Bed Bugs: Wrapup

So there you have it: the bugs that killed three months.

We’ve gone a month without a bite and are only now restoring furniture to the bedroom. Each piece goes up on powder traps and gets a week in isolation to reveal any bugs before we reload the drawers with clean clothing. After vacuuming and washing there shouldn’t be any bugs left on the furniture, if the piece had any to begin with. Almost certainly that is wasted effort, but …

Maybe next year we’ll buy new chairs and a couch for the living room. For sure, they won’t have plush, overstuffed upholstry.

With any luck (and the regular use of a hot box disinsector), you won’t go through what we did.

However, should you discover a row of bites across your body, the actions you take during the next few days will determine the level of catastrophe during your next year. The problem will not go away by ignoring it; if you get a breeding population going in your house / apartment / condo, you will definitely need a commercial pest-control service.

If you think tossing out some furniture to get rid of a few bugs is expensive: just wait.

Good luck!

The rest of (this chapter of) the Bed Bug Story:

  1. #1 by Frans on 2010-11-21 - 11:05

    Do these bites differ from, say, mosquito bites in other ways than being in a row? How about compared to flea bites? Bed bugs had been eradicated in (this part of) Europe due to DDT, but I hear they’ve been making a comeback in recent years.

    • #2 by Ed on 2010-11-21 - 14:51

      Individual reactions seem to vary from nothing all the way up to anaphylaxis, but we find bed bug bites to be much more itchy and longer-lasting than other insect bites. They have a small hard core, too, which is distinctive. The anesthetic injection keeps you from noticing the bite while it’s happening, but as soon as that wears off, wow, does it itch!

      The “row of bites” effect occurs when you move slightly during a meal; the bug repositions itself and digs in again. And again. And again…

      As nearly as I can tell from what I read, DDT stopped being effective about the time the bugs were wiped out, so we’ve had several decades of low bug incidence. That’s now coming to an end and, with no good chemicals in the warehouse and none in development, the situation will get very ugly during the next decade.

  2. #3 by Guy on 2010-11-22 - 23:22

    Purely hypothetically, what are your thoughts on the feasibility of raising the temperature of a small apartment (800 sqft) and all its contents to 120 °F for 4 hours? Space heaters would be needed of course, and I’d empty and unplug the fridge. Anything I would be comfortable leaving in my car in the summer sun would get to stay, or might have been shipped in a hot delivery truck (basically covers all electronics). I’m not seeing a barrier right off-hand, but that’s what second opinions are for. ;)

    • #4 by Ed on 2010-11-23 - 06:54

      Won’t work… the bugs simply move out ahead of the heat wave.

      More details in the comments there.

  3. #5 by IhateBedBugz on 2010-11-23 - 03:56

    I came here via Hack a Day and I just wanted to add that if your soft furnishings like mattresses, sofas etc are infested, it is a good idea to wrap them and seal them up in polythene for a long period of time. These little buggers are patient and can hide in furnishings dormant for many months. The idea with the polythene is to starve them out by denying them a way to feed. If they’re in the furnishings and wrapped in polythene, they can’t feed.

    I’ve had these things before and they aint nice. many restless nights spent on bug watch, waiting for the enevatible nibble nibble.

    Good luck and I hope you rid them. I’ve had them in the past and tried everything I could think of from chemicals, to traps to manual erradication. Nothing shifted them. In the end, we abandoned all our possessions and left the place because it became too much and too unbearable.

    Thankfully, I haven’t seen one in ten years, but I still occasionally glance over to my shoulder from days of sitting in my old place and suddenly seeing a brave fecker sitting on my shoulder in the day where it had emerged from the furnishings for a quick snack…. Eurgghhhh.. makes me shudder thinking about it again…

    • #6 by Ed on 2010-11-23 - 07:35

      If they’re in the furnishings and wrapped in polythene, they can’t feed.

      We encased the mattresses & box springs, then sterilized the frames, but there doesn’t seem to be a good way to seal up furniture and still use it: too many angles and too much motion to guarantee that it’ll remain sealed. If one little passage, too small to see, opens up, you get your problem back again.

      In the end, we abandoned all our possessions and left the place because it became too much and too unbearable.

      That’s the nightmare scenario…

      Worse, the next tenants moved right into it, because there’s no way to exterminate an apartment infestation short of moving everybody out, killing the building, and then moving everybody back in. That requires more diplomacy than most apartment owners can muster; quite a few tenants would simply not move back in and, alas, take a few bugs with them to their new dwelling.

      makes me shudder thinking about it again…

      Us, too!

