The Horror Of Having Bed Bugs

Bed bug bag

Eighteen months ago, I wrote this in today’s (March 30, 2012) block on the calendar:  “Bed bugs-18 mos Leather fm attic”

Yes, my friends.  Eighteen months ago, I had bed bugs.  Today was the day that it’s been a year and a half since the bedbugs and I can finally open the bags with the leather jackets and stuff that I couldn’t wash and dry at the Laundromat in 120 degree heat to kill the bugs.  Keep reading to understand what I mean by bagging up the stuff and 120 degree heat.

I was going to blog tonight about what it was like to get bedbugs, but I have soooo much to say about it that I’d be writing for hours.  Then I remembered that I already wrote about it on the homeschool forum.  And better still, I wrote about it while it was happening, so it was all fresh and my horror is palpable and you almost feel it as you read.

It’s a lot.  When I wrote about it on the homeschool forum lots and lots of people replied with cries of dismay, words of comfort and a lot of questions.  Below are all the entries I wrote, some in response to questions.  This blog entry is over 5,300 words, so it’s a long one, but it gives me a free evening, since I don’t have to compose anything new tonight.

(Edited to Add:  Here’s Ninja Bug Guy’s website.  If you’re in the area and need an exterminator, I can’t recommend him highly enough. )

Have fun being horrified:

——————–

9/27/10 12:48 p.m.

Post Title:  I have bedbugs

It has been a fear of mine for years. And today it came true. I have bedbugs. The bug guy just left the house. I’m pretty bummed.

(Incidentally, my bug guy looks and talks EXACTLY like this ninja guy. It was hard to keep a straight face throughout the inspection.)

He’s going to send me info on how to prepare the house for treatment (lots of washing everything washable and cleaning out stuff from all the closets/drawers), and then he’ll come in and treat.

He’ll come back every 2 weeks to make sure they’re gone. He said that it will take up to 2 months because he’ll use some sort of chemical that messes up their life cycle (so you have to wait for them to die), but he’ll keep inspecting every 2 weeks until they’re gone.

He quoted $680 for all the care–from the first session until the last 2 months later. I have heard that’s it’s pricey to get rid of them and veeeery difficult.

The bug guy has a degree in bugs (entomology?), so he wasn’t just some tech guy they sent out. He runs the business for himself and seems to actually love the little bugs he treats and came across as very knowledgeable about all things bugs related.

Please be aware that bedbugs have nothing to do with cleanliness, so we’re not living in dirt over here–I’m afraid if I tell people about the bedbugs, they’ll think I’m a dirt ball. I’ve heard of a library a couple of counties over that had to shut down because they had bed bugs in the books. I wonder if that’s how mine got in my house–library books?

Anyone else ever have bed bugs? How did it go for you to get rid of them?

———————-

9/27/10 1:20 p.m.

In response to a post about how apartment complexes are riddled with bed bugs.

My bug guy said they’re really hard to get out of apartment complexes because people are coming and going and bringing them in and out and you have to try to treat the whole place…

But he said he has pretty good success with single homes, so here’s hoping. He was a very nice guy. Even when my son (for some UNKNOWN reason) wrapped a “present” for the guy with paper. It was a sock. Why would my 8 year old son wrap up a sock in a sheet of printer paper and give it to the bug guy?????? I have no idea.

The kids followed him all around the house “searching” for bugs, too. The guy was VERY nice to them, and said, “They’re just curious. Some guy comes in with a flashlight looking for bugs…they’re gonna want to look, too.”

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9/27/10 1:52 p.m.

In response to someone who wanted reassurance that there were no bedbugs in the libraries in the western half of the United States, and who wanted to know how I knew I had bedbugs: 

I’m in Pennsylvania–out east! You’re in luck.

I had heard that a county south of me had closed for the bedbug problem. The bug guy said that libraries and stores in New York City were closed for the problem, too. The bugs were coming home in people’s books and purchases. He said that he’d recently treated a 93 year old man’s house (with his 90 year old wife) because the bugs came in on a hospital bed they’d rented.

I found the bug on my PILLOW last night before I got into bed. I looked at bed bugs online and it looked EXACTLY like the ones I found online. I showed my dh. And he STILL slept in the bed last night! Men are so weird.

