Bed bugs, Y/N? (Time warp edition)
April 26, 2016 7:29 PM   Subscribe

For the past couple of days, I've been getting bitten by things at night. One bite on one night, two bites another night... and then last night, which was apparently some kind of crazy Ender's Game AU in which the bugs won. I thought I was getting bitten by mosquitoes, since I had the window open for a couple of nights (not last night). But a "kind" "friend" suggested these might be bed bug bites. Picture of bites included below.

Picture of bites: Here.

As you can see, the bites are plentiful. They're also extremely itchy. These are not the only bites; they're just the only bites in a location I'm willing to post online. Other bites are in the torso region, one on a thigh, one on my neck. Bites do not seem to be confined to bits of me that are uncovered at night.

Risk factor: I recently spent two weeks in a hotel room of middling quality in the Deep (DEEP) South (Gulf state). I did check the bed the first night, and I didn't see any evidence of buggy activity. But one time several years ago I did have a mouse in my room at this same hotel, so it's not like the place doesn't have occasional fauna. (I had to stay there; it's the best out of limited options, and I had no choice about going.)

Mitigating factor: I was there from March 28 - April 11, and experienced no bite symptoms during that time. The first bites showed up a couple of days ago. This is why I immediately went to "mosquitoes" instead of bed bugs... but the aforementioned helpful friend tells me it can take up to two weeks for bed bug bites to appear.

2nd mitigating factor: I haven't seen any bugs, and haven't seen any bed bug sign on my mattress (believe me, I have checked very closely).

I have had a perfectly terrible year so far, and I'm hoping for some reassurance that these aren't bed bug bites. If I have to set fire to all the fabric I own and then replace it - on top of everything else that's gone down this year - I will need to seriously explore the possibility that I am laboring under a bad past life's karmic burden.

So - hope me? Are these bed bug bites? Mosquito bites? Something else?

There's an outside chance they could be flea bites, I guess... we have indoor/outdoor cats. But these cats got treated with Revolution while I was down south, so it seems unlikely.

(oh god i almost tagged this post "incestbites"...)
posted by antimony_hayes to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
Those look just like mosquito bites on me on the first day or two before they flatten out and slowly disappear. The look, and how crazy itchy they are, suggests mosquito to me. Don't know about bedbugs, but they don't look like flea bites at all to me.
posted by dayintoday at 7:38 PM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Not everyone experiences bedbug bites the same way. I didn't even know that I had bedbugs until amelioration came around the apartment building. Then I took a look at my legs and noticed I did have some typical breakfast-lunch-dinner bites in the ankle area. But other people get giant welts and itching. So it's hard to say. Could be skeeters, could be bedbugs.
posted by xyzzy at 7:41 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

OK, so for starters--if you live in a place with mosquitos, and you have indoor/outdoor cats, it is probably mosquitos or somewhat less probably fleas. (They look, in my experience with all three, much more like mosquito bites than either of the other two, but bites can look pretty different from person to person)

That said, I had this happen--I was in a hotel that had bedbugs (saw them, my mom who was in the same room got bitten, we left immediately after discovering them but had been there for about 3 days), and the bites only showed up on me about a week and a half later, after I'd already gone home. I freaked out and spent probably too much time and money fretting over it, but they eventually stopped and I never had any kind of bedbuggy problem again.

As far as peace of mind goes, there are traps. There's also mattress covers, but those can be kind of pricy.
posted by Krom Tatman at 7:45 PM on April 26, 2016

I had bedbugs in 2008. I'm almost 95% certain they're not bedbug bites.

Foolproof way to make sure: get a set of white sheets and examine them extremely closely each morning for blood or black marks (that look like pencil.)
posted by Automocar at 7:55 PM on April 26, 2016

So NO blood on your sheets? That's a good sign.

But just in case... I had bed bugs. I had a new baby in the house and didn't want to treat, so we used Diatomaceous earth. It took a few months for them to all die. While I lived with the bites, I keep thinking, I can do this. For thousands of years our ancestors had them in their bed every night, if they could do it, I can take it for a little while.

They look a bit like bed bug bites because they are a bit grouped; I always had 3 or four near each other. But maybe you got the bites at the hotel. Just in case pick up some Diatomaceous Earth and spread around under your bed and the furniture that the cats cant fit under.

Use white sheets so you can see if there are any blood spots. Good luck, you can do this!
posted by ReluctantViking at 7:59 PM on April 26, 2016

If they are two tiny bites located close proximity, consider bird mite bites. As birds leave their nests, they leave the mites behind and the mites will "test bite" to see if they can live on your blood instead. They can't, but the test bite period is awful. The mites are too small to see. Your bites look like they could fall in this category. If you live near an area where birds are nesting, like an old building with a balcony, it's possible. If you do find you have mites, memail me and I will give you some tips on getting through it.
posted by effluvia at 8:06 PM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I cant tell you for sure if those are bedbug bites, but here's what happened to me.

