Making sure it’s bed bugs


February 27, 2023

Anna Berry

Anna Berry, technical director at B&G

We’ve got bed bugs! PMPS are all too familiar with this panicked phone call message from our customers.

Although it’s a valid reaction for someone outside of the pest control profession, many times what is thought to be bed bugs may simply be a different arthropod, or not even an arthropod at all.

What we want to focus on is proper identification. Always identify the species before moving on to the proper solution. The following are a few of the most common cases of bed bug misidentification:

  • Bat bugs — C. pilosellus look almost identical to bed bugs, but they feed almost exclusively on bats. If you find bed bug complaints in an attic or areas previously inhabited by bats, doublecheck the identification.
  • Psocids — Booklice, barklice and other Psocodea species are tiny, with body part features that are occasionally mistaken for bed bugs — even under a microscope. Their habitats usually are very different, however, and they do not bite.
  • Common biters — When we only have bites, it can be easy to assume bed bugs, but many insects leave bite-like marks behind. This includes fleas, certain spider species, mosquitoes, ticks and biting midges. Just because it bites, doesn’t mean it’s a bed bug.
  • Allergies — Reactions to medications, detergents and the environment can be common. A new laundry detergent or a change in medication sometimes leads to welts that are mistaken for bed bug bites. It can be beneficial to confirm whether your customers have experienced any changes in their lifestyle that may have resulted in these reactions.

Never diagnose a bed bug problem from a bite (real or imagined). Always inspect and find an arthropod source before treating an area (per label).

About the Author

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BERRY is a technical director at B&G Equipment. Previously, she worked as training manager for McCloud Pest Management Solutions, South Elgin, Ill. She is a Board Certified Entomologist, ServSafe certified and instructor and proctor for the National Restaurant Association and is certified in HACCP. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Oregon and a master’s degree in grain science from Kansas State University.

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