Got Bed Bugs? Bedbugger Forums » Detection / Identification of bed bugs

Yet . . . Another. . . Mistaken Identity

(6 posts)
  1. AbsolutelyFreaking

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    Posted 4 years ago
    Wed Jun 24 2015 18:02:45
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    Due to technical/computer difficulties, I am posting the below photographs at the request of Paul Bello . . . whom I believe will be along shortly to comment on his photographs:

    Bug ID 06 24 15 Beetle by picture account2012, on Flickr

    06 24 15 Bug ID Peggy Beetle by picture account2012, on Flickr

  2. P Bello

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    Posted 4 years ago
    Wed Jun 24 2015 18:20:46
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    Mistaken Bug Identity !

    (Thanks to our pal abs for posting these photos !)

    Nearly every day, including weekends, I get a call, text or e-mail from a person who thinks that they may have bed bugs. These calls come from people who have yet to have bed bugs as well as those who actually have had bed bugs and are somewhere in the process of eliminating them .

    As you might guess, some of these folks will send me their bug samples for ID and confirmation of their bed bug problem. Thankfully for many of these folks, what they send is not a bed bug.
    Now, while a pest pro is likely capable of looking at such a critter and knowing immediately that it's not a bed bug, the same cannot be said of the average layperson who has, pretty much, zero entomological and/or pest management training & experience.

    As an example, below are two photos of a sample received earlier today. I must admit that in the process of opening/unwrapping this critter for microscopic examination that it did look as if it "could be" a bed bug when viewed "through" the zip lock bag and tissue paper. As such, my immediate thoughts upon seeing this critter included: Yikes, a bed bug !

    Take a look at the photo with the dime and, from a distance, we can possibly see and understand how a "regular person" might think it's a bed bug. It's small, approximately the right color and approximately the right shape in their eyes.

    However, if we look really close and, we know what we're looking for, we can see right away that this critter is a Coleoptera (Beetle) and NOT a bed bug.

    These cases of mistaken identity and resulting panic likely happen more often than we might think. In fact, just 48 hours earlier a gentleman sent me photos of what was likely a willow beetle ( a diminutive shiny black beetle) which he plucked from his neck thinking that it bit him so, it must be a bed bug.

    Sure these various tiny critters "could look like a bed bug" to a lay person but we need to look more carefully before we initiate the countdown and bed bug panic mode launch sequence.

    What I'm suggesting here is that we use even a modest magnifier which would help us (and by "us" I mean you) to see the specimen in question better such that we can determine for ourselves that it's probably not or probably is a bed bug.

    Recently when working in NY I saw 10x to 30x magnifiers available for under $10. Are they "pro quality" type lenses? No but they'd do for the average lay person.

    (Note that the close up photo was taken using a plugable USB 2.0 digital microscope.)

    Hope this helps ! pjb

  3. loubugs

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    Posted 4 years ago
    Thu Jun 25 2015 5:18:17
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    Recently when working in NY I saw 10x to 30x magnifiers available for under $10. Are they "pro quality" type lenses? No but they'd do for the average lay person.
    Actually cheaper to buy online for less than half that price. Some interesting ones even have small LEDs added for light. I usually buy a few hundred at a time and give them out to people if they seem very interesting in using them.
    I get lots of photos and samples sent over for ID and just yesterday one sample of a bed bug was brought in and because of its shape, size and quick crawling behavior, looked very much like a black carpet beetle while in the plastic bag. The magnifier helped there. I always have one in my pocket.

    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.
  4. P Bello

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    Posted 4 years ago
    Thu Jun 25 2015 8:05:32
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    See folks, even a top notch bug I-D er guy like Lou uses a magnifier thingamajig doohickey type thing !

    Now, let's handle a different but related question:

    Are these ants, beetles and "non-bed bugs" capable of biting humans and/or do they in fact bite?

    Firstly, let's understand that, similar to mosquitoes, bed bugs have piercing sucking mouth parts that they insert, or pierce our skin with, and take their blood meal.

