overview of causes for bug bites in bed
There are several reasons whey you are experiencing bug bites in bed. Causes include insects or non-insect based reasons as listed below.
Insect Based Causes of Bites
Insect based reasons for what appears to be bites in bed:
- bed bugs (commonly confused with scabies bites which need to be confirmed with a skin scraping)
- chicken mites (bird mites)
- scabies mites
- spider bites
is difficult to identify one cause of body itch or irritation from
another, although each has specific signs. For example bug bites on
elbows could be caused by bed bugs.
Other insects, such as
chigger bites, result in delayed skin reactions that could be attributed
to happening during sleep. It gets even more complicated when you
consider insect such as Dermestid beetles that can cause an allergic
reaction when they molt. Similar reactions can be caused by cockroaches
and dust mites.
Other Causes for Night Bites in Bed
Non insect causes are often confused with insect bites since they have similar characteristics. Often changes in blankets,
detergents and food can cause an allergic reaction that is mistaken for
an insect bite. Even dry air can result in skin itch, such as
what happens when heating systems are turned on at home or at work. If
bites are seen all over the body, particularly under areas covered by
tighter fitting clothes, then allergy is more likely the cause of skin
irritation and rash.
Non-insect causes of skin rash, reactions and irritation includes:
- antibiotic reactions
- food allergy
- staphylococcus infections
- Grover's disease
- Dermatitis Herpetiformis
- Itch produced by microscopic fibers of paper or glass
Since there are many possible causes, we suggest that if you believe an insect is the cause, the you call in an exterminator from a certified network such as Home Advisor . You can also call (877) 673-2704 for experienced .
Causes of bug bites by body location
While biting insects can bite anywhere on the body, some insects tend to bite or cause itching in certain areas:
Bites on Face
Bites on Neck
Bites on Elbows
Bites on Arms
Bites on Wrists
Bites on Ankles
Bites on Crotch
Bites on Waist
Bites on Armpits
Bites on Inside Thighs
Bites on Back of Calves
Bites on Scalp
Bites on Hands
Bites on Legs
Bed bugs, Mosquitoes
Bed Bugs, Mosquitoes
Bed Bugs, Ticks
Chiggers, Lice (Pubic)
Chiggers, Scabies Mites
Chiggers, Scabies Mites
Head Lice, Cone Nose Bugs
Mosquitoes, Bed Bugs, Ticks
causes by Insect size or appearance
One way to tell what is causing bug bites in bed or at night is to find or determine the size of the insect.
Bed Bugs: (1/8 inch) red in color, oval
- Rat Mites, Bird Mites: poppy seed size with 8 legs. Gray or red in color.
- Scabies Mites: Live most of life under the skin. They make lines on the skin.
- Head Lice: 1/10: long (2.5mm). They can be seen with the eye. Color is gray/white to tan. Lice have 6 legs and a claw on the end of each leg. Lace also lay yellow eggs at the hair base.
- Pubic Lice: These lice appear to be crab like. They are 1/12 inch (1.5-2.0mm) and appear to be small gray specks.
- Ticks: black in color and about the size of a period before feeding.
For a small fee you can also send an insect to the Cornell University Insect Diagnostic Lab.
Bed bugs are carried into a home on luggage or on clothing
from another locations, or move from an infested apartment to an
Bed Bug Lifecycle
Bed Bugs at Each Stage of Life Cycle
Bed bug bites usually appear on exposed skin areas during sleep. This
includes the face, hands, lower arms, neck and lower leg. It
is rare for bed bugs to bite the bottoms of the feet. If
this is the case, then the cause is more likely to be scabies. Bites can occur on any exposed skin area, although they are inhibited by clothing. Most bites are reported on the legs and arms.
bites are allergic skin reactions and can range from a single red
raised round red area to multiple bites. These bed bug bites
in bed have a
clear center and can appear as a single bite or in a group.
In addition to skin irritation, or a bed bug
rash, itch is a common symptom.