I slept on the couch.

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9/27/10 9:07 p.m.

Ok, I’m the OP–to answer a couple of questions:

1. I live near Gettysburg, but as you can see from the map someone provided, they’re everywhere.

2. How did I know they were there??! HOW DID I KNOW??? When I was about to get into bed and turned over my pillow to fluff it last night and ONE WAS SITTING RIGHT ON MY PILLOW!!! ON MY PIIIILLLLOOOOWWWWW!

Didn’t you all hear me shrieking last night??

It was the size of a watermelon seed and looked just like the pictures online when you google images of bedbugs. DH was in total denial and went to bed anyway. As soon as my Ninja Bug Guy saw it, he just looked at me with pity and said, “Aw man. It’s a bedbug.” And shook his head in sympathy.

The bugs HAVE BEEN BITING US, but we DID NOT KNOW IT!!!!!! I guess that’s a slight blessing??? Yes??? We didn’t get any itchy sores or anything. I told my Ninja Bug Guy that, but he lifted the mattress and right there, on the top of the box spring were little black spots. See, they drink your blood and then poop it out, and dried blood is black. Ninja Bug Guy said, “They’ve been biting you–you can see the dried blood.” Yuuuuuuck.

He went on to say that they will bite your head because it’s the warmest place on your body. AHHH! Thank goodness my husband snores and I’ve been wearing earplugs every night. Or I would wonder if they’d been in my EARS. (Yes, I am YELLING through this whole post!!! AHHH!!)

But even though there are no itchy bites, I’m feeling very itchy right now!!!!

And who was that horrible WTMer who posted that if you move from your bed the bugs will follow you and be all over your house? Now I have to debate if I’ll just stay in my bed tonight and let them bite me so that they don’t get into my whole house, looking for me. I really can’t afford to buy a new bed and new couch and new whatever else I’d need to buy.

My Ninja Bug Guy mentioned the heat treatment. He says it’s crazy-expensive and he doesn’t have the equipment yet. He was cautiously hopeful that my problem is just in my bedroom, even though he’ll treat the entire first floor in an effort to eradicate them.

What does everyone else in the rest of the world do? Just live with them? What do you English/Aussies do?

——–

9/28/10 2:22 p.m.

In response to someone who wrote:  DH is convinced that they can’t live in our sleep number mattress but I’m not sure if that’s right since they can live anywhere I thought.

Your dh is in denial like mine was! They can live in picture frames, in the wall sockets…anywhere.

And I ACTUALLY SLEPT IN MY BUGGY BED LAST NIGHT. Talk about getting a bad night’s sleep.

My Ninja Bug Guy confirmed that if I move my sleeping place to somewhere else in the house, the bugs might move, too, to find me. And then I might have to get rid of my brand new couch, or the Ninja Bug Guy won’t be able to track them down and it’ll take much more money/effort to get rid of them. Right now, he’s pretty sure they’re just in the bedroom.

Since I don’t have raised bumps from the bugs, I just went ahead and slept there and let them bite me. I felt rather like Ma Ingalls–very brave.

My Ninja Bug Guy is coming on Thursday. I have to spend another $200 (besides Ninja Bug Guy’s fees) on a bed bug proof bag for my mattress and box spring. Plus hours upon hours of work to clear out the bedroom and adjoining closet and living room.

And OF COURSE, dh is having migraines right now and can’t help. Why does he always get migraines when I need the most help? I mean, honestly. He always gets headaches or knee trouble or whatever when I need the most help. Maybe it’s psychosomatic? Well-he really is in pain, so I won’t complain about him…too much.

———————-

9/29/10 4:56 p.m.

Well, I posted earlier how I found out (an actually full-sized bug on my pillow). But I’ve had bugs for about 2 months and didn’t know it (according to my Ninja Bug Guy.)

Look on the sides of the mattress and between the mattress and box spring for little black dots. Those are their droppings. It’s actually your dried blood that they’ve pooped out.

My dh and I have had no bites that we can tell. The Ninja Bug Guy said that some people get bites so bad that it scars them, and other people don’t notice their bites at all.

———————–

9/29/10 5:03 p.m.

