Enter keywords in search box below:
Unknown and Mysterious Bug Bites
biting me? -
A number of insects and mites can bite and leave a
red, swollen, itchy bite mark. There are also other,
non-living, causes of skin irritation that can be
mistaken for bug bites. In many cases what appears to
be a bug bite may in fact be caused by something else.
Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)
What if you have bug "bites" but can't find a
I am frequently asked to diagnosis the cause of bug
bites that seem to appear for no obvious reason. There
is no insect or mite
to identify and the person has either a vague
description of what may have bitten them or,
ironically, an extremely detailed description.
Most people who contact me believe there are many
insects and mites that bite us. In reality there are very few that actually
bite people (see this image gallery of the Top
12 Insects & Mites That Bite) and fewer
still for which we are the primary host. Take a look
at the list of insects and mites below that bite
people. If you can not clearly
identify one of these as the cause of your
bites then consider some of the other, non-living,
reasons (see below). Notice that the bites are all
very similar in appearance (red, itchy bump) making
diagnosis from the bite alone nearly impossible.
"bug bites" on wrist and arm;
many different agents can cause the skin
to erupt into red, swollen patches that
may appear to be bug bites.
Causes of real bug bites (check these first)
- Bed bugs - large, red,
splotchy, itchy, mosquito-like bites
- Bird mites (aka rat,
rodent, nest mites) - small, itchy, raised bites
- Biting midges - small,
red, intensely itchy bites
- Black flies - small
to large, red, itchy bites, sometimes mosquito-like
- Chigger mites - large,
red, intensely itchy bumps
- Fleas - red, itchy, bites
often around ankles, lower legs
- Lice; Head lice; Pubic
lice; Body lice
- red , itchy bites on scalp, groin or areas in
contact with clothing, depending on species
- Mosquitoes - red,
- Pyemotes mites
- small, itchy, red bites
- Scabies mites - red
bumps and burrows may be visible, intensely itchy
- Ticks - tick often found
attached to skin marked with red halo around bite
Things that can be
mistaken for bug bites
If you have a bug to id or
need a specific pest control recommendation see our Insect Id service. If, however, you
can't catch a real bug the cause may not be insects or
mites at all. The most common causes of red, itchy skin
since the red itchy skin lesions caused by real bug
bites are an allergic
reaction to proteins in the bug's saliva it
should not be surprising that other types of
allergies so closely resemble bug bites. Food and
respiratory allergies cause hives and itchiness that
closely resemble bug bites. In fact, allergies
are the number one cause of these skin reactions,
they are far more common than real bug bites. For
airborne allergens air purifiers with HEPA filters
can be very effective at cleaning the air of
contaminants, see this article about air purifiers that
remove airborne allergens, or, for example the
PlasmaWave 5500 Air Cleaner.
Toxic chemicals - such as cleaning
solvents and pesticides can cause severe skin
lesions in sensitive individuals.
Physical irritants - anything from
fiberglass splinters to dry skin can cause
irritation. In the case of dry skin a simple room humidifier
can give fast, inexpensive relief. Dry, itchy skin
is mostly a problem during winter months when
central heating in our homes tends to dry the air.
See for example the Honeywell
Germ Free Cool Mist Humidifier.
Drug side effects - especially stimulants
like amphetamines which are notorious for causing
outbreaks of skin lesions caused by scratching to
relieve the "crawling" sensations; even prescription
drugs can cause these same effects.
Extreme emotional stress and anxiety can
cause skin lesions as well.
Food allergies are another cause of skin eruptions such
as hives that look very similar to small "bug bites".
People also react differently to chemical solvents and
even cleaning products and these reactions can change
over time with repeated exposure.
Even insecticides can cause skin to break out in red,
itchy patches. This is particularly serious because
insecticides that are applied because of an assumed
"insect infestation" may in fact be making things worse!
This is one reason we say that conventional
insecticides should not be used indoors.
Botanical insecticides (right) are generally safer
indoors but use them sparingly.
For Home And Gardens
I believe that many of the
"mysterious bug infestations" that afflict so many
people are caused by out-of-control respiratory or
food allergies that are being misdiagnosed as
bug bites**. These allergies can be easily treated
once a proper diagnosis is made. There are other
underlying medical conditions that can mimic the skin
eruptions of insect and mite "bites" and some of these
conditions can be serious.
line - you should not assume that a "bug" is
causing the problem unless you can capture and
identify one. In the absence of an verified bug your
first step should be to consult with a medical
professional to rule out some of the other
causes such as allergies. The quicker you find the
real cause the faster you'll get some relief.
**This information should not be
advice; always check with your own medical
adviser for specifics regarding your health
following a complete exam.
Don't forget to bookmark us - press
ctrl-D in most browsers.
information is useful click
help us maintain and grow 'Bugs! You can also support
by shopping through this Amazon link
or the Amazon.com banner (left).
Mission: To provide
accurate, up-to-date and unbiased information for
solving common insect and mite problems around your
home, business and landscape using least-toxic methods.
see the Disclaimer
statements as well.
Copyright © 2004-...
LivingWithBugs, LLC. All rights reserved.