I started to get a bunch of bug bites at night. It came and went for two weeks. One night I'd get like 30 bites then the next 5 or 6 nights nothing then 30 or 40 bites again. They looked a bit like your bites but they went in lines up my arms and torso and back. I FREAKED OUT! I did everything, like get the mattress cover, minutely examine every crack and crevice in the room, and finally called a guy I found on Yelp who was an exterminator specializing in bedbugs.

Turns out it wasn't bedbugs. It was carpet beetles. Most houses have carpet beetles at some point and no one ever knows, but occasionally people develop an allergy to them and that's when the bumps show up. The bumps aren't even bites, they are tiny hairs that poke you. When people get stressed they have more cortisol in their system and that can make them react to the carpet beetles microscopic hairs. Carpet beetles are pretty easy to get rid of and much more likely than bedbugs. So don't panic.

It was pretty pricey to get this guy to come out and ID the beetles, but all I had to do to get rid of them was throw out this basket in which I had been storing our bedding. We didn't even have to spray or anything. It's been over a year with no reaccurence.

If you can afford it, I reccomend trying to find an exterminator who is also an entomologist, and who specializes in bedbugs. Even if it does turn out to be bedbugs, don't panic, this guy told us it's not as hard to get rid of them as everyone thinks it is.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:13 PM on April 26, 2016

So, late last year, I started getting weird, giant blotchy bites scattered all over my body at night, just like yours. I totally dismissed the idea that they were bedbugs too, because everyone said that bedbug bites were supposed to be smaller than that and in a "line". I couldn't find a single speck of blood on my sheets, I turned my mattress and bed upside down and inside out and there were no feces, no eggs, no bedbug sheddings, nothing that would indicate that there were bedbugs. And it was relatively minor too, like, maybe 3 bites every night at most - I would have chalked it up to mosquitoes too if it weren't for the fact it was the dead of winter. I thought it might have been fleas from the cats that hang out in the hallway of my apartment.

I went to my apartment manager, said "hey, I've been getting these bites", and he was like "I don't think it's bedbugs either, but let's just be safe and go nuclear."

Guy got the PCO in next week, they sprayed for bedbugs, then two weeks later, the bites just stop there more or less. A few days after, I find a single dying bedbug crawling on my bathtub, and I was like, "Oh, I guess that settled it."

Basically what I learned from the whole debacle: I was reacting to the bites in a weird way that wasn't the "typical" bedbug reaction, because some people do that; there were no signs of bedbugs; it wasn't the drastic overblown infestation people always report when it comes to bedbugs, and went away just like that instead of being a nightmare of constant insect fighting; but it still ended up being bedbugs. My theory is that the people who have really bad experiences with bedbugs tend to just over-report what happens to them, and the milder cases - like mine's - don't get as much airtime.

So maybe it's bedbugs, but it's not the end of the world. It didn't hurt to get someone in to check it out for me, give it a shot?
posted by Conspire at 9:03 PM on April 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

My reaction to bedbug bites looked like your arm, itchy as hell, then sore, with a kind of hard lump under them? Mine didn't all line up either.

Man, nuke your apartment if you find any. I hate those fuckers.

But for reals, they are most active in the late late night (like their evil undead brethren), you grab a flashlight, go into ninja mode and examine your sheets in the middle of the night. They move really fast, like ants.

Best of luck.
posted by speakeasy at 11:01 PM on April 26, 2016

More anecdata on the pile, but the one time I was bitten to shit by bedbugs in a hotel, my bites looked like yours (it was a bad infestation and I was able to confirm by sight that it was indeed bedbugs biting me.)

That being said! The lack of evidence of bugs in your bedding and on your mattress is a good sign - if they are bedbugs, there may not be many of them. Get the exterminator in. If they're bedbugs, it can be handled quickly and does not have to be a great disaster or trauma. If they're not bedbugs, you get peace of mind.
posted by superfluousm at 5:53 AM on April 27, 2016

Looks like mosquito bites. I get them really badly in large numbers as soon as the weather gets warmer. Mine end up as big welts though.
posted by shesbenevolent at 6:48 AM on April 27, 2016

Chigger bites look exactly like that on me. Been outside in the tall grasses lately? Or walking/hiking in the woods?
If not, I'm going with fleas or mosquitoes. Good luck with that.
posted by It'sANewDawn at 11:09 AM on April 27, 2016

It may be fleas - this is what flea bites have always looked like on me, and they are unbearably itchy. Bites like to show up places like waistbands, sock ankles, etc. - anywhere where clothes are tight on your body, but they're definitely not exclusive to those places. I would check your cats out more closely.
posted by meggan at 12:04 PM on April 27, 2016

Any chance they're spider bites? Also, +1 for maybe chiggers (had a delayed - couple days - outbreak of chiggers once).
posted by bluesky78987 at 1:34 PM on April 27, 2016

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