In response to someone who was going on vacation in a hotel and is afraid she’ll bring home bedbugs, but her husband is making fun of her about it:

My dh went on a trip to New York in July.   Now it’s September and we have the bed bugs. We’ve had them for about 2 months (per the Ninja Bug Guy.) Sounds like DH picked them up in his hotel.

At the hotel, my dh’s roommate had bug bites on him. They weren’t sure if it was spiders or bed bugs or what, but they asked to move to a new room.

I very loudly and very vocally told my DH all about the problems with bed bugs. I told him and told him that he needed to check that room. I went on and on about it.

He just poo-poo’d everything I said.

Lo and behold—here we are with bed bugs.

I did leave all his stuff in the trunk of his car (so it got above 120), I visually inspected the suitcase and all his clothes along each seam. I did pretty much EVERYTHING I could to his stuff before he brought it into the house…but here we are with the bed bugs.

My Ninja Bug Guy is GOLDEN and is only charging us half of his normal amount (because he’s pretty sure it’s localized into just one room), but it still is costing $700 for him, plus $200 for the mattress bags we need to buy.

We’re out $900.

And I really just want my dh to say to me, “Honey, you were SO RIGHT about bed bugs! I really shouldn’t have made light of it in July when you were warning me.”

Seriously. I’m pretty upset about the bed bugs, but if he said that I would feel soooooo vindicated.

So, tell your DH that you’re GOING to check the room. You’re GOING to use the hot pad and he can just GO to the pool while you do so if it upsets him too much.

Don’t let him talk you out of checking for these bed bugs.

And I’m lucky (so far) because the bug guy is pretty sure they’re not in my couch. If they were, I’d be out another $700 for a new couch.

I already have to wash ALL of our clothes in hot water and dry everything in the dryer at at least 120 degrees. Do you KNOW how many of my clothes will now be shrunk? I don’t know yet, either (haven’t done it all yet), but there’s a good chance that I’ll have to go out and spend more money on clothes because mine will be ruined.

I’m having a REALLY BAD DAY today, as we prepare for the exterminator.

And I just want DH to tell me what a wise woman I was for trying to stop this from happening.

————————–

9/29/10 7:53 p.m.

In response to requests for updates about the bed bugs:

OP here.

I’d just like to say that I’m normally a pretty cheery person, but preparing for the exterminator has put me in a seriously bad mood. I have to wash every single article of clothing in our house (except the stored stuff in the attic.) Do you have any idea how much that is? Oh, and don’t forget ALL the bedding (even the stuff in the closets.)

And all the fabric (clothes, bedding, curtains) has to be heated up to 120 degrees for 20 minutes in a dryer. So, I have to take it all to the laundromat–our local laundromat shows the temperature and can get up to 160. I’m not sure ours at home gets that hot. I can’t even begin to tell you how many bags full of stuff I’ll have to wash tomorrow (about 20 big black trash bags or so). I don’t even want to think about how much that will cost. You guys are absolutely right–it costs too much for many people to handle. Fortunately we have had the ability to save money just for things like this.

Since we don’t know where the bugs are or where their eggs might be, anything that we don’t absolutely need or love has to be tossed. It’s been a painful day.  Some things have too much sentimental value and we’ll bag it up and store for a year and a half, waiting for the bugs to die, since bedbugs can live w/o eating for a year.

By tomorrow night, I’ll probably have time to write in a let everyone know the details on what it takes to get rid of bed bugs. Trust me, you DON’T want these things!!!!

I just needed to vent a little bit. Am feeling pretty low right now. We’ve been working non-stop to prepare the rooms that need treatment since 10 this morning and still have a couple hours of work, so I really need to go–dh is working alone right now. My body is shaking a little bit from all the lifting and hauling and working for so long. And I’m just feeling…low.

———————-

9/29/10 10:34 p.m.

In response for a “look on the bright side, at least you’re decluttering…” post:

Yeah–we had to call the trash people and tell them that there are 15 big black trash bags to pick up. (They’re a local company and we live in a small town.) The guy sounded really annoyed. “Well…we might not have room on the truck. We probably won’t. We’ll have to make a special trip…”

My dh was sympathetic to the guy, but said, “Sir, we did NOT plan on this. We would rather have NOT had to throw all our stuff away.”

