I think we've all woken up before with one or more mysterious insect bites from some curious spider or mosquito that just couldn't help itself that night or the day before. Being a blood meal for something isn't exactly comforting, but what's more important is knowing what you're feeding. Bed bugs are a serious problem (the previous blog post covers this in more detail) and being able to identify their pattern and bite can be key to detecting an infestation and ridding yourself of it.
To start, let's see if we can eliminate other insects as culprits. Different types of bites can cause a reddened, itchy area, so other factors may have to be used to determine what is feeding on or biting you.
Spiders are probably the easiest to eliminate. They have two little spider fangs, so when you are bitten you will typically see two puncture marks instead of one. Surprisingly, they are the least vampiric of our choices (they don't feed on your blood), but their bite is the most typically vampiric-looking with the double punctures.
Fleas, while less common, are blood feeders like the bedbugs and their bite is somewhat similar-looking; however, they'll generally stick to ankles and lower legs, and while bedbugs USUALLY
bite only at night (because that's when you're in the bed and vulnerable and easy to get to), fleas will bite at any time of the day.
Thirdly, we have mosquitoes. Most of us are very familiar with these and hate their guts. Their bites are also quite similar and can be red and itchy; however, as I'm sure most of you know, these are usually outside annoying the crap out of us rather than in our beds. Therefore, if it's winter, or if you haven't been traipsing around in the great outdoors lately, it's probably not a mosquito bite.
So, assuming you can and have eliminated other possibilities, there are some telltale signs of bed bug bites. A common bed
bug symptom is a zig-zag line of bites along the edge of clothing, as they tend to actually stand on the edge of your clothing and lean over to suck your blood. Often bed bug bites look like a zig-zag line of 3 or more bites, commonly referred to as
"breakfast", "lunch", and "dinner".
Most people, with their first bites from bedbugs, have very minimal reactions and the bites heal quickly without any special treatment, just like a mosquito bite would. However, with prolonged exposure and repeated bites, reactions can become quite severe, with large, very itchy welts. Scratching any of these bites can lead to infection, so an infestation is no good for anyone...except the bedbugs, of course. On rare occasions, people can also develop severe allergic reactions to the bedbug saliva that ends up in the bites when they feed and have an asthma or anaphylaxis attack requiring medical treatment.
Hopefully this helps determine what's biting you if you suddenly start sporting some itchy marks. It's nigh impossible to actually know a bed bug is biting you until you see the bites - they inject a sort of anesthetic substance so you can't feel the bite while they're feeding. They feed for about 5 to 10 minutes and then retreat into their cracks and crevices, so they're pretty much vampire ninjas.
If you ever have unidentifiable bites and continue to get them, make sure to compare yours to some photos online or even seek professional advice. Even if you aren't having a severe reaction to the bites, it's important to know whether you have a bedbug problem, because that problem could quickly spread and become a problem for someone else.