A Brief Guide To Parisitic Insects

A Brief Guide To Parisitic Insects

To understand what defines a parasitic insect you must first understand what parasitism is in the first place. As defined in wikipedia, “parasitism is a non-mutual symbiotic relationship between species, where one species, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host”. Therefore, parasitic insects are any type of insect that lives near or on its host, deriving all of its nutrition from its host.


There are countless parasitic insects in Canada affecting all types of living organisms, so for the purpose of this article we will only focus on some of the most common ones that affect humans such as bed bugs, head lice and ticks. This article will give a detailed explanation of how we come in contact with these insects, signs and symptoms of coming in contact with them, dangers that they pose to us and how to get rid of them. If you suspect a parasitic infestation or threat in your home we urge you to contact a trusted pest control company like Pest Control Mississauga or any other reputable pest exterminators. For a list of pest control experts do a simple Google search and look for customer reviews. For a complete list of pest control companies in Mississauga and the Greater Toronto Area please visit Pest Exterminator Toronto

Bed Bugs

One of the most notorious parasitic insects that affects human populations worldwide is the bedbug. These tiny blood suckers can spread from one host to another very easily and unnoticed. In the unfortunate circumstance that you come in contact with them, bed bugs can be very difficult and costly to get rid of.

How we come in contact with bed bugs

Bed bugs have been a problem for humans for thousands of years, believed to first come in contact with humans that lived in caves shared with bats. The bats in these caves were hosts to a similar bug which eventually adapted to feed exclusively on human blood. As humans moved from caves into more civilized arrangements, bed bugs were quick to follow.

Bed bugs are regarded as great “hitch hikers” as they transfer from one host to another relatively easily. They usually hide in areas near where we sleep such as night tables or mattresses, hence the name bed bug. We can come in contact with them in so many different places that are shared with other humans who have come in contact with them such as:

  • In a hotel or hostel
  • In public transportation
  • In theatres
  • In apartment buildings

Signs and symptoms of having bed bugs

It can be difficult to detect bed bugs because they are great at hiding and mainly come out at night while you are asleep to feed on your blood. Even while they are sucking your blood it is almost impossible to notice because their saliva has a numbing agent in it allowing them to feast on your blood without aggravating you. Nevertheless, there are some obvious signs that you may have a bed bug infestation on your hands, including:

bed bug bites on body

  • Tiny red bite marks on your skin when you wake up
  • Small blood spots on your bed sheets
  • Tiny black fecal matter on your mattress
  • Remnants of bed bug exoskeletons that they shed as they enter new life stages

Danger to humans

Although bed bugs are a nuisance to have in your home and have a social stigma surrounding them, they are relatively harmless to our physical health. They can not transmit disease and their bites are rarely even itchy, unless you have some sort of allergic reaction to them of course.

The main danger found with bed bug infestations is the psychological damage that they can inflict on their hosts. Knowing that a parasite is feeding on your blood while you sleep will make for many sleepless nights, which in turn can cause stress, anxiety and depression.

How to get rid of bed bugs

Getting rid of a bed bug infestation is no easy task. With their great ability to hide in numerous unsuspecting places around your home, it takes a trained professional to truly determine the extent of an infestation. To fully rid yourself of an infestation requires several steps as part of an integrated pest management approach. If you try do-it-yourself methods and don’t kill them all, chances are you will push them further into hiding allowing them to reproduce in larger numbers making matters much worse. For this reason it is highly advisable to hire a certified bed bug exterminator such as www.bedbugexterminatorpro.ca to make sure that bed bugs are completely eliminated from your home or work pleace.

Head Lice

Another very common parasitic insect that has been an annoyance to humans for over 100,000 years is the head louse. Similar to the bed bug, head lice feed exclusively on human blood, but instead of living near their host, they actually spend their entire life on human scalps, hence the name head lice.

head lice

How we come in contact with lice

Despite the common misconception that lice are great jumpers, making their way from host to host by using their powerful legs, this is not true by any means. Head lice are wingless insects with weak claw like legs that are not designed for jumping at all. The most common way that they transfer from one host to another is when a person infected with head lice has direct head to head contact with another individual. As a result, head lice are most prevalent in children who tend to come in contact with one another much more than adults would. Less commonly, head lice are also transferred when sharing a comb, hat, towel or any other object that touches your head with an infected individual.