I don’t think the trash guy really understood. So, we’ll probably have those big black trash bags sitting on our curb in the morning and have to arrange a special pickup sometime later this week.

But, yeah–it was nice to get rid of some of the stuff. Dh is finally inspired and said, “We should go through the rest of the rooms and get rid of things, too!” I told him to give me a couple of days to recover from this. He’s usually the one who doesn’t want to declutter, so after I recover, I’ll jump on it and we’ll get rid of more stuff.

And to the poster who said it’s like having to move NOW, she’s right. It’s sort of like that. You try to organize it somewhat, but at the end of the day, you’re just throwing things away or putting them in bags willy-nilly.

Just to creep everyone out–did you know that bed bugs can be in movie theaters? They climb aboard and ride home on you…or in your purse. Basically bed bugs can be ANYWHERE. There’s simply no way to protect yourself from them.

I really hope that I never get them again. This is something you only want to do once in a lifetime! (Well, really you don’t ever want to…)

——————-

9/29/10 11:12 p.m.

In response to someone wondering exactly how much stuff would have to be thrown away in her own house if this happened to her.  She wanted to know what we were getting rid of.

We use the bedroom to store a lot of things. The bedroom is on the main floor, and is one of the few closets, so it’s where LOTS of things get stored. It isn’t a walk in (by any stretch of the imagination), but it has some really nice shelving, so we store a lot of things in it. Our clothing is in the bathroom closet (which we also had to clean out, because it’s adjacent to the bedroom closet). The bedroom closet is also used as our coat closet because it has access from both the bedroom and the hallway. (There’s a really high bar that the coats go on, with shelves underneath.)

Here are things I got rid of:

A bunch of VHS tapes. We store the DVDs and VHS tapes in our room because it’s right next to the living room and the living room has NO storage. This included a series of 20 VHS tapes with math lectures on them.

A bunch of cassette tapes. DH almost cried over those (he had many of them from before we were married and felt they were a part of who is was/is.)

A bunch of picture frames. For DH’s 40th b-day we had a big party at the church hall and put framed pictures of DH on all the tables. The frames were being stored under the bed, and bedbugs like to hide in frames, so….out they went.

Some kid coats and suits that the kids have outgrown. I could have washed it all and sold it at consignment (my original plan), but frankly, I have so much laundry that it’s bringing me to tears thinking about it, so we just tossed the kid clothes.  Besides, I’d hate to pass the bugs on to anyone else.

I had a box that used to hold diapers (from Walmart) stuffed full of gift bags (christmas, birthday, etc.). Tossed them all.

I had a big box of wrapping paper and things to decorate the boxes with under the bed. Tossed it all. (Bows, paper, bells, fake flowers, blank cards for notes, etc.)

A foot warmer for the winter.

Some prizes I’d collected to give to the kids in my Sunday School class (little rubber toys, or tiny stuffed animals, etc.)

A bunch of smocks (my old shirts I’ve saved over the years) that I used for the Sunday School kids. We rarely used them and I still have all that laundry…out they went.

2 big bags of bird food. We didn’t really want to scatter the entire bags in the yard (it’s not that big…) and I don’t know if bedbugs like to live in the middle of bags of bird seed…so out it went.

A roll of leftover carpet that DH was wanting to use somewhere (you know how DHs can get ideas in their heads about rolls of carpet–or is it just my dh?)

And then we bagged the rest. All the contents of our medicine closet had to be bagged–including things like extra boxes of tissues and about 10 rolls of paper towels (a year’s supply for me.) I don’t know if I can keep that stuff or not. I have to ask the Ninja Bug Guy. I don’t know if I can keep the stuff like bandaids, and ace bandages, and boxes of lightbulbs. But I bagged it up (like I was told) and I’ll ask him tomorrow. I can’t really wash a box of bandaids, so he might say I have to toss stuff like that.

We had a picnic basket that we used as a filing box for our papers. I don’t know if we can keep the papers or not (all our bills, etc.) How do you clean papers?

The stuff he’s going to use tomorrow messes up their reproductive cycle (or something like that.) So, maybe I’ll be told to unpack this stuff and even if there are bugs on it, they’ll come out and walk through the poison and die in a couple of weeks? I dunno.

