One late summer day in 2010, our firm received a call from a client who told us her son wakes up every morning with multiple “mosquito bites.” We knew what that sounded like.
We dispatched an inspector. In the boy’s room, the inspector found several dead bed bugs under the bed, and more on the window sill near the foot of the bed. We inspected the remaining rooms on the second floor. No more bed bug activity.
The basement was next. We found dead bugs on the floor near some luggage, stored from a vacation months past. The basement had a suspended ceiling, and we inspected the space above the ceiling.
Bugs were on the ceiling tiles. Most were found within 10 feet from the front wall of the home, just below the boy’s bedroom and above the luggage in the basement.
We suggested the luggage might have been the source of the infestation, and we recommended a bed bug intervention service. We gave her information outlining the service our technicians would provide. We used industrial vacuum cleaners to remove bed bugs and eggs; commercial steam cleaning was used on the mattress, box spring and metal bed frame to kill the bugs and their eggs. Organic and conventional pesticides were used. We provided box spring encasements. Bed bug interceptors were installed throughout to monitor activity. A post-treatment inspection was scheduled for 10 days later.
In short, we were thorough. Problem solved, right? Not quite.
Several days after the initial treatment, the customer called and said the pesky bed bugs were still in the boy’s bedroom. A technician was sent back, where he found more live and dead bugs in the same locations. A spot treatment was performed, and the bedroom was vacuumed.
“Nothing has changed. Nothing has improved,” the customer told us days later. Two supervisors were sent to investigate this somewhat peculiar situation — they found living and dead bed bugs on the windowsill. It was a mystery.
The client said birds could be heard nesting behind the shutters outside her son’s room, “chirping” all summer long. That “chirping” would be from hatchling birds…but that would only last until the chicks matured. Perhaps they were not birds.
With this in mind, our supervisor climbed to the second floor window to examine the shutters. Upon examination of the shutter, he discovered the small space between the shutter and siding had become a harborage for bats. Bats were roosting behind the shutters, and the siding behind the shutter was encrusted with bat droppings and bat bugs live and dead.
That’s right. Bat bugs.
We found them in the cracks of the wooden shutter and in the siding itself. The supervisor collected samples and brought them to me. I confirmed they were, as he had suspected, bat bugs.
Bat bugs and bed bugs are closely related. Both will feed on humans, though they require different abatement techniques. While the bat bugs were feasting on their prey of choice outside the window, they were more than happy for a different meal inside the bedroom. This situation is an example of how accurate pest identification remains a critical step in providing successful pest management.
The author is an urban entomologist with Arrow Exterminating Company in Lynbrook, N.Y. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.