Neither Bitten nor Delusional, Carpet Beetles and Bed Bugs
by Auntie Madder
(Dallas, Texas, USA)
For the last several months, I've had the "crawlies" and felt the (nearly always) "invisible bug bites" left by "microscopic mites" or "invisible bugs." Although I wanted to, I couldn't explain the crawling sensations and feelings of being bitten or stung any other way. And try as I might, I couldn't convince myself that I was delusional (still can't), not when told I was by the nurse practitioner nor even when my boyfriend and one of our mutual friends offered their unsolicited assistance by insisting that my bugs and bites were mere delusions, even going so far as of refusing to acknowledge my comments and complaints on the topic. (Yes, they ignore me as if I'm not even in the room...providing further proof that when it comes to tough love, a**holes do it best.)
Since Monday, I have found and put in a disposable, covered plastic bowl, the carcasses of two tiny, hairy bugs. My search of Bing images of "tiny hairy bugs" led me to the knowledge that the two not-at-all dear departed are carpet beetle larvae. Keying "do carpet beetles bite" into Bing web search returned numerous pages of results, all of which instructing that carpet beetles do not bite. A few, however, go on to explain that some people have an allergic skin reaction to carpet beetle larvae hairs that feel like bug bites or stings.
"Carpet beetle larvae have prickly little hairs that cause a reaction in some people that looks very much like bed bug bites. The solution is to make sure all the allergens (the hairs) are removed from the environment. People with sensitivity to the hairs may get some relief by not wearing shoes or socks in the house. A build-up of static electricity can cause the micro fine hairs on the larvae to impale themselves in human skin, thus creating a small pin-prick-like wound. The ‘bite reaction’ under clothes is symptomatic of carpet beetles, as the hairs can pass though all but the finest of weaves on clothes."
From Greening the Apple, the Environmental Protection Agency’s New York City blog
This information is confirmed by West Virginia University, the entomologists and other pros at the BedBugger Blog , and David Cain of Bed Bugs Limited in the UK (via BedBugger), among others.
While my experience has been that few of the "bites" of the carpet beetle larvae hairs left marks that look like the bites of bed bugs (or any other bugs, either) on my skin, the "bites" really did sting and hurt, sometimes so much that I thought I might cry like a baby. I was many times incredulous when my boyfriend claimed to see no bug nor bite or sting mark s on my back, as those are the "bites" that hurt me the most. In fact, some of the first "bites" on my back still hurt now, months later.
Now it all makes sense. Although I've felt crawled over and bitten and stung hundreds of times over the past several months, and although the perp is, indeed, an insect, I've not been bitten at all. But I'm not delusional, either. I've been suffering from an allergic reaction to the tiny little hairs of the carpet beetle larvae.
If only I knew then what I know now. For that matter, if only doctors and nurse practitioners knew then what I know now. Shame on you all, dermatologists especially, for telling patients seeking help and relief of pain from you that it's all in their minds and writing them off as delusional instead of performing a little online research in search of answers. If I can do it without a PhD...And they pay you the big bucks.
Editor Comment Regarding Carpet Beetle Skin Reactions
Thank you for sharing your story. We're sure it will help others who know they have some type of skin reaction, but aren't sure of the cause.
Allergic skin reactions are specific to the individual. Some may show no reaction to an insect, while others will experience symptoms similar to the ones you describe.
You were smart for continuing to investigate the cause of the skin itch problem.