Virginia health officials and insect experts are trying to determine the origins of mysterious bug bites being reported by residents of one county.
Locals in Arlington County said they have received what initially appear to be mosquito bites, but the bumps quickly swelled to much larger than what would normally be expected.
“It started to grow and it swelled, and then I was at work one day and I noticed that it was blistering,” Morgan Dailey told WRC-TV.
The Arlington County Health Department said officials have been unable to identify the source of the bites, but department experts are looking into at least one suspect.
“The leading suspect at this point is something called a pyemote, which is a type of mite that likes to feed on cicada eggs, so they must be very happy with their food supply at the moment,” health department spokesman Kurt Larrick told WJLA-TV.
The health department said pyemote bites are not dangerous, but could become inflected if scratched.
Samuel Ramsey, an entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, agreed that pyemites are a likely culprit, but he couldn’t say for certain that the reported bites all came from the mites.
“It is unfortunate that we as scientists have to step back a bit and not give people those definitive answers all the time, because there are alternative explanations,” he said.
Ramsey said some of the reported swellings could be from mosquitoes, skin infections or allergic reactions.