People working in offices and similar places often complain of being bitten by fleas. When the premises are examined, no sign of infestation can be found anywhere.

Here we discuss other reasons for insect bites.

Bird Mites often turn up when least expected, usually after a premise has been pigeon proofed or cleared of pigeons. Pigeons are very prone to a rather nasty biting mite (Derymanyssus gallinae), which is almost transparent when hungry, but bright red when it has been fed. The use of oblique light will reveal them on a surface.

Ceratopogonidae (Culicoides) the famous biting midge of Scotland is not exclusive to this region of the UK. These flies only bite exposed areas, whereas the bird mite is not so choosy.

Very heavy duty carpets produce tiny particles, much too small to be seen with the naked eye. The minute inflexible spikes they produce move easily on air currents through ventilation systems. Sharp paper/card dust particles are also able to cause skin irritations. These fragments produce a wound remarkably like an insect bite. Unlike fleas, they will affect only tender skin areas not merely those which are constricted and favoured by fleas.

Terrazzo, vinyl, linoleum and rubber floor coverings generate static, which can pick up tiny fragments. These are then rubbed or scratched and a bite can be simulated. Most biting insects inject an anaesthetic/anticoagulant then feed on blood. The sufferer only starts itching when this wears off. A bite outside could manifest itself later indoors.

A commonly documented scenario is that people accumulate a negative (static charge by walking across a synthetic (nylon) carpet. This tends to attract dust and fibres, which exhibit a positive charge. Depending upon the particles/fibres concerned, this may cause irritation to a person's skin.

Achieving and maintaining clear conditions, particularly under desks, around wall angles and where paper/card files are stored is recommended. Anti-static treatment following cleaning may also prove beneficial.

When faced with complaints of 'biting insects', especially in office situations some investigation should be carried out to discount the possibility of any insect/bird mite involvment. 'Flea Traps' have previously been used in such investigations. These are small dome shaped traps with a sticky base and incorporate a light, to act as a heat source to attract parasitic insects/mites.