Top 6: Blood-Sucking Pests

Top 6: Blood-Sucking Pests

It’s one thing for pests to invade our homes and foster an uncomfortable living environment, but when they decide to make a meal out of you and your family, it’s all the more unsettling. Here are six blood-sucking pests to keep an eye out for and avoid.

6. Leech
One of the more common and feared blood-sucking pest is the leech. There are nearly 700 species of this parasitic segmented worm that scientists are currently aware of, with the majority not being hematophagous (blood-feeding). With three blades set in a Y-shape in their mouths, they release an anticoagulant called hirudin that fosters the smooth flow of blood from hosts. Some species of leeches may store up to five times their body mass with blood. They’ve also been used in medieval and modern medicine for various purposes including increased blood flow and in reconstructive surgeries.

5. Kissing Bug
The name “kissing bug” doesn’t come from its friendly demeanor or wanting to give you a peck on the cheek. No, they acquired the name from their collective behavior in biting humans on the mouth and face. Not only do they subsist on blood, but there is also a possibility they carry Trypanosoma cruzi, a parasite that causes Chagas disease which can be life-threatening to humans and pets.

4. Bed Bug
It’s hard to sleep tight when these bugs bite. Bed bugs can cause troublesome infestations and make their homes in the crevices of mattresses and seams of furniture. They can even hitchhike from place to place on clothing. While they’re mostly active at night, they aren’t exclusively nocturnal. Striking at night fits the bed bug’s advantage as they’re able to use their mouthparts to pierce the skin and release an anticoagulant and pain killer, so the bite goes undetected while the host sleeps.

3. Flea
Not only a problem for “man’s best friend,” these high-jumping parasites are a problem for man as well. Fleas are notorious blood-suckers, and while we’re typically used to seeing their effects on our pets, they can also prove troublesome for humans. Due to their mobility and high jumping prowess, they can readily move around. Also, fleas are tough to detect with the human eye since the adults are only about 3 millimeters in length. They also have a notorious reputation of carrying various diseases including the bubonic plague that killed a third of Europe’s population in the 1300s.

2. Mosquito
Mosquitoes are like tiny syringes using their proboscis, the sharp feeding tube used in extracting blood from hosts, to dine on the blood of humans and animals. With more than 3,000 species of mosquito, only females bite with the purpose of consuming blood for nourishment. This act also fosters growth in their eggs via blood’s protein-rich properties. Females do this by stabbing two tubes of the proboscis into an unsuspecting victim. One tube is to inject an anticoagulant that prevents blood clotting while the other slurps up the free-flowing blood like a straw. These annoying insects also pose a significant threat to humans by the various diseases they carry including malaria, West Nile virus, Zika virus and many others.

1. Tick
Lastly, ticks take our top slot as the most avid blood-suckers around. The small arachnids’ primary diet is the blood of various mammals, including humans, and even reptiles and amphibians. Not only do they use blood for sustenance, but it also plays a significant role in their growth and development phases. With a harpoon-like mouthpart called the hypostome, ticks can pierce the skin, inject an enzyme to prevent blood clotting, and anchor themselves to feed for an extended period. They also can transmit various viruses and disease with life-threatening effects to humans including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.

Sources:
“10 Juicy Facts About Leeches” Mental Floss
“Kissing Bug and Chagas Disease in the United States” Texas A&M University
“Bed Bugs” University of Kentucky
“Fleas” CDC
“Mosquito” National Geographic
“Ticks” CDC