Child with bug bites on exposed legs

Today because of the media publicity around bed bugs so many people jump to the conclusion that the bites they discover are caused by bed bugs. The truth may have a much simpler explanation. Ask yourself some of the questions below:

Were you outside by a lake or pond?
Were you outside early in the morning or evening?
Do you sleep with your windows open?
Do you have a pet that partially lives outside?
Were you sitting out on a lawn or at a park?
Have you been hiking through the woods?
Were you gardening?
Did you discover a bird’s nest by a window?
Do you have a lot of dust and lint in your home?

We have the potential to be exposed to the insects listed below while we participate in those activities: 

Bed bugs are wingless biting insects that feed at night. Often associated with bedrooms and motel/hotel rooms. Infested rooms often have a distinctive odor.
Fleas are small, wingless insects that bite people and pets in order to draw a blood meal. New medications make flea control relatively easy.
Ticks are eight-legged, wingless arthropods. Ticks are a type of mite that bite to get a blood meal. Ticks can transmit diseases like Lyme disease.
Bird Mites (rodent/nest mites) are tiny mites that live in the nests of their animal hosts. These mites occasionally invade homes and bite people as well.
Mosquitos are small, delicate flies. Female mosquitoes need a blood meal in order to successfully lay eggs. A number of important diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes.
Head lice or Public lice are small, wingless insects that bite in order to draw a blood meal. Bites result in itchy lesions. Seek medical attention for this.
Dust mites are tiny mites that inhabit the dust in our homes and may cause allergies.
Spiders are related to ticks and mites. While most spiders are harmless and even beneficial a few can deliver a venomous bite. Spiders only bite in defense; they don’t actively seek humans to bite.

Outdoor & Garden Pests

Yellowjacket wasps are medium-large stinging wasps. Most Yellowjackets are yellow with black markings; some are all black with white markings. Wasps are not clothed in fine hairs as are honey bees.
Africanized “killer” bees are a highly aggressive strain of honey bee that has moved into the southern states (US). Great care should be taken when these dangerous insects are encountered
European paper wasp (Polistes dominulus) has become a pest in many parts of the US in recent years. Very similar in appearance to yellowjackets.
Chigger Mites are tiny, extremely annoying biting mites. They produce an intensely itchy bite that can drive gardeners from their gardens. Found only in the southern states
Fire Ants (Solenopsis spp.) inflict extremely painful stings with any encounter. Currently, there is a highly invasive species (Solenopsis invicta) making inroads in the southern US and Australia.
Horse & deerflies are large, biting flies. These flies breed in moist areas around ponds, ditches, etc. and can be very persistent and annoying. Their large, dark or multi-color eyes make these flies easy to identify.
Biting Midges are tiny, biting flies sometimes called “no-see-ums” or “punkies”. These midges breed in salt marshes, mud flats, and shallow freshwater. Bites can be extremely irritating.
Black Flies are biting flies whose larvae are aquatic, found in shallow, fast-flowing streams. These flies bite during daylight hours. These flies are found mostly in Northern NY and New England along the rivers.
Centipedes are medium to large arthropods with many pairs of legs, one pair per body segment. Like their spider relatives, centipedes are predators, whereas millipedes, with two legs per segment, are mainly scavengers. Centipedes may bite producing a painful but localized reaction. Centipedes are rarely a problem, however.
Mange is a condition in dogs, cats, and other mammals caused by tiny mites. Sarcoptic mange is closely related to human scabies. You must seek veterinary help.
Scabies Mites are tiny mites that burrow into the skin causing a condition called scabies. Seek medical attention.
Unknown or mysterious bug bites can sometimes be traced to real insects or mites but often have another explanation.

**Individual description credited to Jack DeAngelis, PhD OSU Ext Entomologist (ret.)

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