  4. #7 by whacko on 2010-11-23 - 12:28

    I’m surprised to hear how many infestations there are in Canada.
    It seems to me there is a simple three step process to solve the problem up here in the North.
    1) get several days clothing into a hot dryer for 45mins, take them out and put them into a trashbag and seal it.
    2) shut off your water Drain out your hot water tank and open some faucets, shut off your electricity and gas.
    3) go to a hotel for a weekend, remove the clothes you arrived in and place them into a trashbag and seal it, until you can take them to a hot dryer.

    With no electric or other sources of heat and Canada’s sub zero temperatures, they won’t survive.

    • #8 by Ed on 2010-11-23 - 13:40

      Canada’s sub zero temperatures, they won’t survive.

      When you return you’d find all the bugs snuggled into nooks and crannies down in the basement, waiting for spring.

      Read the Australian CoP (in the References) and weep: the obvious, simple, easy, DIY solutions just don’t work.

      They’ve been tried and failed.

      Look at it this way: if any of those solutions worked, nobody would have a bedbug problem.

      Our DIY solution worked, but only because we brought back a very, very few bugs, realized we had a problem, and devoted the next three months to single-mindedly wiping them out. Even at that, I’d say we barely got the job done…

      • #9 by Kuba Ober on 2013-06-26 - 18:42

        House on stilts in the middle of Canada it is, then. The ultimate solution.

        • #10 by Ed on 2013-06-26 - 18:56

          Yeah, once the bugs get in, they’re not going anywhere. It’s just you and them, locked in a room surrounded by a howling blizzard and trackless wilderness.

          They make movies about that stuff…

  5. #11 by Robert on 2010-11-23 - 19:45

    Thanks to you, your efforts via Hackaday I have a much better idea of what bit me and what to do about it.
    Sydney

    this link needs mending on the overview page
    http://http//medent.usyd.edu.au/bedbug/

    [Ed: Done! Thanks for the heads-up.]

  6. #12 by baltobikeboi on 2011-01-01 - 20:18

    Thanks, I “enjoyed” reading how you worked through the problem. We’ve not been visited upon (yet) thank-god but Baltimore is a crap hole of a city just ripe for a disaster of these guys. My partner was like “Why are you reading THAT?” and I’m thinking well I wanna know it’s happening if it is… not waiting to figure it out and then it’s too late. Good luck and a BBF 2011 (bed bug free!) to you and yours.

    • #13 by Ed on 2011-01-01 - 21:15

      well I wanna know it’s happening if it is

      Oh, you’ll know… but may it not happen to you this or any year.

  7. #14 by Laura C on 2013-07-25 - 00:11

    I stumbled on this, because I was researching the use of double sided tape to trap bed bugs. Needless to say, I’m so glad I landed on the pages of your saga. I’m oddly less panicked than when I began.

    I actually don’t KNOW if I have bed bugs. I was visiting a friend for a weekend, and after returning home (and my luggage having already entered the house, making a couple of stops before coming to rest on my bedroom floor) I noticed the once thought mosquito bites on my feet and ankles had progressed in reaction, and just didn’t “feel” like mosquito bites. The following day, and a little research later, I begin to suspect it was bed bugs. To my horror, I realized that my possibly infected items, had been introduced to home turf, about 18 hours prior. I sprung into “preventative” action (with paranoid abandon), and I’m HOPING that I can avoid infestation of any size. I suppose only time will tell. Regardless, I’d love to avoid getting to a point where I would need to use a PCO. Some of the strategies you’ve outlined in your saga, have provided me with some cost effective options as I wait to determine whether I brought home unwanted guests.

    So from the bottom of my heart (attached to very swollen ankles and feet), Thank You!

    • #15 by Ed on 2013-07-25 - 08:36

      just didn’t “feel” like mosquito bites

      There’s a bit of psychosomatic effect, but, yeah, they feel like mosquito bites from Hell…

      visiting a friend for a weekend

      Telling your friend what’s going on will be difficult, because there’s such a stigma attached. On the other hand (or foot), if you get a confirmation of your suspicions, that would be very helpful in knowing what to do.

      Think of it this way: if you don’t bring up the subject, you’ll never, ever visit them again, nor will you be able to invite them into your home.

      cost effective options

      Remember that hope isn’t a strategy. If you’re getting new bites in a month, then it’s time to call in the professionals.

      Good hunting!

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