Blood Feeders are named for getting their meals off a human or animal host. Some blood feeders are known to carry illness and disease. The most common in Iowa are listed below with one of the most talked about being the bed bug. Very visible at about the size of an apple seed, bed bugs travel easily which is how they are introduced into a home and then spread from room to room, from bed to bed or from beds to other furniture. Other household blood feeders—like fleas—can be found on your furniture, carpet or on your pets.
Bed bugs were thought to be a thing of the past, but have made a comeback in the last few years. Hotels and apartment complexes are especially vulnerable due to the volume of people coming in and out. The bed bug is about the size of a small tick and feeds on human blood. If there is an infestation, bed bugs seek shelter during the day in cracks and crevices and come out at night to feed. They can be found around mattress trim, boxsprings, bed coverings, bed frames, wall hangings, baseboards, behind loose wallpaper, light switches, etc. Small spots of blood can sometimes be found on the bed sheets from feeding. Proper treatment is essential in controlling a bed bug infestation, as they can quickly spread to other areas of the building and become a much larger problem.
Fleas have a laterally flattened body and are wingless. They are brownish-black to black in color, but turn reddish-black when filled with blood. Fleas can jump about 6” vertically so are easily transported on pets, wild animals or clothes. A flea problem can develop in homes with no pets present if wild animals have established a nest under or around the home. Fleas can transmit diseases so controlling their presence is important. The process is fairly extensive, requiring diligent vacuuming on the homeowner’s part and proper pesticide application by a professional.
AMERICAN DOG TICK
This is the most common tick found in our area. Commonly found on dogs, this tick will readily attack humans, with the capability of transmitting Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tick paralysis. Precautions should be taken to avoid contact with these ticks.
Chiggers are a common problem affecting people and animals that spend time outside during the summer. Chiggers are the larval stage of mites that are parasitic on warm-blooded animals, including humans. A common misconception is that the chigger burrows into your skin. It actually injects a digestive fluid containing an enzyme that causes skin cells to rupture, resulting in small, itchy, red welts. Chiggers are active from spring to fall, but are most noticeable during the summer. The use of insect repellants and wearing loose fitting clothing can help prevent an encounter with these nuisance pests.
Black or brownish in color, deer flies are so named because they are notorious pests of deer and other mammals. Deer flies are most common in suburban and rural areas where water sites are readily available for breeding. Female deer flies require a blood meal in order to reproduce and will bite humans, rabbits, rodents, etc.
Color ranges from black to pale yellow, usually with stripes on their abdomen, horse flies often have bright green or purple eyes. Horse flies usually feed during full daylight and are most evident on windless, hot, sunny days.
Mosquitoes are gray to black in color with 2 long narrow wings and a long proboscis/beak. They are concerning because of the deadly diseases that can transmitted to humans, such as malaria, yellow fever, and West Nile. Insect repellants are quite effective in preventing mosquito bites. Mosquito larvae lives in standing water, so emptying/eliminating containers that may hold water around your yard will greatly reduce the number or mosquitoes around the home.
Dark to black with silvery white markings, tiger mosquitoes bite only during the day time. Females need 2+ days to digest a blood meal before they can lay fertile eggs.