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The Brody Brothers and the Case of the Mystery Bug Bites

Pest control has more in common with detective work than you might think. We get several calls a year from customers with who have discovered mysterious bites.

Could it be mosquitoes? Bed bugs? Mites?

These calls come from offices, court houses, other public places and residences, but they all ask the same thing: where did these bites come from?

Now to be clear, at Brody Brothers we are very careful to only treat for bugs we can confirm.

That sounds great in theory, but it isn’t always so simple. More often than you might think, a customer goes to a doctor with these mystery bites, who then diagnoses unconfirmed and vague “bug bites.”

Even worse, sometimes the doctor tells the patient a specific pest, like bed bugs or mites, without any evidence. The customer then calls us to treat for said pest, but we can’t treat for something we can’t verify. That’s when our detective skills switch into high gear.

In this kind of situation, a lot of unscrupulous pest control companies would just spray a bunch of chemicals or fog your house, cross their fingers and hope that they are able to get rid of whatever pest you have. Not only is this against all licensing and regulatory rules, but it’s just plain unethical.

Would you want someone spraying toxic chemicals around your home, potentially putting your family and pets at risk, for no reason? And charging you for it to boot?

We wouldn’t either, and that’s why we insist on verifying any pest before we treat for it, even if that means setting glue traps and inspecting them with a microscope.

In reality, our customers may be absolutely right that they have bed bugs. Or it could be a hundred other things including (but not limited to) bird or rat mites, fleas, carpet beetles, an allergic reaction to cosmetics or detergent, or even a delusion that insects are crawling on their skin, causing them to scratch and cause their own “bites.”

So our job as pest control professionals is to figure out if we’re dealing with bugs, what kind they are, and treat the infestation accordingly.

Now you see ‘em, now you don’t

In our experience, nearly half the time, our customers do turn out to have bed bugs, and about 35% of the time, it’s carpet beetles, which can cause dermatitis and itchy, red welts in the percentage of the population that is sensitive to them.

Another 10% of cases end up being bird mites, fleas or dust mites, and the remaining small percentage end up being what we refer to as “no see ‘ems” (not to be confused with no-see-ums, or biting midges, which aren’t an issue here in Maryland).

We call them “no see ‘ems” because no matter how closely we inspect, no matter how many glue traps we study with a microscope, we can’t find an arthropod that caused our customer’s bites.

In reality, the “bites” might actually be caused by dry skin, static cling attracting lint and dust to the skin and causing itchiness, or Delusions of Parasitosis, the medical term when someone imagines that bugs are crawling on their skin and starts scratching, creating “bites” and sores, even though there isn’t a pest present.

It’s even possible that skin conditions appear overnight from hormonal changes from pregnancy or puberty, new medication, or using a different laundry detergent or lotion.

Whatever your suspicions are about the culprit, if you discover mystery bites or aren’t sure if you’re dealing with an indoor or outdoor pest, let the Brody Brothers be your pest control P.I. — it’s what we do best!