Bed Bugs Bites in Row Pattern on Arm
Bed Bug Bites Along an Arm
Bites alone do not confirm the presence of bed bugs since the bites are similar to what can be caused by other insects. Other signs of bed bugs include brown or red markings on the mattress,
particularly along mattress and box spring seams. You may
also smell a raspberry musty smell. You can see bed bugs with the naked
eye. To nudge them out of hiding, run a credit
card or wire brush inside a bed seam to see if any run out.
Bed bugs will feed on a host for several minutes while the host or
human/pet is sleeping. After feeding, they leave the host and return to
their hiding place. Bed bugs do not spread disease.
Bed Bug Bite Cure
Symptoms of bed bug bites tend to go away on their own in 1 to 2 weeks assuming the source of the bites has been eliminated. If you are allergic to bed bug bites there are no known allergens that can be used as part of a desensitization program (e.g; allergy shots). The best approach is to get rid of the bed bugs.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
In terms of answering the question how to get rid of bed
bugs, its best to call in an exterminator as these are considered the
toughest insects to identify and kill. Multiple methods are
needed to do the job correctly. Bed bug treatment can be
expensive so be sure to call several firms to ask about costs, methods
used, and guarantees. A good place to start is with Home Advisor (1.877.233.1145) since they provide up to 3 free quotes.
You can also check our bed
bug exterminator database. Treatment can cost
$1000 or more.
If you can't afford a bed bug exterminator, the next best approach is
to purchase a bed
bug kit. This will contain both the instructions
and products needed to do the job correctly. There are
products made to specifically help with bed
occur outdoors, followed by a delayed skin reaction. For this reason, they do not occur as bug bites in bed. Chiggers are
small red colored mites that feed on rodents and humans.
Chiggers usually feed and then move off of the human host.
will attached to pets
or other animals for several days. Chiggers feed at the based of human
hair or in a pore. They will feed in areas where clothing is tight to
the body such as at the waist or top of a sock. The chigger will attach
to the skin and digest lymph from the skin.
Diagram of Chigger Bite Locations
Chigger Bite Locations on Body
Human chigger bites happen when a person moves through a
infested outdoor area. The insect repellent Off,
which contains the active
ingredient DEET, will repel chiggers.
Chigger Bites on Leg
Source: North Carolina Cooperative Extension and Texas A&M
Chigger bites results in skin itch in 3 to 6 hours,
with a chigger bite
or skin irritation forming after 10 to 16 hours. In severe chigger bite
reactions in highly allergic people, blisters
can form. They do not cause disease.
Products providing chigger itch relief include calamine
lotion, oral Benadryl or a prescription steroid cream.
Chiggers or Bed bugs
When comparing Chiggers to bed bugs, it can usually be differentiated
based on bite location. Chiggers congregate in body areas that are
constricted by clothing. Bed Bugs are just the opposite. Chiggers are
found in the ankles, crotch, waistline and armpits, all areas where bed
bugs usually do not bite.
Bird or chicken mites live on birds and enter homes by moving from a
bird nest into the home.
When this happens they use humans as a host. Bird mites are
found throughout the United States. They are whitish in color before
feeding and turn red after feeding. As the blood is digesting
they will turn a black/gray color. Bird mites have 8 legs and are oval
shaped. The are small at 1/32 inches (.75mm).
They are also introduced into the home on birds kept as pets
and sometimes from gerbils (gerbil mites).
Bird or Chicken Mite
Bird or Chicken Mite
Chicken or bird mites become a problem when they move from nest located
on the outside of a home, and then migrate into the home through the
attic or window frame. They feed on the skin and then fall to the
ground after feeding. Bird mites can spread a disease called
St. Louis encephalitis and a skin reaction.
The mites rapidly reproduce with the mite going through a generation in
7 to 12 days. Like bed bugs, they hide in small
cracks/crevices during daylight and feed on humans at night.
The bites can cause skin irritation and itch. To
help with the itch consider a topical such as Aveeno.
