Having a problem with pests getting into your home or business can be frustrating, but when these hostile invaders use our bodies for food, it’s even more disturbing. Inevitably at some point in our lives, we all have had to deal with an invasive pest intruding into our lives. However, when we have one that is actively feeding on us, a call to arms is soon to follow. Events from our past can enrich our understanding of insects that serve as vectors of disease.
Most people have heard of the Bubonic Plague, otherwise known as the Black Death, which killed over 200 million people in the fourteenth century. The people living then did not know why they were getting so sick and dying prematurely. For every five people you knew, three would die from this disease. It was a common belief back then that bad smells and God’s vengeance upon the wicked were to blame for so much misery and death.
It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that it was discovered fleas were the cause of the Bubonic Plague; they had fed on the blood of rats carrying the bacterium Yersinia pestis. These bacteria live in the gut of the flea, and when the flea bites a human, it passes into their bloodstream. Within three to six days of being bitten, a painful fever and swollen lymph nodes develop. Dark black spots develop on the skin, and left untreated, death is inevitable.
Bubonic Plague outbreaks are rare today, but the bacteria have survived to this day. Fleas still infest our homes, and people still travel to all parts of the world – potentially carrying the next plague.
The New World
Rats, and the fleas that they carried, were undoubtedly onboard the vessels headed for the newly discovered land across the icy waters of the Atlantic.
Europeans sailed on giant wooden ships, propelled by wind-filled sails, for days on end for the chance to own land in the newly discovered world. The impoverished cities and towns of Old Europe gave people little hope for land ownership and a home to call their own. The promise of religious freedom and of breathing clean, smog free air, under clear blue skies, drove these men and women to achieve what seemed impossible.
The wooden ships, like the Mayflower, carried more than people and their belongings; they brought bed bugs, scabies, cockroaches, mosquitoes, and lice. Feeding on men and women’s bodies and their food, these bearers of misery multiplied in strength and number.
Our predecessors had no knowledge of viruses and bacteria. They believed in supernatural explanations for suffering and disease. When countless native peoples got sick and died because they had no immunity to the diseases brought by the European newcomers, it was believed that it was God’s hand at work. Entire native villages were wiped out, with no ill intentions of the Europeans, but nonetheless devastating. The “white men” claimed land for themselves, as if it were rightfully theirs, and built permanent settlements.
Today, we know our bodies can be carriers of disease and insects. The ability for other living organisms to either live on, or inside other living beings, is nothing new in nature. Viruses have dwelled in the bodies of other living organisms since the beginning of time.
Organisms are classified in groups, depending on how they obtain nutrients for survival. Blood-feeding pests like mosquitoes, bed bugs, and fleas are referred to as heterotrophic. This means they consume other organisms for nutrients. Autotrophic organisms refer to those, such as plants, and some forms of bacteria that make their own food.
We question why pests like bed bugs and mosquitoes feed on humans, and what is in human blood that attracts insects to feed on us?
Why do organisms kill and eat other organisms to survive?
These are some of the many mysteries in the world of invertebrates. They have been flying, crawling, creeping, and slithering for millions of years on earth and have made use of the bodies of mammals to continue their existence.
Iron is made in the core of stars under massive amounts of energy and pressure. Once a star has used up its hydrogen fuel, it explodes in a brilliant flash of light called a supernova. The light we see today from these explosions took place billions of years ago.
The iron in human blood was made long ago from massive exploding supernovae. Elements like hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon, and iron are thrown out into the infinite emptiness of space where they cool, condense, and collapse to form into planets, moons, comets—or become entirely new stars.
Iron is a mineral in our blood that our bodies use to make hemoglobin. This protein is found in cells that transfer oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The red blood cells in our blood contain about 70 percent of the Iron in our bodies. Our muscles also contain iron which is called myoglobin.
Mosquitoes and bedbugs use blood for its rich iron and protein content to fuel their alien-like bodies. Female mosquitoes use blood as a sort of prenatal “soup” to enrich their eggs. Human blood is so nourishing, bed bugs can live up to a year from one feeding.
One of our customers in Palm Coast once had an outbreak of bed bugs in their home. The husband was not getting bitten, but his wife was getting chewed up alive. Why was this?
