Ahhh......nothing like a little blood sucking bug for the topic on Halloween. Yes, Bat Bugs (Cimex adjunctus and several other species) are perfectly capable of feeding on humans and other animals in a home, but apparently they are NOT capable of continuing their population without the bat hosts they are adapted to. The blood of humans just does not permit them to breed successfully and produce more of their kind. In fact, prior to the resurgence of The Common Bed Bug (Cimex lectularius) bat bugs and swallow bugs were common problems within homes where their host animals were nesting or roosting. This is a very important fact to keep in mind as we now focus so heavily on The Common Bed Bug, and tend to forget that these other species could well be the ones we find inside a home.
The Bat Bug (BB) is almost identical in appearance to the Common Bed Bug (CBB), and the difference is small enough that you are not about to see it with the naked eye. You MUST carry a magnifier into the field with you, and even a small hand lens may not be powerful enough to make a certain ID. A dissecting microscope capable of magnifying 35X or more would be much better, and this is a tool that no pest control office should be without. For all small insects and for scanning glue traps a dissecting scope is the best way to make accurate identifications.
The difference with these biting bugs is the hairs that are found along the sides of the prothorax - the first section of the thorax immediately behind the head. On the Bat Bug those hairs are longer than the width of the eye, while on the CBB those hairs are shorter than the width of the eye. So, not only do you need to be capable of clearly seeing those hairs, but you must be able to see the eye as well and make the comparison. If you have Bat Bugs and assume they must be the CBB you will go about a control program that is unnecessary and probably wrong. Control of Bat bugs and Swallow bugs begins with identifying the presence of their preferred host animals and removing and permanently excluding them. Then, the mop up of the bugs can be accomplished without a fresh reservoir of more of them still in the structure.
Like the CBB, Bat bugs can live for a long time without feeding, possibly up to 1 year. They are just as mobile as the CBB and once they lose their preferred host they quickly travel to find a new blood meal. They may be found more often around window sills or in ceiling lights as they travel from attics or wall voids, and this could be a red flag telling you that something is different. Their feeding habits will be essentially the same as those of the Common bed bug, so capturing some specimens and examining them properly is always a good idea. They definitely will establish themselves within the bedroom and other sleeping areas once they have found humans as a blood host, but will die off on their own since they now lack the proper host to produce new eggs.
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