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Pests/Fleas or bed bugs?

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Fleas?
Fleas?  
Bites
Bites  
QUESTION: Hi Jack

For nearly two weeks I've been getting bites on various parts of my body. It started on my collar bone and over the course of two or three days, three bites emerged that were very itchy. Next day was one on each ankle and then each subsequent day there's been a minimum of one bite on various parts of my body including my waist line, calf, back etc. The other morning I woke up with three bites in a perfect triangle. There was a faint fourth bite coming through as well. The next night there were two more bites showing in the same area for a total of six bites in that area. Around these bites is a white halo, surrounding the entire area, not each bite.  Interestingly these bites were on my body that is covered in underwear and pyjama pants and I've been tucking my top in as well.

I live with my husband and 9 month old baby. Neither of whom have shown any reaction to bites.

Of course the first thought was bed bugs. We scoured the bedroom dismantling the bed and vacuuming thoroughly. We use white sheets and couldn't find traces of any bed bugs. We also had pest control come in and they couldn't detect anything.

A week after three first bite I found a tiny insect on our bedroom floor. It was on its back trying to right itself. I poked at it a bit and it hopped a little but I was able to catch it and put it In alcohol. A flea? Over the next few days I found three more under similar circumstances - sitting on the floor. At least one other was on its back trying to right itself. So in total, four potential fleas found - two in our bedroom and two on the main level of the house.  

The bites don't seem as itchy as the first ones I got. The majority seem to happen during the night but I haven't been able to see any flea dirt on our white sheets or in my pyjamas

Interestingly we do not have pets and we do not have carpet (just one wool rug). We live in a semi detached house on the first and second level however our attached neighbour has a cat and the basement tenant has a dog. Our unit is supposedly completely separate from both of theirs - separate ventilation etc. It was completely gutted and renovated last year.  Of course both neighbours say their pets do not have fleas. There are some neighbourhood cats that frequent our front porch as well.

So my questions for you are, based on the attached photos, are these fleas?

Is this typical flea behaviour to not be detected anywhere in the house?

Is it normal that they would have trouble righting themselves if they're on their backs?

If there is not pets or carpet , where do they like to hide?  I've set out a trap of water, dish soap and a light but haven't seen anything.

Also given the baby doesn't have any "immunity" to flea bites, is it odd she is not being bitten?

ANSWER: Maxie,

These are fleas but they may not be cat/dog fleas, there are many species of flea that occur on different host animals. I think it is very unlikely that cat/dog fleas from your neighbor's pets would be entering your home unless the pets themselves are entering. I can't be certain but these fleas look a little large for cat/dog fleas, they might in fact be fleas from a wild animal or rodent. This is actually fairly common when these animals build nests in association with houses. Nests can occur in the crawlspace, exterior walls or even the attic. Your best option is to explore the possibility of a nest and of course remove it if found, an experienced exterminator might help here (see http://www.livingwithbugs.com/exterminators.html for suggestions). Otherwise, frequent sweeping and cleaning might be all you can do, I don't suggest using insecticides indoors in this case. Post a follow-up if you have questions.



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

QUESTION: Thanks for the quick response, Jack.

Just a quick follow-up, does the species of flea change anything (treatment etc)? If I take my flea samples to a lab to be tested and it is a non cat/dog species, does that indicate we have a wildlife problem for sure? Or can all flea species go on all animals - are they non-discriminatory?

The reason I ask is I'm trying to have the landlord search for wildlife in the attic, walls etc and they don't feel it's necessary as we don't hear any sounds.

Thanks again

Answer
Fleas are fairly specific in terms of preferred host so an id might tell you what host is involved. You won't always hear animals that are nesting in walls or crawlspaces. I think if you can show that you have fleas whose usual hosts are wild animals (as confirmed by an expert) that should be enough to warrant an exterminator.

Jack DeAngelis

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Jack DeAngelis

Expertise

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 such as aphids and spider mites, insects that bite and sting such as ticks and wasps, and insects that damage homes such as carpenter ants and termites.

Experience

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

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see www.livingwithbugs.com/resume.html

Publications
see www.livingwithbugs.com/resume.html Fine Gardening magazine

Education/Credentials
Ph.D. in Entomology (the study of insects)

Awards and Honors
see www.livingwithbugs.com/resume.html

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