Back to the basics


August 1, 2023

Photo: neskez/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: neskez/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Let me tell you about a mistake I made recently while helping an industry colleague troubleshoot
an ongoing pest issue at a residential account.

The clients reported finding a bed bug (Cimex lectularius) in the living room of their single-family home and they were asked to save the insect for identification. After confirming the sample was a bed bug, my colleague conducted an inspection, but found no other evidence. He chalked it up to an isolated incident and instructed the clients to report any future sightings.

Less than a week later, the clients called back to report another adult bed bug found in the living room. A second inspection was scheduled and, once again, no evidence of bed bugs was found.

That’s when I got the call to help troubleshoot the problem. My initial advice was to expand the search beyond furniture to include personal belongings such as handbags, backpacks and anything else that may be carried into the home. After another inspection and zero to show for it, my colleague was ready to pull his hair out.

Dr. Michael Bentley, BCE

Dr. Michael Bentley, BCE

It wasn’t until our third phone call that it hit me: I never once asked to see the insect myself. I had no reason to doubt my colleague’s ability to recognize a bed bug, but it’s good practice to double-check everything when you’re troubleshooting.

It took a bit of convincing to get my friend to snap some photos under a microscope, but the persistence paid off because the insects turned out to be bat bugs (C. pilosellus). It was discovered the clients had bats — and bat bugs — in their attic, and the bugs would periodically fall through a light fixture onto the couch.

My mistake was that I didn’t initially ask for a sample to identify the insects myself. I assumed the insects were what my colleague indicated they were. Even when dealing with experienced colleagues, it’s still good practice to review every step in the control process again yourself when troubleshooting problems. This can save you time and unnecessary frustration in the long run. Lesson learned!

About the Author

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Dr. Bentley is director of training and education for the National Pest Management Association. You can reach him at

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