Categorized as ectoparasites, bat bugs belong to the same family as bed bugs (Cimicidae). Cimex adjunctus derive their common name from their primary host, which is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a species of bats. Though uncommon, in the absence of bats, the insects will feed on other host animals, including humans. Bat bugs can be found throughout Canada and worldwide.
Appearance / Identification
Like other members of the Cimicidae family, bat bugs are small, oval-shaped insects that also appear flattened, especially between feedings. Colouration is typically dark brown or red after feeding, and adults are normally around 6 mm in length . Bat bugs and bed bugs look so similar that in order to differentiate between the two, a microscope or magnifying lens may be necessary. The most distinguishing characteristic is that the bat bug has longer fringe hairs on the thorax-body than the bed bug.
Bat bugs are most commonly found in the roosts of their primary hosts, bats. The host animals tend to settle in the eaves of buildings, as well as in voids, cavities, and dark spaces such as attics and cellars. Bat bugs may also be found in homes, particularly if their host was nesting in between the walls but has since left the property. Interaction with humans then becomes possible, as the bat bug will need a new source of food.
Utilizing their extending and piercing mouthparts, bat bugs feed solely on the blood of host animals. They inject saliva into the skin while they feed, typically acquiring a blood meal within a few minutes. The young of most bat species are more susceptible to the parasitic insects, as the adults’ ability to fly limits their interactions with the bloodthirsty pests.
Life Cycle / Reproduction
Females require a blood meal in order to produce and lay eggs. Bat bugs typically lay eggs in the same places where they hide, in crevices and on rough surfaces. After one to two weeks, the nymphs hatch and are able to feed immediately. Young bat bugs need to feed in order to moult and grow. Overall development from egg to adult takes up to two months, and multiple generations may occur within the year. Adults can survive for up to a year or more without a blood meal, depending on environmental conditions.
Problems Caused by Bat Bugs
As with bed bugs, the bite of the bat bug can cause skin irritation or develop into an allergic reaction from the proteins in the injected saliva. The bite itself may become infected if scratched open, and the welts remain colourless and raised as opposed to the dark-centred marks produced by the bites of other insects. Despite the potential problems caused by their bites, bat bugs do not spread harmful diseases to humans.
Detection / Signs of Infestation
The most common sign of a bat bug infestation is the irritating bites the pests inflict. As the parasitic insects use bats as a primary host, the presence of the flying mammals may also be accompanied by infestations of bat bugs.
Since bats tend to roost higher than floor level, bat bugs also tend to hide in those areas. They usually come down to floor level only to feed and once feeding is done, they go back to their higher hiding spots. They will not remain near beds or in the typical places inhabited by bed bugs. For this reason, it is sometimes difficult finding or detecting them.
Keeping bat bugs out of the home requires keeping bats out as well. Sealing off all points of entry and weatherproofing the home are effective methods of prevention. Caulk cracks and repair any damaged screens or roof-wall joints. Screen or cover roof and attic vents. Keeping the host animal out tends to prevent bat bugs from infesting most effectively.
Bat bug control relies on eliminating both the host and the parasite. Exclusion methods should be used before attempting the removal of the host animal. To ensure the complete eradication of a bat bug problem, contact your local pest and wildlife specialist at Orkin Canada.