Everyone knows and fears infestations of the dreaded bed bug, and horror stories of the difficulty in eliminating the pests are plentiful, but they are not the only member of their insect family that you need to worry about. The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is just one member of the Cimicidae family, which is comprised of bloodsucking insect pests that feed on birds and/or mammals such as humans. The other related species that are also known for infesting human homes and feeding on our blood are bat bugs (Cimex pilosellus) and swallow bugs (Oeciacus vicarius).
The bat bug was a much more commonly known infestor of homes before the massive increase in bed bug infestations occurred over the last few decades. Bat bugs don’t start off targeting humans for their blood meal. They generally first develop in colonies of bats that are roosting. These bats will sometimes roost in attics or behind walls inside homes. This is what leads to the bat bugs feeding on those roosting bats moving into human living areas inside a home and coincidentally biting the people inhabiting those areas. This kind of migration usually happens when the colony of bats migrates or is removed from the home. Luckily, once those bats are gone, the bat bugs go with them, as they cannot survive and successfully reproduce without bat hosts.
The swallow bug feeds off of cliff swallows and sometimes barn swallows. Bites to humans come about when people live in a home where swallows built and maintained a nest somewhere on the building during the previous summer. Swallow bugs spend their winter in the nest in a state of dormancy. They emerge from this winter dormancy around late winter or early spring in anticipation of the return of their swallow hosts. It is during this brief window when some swallow bugs have emerged before their hosts have returned to their nests that they will bite resident humans until their regular blood hosts are back.
Have you ever been bitten by one of these relatives of the bed bug?