There was probably more, but it’s late and I’m tired! I needed to calm down by reading a few threads, but I’m going to sleep in my buggy bed. I usually like a lot of room when I sleep, but last night I slept curled up tightly close to dh. I just knew that bugs were crawling all over me (even though I couldn’t feel them), and I seriously needed someone to cling to for comfort.

If I don’t sleep in the bed, it will just encourage the bugs to come looking for me and set up roost in another room of the house.

My mother-in-law gets a prize today. She came to my house, took the kids to her house, fed them lunch and dinner and then asked if I wanted them to stay overnight at her house. YES! I can’t imagine what I would have done if I’d had to clean out the bedroom, living room, my clothes closet and medicine closet…all with the kids vying for attention.

——————–

9/30/10  10:56 a.m.

In response to someone giving me sympathy about how miserable I was in the last post.  She said that if she lived nearby she would help me

Thank you for the offer.

I’m feeling better today even though I just realized I’ll have to throw away the $80 heated mattress pad–can’t put it in the dryer or it’ll mess up the wiring and we’ll get electrocuted or burned to death…

The Ninja Bug Guy is here and is pretty convinced that the bugs are all in the mattress or right next to it. He’s going to keep coming back every 2 weeks for about 2 months to inspect and retreat as necessary.

I already have a bunch of loads in the washing machines at the laundromat. We’ll get thru it. Last night I was just upset. My cheeriness is starting to come back!

And the trash people even took all of those big black bags for me, even though it’s pouring down rain today. They’ll probably charge me an extra $20, but at least those bags are off my curbside.

AND! Best news: my favorite black jeans that I had to wash and dry in hot water and the hottest dryer setting did NOT shrink! YES!! I’m wearing them right now.

————————

9/30/10 10:30 p.m.

Ok–it’s late. I just spent over $100 at the laundromat today washing EVERYTHING. At one point I had 13 of the dryers going with my stuff in it (there was another lady carefully guarding the 14th dryer for her own stuff.) Bottom line, I’m tired, but tomorrow I’ll write a nice post about what happened today while Ninja Bug Guy was here.

About the books; for my case, Ninja Bug Guy said that we caught the infestation early and it was localized near the bed. The books are probably ok. He flipped through a number of them looking for evidence. However, if bugs were in the books, he liked the idea I gave him. I asked him if I could just keep them tightly bagged for a year and a half. Bedbugs can live up to a year without eating (Ninja Bug Guy said that it’s rare they live that long…but they could). So, bag them up and 1.5 years later–they’re all dead.

Ninja Bug Guy also said that if I want to know if they’re in something (like books) I could put the stuff in a plastic bin with a lid. Then, you coat the inner rim with a thick layer of Vaseline or Petroleum Jelly (I can’t remember which…). When the bugs try to get out, they get all gummed up in the Vaseline and then you can see if they’re there or not.

 In response to this woman’s comment which read:  “I told DH I think we should get those mattress protectors.. be proactive.. he just laughed at me…”

I’m sure everyone’s DH is laughing except mine. My poor guy only got 4.5 hours of sleep last night because we were up late clearing out all our clutter and then he had to prepare to teach an 8:00 class at the college this morning.

After going through this, I would cautiously recommend the mattress covers. You’d need one for the box spring and one for the mattress and they’re $90 each, so it’s a lot of money. But it’s better than having to throw out a mattress. Of course, if you never get the bugs, you’re out a lot of money for no reason. It’s a tough call.

————–

10/01/10 12:27 a.m.

I started a new thread.  The old one was getting too long.

Post Title:  Oh, dang it all! The bedbugs are gonna get me…

I am SOOOO tired. But I’m afraid to go to bed because the bedbugs are gonna get me.

Part of the treatment that Ninja Bug Guy did, is that he sprays some sort of hormone around. This makes the female bedbugs want to come out and FEED. When they come out to FEED (I really hate that word), they’ll walk through the poison. Eventually they’ll die.

WHY DID HE TELL ME THIS??!??!?!?!

It’s been bad enough on Mon, Tues and Wed night sleeping in my buggy bed. But now I know that they’ll be coming out to FEED on me more than ever tonight.

