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What's Eating You?

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 11 May 2013 | comments*Discuss
Bed Bugs Fleas Midges Threadworms Eating

What makes most pests a pest comes down to their endless search for food. While it’s annoying enough if that means there’s a family of mice eating your biscuits, or a troupe of ants raiding your sugar, when what they’re munching is you, your kids, pets or plants, then that’s a whole different ball game!

When it comes to these most unwelcome of unwelcome guests, the trick is to spot the signs early and act quickly – after all, you hardly want these guys hanging around for a moment longer than is absolutely necessary. That’s all well and good, but do you know what to look for – and can you recognise the culprit from the clues they leave behind.

Fancy a quick game of Pest CSI to find out if you can tell what’s eating you? Just like Mac, Grissom and Horatio are always saying, the evidence doesn’t lie – so good luck!

    1. Which of the following is NOT a reliable indication of a bed bug problem?

  • a) Dark spots/droppings appearing on bedding.
  • b) Bites appearing overnight.
  • c) Finding clusters of 1mm long white eggs.
  • 2. How would you best describe a flea bite?

  • a) A red spot, surrounded by an area of blue skin; it lasts for a few weeks and is very itchy.
  • b) A blue spot, surrounded by an area of raised skin; it lasts for a few days but doesn’t itch.
  • c) A red spot, surrounded by an area of redness; it lasts for a few hours and is very itchy.
  • 3. What is likely to have bitten those small, U-shaped notches in the leaves of your house plants ?

  • a) A vine weevil.
  • b) A cabbage caterpillar.
  • c) A red spider mite.
  • 4.Your toddler’s suffering a bad case of “scratchy-bottie” – what might be to blame?

  • a) Tapeworms.
  • b) Threadworms.
  • c) Eelworms.
  • 5. What might lead you to suspect that a leaf miner is at work?

  • a) Large, ragged holes appear in the central parts of the leaf.
  • b) Dark, discoloured patches appear beneath the surface between the leaf-veins.
  • c) Small red blotches appear along the underside of the stem.
  • 6. Your dog has what looks like a wriggling grain of rice stuck to its tail after it’s done its business; so what’s eating Fido?

  • a) Threadworm.
  • b) Tapeworm.
  • c) Eelworm.
  • 7. A case of head or pubic lice is bad enough, but what are they actually eating?

  • a) Blood.
  • b) Skin.
  • c) Hair.
  • 8. Your plants aren’t doing as well as they should – the leaves are wilted and they’re covered in sticky honeydew. What’s eating them?

  • a) Aphids/whitefly.
  • b) Slugs/snails.
  • c) Weevils/spider mites.
  • 9. A week after a walk in the countryside, you spot a grey, pea-sized “thing” firmly attached to you. Now what’s eating you?

  • a) A flea.
  • b) A mite.
  • c) A tick.
  • 10. You’ve gone camping beside Loch Ness and you wake up covered in tens of tiny, sore and itchy bites. What’s been taking those bites out of you?

  • a) Midges.
  • b) Vampire bats.
  • c) Nessie herself.


1. b) Bites that appear overnight could be caused by a number of pests, including mosquitoes and fleas, so they don’t automatically mean you have a problem with bed bugs; however, the other two signs almost certainly do.

2. c) The typical flea bite is a red spot, surrounded by an area of redness which although it only lasts for a few hours it is very, very itchy.

3. a) If you spot little U-shaped notches in your house plant leaves, it’s likely to be a vine weevil that’s to blame – and you need to act quickly as they (and especially their larvae) can cause serious damage.

4. b) It’s most likely a case of threadworms – but don’t worry; despite the high ‘yuk-factor’, they’re fairly straightforward to treat, but do remember to dose the whole family!

5. b) Leaf miners cause dark, discoloured patches to appear beneath the surface of the leaf, typically between the leaf-veins.

6. b) Sounds like your pooch has picked up a tapeworm; it’s time to pop down to the vet.

7. a) As if having them wasn’t bad enough, these lice suck your blood too. Yuk!

8. a) Wilted leaves and honeydew spells aphids and whitefly.

9. c) You seem to have picked up a tick – and you’ll need to be careful how you go about removing it to make sure you get all of it out. There are some great specialist tools available – try local chemists or vets – but if you’re not too confident about the DIY approach, you’ll need to see your GP.

10. a) You’ve fallen foul of the infamous Scottish midge – a nasty piece of work if ever there was one and the real reason that picnics and barbeques aren’t just so popular north of the border! And you thought it was the weather...............

How Did You Do?

  • 10 – Unblemished!
  • 6 to 9 – Not many flies on you!
  • 3 to 5 – Itchy and scratchy!
  • 0 to 2 – Eaten alive!

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Thank you for a very useful checklist.
moose - 2-Mar-12 @ 7:56 AM
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