Damn these flies
August 5, 2010 4:11 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with a bitey insect tenant?

Starting in early June, my girlfriend and I started to receive the occasional mosquito bite. They had a different reaction with her than me, swelling to 5 times the size as mine. As time progressed, and bug bombs failed, I started to get clusters or lines of these bites, probably 5 at a time.

Of course, we both freak: bed bugs! However, we've had the exterminator here and he's sprayed. In his opinion it's not bed bugs as there is no "evidence" (no shells, blood stains). I somewhat agree, as he sprayed the entire box spring and we still get the occasional bite on exposed skin (well, I get the occasional bite since she's taken to wearing head to toe sweats when we sleep).

The bites manifest as small and dime sized on me. They've occasionally puffed up to quarter size. In some instances, they make a cluster or line. On her, there has always been one at a time, and it's always been at least silver dollar sized. It's always been on exposed skin, we think. But we adjust throughout the night, especially to each other, so I'm not sure I can promise the exposed skin. They last for a couple days and are mildly annoying.

When we stay at her (unairconditioned) apartment, we do not get bites.

I live in NYC, on 1st ave in midtown, on the 9th floor, with a balcony. I lived here for 4-5 months before she got the first bite. The building allows pets, so it could be fleas. But I've set off two of those bug bombs in my bedroom, which I thought would stop them. Furthermore, they're ground based, so have they been leaping over the sprayed box spring?

I bought organic insecticide and sprayed my 3 plants. I setup a fly strip last night which caught nothing. I guess we'll see when I get back tonight.

Obviously the exterminator is coming back in a week or so for a follow up. After his initial visit we spent the night at her place. The following night, I stayed here alone and got three bits on my elbow. So I'm not so thrilled about his return.

So MeFi, anyone got other ideas?
posted by teabag to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Could be mosquitoes. Maybe entering through a window or a hole in a window screen, check for that kind of stuff. Also highly recommend aloe vera gel for swelling insect bites of any kind, I'm kind of a mosquito buffet and get bit everytime I set foot outside so I feel your pain. I suppose it could be something else, spiders maybe?
posted by IvoShandor at 4:24 AM on August 5, 2010

Bug bombs won't deal with a bad flea infestation (it'll kill the live ones, but not the eggs, which will hatch out a few days later and start the cycle again).

Having said that, I'd have thought you'd have spotted some hopping around if you had a bad flea infestation.
posted by bifter at 4:28 AM on August 5, 2010

If you put out a glue tray with a night light next to it, chances are you will be able to collect some samples of the creature that is biting you, and that will help in planning the most effective extermination campaign.
posted by grizzled at 5:39 AM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's easy to tell if you have fleas, you can feel them skitterin' up yer legs at night, fast lil' buggers gads. In bed, and in my experience I should add, fleas go for the arms and legs, stuff ya stick out of the covers generally.

If ya have fleas bad, you'll start seeing their weird curly poops in your bed as well, that''s your blood.

Have you gotten any used furniture since June? What kind of floor is in the bedroom? it could be fleas, old eggs from previous tenants wakin' up, or just wanderin' in from someone else's very neglected flea problem anywhere in the building.

Pray it is only fleas, have a bedbug expert check your place out.
posted by Max Power at 6:29 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

It does sound like bed bugs to me... the line-shaped bites you mention and the nocturnal pattern are what makes me suspicious that it's not fleas, mosquitoes, or a fly, which all produce very random bite patterns. Also having read bed bug blogs for years out of morbid interest it's clear to me there's no way that the exterminator can just come in and spray the place to get rid of them. They are very resistant to conventional pest control measures and you would really need someone who specializes in bed bugs. Plus if we're just talking one or two bed bugs it's possible you won't find much evidence at all, and they might not even be hiding in the bed but down the wall or in the nightstand.

If you're sure it's not bed bugs I'd be checking into whether it's a conenose bug... they're rare but I actually had one in a rental house ten years ago that managed to bite me and I smashed it; fortunately that's the last problem I had.

I think the thing to do is set your alarm a couple of times during the night and hop up and inspect the bedding quickly, and this will also clue you in to whether the bites are coming early or late. Also there's an outside chance that it could be an allergen or irritant if it's happening mainly in the same area... which would be something you've brushed up against.
posted by crapmatic at 6:39 AM on August 5, 2010

Best answer: Sounds like bedbugs. Here's a cheap DIY bedbug detector.
Cheap, easy... and it works.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:50 AM on August 5, 2010

Best answer: Someone else had a similar problem recently - lots of bites, but no signs of crushed bugs and blood on sheets. Everyone, including me, thought it was still bedbugs, but apparently it was birdmites.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:56 AM on August 5, 2010

If it is mosquitoes, I've had success fending them off at night by keeping an oscillating fan on near my bed. Eventually you should be able to trap and kill them.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:19 AM on August 5, 2010

Response by poster: I like all these DIY solutions and added experience. Question asked, MeFi delivers.

@zoomorphic: Thanks for the heads up on that. I actually think this is my problem as well. About the time we started getting bit, we noticed that a pigeon had made a nest out of an abandoned table next store. 2 eggs, male and female hang out there with all their friends. Someone lives there, but has been neglecting the balcony (which is understandable, since a 24 year old fell off his fairly recently). The pigeons would sometimes land on the ledge of my bedroom en route to their nest.

I've already told the super about the nest (same time as the suspected bugs, actually). But our balconies have, once again, been closed to everyone due to something with city permits.

I will try some of this DIY detectors tonight and report back. Thanks for all your help!
posted by teabag at 10:24 AM on August 5, 2010

Response by poster: Ugh, s/next store/next door/
posted by teabag at 10:27 AM on August 5, 2010

We had a problem with bird mites crawling in the bathroom window from a nest under the eaves a couple of years ago. If you have any white surfaces in your bedroom, look for teeny-tiny red crawling things. Our bites were much smaller than what you describe, but they were noticeably worse for my husband than for me.

After the birds left and we cleaned the area with vast amounts of Formula 409, the problem went away, but it's easier to sterilize a bathroom.
posted by LadyOscar at 1:30 PM on August 5, 2010

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