, etc. I think if I proposed this one the response would be something like: Bat Bugs? Shmat bugs !

    Have a great day ! pjb

  6. P Bello

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Wed Jul 3 2013 11:37:53
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    However, I wonder if perhaps our good friend Lou might know ???

    pjb

  7. Louise

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Wed Jul 3 2013 14:30:23
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    P Bello - 2 hours ago  » 
    However, I wonder if perhaps our good friend Lou might know ???
    pjb

    Lou came to my mind as well.

  8. loubugs

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Wed Jul 3 2013 15:17:04
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    Let me read through the entire post and come up with something witty.

    Professional entomologist/arachnologist. I consult on all matters dealing with insects and arachnids, including those of natural history and biology to pest management and forensic entomology investigations.
  9. P Bello

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Jul 4 2013 6:31:48
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    Dear Louise,

    (All the little fleas seem to whisper Louise . . . )

    One of ento-researcher friends reminds us that in many cases the bat bugs must wait from season to season for their host bats to return to the roost that they infest. This means that bat bugs are likely capable of withstanding/surviving long periods of time without a host present in a similar fashion as their "cousin" bed bugs do.

    Just another factor that makes these critters difficult to deal with.

    Not impossible, just difficult mind you !

    Enjoy the 4th !

    pjb

  10. Louise

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Jul 4 2013 9:20:40
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    P Bello - 2 hours ago  » 
    One of ento-researcher friends reminds us that in many cases the bat bugs must wait from season to season for their host bats to return to the roost that they infest. This means that bat bugs are likely capable of withstanding/surviving long periods of time without a host present in a similar fashion as their "cousin" bed bugs do.

    Right. But the question remains: what happens to those little critters once the bats are excluded from the building and they need to seek out an alternate host or starve? Can they reproduce on non-bat blood, or do they simply die out?

    Our bat bugs seemed to disappear. Why?

    P Bello - 2 hours ago  » 
    Enjoy the 4th !

    I'm in Canada, so we enjoyed the 1st!

  11. P Bello

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Jul 4 2013 13:54:34
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    Hmmm, in Canadia you say, eh ?

    OK, I'll type s l o w e r ! Ha ha ha, only kidding, I have to deal with my Canadian hockey guys in the league all the time. Some of them have played too many games without a helmet, eh ?

    Well, since your sample size is a total of one; there's that.

    The mountain house I visited had the bats excluded, the people were being bitten yet they had various stages of bat bugs present; so, there's that.

    My research colleague stated that he thought they'd do just fine on other hosts so, there's that.

    However, NONE of the above is confirmed and scientifically verifiable.

    As such, your question, at least in my mind, remains unanswered to my and your satisfaction thus far.

    However, I am going to check my reference books now too. Remember, none of would want to use a heart surgeon with no books on the shelf right ?

    Hope this helps ! paul b.

  12. P Bello

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Jul 4 2013 14:12:09
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    Dear Louise,

    OK, I've checked both Mallis (8th ed) and Truman's (7th ed) reference books. Both indicate that humans are suitable hosts for bat bugs.

    We might assume that this means that bat bugs will do quite nicely on humans, birds, poultry and other animals. However, this question is not directly addressed.

    However, we do see that there are large bed bug infestations found in poultry houses. So, if their closely related cousins can do so well on alternative hosts, it seems reasonable to assert that the bat bug could thrive on human hosts.

    But, and this is a huge butt, (tee he, sorry, I can't help myself) the specific topic is not addressed in these references.

    The search continues ! pjb

  13. Louise

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Jul 4 2013 16:38:36
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    P Bello - 2 hours ago  » 
    Hmmm, in Canadia you say, eh ?
    OK, I'll type s l o w e r ! Ha ha ha, only kidding, I have to deal with my Canadian hockey guys in the league all the time. Some of them have played too many games without a helmet, eh ?

    P Bello - 2 hours ago  » 
    Well, since your sample size is a total of one; there's that.

    True, that.

    P Bello - 2 hours ago  » 
    The mountain house I visited had the bats excluded, the people were being bitten yet they had various stages of bat bugs present; so, there's that.
    My research colleague stated that he thought they'd do just fine on other hosts so, there's that.
    However, NONE of the above is confirmed and scientifically verifiable.
    As such, your question, at least in my mind, remains unanswered to my and your satisfaction thus far.

    It's a question worthy of researching, I think.

    As is the idea that bat bugs + bed bugs = no bugs (due to their offspring being sterile). Not sure where I read about that...

    P Bello - 2 hours ago  » 
    However, I am going to check my reference books now too. Remember, none of would want to use a heart surgeon with no books on the shelf right ?
    Hope this helps ! paul b.

    You're always helpful, Paul.

    Hey! I should mention that I was at my parents flipping through some "How to get rid of household pests" book, and I started reading the bed bug section with a certain amount of trepidation (since the information on bed bugs has such a propensity to be, well, just wrong). Imagine my surprise when this article is just CHOCK FULL of accurate info! Sure enough, when I arrived at the end of the multi-page article, who is thanked for contributing so extensively to that information? None other than Paul J. Bello! Good job!

    Anyways, I will perhaps never solve the mystery of why our bat bugs did not persist. Perhaps we just happened to find them all or seal the remainder out of our living space. Who knows? I sure don't.

