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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Need additional help identifying bugs..


QUESTION: Hello Jack,

I submitted this question to another volunteer, but that individual "maxed out" prior to follow up question being answered, so they suggested I resubmit.  I'm going to try to condense the information to include the initial "sighting" as well as follow up information. I am trying to be as thorough as possible, I'm sorry if this is long...

Thank you for your patience and I sincerely appreciate the help.  My goal is to be able to figure out what they are not, even if we can't figure out exactly what they are... If I can eliminate something with this information, that would be helpful.  I have researched the dreaded bed bug, carpet beetles, and book louse.  Right now I am leaning toward book louse due to the bugs congregating underneath paper posters and the high humidity level in the apartment.

So here is the "story." Last Wednesday when I went to look in under bed plastic containers, I found very tiny bugs on top of the containers, the bugs were actually underneath some paper posters I had inadvertently put on top of the containers (4 containers, side by side). They seemed to be limited to the top of the containers, underneath the paper. But they did not seem to be inside the containers. They were very, very tiny, light brown, uniform in color as far as I could see, and sort of the shape of a grain of rice, but smaller and flatter. Not oval, not round, sort of like a tiny, tiny surf board, a regular surf board, not a long board.  I could not see how many legs they had, they did not seem to have wings. I could and did crush them all with my finger. All the bugs were uniform in size, there didn't seem to be any that were more or less mature.

In a mild panic, I crushed them all with the tip of my finger, sprayed the top of the containers with Hydrogen Peroxide (why I selected this to spray, I do not know...), and cleaned them all (they were quite dusty on top); then I vacuumed everything thoroughly.

As soon as I finished vacuuming, I checked for other bugs in and around the bed, and vacuumed all the crevices of the bed.  It is an Ikea bed that does not have a box spring, just wooden slats that hold the mattress up.  The mattress is not made of traditional material, but is more like a dense sponge.  I found no bugs, nothing that appeared to be fecal material or other bug waste. I don't have any bites. I've done the "flashlight under the bed covers in the middle of the night" thing, and have gotten up at 4am, whipped the light on, and searched everywhere in the bed.  Nothing.

I went even further with the carpet vacuuming today and lifted it up and vacuumed underneath it too. I found one bug. I got it on the tip of my finger and then put it inside clear packing tape and looked at it with a magnifying glass.  It's less than a 16th of an inch long, and it's width/depth is thinner than the length. It had no discernible features.  I couldn't even tell which part was the front of it and which was the back of it.  Could not see legs with the magnifying glass either, that's how small it was; inside the tape, it looked like a tiny, tiny, tiny piece of lint.  About half the size of a standard ant, but too small to tell if the body was segmented in any way.

I have checked every day and they are not back. Some additional information: San Francisco is very moist, as is this particular apartment.  I have found mold on clothing, paper, old metal venitian blinds, and furniture I utilize "damp rid" extensively.  I bought a new houseplant 2 weeks ago - it is the only plant in the house.  I have not travelled.

Is there any information you can provide based on this?  I don't have a digital camera and even if I did, these things were so small, I don't know if it would have done any good.  As I'm sure you've heard before, this is hampering the sleep situation...I'm hoping you can provide some insight before I am incapable of operation heavy machinery. :-)

Thank you so much for your time.

ANSWER: Denise,

I think your best option may be to collect a few and take the sample to your county Extension office or to the entomology dept. at UC Davis. See for the Extension office nearest you. Use a damp Q-tip to transfer the "bugs" to a small vial of alcohol. Once you get a good id the source of the bugs will be easy to determine.

Jack DeAngelis

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Please forgive me, I'm incredibly frustrated. I'm a neat freak and a bug-o-phobe and I first found these things last Wednesday. So I've been living in abject fear since then.

I'm looking for an educated guess, speculation is fine.  I'm not holding anyone responsible for the speculation - I just want to narrow it down.  

The problem with your suggestion is that I can't find any more of them, they seem to be gone.  But as you can imagine, paranoia has taken hold and since the critters have not been identified I am not confident as to whether I am truly rid of them.

Since I have no bites, I can't find any more bugs, and I don't have other traditional signs of any kind of infestation, I'd like information on what common miniscule house bugs might congregate on top of dusty, plastic under bed containers underneath some Fillmore Music Posters... What common house bugs behave like this?  If I'm anthropomorphizing them and asking too much, I apologize.  

I was really hoping to have an expert use their considerable knowledge to give me some direction and speculation.  I was up at Midnight, 2a, 4a, and 6a whipping a flashlight under my covers to see if there was anything there.  I've been doing this for almost a week.  Nothing.  

I need to decide if I should spend the money having a professional come out and evaluate or if the lack of sleep is causing me to lose my marbles.

Sincerely, thank you for any additional information you can provide.


The only insects that might occur in this situation are booklice (psocids) and these are completely harmless. As long as you don't find anything the best advice is try to relax (I know, easier said than done). Have you contacted your MD about possible anxiety treatment? Good luck. I'd suggest focussing more on anxiety control and less on the bugs themselves.

Jack DeAngelis

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Jack DeAngelis


I can answer questions in any area of entomology (study of insects, spiders, mites, ticks, and other terrestrial arthropods). Contact me about home and garden insects, insects that bite and sting, and insects that damage homes such as carpenter ants and termites.


20 years as university extension entomologist, now retired; currently publish a website about home and garden insects.


Ph.D. in Entomology

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