Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Case of the Phantom Bug Bites

There home is wayyyy out in the country.  We'll call them Lois and Mike.  They're each retired and have a son who's had to move back in with them. They have a nice country home, clean, well-kept.  A small dog, no fleas.  An RV that doesn't get used as much as it used to.  They have a really great garden that's producing lot's of vegetables this year.

Lois calls the office about what she believes are bed bug bites all over her body and her husband is getting them too!  We promise to get out there quick and identify and provide a solution.

I go myself since my techs are already dedicated to a very busy spring rush of activity due to the early warm weather here in East Texas.  After greetings are exchanged, Lois takes me back to the area she's getting the bites, the bedroom. 

First thing I notice is the amount of gray dust that is completely scattered around the room.  It's even under the bed and between the matress and box springs.  She tells me they've been fighting the bug bites for over a month now and had only the week before bought and put out diatomaceous earth powder all over everything!  Diatomaceous earth powder is sometimes used for insectide control only because it causes dehydration when insects crawl through it.  Not bad idea I guess when you're desperate to make the biting stop and you're practicing DIY protocol.  As a pest control company, we don't use it because it takes so long for any effects and customers don't want to wait for relief.

First thing I tell Lois is "this is going to have to be vaccuumed up before I can even perform any treatment" and she agrees.  She adds, "it wasn't working anyway." 

As she vaccuums, I carefully inspect the bedding. Nothing. No signs of bed bugs at all.  I'm looking for blood splatters on the sheets or mattress.  Or better yet, an actual bed bug. I stop and ask to look at these bites they're encountering and they're more than happy to show me, at least the one's that aren't in indecent locations.

First thing I notice is that the bites are arbout the neck and shoulders, lower back, and down around the middle of the legs, in the knee areas.  They are very small and some are very red, like they're inflamed from scratching.  They are flat with no whitehead like an ant bite would leave.  They aren't swollen and raised like mosquito bites either.  But they claim they ARE itchy!    Hmmmmm?

They're not down around the legs or ankles the way flea bites normally are.  They're not chiggers either. Hmmm?  "This is a good one!", I tell them.  I'm sure they're not amused but I certainly am having to think long and hard on this challenging situation.

I go outside and walk very slowly through the yard and around the house.  Nothing jumps on me either.  That confirms it's not fleas being tracked inside.  And the sporadic bites all over the bodies, and in particular around the groin areas, the fold of the elbows and knees, all moisture-prone areas in particular, leads me to believe that it's either very small spiders coming up through the floors from underneath the pier and beam house, or else it's some kind of mite. 

I propose giving them a very, very thorough spray treatment throughout the house and then wait for results, and they agree.  I mix up the same solution we use to treat for fleas and then broadcast it heavily throughout the house.  I also instruct them to wash all their clothing and bedding in hot, soapy water before they return them to their closets and drawers because it's possible something very small is inhabiting the clothing.  And finally, to call me back in a week and let me know what's happened.  They both feel somewhat relieved and Lois confides to me that they haven't been to church in over a month because they thought they had bed bugs.  She said her church was full of "huggers" and she "was afraid she would give them to someone!

A week later, Lois calls and says it has gotten a little better but they continue to itch and the bites, though slowed down, have continued.  Well, that rules out small spiders as a suspect.  We're only down to mites now.  Due to the locations of the bites and the fact that anything survived what I did to their house when I treated, it had to be the dreaded Scabies mite! 

Most human infestations of scabies result from person-to-person contact. Although they can transfer from animals to humans and vice versa, several types of scabies mites exist, each having a preferred host species on which it reproduces. In dogs, scabies mites cause mange. Scabies is the most common and important condition resulting from mite infestation of humans. Unlike other mites, scabies mites actually burrow and produce tunnels one centimeter or more in length just below the surface of the skin, in which they lay eggs. The mites are believed to feed on skin and secretions. The entire life cycle (10-17 days for human-infesting scabies mites) is spent on their host. Without a host, they survive only a few days. In previously unexposed individuals, a scabies infestation may go unnoticed for more than a month. Then, severe irritation and itching develops, especially at night. This is why they were going so crazy!

I told her that they both needed to get to a doctor right away and that the treatment for scabies is an ointment or cream containing 5% permethrin to kill the mites that are burrowed under the skin.  She told me the doctor had told them earlier that the bites were "bed bug bites" and we all know now he was wrong.  I told her then find another doctor because we were sure that it's scabies mites.

Lois called back the next day.  They saw a doctor and turns out we were right. She was so happy that we correctly diagnosed her problem.

Reality Check:  A good solution requires intelligent and thorough pest control methods.  The easy part is always the spraying.  The hard and complicated part is putting in the time and being very thorough in the initial investigation.  This is something not so many pest control technicians are either trained or willing to do.  Many have so many customers to see (quotas) they dread long investigations.

At Gary's, we make sure that our techs are trained and competent in just about everything and only see 6-8 customers a day.  This allows for investing the time to perform real quality investigations, leaving no stone unturned.  Because in the end, our results always speak for themselves! 

Contact us if we can help you too.  Get Gary's and Get 'Em Gone!
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