How Bed Bugs Harm Humans

Do Stink Bugs Bite? How to Identify the Home-Invading Insect, According to Entomologists

Stink bugs don’t typically harm humans—but they can be a major nuisance.

When you think of annoying household pests, your mind probably jumps to field crickets, flies, centipedes, and spiders. But there’s one home invader that is very different from the rest: stink bugs.

Not all stink bugs are alike, though. There are many native, non-invasive native species, but the type that usually gives homeowners trouble is the brown marmorated stink bug—an invasive species from Asia that was first discovered in Pennsylvania in the early 2000s, explains Michael J. Raupp, PhD, professor of entomology at The University of Maryland and creator of Bug of the Week.

Brown marmorated stink bugs are the most common, “very large” insect that reach crazy-high densities both insideandoutside of your home. They spread quickly in large numbers (yep, they do fly!), wreaking havoc on plants and gardens, eventually sneaking their way into houses during early autumn. “You’re not going to have any other bug invading people’s home to which you’re going to get with stink bugs,” Raupp says.

While infestations used to be more common on the east coast, the populations have “declined dramatically” and have become more of a problem in the Midwestern states, he adds.

So, should you be worried if you find them on your property? Here, entomologists (aka bug experts) explain everything you need to know about stink bugs, whether or not they’re dangerous, and how to prevent them from setting up shop in your house.

First, what do stink bugs look like?

Brown marmorated stink bugs have a very distinct appearance. Marmorated actually stems from the Latin word for “marbled,” Raupp explains. “When you look at its abdomen from the top, just around where its wings are,you’ll see a marbled pattern on its back,” he says, which is shaped like a shield that tapers at the end.

Anothertelltale feature of the brown marmorated stink bug is the white bands on its antennae and legs, which distinguishes it from other native species that are also brown in color. Again, they’re large compared to other bugs, and may span up to nearly 2 centimeters long and wide.

Do stink bugs bite humans?

You can breathe a sigh of relief, becausestink bugs do not bite people, they won’t harm your pets, and they don’t spread diseases. In fact, most species of stink bugs, including brown marmorated stink bugs, are herbivores that prefer to feed on plants, fruits, and sometimes even nuts and seeds. (While this is good news for you, it can lead to costly damage if you have a vegetable or fruit garden.)

Even if they feel threatened—say, you’re mishandling the critter—stink bugs won’t harm you, says Raupp. “I have handled, literally, thousands of these things myself,” he says “I have never heard of a report of a brown marmorated stink bug biting a human being.”

As for other household bugs thatdobite humans? You likely won’t mistake them for stink bugs. “Due to the large size and color of stink bugs, especially the brown marmorated stink bug, they are not easily confused for their distant, blood-sucking relatives like bed bugs,” explains Matthew Bertone, PhD, entomologist and director of the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic at North Carolina State University. “Bed bugs are small and reddish-brown and build up colonies in infested homes. There are larger bugs called kissing bugs that may superficially resemble stink bugs, but they are very rarely encountered by people, let alone found feeding on them.”

Do stink bugs really stink?

Stink bugsdostink, but not all the time. Like many other insects that release pungent smells,the odor is a defense mechanism used to keep predators away. They have scent glands that “produce a cocktail of chemicals that have various odors and properties as repellents,” explains Bertone.

This smell can vary, and some people can’t pick up on it at all, so it’s hard to give it a specific description, says Bertone. “It is an acrid but somewhat sweet smell,” he says. “I liken it to a very sour, fermenting apple, but other people detect other odors.” One of the compounds emitted by stink bugs can actually be found in cilantro, adds Raupp, so some people find that the odor smells somewhat similar to the herb.

While this odor repels predators, rest assured it really can’t do humans any harm. “There are cases of these chemicals staining human skin, especially when bugs are crushed, but it is not a very common phenomenon and is not dangerous,” Bertone says.

How to prevent stink bugs from entering your home

Stink bugs can be annoying to get rid of, so taking preventive measures to keep them away from your property and out of your home will be your best bet, says Raupp.

First, it’s helpful to knowhowthey get in and when they like to make their move. In early autumn, stink bugs will start looking for a protective area to chill out in a hibernation-like state to get through the colder seasons when food is scarce.They’ll come in through loose siding, vents, openings around utility boxes, window and door cracks, under the shutters, and basically every nook and cranny to accomplish that goal.

Stink bugs are most attracted to attics because they stay cool, but as springtime approaches, it becomes one of the first areas in your home to get warm. So, during February and March, they’ll attempt to find their way out by heading downstairs. “This is where part of the nuisance problem really begins,” says Raupp.

While some stink bug traps can be placed in home gardens to keep them away from your fruits and vegetables, there’s no concrete evidence that they actually reduce the amount stink bugs coming into your house, Raupp says. (However, they can still catch large numbers of them.)