    Different types of insects may have different types of mouth parts: some have chewing(ex beetles, ants, termites & others), some have sponging (flies), some have siphoning (butterflies), some have piercing sucking (bed bugs, mosquitoes, fleas), some have rasping (certain flies) and, believe it or not, some have no mouth parts at all (these critters have a very short life span). Additionally, some have huge jaws (well, "huge" for a bug sized critter that is) such as ants, stag beetles and others, some have a long snout (weevils). In short, there exists great morphological diversification within "the bug world" which makes it kinda-sorta cool.

    Now, there is another morphological factor which must be considered opposite these insects in regard to bites, biting symptoms and suspect bites. This factor includes the spines, vibriscae and hairs which are present on the the surface of the insect as well as their exoskeleton or hardened shell as well. You see, these spines, hairs and shell edges could be or may be perceived as "a bite" under certain conditions by anyone. It is reasonable to consider how getting "stuck" by a sharp spine on an American cockroach leg, for example, might "feel like" an insect bite but, it's not.

    Truthfully, a large ant with powerful mandibles is capable of "biting" but this bite would be akin to being pinched with a tweezers and NOT a blood drawing bite from a bed bug.

    Yes, spiders can occasionally bite humans and some of their bites can cause significant injury but these are not similar to bed bug bites.

    Remember, as mentioned above, that insect bodies are covered by chitin which is a hard shell. And, if you feel such a bug crawling on your skin and swat it, the shell itself might "feel like a bite" but it isn't.

    The bottom line here is that we need to be more careful when we're attempting to identify an insect or other tiny critter as a bed bug. And, while it is unreasonable to expect that everyone will be able to correctly identify every arthropod they encounter, here we ONLY need to know what a bed bug looks like such that with suitable magnification and/or vision we can tell that the critter we found is or is NOT an actual bed bug or Cimicidae (that's the "family name" for bed bugs and their close relative species).

    So, go get you a magnifier from the dollar store. OR, go find Lou and he'll give you one . . .

    Hope this helps, have a great bug free day ! ! ! pjb

  5. loubugs

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    Posted 4 years ago
    Thu Jun 25 2015 13:03:30
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    Truthfully, a large ant with powerful mandibles is capable of "biting" but this bite would be akin to being pinched with a tweezers and NOT a blood drawing bite from a bed bug.
    Some ant majors or soldiers are quite capable of biting and drawing blood, but aren't feeding on the blood, it's just protecting the colony from people intruders. Some have slicing mandibles and some have ice-tong type mandibles where the latter bites and holds on. As a matter of fact, certain ants that bite and have ice-tong like mandibles that can be used as living sutures. When you suture up your wound, you let the ant bite and then you twist to remove the body but still leave the head attached.
    Additionally, some have huge jaws (well, "huge" for a bug sized critter that is) such as ants, stag beetles and others, some have a long snout (weevils).
    The weevils have mandibles at the end of the elongated snout so they chew. Didn't want people to think they have a straw-like, sucking mouth part.
    If you get to the natural history museum in NY let me know so I can show you the loupes and if you bring in a good specimen you can take home a present.

  6. loubugs

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    Posted 4 years ago
    Thu Jun 25 2015 16:11:30
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    These cases of mistaken identity and resulting panic likely happen more often than we might think. In fact, just 48 hours earlier a gentleman sent me photos of what was likely a willow beetle ( a diminutive shiny black beetle) which he plucked from his neck thinking that it bit him so, it must be a bed bug.
    Was this from Byanymeans? I answered his post here: http://bedbugger.com/forum/topic/expert-id-help-bug-found-biting-my-neck#post-226689
    No, not a willow beetle, Plagiodera versicolora, nor family (Chrysomelidae). The antennae and body didn't look right for a chrysomelid, but did for certain coccinellids (ladybird) beetles. He was able to send the beetle to me. There are 2 subfamilies that have very small, domed to spherical species and a few others that aren't quite like that.


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