What bit me up while I slept?
August 10, 2010 5:50 AM   Subscribe

I have a pretty specific set of questions about what might've bitten the hell out of me while I slept the other night.

At first I thought it was bedbugs. I twice woke up (once from a midday nap, once from sleeping through the night) with itchy bites that looked not unlike mosquito bites, except some were clustered in small groups while others were just single bites. The bites were itchy reddish welts but they went down almost completely within a couple of hours. Also, I never got bit when I was in my room awake, working on my bed or at my desk. Only when I was asleep. This all made me think bedbugs. Then I read a bunch of AskMe threads tagged "bedbugs" and did a lot of googling.

Neither I nor an exterminator could find the telltale bedbug evidence (dead bedbug bodies, blood, fecal stains) in my bedding or my bed frame or anywhere else. Also, when I woke up this morning, I was bite free.

I have noticed a bunch of spiders hanging out right near my bed, cobweb and all. There's also a tiny hole where the carpet meets the wall and I've seen spiders scurrying in and out of there.

Is it possible I was the main course of a two-time spider buffet? I would love for this not to be bedbugs but I don't want to fool myself! I have another exterminator coming today to inspect but I am wondering if other folks have had similar experiences and can share what their pestilence turned out to be.

If one does have bedbugs, is it common to NOT get bitten up one night? Do they go on hiatus ever? It was my understanding that as long as you had them, you get the hell bitten out of you as long as you're sleeping in your bed. Am I off here?

Thanks a lot.
posted by Rudy Gerner to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Probably spiders. I'm a regular spider feast and wake up with spider bites fairly often.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:00 AM on August 10, 2010

Response by poster: Cat Pie, can you describe your bites? What do they look like and how long do they stay red/bumpy/itchy/irritated?
posted by Rudy Gerner at 6:01 AM on August 10, 2010

Are you sure they were bites? Could they have been an allergic reaction or a heat rash?

If you're sure they're bites, do you have pets? (your description of "some were clustered in small groups while others were just single bites" sounds like fleas)
posted by amyms at 6:02 AM on August 10, 2010

Response by poster: I don't have pets and I'm as certain as a person can be that they were bites (as opposed to rash). I should've said this above, but I've ruled out rashes from heat, new bodycare products or detergents, etc.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 6:04 AM on August 10, 2010

There is no species of spider that preys upon human beings or any mammal, & I can assure you that the cobweb you observed is not there to trap people. People do sometimes get bitten by a spider, as a defensive reaction if the spider perceives you as a threat; this does not happen while you are sleeping.

The fact that no bedbug bodies or fecal stains were found is not conclusive. The bedbug is an exceptionally sneaky species that habitially hides in cracks (which may be in walls, in furniture, or wherever) when it is not out feeding, and while it is true that they are known to leave distinctive fecal stains, they don't necessarily do it where you are going to notice it (and it often turns out that one form of dirt blends in easily with other forms).

The behavior of bugs also is not always predictable. You might expect them to bite you every night without fail, but then, some night they might have been frightened off by the spiders, or might have just been confused about where they were going (bugs are exceedingly stupid) or had overeaten the previous night. So yes, frequency of attaks can vary. Although if the problem is not solved, the number of bugs and the frequency of attacks will increase, as they breed.

Personally I do suspect bedbugs despite the failure to confirm this by direct observation. But even if it is something else (such as fleas) it is probably a good idea to do a thorough fumigation. There are insecticides which can kill a wide variety of pests, so you don't necessarily have to know exactly what it is that you are killing in order to kill it.
posted by grizzled at 6:05 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have had a similar syndrome a couple of mornings recently (and this morning, as a matter of fact) and have finally determined that my year-round seasonal allergies are branching out into occasional outbreaks of hives. Exactly the same pattern you're describing - a cluster here and there, and individual "bites" in other places. They won't get very red if I don't rub/scratch, but as soon as I do they get pretty hot. My highly-scientific diagnosis of hives comes from the fact that there's no bite mark even in the big ones, and I can usually see where a spider or mosquito got me if they get me really good.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:12 AM on August 10, 2010

If you have plentiful evidence of spiders near your bed, but no evidence of bedbugs (with professional corroboration), then I say it is almost certainly the spiders. Spiders don't eat people for food but if you trap one near your skin by rolling, scratching or moving the covers, it will bite. If it's loosely trapped, it might move around and bite several times causing a cluster. Spiders don't generally migrate across the bed, but if an egg case has recently hatched the diaspora might have lead a few to your level.

I'd hesitate on wiping out your spider colony completely (e.g. fumigation) because spiders prey on many less pleasant insects, including bedbugs. You might want to cull the herd a little, though.

Put an incandescent night light near your bed with a glue trap under it and see if you catch anything other than spiders.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:27 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I might second the hives diagnosis, especially since it cleared in a couple of hours. When I get occasional spider bites, they are nothing like mosquito bites and are longer lasting. I find that spider bites are usually less of a welt and more of a bump with a pin-prick like area in the center (usually an actual red dot). The bump tends to be hard, often more painful than itchy, and after a day or two will develop a pustule where the pin prick was. I don't think I've ever had more than one spider bite at a time. As others have noted, I think they bite when threatened and then move quickly away.

Have you been able to spot whether your spiders have caught anything in their web? They might actually be the symptom of the problem, and maybe their food source is the same thing that is biting you.
posted by amusebuche at 7:28 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm going to vote mosquito. There are a bunch of different mosquito species, and from personal experience, people can react to different species in different ways. For example, early season mosquitos tend to swell up enormous for me, but then go away completely in an hour or two. Later season mosquitos tend to be small, lingering itchy bites that stick around for a day or two. From an Occam's razor perspective, mosquito and bed bugs have to be the top two choices; if you didn't find bed bugs, what's to say it wasn't a mosquito or two that made it in past a screen?
posted by norm at 7:52 AM on August 10, 2010

sounds like flea or chigger (mite) bites.

look up chigger bites on google image search, see if that looks familiar.
posted by KogeLiz at 10:02 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Definitely not chiggers. The bites don't match and I'm pretty sure we don't get those in CT.

Mites: perhaps. I have ruled out fleas because I'm not finding any evidence--not seeing any bugs alive or dead, no eggs, etc.

At the moment I'm leaning towards spiders/hives/mosquito theories. Bug dude coming soon so I will see what his expert opinion reveals!

Thanks, gang.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 10:17 AM on August 10, 2010

We had a similar experience and initially thought bed bugs. Bug dudes put down glue traps which caught some spiders--no sign of bed bugs. They sprayed for spiders (I left the glue traps down for good measure). Never had any problems since. (Colorado.)
posted by NailsTheCat at 9:05 PM on August 10, 2010

Response by poster: Hey gang,
The inspector has ruled out bedbugs. There was no evidence whatsoever of them and he did an incredibly thorough inspection of my whole room, bed frame, mattress, the whole nine. And I haven't been bitten since those first two times. The one intruder we did find in my mattress I took to a lab in my city and an entomologist put it under a microscope and found it to most definitively be a carpet beetle. That's not what bit me (I'm not made of fabric) and we're not sure what did (probably a one-time spider deal or some angry mosquitoes) but we're as certain as can be that bedbugs aren't the culprit.

HUGE relief. Like, best news ever.

Thanks all for weighing in. Everyone's contributions really helped me diagnose!
posted by Rudy Gerner at 5:41 AM on August 11, 2010

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