Mysterious Insect Bites (Courtesy Photo)
Arlington residents say they are plagued by mysterious insect bites, which have unusual red spots that are more itchy than those left by typical summer vacuums.
A Facebook group, Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19, has been helping community members with similar bites find each other, share information, and try to solve the mystery. There was similar chatter on local email list servers.
“I was so grateful to see that I wasn’t the only one who had this problem – and apparently many, many others feel the same way,” says resident Becca Collins to ARLnow.
The Facebook thread started on Sunday when the original poster asked the group, “Someone finds that they are being bitten by something that leaves a lasting mark outside?” She added, “This has happened to us several times in the past 10 days. The bite seems to be very different from your typical mosquito bite and leaves a red stain around the bite that has lasted for over a week (as well as the intense itching despite Benadryl etc.). “
The post has since received at least 160 responses and has been shared eight times. One respondent said she went to an emergency clinic “after a sleepless night because of the itchy / burning insect bite on my neck that swelled into a small spot … It also had red itchy streaks that reached down to my lymph node, which was swollen “. and painful. “
Another reported a similar story.
“Had my daughter in the emergency room yesterday,” it says on the poster. “Your two bites look EXACTLY like the photos of everyone here. The doctor in the emergency room said they were seeing a lot of those bug bites. “
Receptionists at three local emergency centers confirmed they had seen an influx of patients with insect bites.
“It’s more than usual this summer,” said an All Care Family Medicine & Urgent Care receptionist.
Another for Arlington Urgent Care Center said, “We don’t really know what kind of bite it is. Patients come for an insect bite, but they are not sure whether it is a tick, mosquito or spider bite. “
Collins said hers was unlike a tick bite surrounded by a well-defined red circle. Her and “many of those welts have ‘trailing red tails’ that come from them,” she said.
Members of the Facebook group have hatched a theory that these bites are tied to oak itch mites, or pyemotes, which are believed to feed on cicada eggs. Similar outbreaks of itchy insect bites coincided with periodic cicada cycles in Chicago and northern Ohio.
“They are the gift that is given over and over again,” a resident tells ARLnow of the Brood X cicadas that swarmed the DC area. The cicadas can also be linked to a wave of dead birds this spring and summer.
These mites feed on insect larvae that inhabit oak trees, according to previous news and scientific work. And this year there was a real festival for the mites with thousands and thousands of eggs laid by cicadas.
“Until I saw the post I thought I was being eaten by spiders in my sleep and would take some serious containment measures, but if the mite theory is correct it will save me A LOT of work and worry,” a tipster told ARLjetzt.
Kurt Larrick, the assistant director of the district’s Department of Human Services, confirmed that residents are reporting these strange bites to the district. But the county staff cannot say anything definite about the phenomenon.
“We follow reports and consult with internal and external subject matter experts,” he said. “However, at this point there is no clear answer.”
He encouraged residents to take preventive measures against mosquitoes and ticks, which, in his opinion, are also effective against other “nuisance and disease-transmitting insects”:
- Use an effective repellant like DEET, picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus oil
- Make sure the door and window grilles are intact
- Be more vigilant at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active
- Wear long sleeves, pants and socks like this when you are outdoors
- Drain any standing water sources to prevent mosquitoes from multiplying
Ticks spread diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain typhus, and ehrlichiosis, Larrick noted. In addition to appropriate clothing and the use of insect repellants registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, he recommended that residents avoid potential tick habitats, conduct regular tick controls, and speak to veterinarians about tick control for pets.
As for those with weird bites, Larrick recommended seeking medical advice, even though they may be busy with patients who report other itchy bumps.
“If you get bitten despite prevention and have any concerns, we recommend that you see your doctor,” he said.