Instead, he recommends making a few simple upgrades to your home to keep them out.“Anything that’s going to be really good for energy conservation is going to be really good for stink bug exclusion,”Raupp says. It’s a win-win, because all of these adjustments will keep a cold breeze out of your house and trap heat indoors:

  • Seal up cracks, crevices, and any openings around utility boxes using caulk or foam sealant.
  • Insulate windows and doors using weather stripping foam tape.
  • Place screens over vents and crawl spaces.
  • Cover your air conditioner if you have a window unit, and caulk around any cracks and crevices.
  • Invest in door sweeps or stoppers for any entrances that lead outdoors.

Bed Bugs FAQs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
  • a sweet musty odor.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?

Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

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What Are the Dangers of Bed Bugs?

Until recent years, bed bugs were no longer considered much of a problem in the U.S. — and the saying "Don’t let the bed bugs bite" was just an old-fashioned phrase whose meaning was almost forgotten — but then bed bugs made a comeback.The bed bug, or Cimex lectularius, gets its nickname from the fact that it often makes its home in people’s beds. Although bed bugs bite and feed on human blood, according to research published in JAMA in 2009, they are not known transmit blood-borne diseases, including HIV or the hepatitis B virus. However, they do pose other dangers to people. If you suspect you have bed bugs, see your doctor for advice and treatment.

Allergic Reaction

The Michigan Department of Community Health notes that the physical manifestations of bed bug bites can vary widely 2.You may not even notice bed bug bites at all. If you do notice bites, you may dismiss them as mosquito bites because the localized redness and swelling may look much like that the mosquito leaves behind.However, if you are sensitive to insect bites of any kind, you may experience an allergic reaction to bed bug bites.This allergic reaction can be mild, only causing itching, skin reddening and irritation.More severe allergic reactions are possible and may require you to treat them with anti-itch ointments or oral corticosteroids and antihistamines.

Infection

Bedbug bites alone do not cause infection. However, if you are unable to avoid scratching the bites, infection may result. Scratching bedbug bites can cause openings or breaks in the skin. Bacteria can enter through these breaks and begin to multiply, leading to infection. Your doctor can prescribe creams to apply directly to the bites to prevent infection or advise you to use over-the-counter antiseptic ointments instead.

Respiratory Problems

If you or a member of your household suffers from respiratory problems, the presence of bedbugs can worsen these conditions. Bed bugs shed their outer skins, or casings, as they grow.These casings, along with the bed bugs’ feces, can dry out and become airborne.The Rhode Island Department of Health warns that breathing the cast-off material from bed bugs can aggravate asthma and other respiratory ailments 2.

Anemia

A case study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2009 describes the case of a 60-year-old man who presented to his doctor with symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia 1. The patient had no physical causes of this anemia but upon examination of his home, the patient’s doctor found an infestation of thousands of bed bugs. Although most people with bed bug bites are unlikely to suffer anemia as a result, it could occur in extreme cases, especially if you have other risk factors for anemia.

How do Bed Bugs harm humans ?

Wiki User
February 06, 2012 8:07PM

Secretaria said-Bed Bugs harm human by biting and sucking

human skin and flesh because bed bugs eats flesh.

Just C. Urious said-Bedbugs only bite and if you react

to Moscitoe bites, you will have to same reaction will bedbugs

Bedbugs feed on human blood. can make you itch alot and make

nasty bite marks once they become fool blown on your body. Going to

a doctor and getting a lotion which will kill them and treating

your home is about your only option available or at least this was

You can actually see them at times on a light colored sheet or

material..I watched one moving on my bed sheet and it made every

hair on my body stand up.

When you get them and they have infested your body, you can

actually smell a sort of raspberry fragrance that they put off ,

there are also a couple of other aromas as well but seems like the

raspberry is what I kept smelling and I had no fragrance on at all.

Also they leave their fecsus which feels like sand all over where

ever you have slept and is black in color and when one becomes

mature looks like a flea. If you notice any bite marks please have

them looked at, for the scratching that they can cause can become

very infected in a short amount of time, and you will require

Are Bed Bugs Dangerous: Possible Health Risks

While bed bugs may be a nuisance, they’re usually not considered dangerous. Learn more about bed bugs and the possible health risks they carry.

Humans have lived withbed bugssince the earliest days of our existence, or more correctly stated, bed bugs have lived with humans. Since bed bugs are human parasites, our survival is critical to theirs. This may be one of the reasons bed bugs have not been known to transmit diseases to humans. It would not be in the best interest of the bed bug to carry or introduce anything into the food supply that could cause the supply to disappear.

However, while they have not yet been shown to transmit diseases through feeding activities, there may still be health risks associated with bed bugs. They can be responsible for health issues that range from mild to very serious.

The most common health issue is related to the itching that often comes along with bed bug bites. Many people experience red bumps or welts on their skin within a couple of days of a bed bug attack. In some cases, the reaction may take up to a week or two, and some people do not react at all. The bumps or welts look very similar to a mosquito bite but tend to stay with the afflicted person much longer, often two weeks or more. These bites can itch incessantly, and scratching is inevitable. That is where the danger comes in.

