Insect bite misery :o(

strawberrystar Image
08/09/2013 - 12:18

Hello everyoneI'm wondering if you might be able to help? I have a rural stone farmhouse which was renovated nearly ten years ago. Our property is surrounded by farmed land (often sunflowers), and we have our own gardens and swimming pool. Our house is often empty for large parts of the year and is used through the (mainly) summer months by friends and family. Last year, for the first time, one group of friends staying at the house mentioned that they were experiencing a significant number of bites and did we know what the problem could be. I really didn't. Apart from the obvious mosquitos etc, we had not really had any problems before. Some of them were completely covered in bites which they said were really itchy. On returning home, their GP said he suspected it was bedbugs. I was at the house following their stay, and inspected the beds/mattresses etc, put out traps and also employed the services of Rentakill (with some trepidation I must say as I was expecting that of course they would find something which needed a very costly extermination!) which all came back with absolutely no trace of bedbugs. I also did not have any (unusual) problem with insect bites the very next week after my friends had stayed. As last summer was particularly hot, I assumed it must have been something related to that, or that my friends had simply not used any insect repellents etc.... but anyway, it seemed to be behind us. We already had mesh window blinds at all the windows, but I also installed mosquito nets above the beds (not for bedbugs, but just to help prevent any other insect bites).This summer, again different groups of friends, family and work colleagues have been using the house and last week I was again contacted by one group to report a similar experience. I have again completed similar checks and drawn a blank. Similarly, another group of friends who are currently at my house have indicated they are not having a problem. I am wondering if anyone knows what on earth might be causing this problem!? I honestly believe that we do not have bedbugs, but I can see that some of my friends have been eaten alive by something! Some people have literally hundreds of bites on them. I am wondering if this could be the "pappataci" I have read about? Has anyone else had a similar experience or any ideas on what I might do next?After several years of appreciating relaxing holidays in Le Marche and being able to share this experience with friends and family, it seems a real shame that some of our relatives and friends are having their holidays so compromised by a mystery, invisible (and very selective) beastie! I would be most grateful to hear your thoughts. Thank you



Hi,This sounds similar but still not conclusive: like everyone is on holiday getting bitten. 

I'm not sure if this is relevant, because the bites I'm going to talk about are not great lumps, but more like a generalised rash.I have a friend who suffered from loads of itchy tiny bites, and they were diagnosed (after a lot of research) as bites from a spider mite which is a parasite on woodworm larvae. She trawled up some good reference material, (which unfortunately I haven't refound). If you have ever seen any evidence of woodworm in your house (and if it is rashy bites rather than lumps) it is maybe worth you researching this further.Guests maybe don't completely understand mossie screens: it is not only at night that you should keep them closed - the 'tiger mosquito' (slightly smaller and on close examination striped black and white) is active during the day as well as after dusk. 

My guess is that your friends are staying out by the pool in the evening when insects are at their most active and have not reapplied repellent after using the pool and/or used citronella candles and spirale. I have a holiday let and find that some guests will have a very liquid lunch and fall asleep after a dip in the pool, not waking till dusk and then complain they have been bitten. It is telling that other guests of yours (and mine)have not experienced this problem. I find the insects seem to bite a lot more late August and September.

I know exactly what you are talking about, I actually posted about this very problem several months ago.  We purchased a house 3 years ago near the Marmore waterfalls in Umbria.  We stayed in our home in March and April and purchased new furniture and matresses and had no problems at all.  Then I returned in June (alone) and didn't seem to have any problem until the weather became very hot and humid.  I woke up one morning covered in small red, itchy bumps on my body but mostly my arms.  I was miserable and I couldn't find any relief.  I knew it couldn't be bedbugs (we would have been bitten in March and April - bed bugs don't only bite when it's humid) and I didn't see any mosquitoes.  I love my house and I love Italy, it was my absolute dream to have a house in Italy and I was all alone and miserable. I counted over 160 red lumps on my upper body (that was what I could see).  I thought that they could be flea bites as there was a cat around the house but I couldn't figure out why it was only my upper body that was mostly affected  and again why only in mid June, it didn't make sense.I did go to see a doctor  when I returned from Italy and I even saw a Dermatologist who confirmed that they were some sort of bug bite but my reaction to this bite was not like my usual reaction to a mosquito.  The reaction was not as inflammed and itched but burned slightly as well the little bumps also lasted for much longer than the usual mosquito bite, weeks in fact.    In spite of my traumatic experience and believe me it was traumatic , we returned (this time I was not alone) to our house in December, nothing... not a bite on me, then again in April, nothing... but at this point I had my husband install screens on all the windows and doors( I was paranoid).  Now we were returning in June and I was preparing for war.  The locals told me about the pappataci and I was determined that I was not going to go through the same thing I had  the previous year and I was going to be alone again during the hottest period of our stay, I was determined that this - whatever it was- was not going to keep me from my dream.  I plugged in  outlet insecticide diffusers in every outlet and I did find a few TINY insects dead on the floor the following morning but you would almost need a magniflying glass to see them.  I also kept the windows closed .I did get  a few bites but nowhere near as many as the previous year.  I also made sure  that I wasn't out after dark and I tried to make sure that I always slept with the sheets covering my upper body.  This situation was not ideal, I was dying of heat and afraid to go outdoors.  Now this year my husband was going to be staying at the house in June with me (the two previous years I was alone) and up until this point I was the butt of several jokes about being the only one to ever have experienced these mysterious bites.  Well not so, my husband got them this year as well.  The only reason why I was the only one to experience this was because I was the only one in the house in June when the weather was hot and humid.  Fortunately this year the weather was not too hot for long so we only had about a week of pappataci in June but when the weather is hot and humid you are a sitting duck.  This year I was more prepared and I took the vit B tablets, tried the Dettol and baby oil spray and used Tiger balm when I did get a bite and it really wasn't too bad.  Apparently the pappataci enter the house during the day and bite at night.  They are very, very tiny (also known as no see ems) and you don't even know that they are biting you.  I assume I was bitten on my upper body at night as I sleep with my arms wrapped around my pillow, my arms were covered in bites!!! Something else I did this year was sleep with a fan directly on me, I read that the pappataci are so small and light that if there is any wind at all they cannot land on you to bite, this seems to have worked.  I hope this answers some of your questions.