Signs and symptoms of having lice

Although they are tiny creatures and difficult to see with the naked eye, realizing that you have head lice is quite easy since they live directly on your scalp, neck and ears. The most common symptom of having head lice is an itchy feeling on your scalp as a result of an allergic reaction caused by their bites. If it is a light infestation it may take you a while to realize that the itchiness is a result of lice so here are some other signs that you may have these tiny parasites living on your scalp:

  • Tiny red bite marks on the scalp, behind the ears and on the back of your neck
  • Small white eggs that stick to your hair
  • A ticklish feeling on your head caused when the lice is moving around in your hair

Danger to humans

Similar to bed bugs, head lice does not pose any serious risks to humans. Having these tiny pests sucking away at your blood can definitely have a psychological impact on its host, however, they have not been associated with any type of disease transmission. The greatest danger that you can be exposed to with head lice is secondary infections caused by excessive scratching of the scalp. If the lice remains in your scalp for a long time you can eventually create open wounds on your scalp from scratching which can get infected.

How to get rid of lice

lice comb

There are countless options for treating head lice including over the counter applications, prescription medications and various home remedies. Depending on the extent of your head lice problem and how quickly you want to see results will determine the method that you should use. The most preferable methods of course are those that do not use any harsh chemicals on your scalp such as:

  • Combing your hair with a lice comb several times a day for 3 weeks
  • Rub olive oil or almond oil into your hair to suffocate the lice, followed by a thorough combing to remove the dead lice, and finally using shampoo to clean out the oil. This method may have to be repeated for several days


Ticks are very small arachnid parasites usually measuring less than one millimeter in length. Similar to bedbugs and head lice, ticks feed on the blood of their hosts and usually do so relatively unnoticed. Unlike bedbugs and head lice, however, there are many different types of ticks which can feed on a variety of hosts and can also transfer several diseases.

How we come in contact with ticks

Since there are a vast amount of tick subspecies, we will focus on the deer tick which is the most common one people come in contact with in Ontario. The deer tick, also known as the black legged tick, live in wooded areas and grasslands where they can find their favourite host; the white tailed deer. Since these areas often have trails for humans to walk on as well, deer ticks tend to latch on to human hosts that brush up against grass or leaves that the tick is resting on.

deer tick

Signs and symptoms of being bitten by a tick

Due to their tiny size, it can be very difficult to realize that you have been bitten by a tick. Often times the tick will remain on your skin for several hours or even days and will look like a tiny mole in this case which can be difficult to remove (see below). Once the tick finishes feeding on your blood and detaches itself from your body, there will be a tiny red bite mark on your skin. If you find one of these marks it can be very difficult to determine if it was in fact a tick or another tiny insect that bit you. Tick bites, therefore, can be very difficult to notice unless of course it transmits a disease to you in which case you will have other more noticeable symptoms.

Danger to humans

In some cases, deer ticks can transmit lyme disease to their hosts. As with any tick, the immediate sign will be a tiny red bite mark on the skin. The symptoms of lyme disease will not appear right away and can take up to a month to begin manifesting in your body. If you notice any of the following symptoms several days to weeks after being bitten by a tick, consult a doctor right away as you may have contracted lyme disease.

  • An expanding rash that can reach a diameter of 12 inches, with a white spot in the middle
  • Flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fever and chills

How to remove a tick

Removing a tick requires a lot of precision and care. If it is not removed properly, some of it’s body parts may remain in your skin which can cause an infection later on. To remove a tick from your skin properly, follow these steps:

  • Using tweezers, grab the tick by the head which will be the part of the body that is closest to your skin
  • Pull upwards slowly, making sure that all of the mouth parts that were lodged into your do not break off
  • If the mouth part does break and remains in your skin, carefully use the tweezers to pull it out or an infection may occur
  • Use rubbing alcohol to clean the bitten area