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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Tiny Black bug biting and living in hair



My family is getting bit by a seemingly invisible insect. The bites are painful and leave marks. My daughter was diagnosed with lice however, I only found like 9 nits and no real bugs and the bugs have wings!!. A few days later I caught one that was living in my hair. Without magnification is looks similar to a flea but up close that is where it ends. Please help me id them. I am at my wits  end. They also leave black "droppings" everywhere. The picture are in a microscope in hopes it will be easier to id.

Dear Elsie - Although I cannot tell for certain what is biting you, I can tell you that the insect in your image would not be responsible. It is a tiny beetle (order Coleoptera), and there are no beetle species that ever have been reported as infesting humans in any manner. However, it is not at all uncommon for small insects such as these to get into hair accidentally; I certainly have encountered numerous such 'hitchhikers' myself!
   All that aside, possible bite suspects include fleas (they often leave droppings - 'flea dirt' - where they feed, see for an image), mosquitoes or biting midges (these give some of the most painful bites I've experienced) that gain entry at night, and bed bugs. The bottom line is that it is nearly impossible to confirm the cause of 'mystery bites' without actually catching/seeing the culprit(s) in the act of biting. At this point, the only other suggestion I can make is that you consult a physician for advice.

Hope this helps,

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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