Note: If you are a consumer, looking for information on pests biting you in your home or business, you should check out my post, What’s Biting Me When I’m at Home?
Too often, when people come to a pest management professional with bites, they struggle to produce specimens.
Bites can be difficult to use to identify pests. The best way to be certain of the pest is to actually see the pest.
Chemical treatments vary from one biting pest to the next. Treating without an identification may not be a good option and may have no effect on the pest.
So, how do you get specimens to identify?
You can ask the client to supply them. However, this is often challenging, too. Some biting pests, such as mites, are very small and can be difficult to see. Clients, trying to collect such small specimens, will sometimes end up collecting lint, skin flakes, pieces of mucus, and so forth. Clients also will often collect samples where they feel they are being bit, so you end up with scabs, hairs, pieces of skin, and so forth.
A throughout inspection for biting pests can help. Find out what rooms the client is in when experiencing the bites, and focus your inspection in those areas. Also take note of any pets – these can be a source of biting pests. Look for any wildlife or feral animal problems. Is there an unsealed opening to the subarea? Any evidence of birds nesting on the house or bats roosting in the attic? Are there any areas around the house where wildlife or a stray cat might sleep, such as a window well?
Placing glue boards can help, too. These should go in areas of the house where the client is experiencing the bites. Also place them near to the resting areas for pets, regardless of whether the client thinks the pet is being bit. Pick up the glue boards after a week. First, examine them with your naked eyes for anything that stands out, then take a look at them with a microscope.
What I like about placing glue boards is that it is something the client can do. I had a client once where, rather than needing me to go to her house repeatedly, I had her place out glue boards (she used mouse glue boards – which worked just fine) and bring them in to me.
The worst thing a pest management professional can do is let the client take charge. You are the professional – you know the best practices for controlling pests. That’s why they hired you. The fact that they are paying you does not mean that you just follow their commands, no more than a surgeon would let a client tell them where to cut.
I had a client once who insisted on putting glue boards by her chair, which was “infested” with mites that could only be controlled with liberal applications of Arrid Extra Dry. (Although she was insistent that I had special pesticides that, if applied to her chair, would provide even better results.) I repeatedly told her to place glue boards by her pet hamster, but she insisted on only placing them by her chair.
We never captured any pests there. She insisted on having her chair treated, as her experience showed that Arrid Extra Dry only had a day or two residual. I insisted on more monitoring – and finding the pest. I insisted on having glue boards by the pet hamster, even though it had “no problems.”
Eventually, out of desperation, she put glue boards by the hamster. A week later, when she brought in the glue boards, there we had our pest – bird mites. The hamster was infested.
If I’d caved in and just performed the treatment she wanted, eventually the bites would have reoccurred. You know as well as I do that one of the basic tenets of pest management is to find and control the pest at the source.
These are some ways to get a sample of biting pests. But, what if you can’t get a sample? Check out my post on what to do if you can’t get a sample of biting pests.