• Chelle Hartzer

I come to suck your blood (AKA: Halloween is awesome)

The smell of fall in the air, the skeletons all over, the spiderwebs covering entire houses, and goblins and ghosts and vampires all out. It’s my favorite time of the year. This is a perfect time to talk about bloodsuckers. It would be obvious to list the mosquitos and bed bugs, so I’m going to start with some others that might not pop into your head at the first mention of sucking up a meal of fresh blood.

Fred's ready for Halloween

Fleas

Specifically cat fleas. Did you know that despite the name, cat fleas feed on a wide range of mammal hosts? They typically go after your pet dog, cat, rat, gerbil, squirrel, and other small mammals. Without that suitable host, they will go after larger game: people. Fleas are pretty interesting in that they have complete metamorphosis (egg, larvae, nymph, and adult) however only the adult lives and feeds off of the host. The eggs are dropped, unceremoniously, off the host and the larvae feed on the droppings and the little bits of spilled blood that drop off the host. That is why they are often found on pet beds and other areas your furry friend likes to sit. So treatment for fleas has to include treating your pet (for the adults) and treating the area (for the immature stages). This can be a big issue for the hospitality industry that allows pets with their overnight human guests.

There is actually a species with the common name of “dog flea” but it’s not that common. Don’t feel too left out, there is also Pulex irritans: the human flea.


Biting flies

I said I wasn't going to talk about mosquitoes this edition, stay tuned for future episodes. I’m talking about the big biting flies: deer flies, black flies, horse flies. This is a rather large grouping of true flies, but their methods and motives are all the same. If you have never been bit by one of these, you are missing out. They have what are referred to as “scraping-lapping” mouthparts. Which is to say they have what amounts to lots of little razor blades that cut up your skin and them suck up the blood that wells up out of that wound. No nice little “piercing-sucking” drinking straw mouthparts like mosquitoes. No, this one is going to hurt. I grew up in New England and it was notorious for “black fly season” in the summer. Those suckers are out to maim and mutilate. You are not immune if you live elsewhere. These are widespread and you will encounter them especially if you are near livestock, horses, farms, or other areas with large mammals.

Not scary enough for you? Black flies in Africa transmit a parasite that causes a disease called river blindness. Deer flies can transmit rabbit fever (tularemia).


Kissing bugs

Trust me, you don’t want a kiss from these. True bugs (Hemiptera) are notorious for their bite. This order includes the infamous bed bugs, the aptly named assassin bugs, and the nefarious minute pirate bugs to name just a few. Kissing bugs got the name because many species will bite around the mouth of sleeping humans, essentially giving them a “kiss”. These are also commonly known as conenose bugs and vampire bugs. As if the bite isn’t enough of an insult, they also tend to defecate right after taking their warm drink. Definite “yuck” factor there. This dreadful story isn’t over yet! What happens after something bites or stings you? You have the immediate reaction of swatting at it, right? So you swat, wipe that fecal material into the newly formed wound, and now you have an infection.


Part two of this horror film: some species of kissing bugs carry Chagas disease so as you smear that bug poop into the newly opened puncture, you may be infecting yourself with an incurable disease.


Aren’t pests great?


Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill you makes your stronger”. I prefer to be proactive and prevent, deter, and eliminate these bloodsucking denizens before they have a chance. If you want to know more about the dastardly delights that may be dwelling in your domain and how I can help you, click here to contact me!


PS – want more horror, check this out: