Millions Billions of people are freaked out by bugs. The thought that they might be crawling all over your body while you sleep is even more frightening. Add biting to this nightmare and it’s enough to make most of us squirm.
You’ve probably heard scary statistics about how many bugs people eat in their sleep (which is actually close to zero) and horror stories of roaches burrowing into ears. Rest assured this usually isn’t the case, especially if you get regular pest control treatments; the chance of being bitten by a bug while sleeping is even rarer.
That being said, you should keep an eye out for the following nocturnal insects if you suspect you’re being bitten while you sleep:
This bug is the main nighttime biting culprit. One of the most identifiable bed bug behaviors is their habit of hiding in the bed. But you’re not safe if you fall asleep on the couch because bed bugs like to hide in the furniture too.
Tiny bed bugs the size of an apple seed feed off the blood of a host (i.e. you or your pets). Typically, feeding only lasts 3-12 minutes, but there could be a number of bugs biting over the course of the night. Bed bugs are most active an hour or two before sunrise when you’re still fast asleep. Once the sun comes up they hide away under the mattress and in nearby crevices.
Bed bugs can get so bad that their biting wakes people up and affects their ability to sleep. You’ll probably also notice their bites and even dark stains on the sheets from where they’ve been feeding or excreting.
Conenose (Kissing Bugs)
A while back, we reported on the increase of kissing bugs in Alabama. These relatively large insects are known to hide in mattresses and bedding. At night they come out to feed on unsuspecting sleepers.
They’re known as kissing bugs because they will often bite people and pets near the mouth. Usually the bite is harmless, but kissing bugs have been known to carry and transmit Chagas disease.
Many spiders are nocturnal. The good news is a bite from a Black Widow almost never happens in bed because they much prefer to hide outside rather than in your home, and Brown Recluses are, well, reclusive and will actively try to avoid you. You’re more likely to get bitten by a less (or hopefully non-) venomous spider.
Fortunately, spiders won’t bite unless they feel threatened, which is why nighttime bites are very rare. Spiders may crawl across you every now and then, but they usually don’t want to wake the sleeping giant (a.k.a. you).
Contrary to popular belief, chiggers are actually arachnids that are in a larvae stage. During this period they survive by feeding off of people. The miniscule insects attach to a person’s skin and hold tight for a few days before falling off.
You’re most likely to be bitten by chiggers when you’re camping or sleeping outdoors during the spring, summer and fall. If you are bitten by chiggers, you’ll know it. Chigger bites don’t cause pain, but they can cause skin lesions that are extremely itchy. The itchiness will be most apparent about a day or two after being bitten.
Getting scabies sounds like something from the pioneer days of yore, but it’s still a problem to this day. Scabies are mites that get into the skin and can be spread from one person to another by direct contact or sharing items like linens. That means sleeping in bed with or after an infected person makes you a prime nighttime target.
Unfortunately, you won’t know scabies have latched onto your skin for several weeks. This is when the outward signs begin to show. The first signs of scabies are skin sores and extreme itchiness.
There are also a number of less common mites that are known to bite at night. Hair follicle mites aren’t rare, but they’re so microscopic you’ll probably never know they’re living in your follicles. Rodent mites can be carried into the home by pests and eventually find their way to your bed. Bites from these mites are often mistaken for bed bug bites, but there’s a key difference to look out for. Rodent mite bites will leave behind blood-colored stains rather than dark, nearly black spots.
Fleas are always waiting for an easy target, which means while you’re sleeping they may be feasting. If you let your pets sleep in the bed with you, the chances of being bitten in the middle of the night are fairly high.
You’ll probably never know you were bitten unless you’re among the unlucky few that are sensitive to flea bites or the infestation is moderate to severe. When an infestation is bad, people typically mistake the flea bites for bed bugs. However, like rodent mites, fleas leave blood-colored stains when they’re feeding.