Thursday, 1 April 1971

Swallows and Bed-Bugs

The Condor
Vol. 15, No. 1, Jan. - Feb., 1913, pp. 14-16
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Cooper Ornithological Society
Jan., 1913
DOI: 10.2307/1361865

Edward R. Warren

In my paper in the May-June CONDOR, 1912, entitled "Some North-cen-tral Colorado Bird Notes," I referred to the belief that swallows harbor bed-bugs as ridiculous; and now I have to confess that possibly I did not know as much as I thought I did, a not uncommon failing with us all. Some time after the paper was published, W. Leon Dawson in a very courteous letter, called my attention to the fact that he had found Cliff Swallows' nests badly in-fested with bed-bugs, in one case so much so that the colony had been deserted.
He reported this in "The Birds of Washington," page 333. This started me to looking into the matter, something I had not done before, and as it would seem that not very many are posted on the subject, and in fact but little definite has been published that I have been able to find, I have thought it worth while to write up what little I have been able to learn about the matter, together with a few observations of my own, in the hope that it may be the means of bringing out further information. Certainly ornithologists should do their part in ascertain-ing whether or not swallows are guilty of bringing such disagreeable pests into human habitations.

I found that a bug (Acanthia hirundinis), belonging to the same genus as the true bed-bug (Acanthia lectularia), is parasitic on swallows, pigeons, chickens, and bats. It should perhaps be stated that the French authority, L. Gedoelst, places it in another genus because of certain structural differences, calling it Oeciacus hirundinis. On writing Dr. L. O. Howard, Chief of the Bureau of Entomology, Department of Agriculture, for information, he gave me a reference to a record by Otto Lugger, State Entomologist of Minnesota, and published in the Sixth Annual Report of the Entomologist of the State Ex-periment Station of the University of Minnesota, 1900, page 52.
This is as follows:

"Bugs, very similar to bed bugs, attack pigeons, chickens, swallows and bats. Those found in the nests of swallows not infrequently reach the inside of houses against which these beneficial birds have built their clay nests. Such bugs very closely resemble the genuine bed-bugs, yet are different when studied in detail; they are much smaller, darker, and cannot exist for any length of time away from their proper home, the nest of the swallow, where they are sometimes ex-ceedingly numerous.

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