Photos: Bugs Found On CTA Red Line Could Be Lice, Bed Bugs

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Sep 27, 2016 7:03PM

Updated 2:40 p.m.: Every so often, reports of bed bugs on the CTA rear their ugly, blood-filled heads. The latest comes from a Chicago Reddit user who saw some suspiciously bed bug-like critters on a CTA Red Line train Monday morning while commuting into the Loop.

Redditor UeSuRl (who communicated with Chicagoist but did not share his identity) noticed a couple of bugs crawling on his body after he sat down on the train, and quickly discovered the seat was "infested" with the bugs. As UeSuRl tells it:

Standing now in the middle of the train car, I notice there are about 5-6 bugs on my backside. I flick them off. At the next stop, I exit the train because I don't want to be in the same car as these bugs.

After getting home at the end of the work day, UeSuRl found another bug inside of his undershirt. This time, the bug is dark brown and appears to be filled with blood when he crushes it:

Immediately, I take my clothing to the dryer, put it in, and place it on the highest heat setting. I go to the bathroom and discover one more bug, also now brown, and dispose of it the same way.

Next, I head to urgent care with the two bugs in a sealed bag and get an examination. Though he tells me I'm clear of any bugs, the doc confirms they are bedbugs and charges me for the visit.

So, next time you ride the CTA, be cautious and look at your seat before sitting down. I just hope my fellow riders were also this thorough because the whole row was infested.
TL;DR Confirmed bedbugs on the CTA Red Line this morning around 8:50 AM. There were 30+ small, white bugs crawling around a row of 6 seats.

Entomologist Louis Sorkin told Chicagoist Tuesday afternoon that the photos are of human body lice, not bed bugs (still, we are not itching to ride the CTA after this). And some amateur entomologists on the Reddit thread also pointed out that they look more like lice, judging by the photos. Either way, CTA reps says they're on the case.

"We are aware of the recent report and are taking steps to identify and address any issues," CTA spokeswoman Irene Ferradaz told Chicagoist in a statement Tuesday morning. "When CTA becomes aware of any potential issues, we immediately remove the bus or rail car from service for inspection and cleaning."

And—believe it or not—the CTA buses and train cars are cleaned several times a day—before and after each trip and at the end of each day, according to Ferradaz.

Sorkin says lice are still an issue on public transportation even when trains and buses are reviewed and cleaned.

"These lice could have just been deposited (crawled off a person) right before that person sat down," he said in an email. Medical doctors should be able to differentiate between bed bugs and lice, he added.