New research into why some people are prone to be bitten by bed bugs and some are not, posits that bed bugs have a preference for certain blood types. However, there is no evidence to support this theory. In fact, data shows bed bugs prefer one blood type because it is what they are used to.
If an outbreak of bed bugs starts feeding on, for example, blood type O Negative, they will continue to seek out O Negative. When this colony of bed bugs separate, they seek out the same blood type again in their new environment. This is why a husband with O Positive blood does not get a large amount of bites even though he shares a bed with his wife. Her blood is O Negative, and she is covered in bites. This scenario would be reversed if the bed bugs had been exposed to O Positive blood prior to arrival in the couple’s bed.
The results for these experiments show that bed bugs have a learned preference for a blood type, not a predetermined taste for a certain blood type. Much like a cat that becomes accustomed to a specific brand of cat food, and thus, won’t eat a different brand. The cat may finally eat the different brand, if it gets hungry enough, but it will spend some time reacting with distaste for this strange new food.
Unfortunately, if bed bugs and mosquitoes aren’t bad enough, there are other types of parasitic insects that can feed on the human body.
Scabies is an infection of the skin caused by mites called sarcoptes scabiei. Scabies outbreaks are common in schools, nursing homes, and prisons, occurring often, and spreading quickly amongst those in close contact with each other.
These eight-legged mites burrow into human skin to lay eggs. Once the eggs mature, the newly hatched larvae will crawl to the surface of the skin and spread to other areas, thus repeating the cycle.
Scabies causes a large rash that is extremely itchy. Excessive scratching may cause a secondary infection. Bacteria get into open skin from under the fingernails and cause staph infections.
Dermal and oral medicines can treat scabies and kill both the mites and the larvae. Also, machine washing all laundry in hot water and soap is necessary, along with drying the laundry in a dryer on high heat. Vacuuming regularly is also a must.
Many parents must deal with their children getting head lice from other children in school. Lice are tiny bugs that feed on blood from our scalps. Children play in close contact with each other and spread the parasite among themselves. Lice lay five to ten eggs per day and hatch in about seven days.
Lice can be prevented by not using someone else’s comb or brush. Do not use someone else’s hats or clothing, either. Whenever possible, keeping distance between you and others aids in prevention. Having lice does not mean you are dirty as once was thought. Lice are opportunistic and will infest anyone’s head of hair.
Special shampoos and nit combs are sold over the counter to help rid lice from your hair. Repeated applications are needed for their full elimination. It is often very difficult to get rid of lice. A foolproof method is to shave your head bald—extreme, but hair does grow back.
Many furry animals carry fleas besides dogs and cats. Wildlife such as raccoons, rats, squirrels, and possums all can carry and transmit fleas into peoples’ yards, and then be picked up by pets. Even humans can bring fleas into homes just from mowing the lawn or from gardening.
We had a customer in DeLand that had a major flea infestation break out around their home’s mulch beds. Walking through the yard, thousands of fleas jumped all over people’s legs and torsos.
After many attempts to rid the home from this nightmare, it was discovered that there was a large feral cat population in and around the home. The city trapped and removed the feral cats, and the flea infestation became manageable. All the fleas were eradicated by Dave’s Pest Control and eventually the home returned to normal.
The expert exterminators at Dave’s Pest Control can treat your home for bed bugs, ants, cockroaches, and fleas, and are also experts at wildlife removal such as raccoons, possums, and squirrels.
Everyone at Dave’s Pest Control would like to wish all of our customers, past and present, a happy holiday season. Now more than ever, we thank you for trusting us with your homes and businesses. We know many families are struggling with the events of this past year. Covid 19 and the ensuing pandemic is a reminder that life is precious. Enjoy your time with family and friends, gratefully, and remember to be kind to others.
As the holiday season is upon us, you can trust the experts at Dave’s Pest Control to provide you with a pest free environment so you can concentrate on what matters the most, your time and your family. Nobody wants to be swatting bugs away from the holiday dinner table. Seeing roaches floating in the gravy bowl or perhaps mixed in as an added ingredient to your apple pie, will probably not go over well.
Call us for a free estimate for your home, condominium, or businesses today.