When a customer is getting bitten in the bedroom, pest managers need to do a little detective work to find out the culprit, and treat it appropriately.

Calls from customers who have got bitten in bed during the night are not uncommon for pest managers. Assuming it is real, rather than an imagined event, finding the culprit is not always straightforward, as it could be one of several possible suspects. A thorough inspection and questioning of the customer is required to identify the cause.

If we exclude the possibility of bites from flying insects such as mosquitoes and biting midges, fleas are probably the most common biting insect inside the home and probably the easiest of the culprits to spot, with adult fleas being 2-3 mm long. It’s unlikely that the fleas are only in the bed, so a complete inspection of the house is required.

Bed bugs are probably the next easiest potential suspect to spot. Often bed bugs will make a number of bites, either trying to find a good feeding spot or because they get disturbed. So if the victim reports that the bites are in a cluster or line (don’t ask to see them!), it is a good indicator that bed bugs could be the cause. Inspecting the edges of the mattress, bed head and beds slats should reveal bed bugs. If located, a complete inspection of the bedroom and house will be required before treatment.

If no bed bugs can be found, lice may be the potential cause. Head lice (main picture, above), body lice and pubic lice (‘crabs’) are all found on humans. They are all sucking lice and the location of the bites is a good indictor as to which lice is causing the problem. Head and body lice are 2-3 mm in size and pubic lice 1-2 mm in size, so all visible to the naked eye.

If you’re still drawing a blank, you can start to consider smaller possible culprits – mites. Dust mites, storage mites and bird mites are all found in homes and their small size (< 1 mm) and semi-transparent colour make them difficult to spot. Dust mites don’t actually bite although they can cause allergic reactions. Straw itch mites (one of the storage mites) do bite, as do bird mites. Straw itch mites will only persist under conditions of high humidity and a bird mite problem will only arise if there are birds nesting in the roof and the mites have abandoned the nest, crawling down the walls into the bedroom.

Dust mites can build up into large numbers

Identifying the cause is the first step, deciding on a treatment is the next. Although a number of bed bug and flea treatments are available, very few are labelled for use on bedding, and even fewer products are registered for use on mites and lice. Bedlam aerosol is not only a go-to bed bug product, but is also labelled for use on fleas, dust mites and lice.

Bedlam is labelled for use on a wide range of surfaces including mattresses, bedding and garments, although bedding and garments should be washed before use. It doesn’t stain, but being primarily water based, it is advised to test it on surfaces sensitive to water marks.

The Bedlam formulation uses a combination of pyrethroids and synergist for maximum performance. Such formulations are still effective in killing resistant bed bugs on direct spray (Lilly et al., Austral Entomology, 2017). The product can either be applied in broad sprays to surfaces or through the included nozzle for targeted applications, depending on the pest.

For dealing with problems in the bedroom, Bedlam can certainly provide a solution!

Charles McClintock, Professional Products Business Manager, Sumitomo Chemical Australia

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