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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/unknown bugs in mattress


unknown bug in bed
unknown bug in bed  
QUESTION: About 2 weeks ago small bites started appearing over my arms. These itched like hell for many days & I had no idea what was causing this. One night I woke up because of the itching & turned on the lights to find these little monsters crawling over the bed. I'm not sure what these are, certainly not bed bugs or fleas. These are extremely small, about 1/2 mm in size & have a black-ish color. I've attached a photo of one which had drunk blood & turned red. These move very fast once on the body but are comparatively slower on the bed. I have another mattress at home, but I've not found these on it. Most of the bites have been on my arms, armpits & thighs. Please help me identify these monsters. I can post more photos if required.

PS: I'm from Pune, India.

ANSWER: Dear Jithin - the creature in your image is too small for me to see any identifiable detail, but anything that small and moving about would just about have to be a mite of some kind. There are several species of mites that normally infest birds or rodents that will bite humans if their usual host is not present, and these bites can result in intense itching. You might check your premises for bird/rodent nests, especially ones that appear to have been abandoned, and dispose of any you find. I will caution you, however, that it is nearly impossible to accurately determine the cause(s) of 'mystery bites' unless you actually see/capture the culprit in the act of biting.

Hope this helps,

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QUESTION: Thank you for taking the time Ed. I'll try to get a better photo of these things. Would a description of the body structure help you identify these?

I do not have any pets at home & the room where I found these does not have any open windows. I have noticed pigeons roosting outside the windows though. Could that be the source? But the birds have been doing that ever since I moved to this house so why should this start now?

I have found these inside my clothes in the approximate areas where I was bitten, so I'm quite sure that these are the culprits. Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of these apart from fumigation. My 7 month old son would be coming home soon from in-laws' so I do not want to use any chemicals.

ANSWER: Dear Jithrin - Without seeing a clear close-up images of them that show details including legs and other appendages, I will remain uncertain as to their identity; verbal descriptions may not suffice, as the same words may be interpreted differently by the sender and recipient. However, if your critters are indeed bird or rodent mites, control without resorting to chemicals of some sort may be difficult - see for a fact sheet.
  Here in the USA, every state has extension service offices where one can get assistance in pest identification and control recommendations. Unfortunately, I am unaware of any similar service in India.

Hope this helps,

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QUESTION: Here are a couple of better photos of the critter. Hope this helps you identify it.

Dear Jithrin - Although I still cannot see enough detail to be certain, the creature in the larger image does resemble a bird or rodent mite - see, http://tinyurl.comjvkj5y9, and for some examples. If this is the case, your next task would seem to be to determine the source - as they are so small, it would be virtually impossible to keep them from gaining entry from the outside.

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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