I’m so tired. I have to go to bed and I just don’t want to. Maybe I can just stay up all night?? Don’t doctors stay up for like 400 hours in a row??? If they can do it, so can I!

If I don’t sleep on the bed, they’ll follow me to another area of the house and infest a new room, so I have to sleep on the bed. Ninja Bug Guy shook his head sorrowfully and told me it’s best if we just tough it out and stay in the bed. UGH!!!!

——————

10/1/10 10:24 a.m.

In response to people saying how they’d be completely freaking out if this happened to them:

Well, I made it through the night! Yesterday dh found a couple of red spots on his feet and thinks they might be bug bites. I haven’t found a single bump on me. Either they’re not biting me, or I’m not having any reaction to them. If I was getting spots, I don’t think I could do this.

I feel like the woman in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when she had to stick her hand in the hole covered with bugs and pull the lever that would stop the spiked ceiling from coming down to impale Indiana Jones.

If this wasn’t happening to me, I’d be more grossed out. The idea of bedbugs has always been so horrible I normally would have thought I’d run screaming from my house if I had them. But now that it’s actually happening, I’m feeling very pragmatic and stoic and practical about it. I’m not sure why. Good thing one of my friends is a psychologist who has special training in helping people through trauma. Maybe when this is all done, I’ll have some sort of breakdown and she can counsel me!   But for now, I’m able to keep my heebie jeebies under control.

————————-

10/01/10 11:26 a.m.

The Ninja Bug Guy came to the house at 10:00 and left at 1:30 yesterday. I think he could have left at 11:00, but he talks nonstop. I would MUCH rather have a person come out who actually talks, instead of the ones who come out and barely answer your questions and grunt at you. Fortunately Ninja Bug Guy owns his own business, so he can talk as long as he likes and doesn’t have a boss telling him to hurry up.

Here are the different things that Ninja Bug Guy talked about:

Bamboo taking over the swamps of New Jersey

Greedy veterinarians telling you to overtreat a dying animal

Putting his dog to sleep and bawling about it

Helping a friend put a dog to sleep (but only after the friend listened to a vet and overtreated the poor dying dog.)

Mousetraps and how to set them

Having to teach his kid math because Everyday Math was messing her up

How funny it was that my son wrapped up a dirty sock to give to him as a gift

Every single job he’s had since 1992 and why he left them, and how long he worked there.

The little old couple who had bedbugs but were in their nineties and couldn’t clean their house so he did it for them.

How stinky the dead mouse in my dryer was

How people in Gettysburg had to use nosegays because of all the decaying bodies: human, farm animals, warhorses

How there are only 2 local exterminators in all of south central PA–the rest are big companies.

Homeschooling

When he got married and how his wife has stood by him through all his moves and jobs–including when he had to commute for a few years to NJ and was only home 36 house a week.

The band that he’s in and how his bandmates make him pay for things up front and he doesn’t get paid back unless they get good gigs.

How sweaty he gets playing the drums

How times are hard for exterminators because a lot of his work had something to do with Real Estate and we all know that Real Estate is tanking

Some people that he treated for spiders who had thousands of shoes

General comments about bedbugs

Answers to all my bedbug questions

…and…

The fact that he has ADHD (no! Really?!)

————–

10/14/10 4:04 p.m.

Update on my Bed Bugs

Ninja Bug Guy came to re-inspect for bed bugs. (He’ll inspect every two weeks for two months.)

He said that it was the best re-inspection he’d ever seen! Only one little spot that indicated a bug (probably from the first night after the chemicals were put down, before it died.) This means they’re almost certainly GONE! He said it was because we did such a good job of cleaning everything out of the room and preparing it for the treatments.

Next step: start putting the stuff back into the bedroom (it’s all currently in big black trash bags.) If the bugs show up again, it means they were hiding in my stuff (eww!)

I’m hopeful that this is all over. It’s been hard to sleep, since I keep scratching and batting at myself thinking there are bugs on me.

——————–

Ok blog readers.  That’s all I wrote a year and a half ago.  Now it’s March 30th, and I am finally opening all those bags that have been in my attic waiting for the bugs to die.  I’m so glad to close this chapter of Bed Bug Horror.

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