Excessive scratching can cause damage to the skin that may allow the introduction of organisms of infection, some of them very dangerous. Taking reasonable care and controlling the urge to scratch can prevent more serious reactions, but if there is any indication of infection – such as persistent redness or other common indicators – you should consult a doctor for an evaluation.

Beyond some of the health risks associated with bed bugs, the question still remains: "Are bed bugs dangerous?" They can certainly cause disruption in your life. Loss of sleep, taking care of bites, treatment costs and other distractive issues related to bed bugs can take a toll on anyone. Some of these issues are just inconvenient while others can become very dangerous, especially if they affect your job performance, driving safety or other things in life that require alertness and your full attention.

Helping Prevent a Bed Bug Infestation

There are several things you can do to avoid a bed bug infestation in your home:

An overnight stay almost anywhere outside of your home may present an opportunity for bed bugs to relocate, so be careful to check your sleeping area and make sure your luggage doesn’t get infested, even if you are staying with a friend or relative.

Carefully inspect anything that comes into your home for the first time. Furniture, appliances, new clothing, even stuffed animals for the kids, could all be infested with bed bugs.

Inspect your bed thoroughly each time you change the bedding. Bed bugs can feed and go undetected for months in some cases. Some people do not react to the bites, so physical sighting of the bed bugs or their evidence may be the only way to know they are active in your home.

When you return from overnight trips, leave your suitcase in the garage or any other area away from the places you spend most of your time, especially the bed. For an extra level of protection, wash travel clothes immediately when you get home. Items that cannot be washed can usually be run through the clothes dryer for 20 to 30 minutes on the highest heat setting. The clothes dryer alone gets hot enough to kill all stages of bed bugs and their eggs.

While there may be some comfort in knowing that bed bugs do not transmit diseases as they feed, nobody likes the thought of being the food supply for any type of insect, especially sneaky ones like bed bugs that feed while you are sleeping, and without your permission.

Are bed bugs dangerous enough to kill you? Probably not, but if you suspect bed bugs may be trying to establish themselves in your home, get a pest control specialist to inspect your home. They will help you develop a plan to avoid bed bugs if they have not already found their way in, and to get rid of them if they have.

Do Earwigs Bite?

If you shudder a little when you think about earwigs, you’re probably not alone. They’ve developed quite a nasty reputation, thanks to urban legends (mostly false) that have been circulating for years. But are they harmful?

The Lifespans of Insects With Short Lives

Many insects, such as butterflies, have a lifespan that occurs in four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Other insects, such as grasshoppers, do not have a pupal stage and instead go through three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The length of each stage can vary based on many things, from the insect species to the temperature outside—but what some insects share in common is a very short adult stage. Keep reading to learn about five insects with some of the shortest adult stages in their lifespan.

The Return of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

The change of seasons from summer to fall means many things: leaves changing colors, dropping temperatures, and—depending on where you live—stink bugs sneaking into your home. Stink bugs were named for their distinct ability to emit an unpleasant odor when they are threatened or disturbed by predators like lizards or birds. This also means that if stink bugs enter your home and feel threatened, you’ll be faced with dealing with their strong smell in your house. As we head into fall, you might find yourself with more active stink bugs than usual, so it’s important to know the basics about these smelly insects.

What are Earwigs?

Most people have probably heard of earwigs at some point or another. These creepy-looking insects are associated with some urban myths. Learn the truth about earwigs, including what attracts them and how to help get rid of them.

ARE TICKS DANGEROUS?

The majority of ticks will deliver painless bites without any noticeable symptoms. However, some ticks can carry a variety of bacteria and pathogens for disease. Although not all ticks are dangerous, you don’t want to risk coming into contact with these blood-sucking insects.

ARE TICKS DANGEROUS?

The majority of ticks will deliver painless bites without any noticeable symptoms. However, some ticks can carry a variety of bacteria and pathogens for disease. Although not all ticks are dangerous, you don’t want to risk coming into contact with these blood-sucking insects.

Are Bed Bugs Contagious?

Bed bugs are not too picky about where and when they catch a ride and don’t necessarily have a preferred mode of transportation, so it’s no surprise how many people wonder, are bed bugs contagious?

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Now that it’s fall, it’s officially indoor stink bug season. Before it becomes winter, brown marmorated stink bugs are looking for comfortable overwintering sites to spend the cold months—and that can often mean that they may find a way to sneak into your house. While the odor that a stink bug releases is not dangerous, they are definitely a nuisance. Luckily, there are steps you can take to get rid of stink bugs in your house—without having to deal with the unpleasant smell.

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The change of seasons from summer to fall means many things: leaves changing colors, dropping temperatures, and—depending on where you live—stink bugs sneaking into your home. Stink bugs were named for their distinct ability to emit an unpleasant odor when they are threatened or disturbed by predators like lizards or birds. This also means that if stink bugs enter your home and feel threatened, you’ll be faced with dealing with their strong smell in your house. As we head into fall, you might find yourself with more active stink bugs than usual, so it’s important to know the basics about these smelly insects.

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