  14. P Bello

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Jul 4 2013 22:32:20
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    Really? What nook was that ???

    I'm not 100% certain that bed bugs and bat bugs would mate and produce viable offspring, sterile, two headed or otherwise. Methinks not !

    And the search continues . . . pjb

  15. Louise

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Jul 4 2013 22:40:32
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    P Bello - 7 minutes ago  » 
    Really? What nook was that ???
    I'm not 100% certain that bed bugs and bat bugs would mate and produce viable offspring, sterile, two headed or otherwise. Methinks not !

    Snort! I have no idea, truly. Perhaps I dreamed it. (Lord knows, I've had enough bed bugs and bat bugs in my dreams over the last four years!)

    I believe the idea of sterile offspring was more speculative than research-based, though, if that helps.

  16. P Bello

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Jul 4 2013 22:47:38
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    A while back, about three years ago, I did contribute/give permission for and industry colleague Ralph Maestre of Magic Extg in Queens, NY to use my article "Over 101 Things to Know About Bed Bugs" in his bed bug book.

    It's a paperback book of about 5 inches wide by about 8 inches tall in size. I can't remember the title right now.

    Anyways, that article has grown to be "Over 220 Things . . . " currently and still growing.

    pjb

  17. MarriedinCA

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Fri Jul 5 2013 0:48:22
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    are bat bugs bigger than bed bugs? I was at my parents house today for 4th of july, and outside of their house, on the screen door to the basement (which totally empty, no one is ever down there at all) was something that looked like a HUGE bed bug. It looked exactly like a bed bug, my husband agreed, but it was at least two or three times as big as any other bed bug we've ever seen. Plus it was just chilling on the outside of the screen door, wasn't on the move or anything, which seems like strange behavior. I'm no stranger to bed bugs, it looked e-x-a-c-t-l-y like a bed bug, I was really freaked out that it was right by my parents house and was so big though! I can start my own thread on this if it would help!

  18. P Bello

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Fri Jul 5 2013 7:29:08
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    Dear marriedCA,

    Hmmm . . .

    CA you say . . .

    Where were you in CA?

    Would you recognize this bug if you saw it again Mam?

    Did it walk with a limp? Any distinguishing marks or mannerisms? Age? Height? Weight?

    Was your sighting of this huge bed bug preceded by a flash in the sky or a nuclear event? Perhaps down by the power plant?

    You know, it's not like we can visualize the exact image from your description alone here. For example:

    "Yeah, I seen the guy. He was a tall thin blond guy kinda overweight with dark hair but rather portly short and bald kinda guy. Yeah that's him. He was in that movie, you know the one. it was uh Hangover the River Kwai. Yeah, it was one of those new older type movies. Yeah, that's the guy."

    OK, all kidding aside here, what you MAY have seen could have been a stink bug. They are kinda-sorta shaped like a bed bug only not really. However, they are hemiptera which are like "distant cousins" to the bed bug.

    Note that bed bugs and bat bugs are so close in appearance and size that it can be difficult to tell them apart.

    And no, we do not know of any "giant sized" bed bugs yet but, wait, what was that?

    There was this huge flash in the sky, I think it came from the direction of the GA Power Nuclear Plant. Hold on a minute ........................................

    ...................................................................................................

    ...................................... I'm sorry, the number you have reached is not in service .................................................

    ...................................... I'm sorry, the number you have reached is not in service .................................................

    ...................................... I'm sorry, the number you have reached is not in service .................................................

    ...................................... I'm sorry, the number you have reached is not in service .................................................

    And that's when the phone went dead I tell ya sarge, it just went dead. It just don't figure sarge not with that guy, it's like he just disappeared up there.

    OK officer, have your report on my desk in the morning, but take a patrol car and get up to the lake to see what's going on up there. But be careful and don't go alone, take Kravitts with you. Something smells fishy to me . . .

    (que eerie fifties sci-fi movie sound track here)

    To be continued .....

    Next time post a photo or my imagination could run wild again and have a nice day ! paul b.

  19. MarriedinCA

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sat Jul 6 2013 2:28:29
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    I actually don't live in CA anymore. A simple statement that you couldn't say without seeing it would have sufficed. I've gotten a lot of help here in the past when we had an infestation a while ago, guess maybe now I'm barking up the wrong tree if I'm just going to get a lot of snark for asking a simple question.

  20. P Bello

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sat Jul 6 2013 8:36:57
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    Dear married(not in)CA,

    Hey, sorry to have offended you, not my intention at all ! Just my poor attempt at humor there, I'm entertaining myself here too ya know.

    I am a self confessed smart ass, I'm dealing with it as best I can but the therapy doesn't seem to be working all the time. Perhaps you'll forgive me?

    From what you described I think it could have been a stink bug but, a photo would be good to know for sure.

    Hope this helps and that we're now OK ! paul b.

  21. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sun Jul 7 2013 0:01:46
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    MarriedinCA,

    As far as I understand it, a bat bug should NOT be 2-3 times the size of an adult bed bug. (Though if the only bed bugs you'd seen had been smaller nymphs, and the bat bug was fully grown, then this might be the source of confusion.)

    There's a photo comparing a bat bug and bed bug here:
    http://pestcontrol.basf.us/reference/pm-bulletins/volume-12---bed-bugs.pdf

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

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