Back in July, we returned from our bicycling vacation with a few bed bugs in our luggage. We have our suspicions about where they came from, but that’s not really relevant: bed bugs can come from nearly anywhere. You can bring a bed bug home from a classy hotel just as easily as from a sleazy dive… and you will!
After three months, we think we’ve eliminated the last bed bug: no bites for the last three weeks. One can never be absolutely certain, but that’s definitely a good sign, particularly in combination with the monitoring measures we’re using.
We accomplished this on our own, without the use of a licensed PCO (Pest Control Operator) and without the use of toxic chemicals. It was, however, extremely expensive in terms of time, materials, and furnishings, as well as completely disrupting our family life.
While our methods definitely do not scale to the level required for a major infestation, most likely you’ll be in our situation: you return from a vacation with one or two, um, guests. If you understand what we’ve done and why we’ve done it, you’ll have a better basis for your own decisions and actions.
Most of what you’ll find in the usual Internet forums comes from (possibly) well-meaning folks who haven’t done any reading or experimentation: it’s raw anecdotal experience. Not to slander them, but it’s better to start with the basics, which you get from the primary sources.
To that end, here are the better sources we’ve found and used:
- A good overview at, of all places, Wikipedia. Pay particular attention to the life cycle.
- Highly detailed information from the Australian Department of Entomology at their Bed Bug home page. Print the Code of Practice PDF as a booklet, bind it, and read thoroughly.
- Cornell University’s Integrated Pest Management overview and an excellent Guidelines for Prevention and Management of Bed Bugs in Shelters and Group Living Facilities.
- A fundamental study from the Bad Old Days: The ecology of the bed-bug, Cimex lectularius L., in Britain Report on Research, 1935-40.
- The definitive study of what attracts bedbugs to traps: Bed Bug (Heteroptera: Cimicidae) Attraction to Pitfall Traps Baited With Carbon Dioxide, Heat, and Chemical Lure.
With those references in hand, I can describe what we did and how it worked. If you’re the sort who can’t drive past a nasty accident without gawking (and we are all that sort, really), then the next week or so should be good for at least that level of amusement…
A note to the potential purchasers of our house, when you read this in what’s currently our future: yeah, bed bugs. The only difference between this house and the next one on your list is that you know what happened here, what we did, and how it worked out. Trust me on this: no other homeowner will tell you anything about their bed bug experiences, to the extent of lying to your face.
Update: Here’s a quick index to the rest of (this chapter of) the Bed Bug Story: