Bed bugs or rat mites?

Question: Several months ago we found rat droppings in one of our crawl spaces. We had pest guys come out, and they closed up a few possible entry points in our roof. I don’t know how long the droppings were there, or when the rats came through. In the summer we occasionally get lots of bites on us, and then it seems to stop during the colder months. This year we are getting lots of bites on us. We have found and identified rat fleas in our house (mostly catching them in our bed), which could definitely be the source of our bites.

However, I’m wondering if we could also have rat mites? If so, do they tend to die and not be a problem with the rats not here, or will we need to have the house treated to kill them? Also how do we tell if we have rat mites?

ANSWER: According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the one type of rodent mite that will readily bite people is the tropical rat mite (Ornythonyssus bacoti). Other types of rodent mites that will bite people are the house mouse mite (Liponyssoides sanguineus) and the spiny rat mite (Laelaps echidnina). If you suspect that you may be suffering from these very tiny insect bites, you need to seek medical assistance, as they are a public health issue. Structural pest control specialists will not be able to assist you in this issue; a trained doctor is what you should seek out.

This being said, you could have bed bugs—and not rat mites. In some regions of the country the frequency of bed bugs has been increasing. While they are a nuisance and deliver some painful bites, bed bugs can be controlled with some careful cleaning and a little insecticide.

These small, reddish-brown insects hide during the day and emerge at night to take a blood meal from people sleeping. They will also bite other mammals. The bed bug takes 3 to 15 minutes to feed, and then it may not feed again for 2 to 3 days. The bite produces a hard swelling and is whitish in color; it usually is irritated and continues to bleed. It may turn into an itchy rash in a day or so.

Check to see that there are no new or recently abandoned bird nests close to the room (check the attic). There are ”cousins” to bed bugs that live in these nests (or are associated with bats) and can move from there to feeding on people.

If in doubt, contact your local Orkin Branch, and a trained Orkin Pest Specialist can assist you in conducting a thorough inspection of your home to make sure you do not have a bed bug infestation, and, if you do, develop a comprehensive treatment plan for bed bugs.

picture of bed bug
Picture of Bed Bug

Here is more information on getting rid of bed bugs.

Related Questions:
The Orkin Man used the information above to also answer the following questions submitted by Orkin.com users:

Question: What are rat mites? Do they bite? I have 10 bites on my body after sleeping on the couch.

ANSWER: You may have bed bugs. In some regions of the country the frequency of bed bugs has been increasing. While they are a nuisance and deliver some painful bites, bed bugs can be controlled with some careful cleaning and a little insecticide. Check to see that there are no new or recently abandoned bird nests close to the room (check the attic). There are ”cousins” to bed bugs that live in these nests (or are associated with bats) and can move from there to feeding on people.

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Question: I have no signs of bed bugs but have heard of rat mites. What are rat mites?

ANSWER: Rat mites will leave the host or the nesting site once the host dies or abandons the nest. If the nest is in close proximity to humans, the possibility of being bitten is greater.


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