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Despite government-driven and other public education measures and the best efforts of extermination companies to get a handle on the bed bug epidemic, false alarms during the bed bug detection process are more common than you may think.

Fueled by fear and paranoia that’s exacerbated by the media reports, many people incorrectly conclude they have a bed bug infestation when, in fact, they do not.

Here are three common false alarms to help you make more accurately discern if you do or don’t have a problem with this particular parasite.

Ringing the Wrong Alarms

An article entitled,Don’t Let the Bed bugs Fright uncovers the following false alarms:

1. Identifying the wrong bug

carpet beetle close-up

Carpet Beetle

The article pointed out that the author discovered an invader that was about the size and color of a black lentil, with a line running down its rounded back. It reminded her of bed bugs she had seen previously, but it wasn’t flat and amber-colored like a bed bug.

Before seeking treatment the author wanted to be sure so she sent a photo of the bug to a researcher at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City only to discover that it was a black carpet beetle rather than a bed bug. As the article notes,

“Entomologists like Sorkin, who do bed bug consultations by e-mail and post, often see carpet beetles, fleas, moths, book lice, and springtails that have been misdiagnosed by frantic homeowners or sloppy pest management companies. Richard Pollack of the Harvard School of Public Health has spent 15 years analyzing suspected bed bug infestations and claims that more than half end up being false alarms. More often than not, he says, the specimens turn out to be other household insects, bits of lint, sesame seeds, crumbs, or scabs.”

2. Attributing a bite to a bed bug rather than a mosquito or other pests

Another common false alarm is to attribute a bite to a bed bug when, in actual fact, it is another type of bug bite. The author explains,

“Mysterious red welts may also inspire fear, but ticks, mites, spiders, and mosquitoes are the more likely culprits.”

Bed bug bites do look somewhat like small red welts, but they are found in clusters mostly on arms, neck, and hands. Other bug bites typically do not involve a cluster of bite marks. For instance, you may find that a mosquito only bites once.  Many mosquito bites have lead to unnecessary bed bugs detection inspections with experts whose services are really needed elsewhere.

3. Assuming that “itchy feeling” is from bed bugs when it is something else

It is amazing what tricks the mind can play on a person, especially if they fear bed bugs. Suddenly, one can feel itchy when, in actual fact, they may just have dry skin or some other ailment – real or imagined. Typically, bed bug bites are not itchy like a mosquito bite.

Often, it is the “better safe than sorry” mentality for bed bugs detection that is recommended, but this could mean that false alarms spread more fear and waste considerable money on something that is not really a problem. While cliché, it’s true: knowledge is power.

In Review

In summarizing this blog post, here are the main points:

  • Fear and panic have created many false alarms when it comes to bed bugs.
  • Often, the wrong bug is identified as a bed bug.
  • Bug bites that might be attributed to bed bugs are actually a mosquito or other pests.
  • Itchiness comes from nerves or dry skin and is not typically a sign of a bed bug or bed bug bite.

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