Suggestion" .......... I assume I was bitten on my upper body at night as I sleep with my arms wrapped around my pillow, my arms were covered in bites!!!! ................."How about sleeping under a mosquito net?  Used them in Uganda - very effective

Hello allThank you all for your suggestions and thoughts. I have to say, it sounds that my friends' experience is very similar to that of susandamato - very miserable indeed. I would be keen to hear more about the products you used - vit B tablets? dettol? baby oil? I know tiger balm and will ensure we have a stash available.We already have insect plug ins and use fans and mosquito nets (although I do take on board your suggestion, Fillide, of making my friends aware of the need to close the mosquito net all day rather than just when they go to bed!). We do have some woodworm so I would be interested also to see anything about these spider mites if you find it - my search drew a blank on this.Many thanks for all your thoughts on this - I've been really fed up about it all! 

In reply to by strawberrystar

I am still convinced that my problem was pappataci and if you can read Italian here is an interesting link with a picture: saw some of these pappataci - sand flies in English - in the house but I didn't realize that these guys were the quilty buggers as they are so small.  Also you have no idea that you are being bitten as unlike the mosquito there is no humming/buzzing sound when they are around you or biting you.  Pappataci in Italian means to eat in silence - mangia e taci.  Tiger Balm absolutely helped with the itch and I brought some antihistamine tablets with me, I would take one a night and I was able to sleep without the itch waking me up......I found that Benadryl worked  best!  The vitamin B is anecdotal and it failed to prove its efficacy in double blind studies and I am not sure that it worked very well anyway but I was desperate to try anything.  I read in several forums that a mixture of half Dettol and half baby oil worked well to keep them from biting and I think that this helped some.  I used the Dettol/baby oil when going to bed (mix it in a spary bottle and spary it on your skin) and a 30% Deet product during the day if I was outside.  But first and foremost is prevention....which means that screens and doors (if they are not screened) must be kept closed during the hot humid weather (I found the little buggers to be biting when the temperature was above 34C).  Even with screens you are not completely safe as the litle buggers are so small that they can pass through.  I had a fan blowing on me all night and this I believe helped.  I also considered purchasing ceiling fans for the bedrooms and will probably do so next summer.  If you purchase mosquito netting for the beds make sure that they are for sand flies as the weave is closer together and the pappataci can't get in. I plugged in the electric diffusers about one hour before going to bed.  As I said before, this year was great for me as the weather was not too hot and humid so we only had a few days of pappataci and with all my vigilance I only had five or six husband had a few more but he took no percautions at all i.e. sprays during the day or at night. Here is a link for Dettol:   As I said I used this at night as I just didn't want to go to bed covered in Deet.  If there is anything else I can help you with please let me know, I wouldn't want anyone else to suffer as I did.  Somewhere I have a photo of the bites on my arms and if this would help you identify the problem I would be happy to hunt it down for you but I am pretty sure that pappataci could be your problem.

A couple of sources - this one gives you a pic of the mite which affected my friend, and a pic of the sort of rashy bites which they cause (Figure 6). The mite is called Pyemotes ventricosus and if it sounds like a possible candidate you could try searching on this term for English results. next link is in Italian (and it is from a pest control company who specialise in microwaving woodworm!) but it is a very clear explanation of the method of attack of these mites. Interestingly it mentions that the bites occur on parts of the body normally covered, and peak in the summer.