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If Not Bugs, Then What Causes the “Bug Bites”?

This is a fascinating topic.  Every year around this time of year (more specifically – monsoon season) here in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, Glendale, Surprise, Arizona – just to mention a few surrounding cities her in the Arizona Desert.  Our monsoon season is when the southern winds come from the gulf of Mexico with the moisture from tropical storms.  When that’s happening, our air conditioning units are going full force.  Well, you ask what does that have to do with Bugs?  Good question, I’m of the opinion that air conditioning works very hard to suck up the moisture in the air out and that causes a number of environmental factors as you will read below, that are confused with Bug Bites.  I found the following information from a trusted Pest Control Publication who supplies information, and training resources to the Pest Management Industry called Techletter.

Before I let you get to the info, I must say first, this type of information is not being provided to say that people who call Phoenix pest control companies aren’t experiencing pest problems, because there are times when Invader Pest Management (my company) has made intensive inspections and found there to be a pest infestation.  We service millions of square feet of commercial office space, and while there have been a large percentage of “Mystery Bugs”, many times there can be problems such as very small ants (so small you need a magnifying glass to identify them as ants), bird mites, lice and human itch mites(scabies).  Some of these, however, are personal medical (not pest control) conditions and need to be addressed by a physician.

Many environmental factors can contribute to irritations and biting sensations:

  • Carpets: Fibers from synthetic carpets, particularly flimsy, nylon-based carpets, can “leap” onto the legs of office workers. The fibers can feel like pinpricks or bites, and can actually puncture the skin, especially if the person’s skin is dry. Women who wear nylons and sandal-type heels have higher static electricity around their legs and feet and are most likely to attract the fibers.
  • Paper Splinters and Particles: Stacks of paper, multi-part forms, computer cards, and continuous forms produce paper splinters that can cause bite-like sores, rashes, or itching. So too can small pieces of wire insulation, carbon, and particle board. This is where “paper mite” and “cable mite” infestations got their name.
  • Static Electricity: High levels of static electricity can make carpet fibers, particles, and paper splinters “jump” to oppositely-charged arms or legs. Nylon rugs generate static electricity when people walk or roll their chairs. Electrical equipment such as radios, terminals, consoles, and computers also generate static.
  • Low Humidity: Low humidity increases static electricity and the movement and effect of paper splinters, carpet fibers, and other particles, and aggravates dry skin as well.
  • Ventilation: Filters from heating and air conditioning systems, and fiberglass insulation around ductwork, sometimes release fibers that cause “bites” and irritation. New filters often release fibers for a few days after installation. Dead spots in air flow within a room may increase skin irritation and the feeling that one is being bitten.
  • Indoor Air Pollutants: Modern buildings with closed ventilation systems sometimes have periodic high levels of chemical pollutants such as formaldehyde and resins. Some of these can cause skin irritations or allergic reactions.
  • Insecticide Treatment: Repeated insecticide applications may increase workers’ skin irritation and sensitivity to other environmental factors. (There is a “Catch-22” here. Office managers may insist on repeated insecticide treatments. Sometimes an area gets short-term relief from “bites” caused by fibers or other physical irritants after it has been sprayed because (1) sprays or fogs can carry dust and fiber particles down into the carpet, and (2), sprays add moisture to the air and lower static electricity levels. But these effects are short-term, and the repeated exposures may increase the skin problems.)
  • Weekends Outdoors: Workers may be bitten on weekend picnics or other outdoor activities. Mosquito, fly, chigger, or flea bites may not show up for several hours, and in fact may be noticed first at work where they are blamed on “bugs in the office.” Workers may pick up head lice from their children.
  • Bell’s Syndrome: This syndrome demonstrates the “power of suggestion.” When one person in a group feels an itch or biting sensation or irritation, and begins to talk about it or to scratch, others in the group soon follow suit. It is a very powerful suggestion, difficult to ignore. When one person in an office talks about “bites,” it will likely influence others.

Nine out of ten times, the “bites” turn out to be something else, usually a combination of environmental conditions and physical factors that cause skin irritation that mimic bug bites perfectly, often complete with bumps and swellings. But one out of ten times, actual pests are the cause.  As a professional pest management expert, I always recommend that you have a thorough pest inspection of your property to make the determination.

If you suspect pests, please try to collect specimens of the biting pest by either picking up the pest on a wet cotton ball and dropping it in a jar of rubbing alcohol, or using a piece of Scotch tape to gently stick the bug and tape onto a piece of paper. You can leave sticky traps in the rooms where you think your being bitten. Collect dead insects and mites from window sills, table tops, and other areas and place them in a sealed plastic bag for identification.  Take as much care as possible, to collect the insects as smashed bugs are very difficult to utilize for identification purposes.

Always remember too, many types of bites, such as chiggers, mosquitoes and bedbugs, often don’t become apparent until a day or two after the bite so people may not associate the bite with the circumstances.  Look back a couple of days, to any outdoor activities, any travel or night time stays outside your own home.

As always, Invader Pest Management and our team of professionals would be happy to assist you with any of your pest problems, even the “Mystery Pests”.  Call us at 623-435-0228  or check us out on our website

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • stacy December 1, 2010, 2:55 am

    makes me want to drink alchoholic beverages

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