Bird Mites or Bed Bugs
Bird mites will bite any part of the body. Humans are not a good host for the mite, causing them to die in about 3 weeks. They can live for up to 4 to 5 months. When comparing bird mites or bed bugs, consider if you can find other signs of bed bugs such as mattress stains.
Killing Bird Mites
Call an exterminator such as Home Advisor (1.877.233.1145) if you have a bird mite
infestation as you will want to start bird mite treatment as early as
Be sure to wash all bed linen in hot water to kill any mites
that might have fallen into the bed. Vacuum all rooms
Prevention involves avoiding nest formation on a home, such as in a
chimney. After birds abandon a nest, quickly remove it. Do
not handle nests with your bare hands. If no hosts
are available, mites can
survive for about 8 months without feeding.
A flea will feed on any warm blooded mammal. The most common type is
called a cat flea, which is often brought into the home by a pet such
as a cat or dog, or on a rodent. Fleas are a dark red/brown color,
flat and are 1/2 inch to 1/6 inches long. When they move,
they look compressed, as if they are walking on their edge. They have
and are found throughout the United States. Flea bites can
happen to a pet or a human. They can survive on a host for 30
to 50 days. Flea season is spring and early summer, but are
found year round.
Flea Biting Skin
Flea Biting Skin and Taking Blood Meal
Fleas can jump up to 8 inches high, 16 inches along a floor allowing
them to leap onto a host. Once on a host, fleas do not leave.
They are often found on the lower legs ,as they leap onto the host.
Fleas can transfer a disease called the Bubonic Plague and
bacterial infection murine typhus. In pets, fleas can spread
Cat fleas will lay flea eggs on the host (20 to 50/day) and will hatch
in two to five days. The eggs are small, 1/32" and are white ovals in
shape. Eggs often fall off the host landing on the bed, and
carpet. Flea larvae are 3/16" and look like a worm with no
legs or eyes. Larvae will feed off of dried blood left behind by adult
fleas. The larva will move around for 8 to 15 days and then
build a cocoon before becoming an adult. They will leave the
cocoon under normal room temperatures in about eighteen days.
Cat Flea Larva
Cat Flea Larva
Source: University of California
The most common reaction in humans is a skin reaction due to flea
allergy. Reactions are small red bumps which itch. Fleabites
are small and round, With some swelling and are
mostly found on the ankles and lower legs. Children sometimes
out in hives called urticaria. They can spread a disease
called cat flea rickettsiosis with symptoms that include a skin rash,
vomiting, fever and chills.
Pets can suffer hair loss and other allergic reactions called fleabite
allergic dermatitis. This also is accompanied by itch.
Itching in pets and humans can last for 5 days.
To prevent a flea infestation, be sure to bathe and groom pets. Use a
flea preventative for pets such as Frontline for Cats
These spot ons are applied to the coat every 1 to 3 months.
Other products can be added to food or provided as a
pill. A flea comb can help during grooming to remove fleas.
If a dog is
infested, consider using a dog/cat flea
dip first combined with the use of a flea comb. No
matter which method selected, always follow the manufacturers
Be sure to vacuum the home thoroughly (for 10 days to 2 weeks) and wash
all of your pets belongings in hot
water with detergent. As an added level of protection clean
the home with a disinfectant formulated to kill parasites such as Benzarid.
If you have a carpet, the product FleaBusters
can help to kill any fleas that are hiding.
Treating outdoor areas is not generally considered necessary.
mosquito bites and Gnats
Mosquito bites are common in warmer months. They come in a
variety of colors, but are most often a pale brown. They have
6 legs and are oval shaped. Mosquitoes are 1/4" to 3/8" in size and are
found throughout the United States.
Dorsal (Head) View of Bed Bug
Mosquito Feeding on Skin A Cause of Bug Bites in Bed
Only female mosquitoes feed on human blood and are most active just
after dawn to dusk. A mosquito can fly up to 14 miles in
search of a blood meal. They can spread diseases such as
Dengue Fever, Malaria and West Nile Virus.
