species have been documented. To illustrate the cornucopia of insect life on this planet, experts estimate that the insect-to-human ratio is 200 million to 1, and there exists an average of 400 million insects per acre of land. Today, more than one million insect species have been documented, and millions more have yet to be described. For those who are not shocked by these whopping figures, it should be known that the total number of insects on earth is estimated to be around 10 quintillion, and it may be helpful to know that this recondite quantity contains a total of 19 zeros. A significant number of these species can inflict painful and/or medically threatening bites or stings to humans. In addition to insects, numerous arachnid species in the US possess mouthparts that can penetrate skin without being immediately noticed by humans. Considering the abundance of both insect and arachnid pests in urban and residential areas of the northeast US, it is virtually impossible to avoid the occasional bug bite, and it is not uncommon for residents to find bug bites on their skin despite never having felt the pain of a bite or sting.
Most insect and arachnid species cause a noticeable and usually painful sensation when penetrating skin, but several species are exceptions. For example, tick saliva contains compounds that numb skin, allowing the arachnids to secretly feed on human blood for long periods without attracting the attention of their human hosts. Just like ticks, large numbers of bed bugs can suck human blood incognito due to numbing compounds within their saliva. Bed bugs are also nocturnal, so their parasitic feeding habits easily go unnoticed by sleeping humans. Eventually, both tick and bed bug bite wounds become irritated and swollen, but the amount of time it takes before such symptoms are felt varies from person to person. In some cases, bites are noticed within 24 hours, but some individuals do not develop symptoms at all. Due to their small sizes and persistent feeding habits, mites and fleas can evade the visual spectrum of their human hosts even after their indoor presence becomes known. However, certain mite species, like dust mites, straw-itch mites, and scabies mites are too small to be seen with the naked eye, and a flea’s rapid jumping motions allow them to make quick getaways after inflicting irritating bites. In most mite and flea infestation cases, the pests first enter homes by hitchhiking on pets, but they can enter homes via invading rodents and birds as well. It is not uncommon for tiny mites to enter homes from bird nests located on a house’s eaves or ledges. This is why it is important for homeowners to limit the number of birds that nest near gutters and window frames.
Have you ever sustained mystery insect or arachnid bites?