I didn’t sleep at all last night. I’m currently curled up on my piano bench in my pjs, trying to finish a bowl of rice and veggies. I’m contemplating my options: try to doze for a couple of hours, or make some coffee and power through. I’ll probably choose door number one. I have the feeling I’ll need it over the next few weeks.
A war has begun in my house. A war I will win at whatever cost.
Here’s how it started:
Last night I was reading on my phone in bed, as the hubby drifted off next to me. As often happens when I read in bed, time slipped by way too fast, and I suddenly realized it was 3 am. I decided to save the rest for morning, and as reached over to set down my phone, the light from the screen reflected off something on my bed. It was tiny, about the size of a seed bead, and very shiny. A bug. It looked a little like a gnat crossed with a beetle. I dispatched it quickly. A minute later, I felt something on my arm. It was another bug. I flicked the “unlock” bar on my phone to get a better look, and was stunned to see three more bugs scurrying away from the light.
No. Nope. Not okay.
I jumped up and flipped on the overhead light in time to see the three fugitives disappear off the edge of my mattress. Obviously, Jack was awake by this point, and he helped me inspect.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have bed bugs.
I am horrified. Disgusted, angry, confused, and aghast. I haven’t stopped itching since my discovery. I didn’t go back to bed, obviously (though Jack did, since he had to work this morning, poor guy), and I spent the rest of the night online, educating myself. I’m glad I did.
Here are some helpful things I learned about my new enemies:
- They aren’t here because I’m dirty. This one is extremely important to me. We are very, very clean people. We’re minimalists, so we have almost no clutter, and I clean, vacuum, do laundry, etc on a daily basis. Turns out that bed bugs aren’t attracted to filth. They don’t eat crumbs and garbage like roaches or ants. They’re attracted to the sweet, sweet blood in my body. Yup. Like vampires, they vant to suck my blood. (*shudder*) But at least I can rest easy knowing that they aren’t my fault.
- They aren’t dangerous. Unlike their “psychological sisters” (a specially-coined term which here means “other bugs we group with bed bugs in our minds”), they do not carry disease or inflict any sort of affliction. The worst reaction you’ll get from a bed bug’s bite is an annoying welt like a mosquito bite. Interestingly, Jack and I haven’t been bitten at all, as far as we can tell (thank you, Jesus.) Usually bites are the first tip-off that you have the pests at all, so it was providential that I happened to be awake for their nightly feeding.
- They don’t like to travel. Bed bugs, unlike ticks, fleas, or lice, don’t like to latch on and see the world with you. Once they’ve eaten, they want to run back to their dark hole and hide. So I don’t have to worry about transporting them on my person as much as you may think. I’ll still take a lot of care with my purse, clothing, and anything else I carry with me, but I don’t have to check my scalp every hour or cover myself in horrible-smelling repellants.Which is good because…
- They are tough little twerps. Bed bugs are notorious for being repelled by almost nothing, and being nearly impossible to kill. Not totally impossible, just nearly. Unfortunately, there isn’t a good across-the-board effective repellant I can just spray around my bed. And my bed is where they’re most happy because…
- They’re nocturnal, and hate light. This is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, their aversion to light makes them very difficult to find and kill. On the other, I can sleep in my bed during the day while they all cower in the walls, waiting for the sun to set. Bed bugs usually come out between 3 and 5 am – just before dawn. I can sleep when the sun is up to protect me.
- Paying an exterminator to get rid of them is extremely expensive, and not always 100% effective. This one is a huge problem. We don’t really have $800 to drop on a professional treatment, as much as we’d like to. So we have to be creative. Fortunately…
- There are a lot of steps we can take on our own to eradicate them and prevent these buggers (see what I did there?) from returning. My eight hours of interneting have provided me with an encyclopedia of bed bug knowledge. From my research, I’ve determined that there are a few steps we can take today to get on the offensive.
My game plan:
- Buy a set of mattress and box spring covers. I hear Lowes has some, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond apparently carry them as well. I’ll need to be sure to get the ones specifically designed for bed bugs. The idea is that the covers trap existing bugs inside, where they die, and keep new ones out.
- Buy and use diatomaceous earth around the bed and throughout the apartment. DE is a powder, about the consistency of flour. On a microscopic level, it’s made up of tiny razor-sharp shards that shred the exoskeleton of any bed bug that tries to walk through it. The bed bug then dies from its injuries. Pool grade DE is really bad for people and pets, but food grade DE is safe, and from what I hear, very effective.
- Heat treat and bag all my belongings. Ugh, This is where it gets difficult. Until I know the bed bugs are gone, any fabric items in my bed area have to be washed and dried on a high temperature. The heat from the dryer kills bed bugs and their eggs. So I’ll be spending a LOT of quarters over the next day or so. As each thing (blankets, pillows, clothing, rugs, curtains, the works) comes out of the dryer, it’ll need to be bagged in a big ziplock and stored like that until I need it. Non-fabric items will have to be carefully examined and bagged too.
It’s going to be a long few days. Obviously, this isn’t something most people would ever admit to dealing with – especially not on such a public forum. But I decided to blog about my latest adventure for two reasons: one, the more I educated myself about bed bugs, the more I realized that I was horribly ignorant about them. My initial discovery led to an immediate reaction of fear and panic, because I didn’t know what to do – I didn’t know what could be done. Now I know. Hopefully my account of this event will help someone else in the future. Secondly, I strongly feel that there should be a support group for this kind of thing. Discovering tiny invaders in my bed, and realizing the enormity of the task in my future is a traumatizing experience. Since I haven’t found a group for this yet, I’m starting my own. 🙂 I just need to know that someone out there is pulling for us. If you’ve ever dealt with bed bugs before, leave me a note in the comments and let me know what worked for you. I’ll keep you posted on what we’re trying, and how it’s working.