Mosquito Bites on Legs That Look Like a Random and Disorganized Colleged of Bites
Mosquito prevention starts with eliminating places where they can breed
such as any standing water (bird baths, ponds, pools). Insect
repellents such as Off
(DEET active ingredient) can help to minimize mosquito bites.
scabies bites (common to confuse with bed bugs)
Scabies Rash on Back
Scabies mites will feed on humans or pets. The mites will burrow into
human skin, but cannot complete their lifecycle on a human.
The result on the skin is the development of a scabies rash.
The mites are 1/16" in size.
A female scabies mite lays 3 eggs per day under the skin for a total of
200. It takes 3 to 4 days for the eggs to hatch. As the
nymphs (baby mites) hatch, they emerge from the skin, they start to
molt. Scabies symptoms include skin rash (often referred to
as scabies bites) and severe itch. Scabies symptoms
appear several weeks after the infestation has started.
The scabies nymphs then burrow into the skin as they molt to become
adults. Most scabies mites are found between the fingers (in lesions),
on the wrists, sides of the feet, genitals, and at the bend of the
elbows and knees.
The scabies mites spread through personal contact, such as shaking
hands or by touching a dog with scabies. Most infestations
only involve a few mites. The itch can spread all over the body. The mite can be spread from person to person through contact. Mites can also walk from one host to the other.
Scabies Treatment involves the use of a topical such as Scabisil (or see your dermatologist).
Often an entire family needs to be treated, since there is a time lag
in terms of identification of the scabies problem, allowing them to
spread to other family members.
The home should also be disinfected including the cleaning of all linen
and clothes in hot water (particularly underwear requires frequent
Foggers and other scabies extermination methods do not work as the
mites cannot live off of a human host for more than 24 hours.
Scabies or Chiggers
Scabies or Chiggers Bites Comparison
Chigger Bite (top) vs. Scabies Bites (Bottom)
Scabies burrow under the skin and are found on the hands or wrists. Rash can occur in areas that do not have scabies under the skin such as the wrists, waist, inside thighs and backs of the calves. For scabies you can see where they burrowed under the skin.
Chiggers bite the skin, often through clothing.
spider bites (rare)
Human spider bites tend to be accidental, when a person comes in direct
contact with the spider. Common house spiders pose no threat
to humans and are rare since there are few insects if any to feed out.
They do not seek out humans to bite.
Adult Female Bed Bug
The Wolf Spider is a Rare Cause of Bug Bites in Bed
Spider bites are usually of no concern and show little to no reaction.
However some people are highly sensitive and show more of a skin
reaction. Of course, extremely poisonous spiders such as the
brown recluse or the black widow spider can cause serious injury.
If bitten by one of these poisonous spiders, immediately
apply an ice pack and call for medical help.
Spider Bite Symptoms
Spider bite symptoms range from a minor skin reaction to something more
severe. It is rare for a spider bite to cause death. Typical
spider bite symptoms include:
radiating from the site of the bite
pain or cramping
to purplish color or blister
If spider bites are a problem in a home, it is usually due to the
existence of other insects that spiders like to feed on.
Spider infestations are removed with vacuuming and removing
webs. Insecticides are available to rid a home of spiders.
When seeking treatment, try and bring a sample spider with you for
Tick Rash on Skin
Tick Bite Bullseye
Ticks often cause a purple ring that surrounds a bright red spot. The bites can also cause lesions and inflammation. Two types of ticks, the western blacklegged tick and the blacklegged
tick leave a bulls-eye rash. The Rocky Mountain wood tick leaves a rash
that appears on day 2 to 5 after the bite occurs. This tick bites the
wrists, back or ankles. The rash can spread all over the body.
This free brochure provides additional information on bug bites in bed.
Guide to Bug Bites in Bed
How to recognize the source of bug bites including bed bugs and other insects.
Written by: Karen Miller
Available in a free
Questions and answers
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Centers for Disease Control
University of North Carolina Cooperative Extension
University of California