bed bug vampire by Bed Bugs Limited of London

Bat Bugs, i.e. Cimex adjunctus, are close relatives to bed bugs in fact they are so close bed bugs that not many people can tell them apart without the use of a 30X magnification loupe.

Unlike bed bugs which are associated with the movement of people, bat bugs are associated initially with bats. They only tend to invade people’s homes in the absence of their primary food source such as when bats are disturbed or migrate.

Behaviourally they are very different to bed bugs and tend to return to the primary harbourage between feedings, presumably because they prefer bat blood to human blood. As such the treatment method differs greatly and may be subject to local wildlife regulations such as those which provide absolute protection to some bat species.

How to confirm a sample is bat bug?

There are several options for confirming samples as being bat bugs rather than bed bugs, they are:

  • Checking an entomological key and examination with a 30X loupe to confirm
  • Sending the sample to an accredited entomologist for confirmation
  • High resolution image scan or macro photography of the sample (often most accessible through “clip on lenses” for smartphones)

In the case of scanned images we would recommend that you upload them to the Bedbugger Forum for a specialist to give an opinion. Other options include a university extension entomology department or Bed Bugs Limited postal ID service.

Why it’s important to confirm samples if bat bugs are suspected

The key reasons why it is important not to make the assumption that just because it looks like a bed bug, it must be a bedbug, are:

  • The treatment methods and patterns are different – normal bed bug treatment will not solve a bat bug issue because the activity is not focused on beds where it needs to focus on the original harbourage and how they enter the property.
  • The true source of the issue must be treated first – this often means exclusion of the primary host species and ensuring it remains excluded.
  • Incorrect initial treatment steps will delay the time it takes to fully resolve the issue.

Correct confirmation from the start can reduce the time it takes to resolve the problem down to a single visit whereas stories of people being repeatedly treated for bed bugs that are later confirmed as bat bugs are unfortunately very common.

What signs can help indicate bat bugs rather than bed bugs?

There are some secondary indications that the issue may be bat bugs rather than bedbugs, these include:

  • Lack of faecal trace signs around the bed and resting areas
  • Lack of cast skins around the bed and resting areas
  • Activity appearing to be seasonal (i.e. only present when the primary host is not)
  • Faecal traces found around windows or light fittings which are confirmed using the Bed Bug Blue™ confirmation kit
  • Samples are often found at the wall ceiling junction

Collecting and confirming based on a live adult sample will always be the most accurate way to proceed. This is best done in a smooth sided clean glass or, if no other option is available, through the use of a clear adhesive tape.

How does treatment differ between bat bugs and bed bugs?

When bat bugs are encountered (which is rare in the UK and more common in the US) the key differences: are

  • The primary food source must be excluded from the start of treatment
  • The focus of the treatment is from the primary colony site back towards the secondary or ingress points
  • Thermal treatments are generally not effective but a whole building tented fumigation may be effective
  • The use of CO2 lures such as the Bed Bug Beacon™ may assist in reducing the ingressing population by “trapping out” hungry samples

As such the skills required are better suited to “wildlife management pest controllers” than urban pest controllers.

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Additional resources

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identification key to confirm bat bugs or bed bugs.