A Personal Encounter With Bed Bugs
"I feel straight out of 'Angela's Ashes,' only instead of scabies, we have bed bugs," my friend told me.
“I feel straight out of ‘Angela’s Ashes,' only instead of scabies, we have bed bugs,” my friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, told me. “I really feel like people will shun us if they know we are dealing with this.”
According to the website of Bed Bug Finders LLC, a top New England and Mid Atlantic bed bug detection company and the company my friend utilized for her home’s pest eradication, “In the past decade, bed bugs have been making a significant comeback to the United States. International travel and commerce are thought to grow the spread of these insects which are readily transportable in luggage and clothing.
"Bed bugs are found everywhere but more common locations include hotels, motels, dormitories, shelters, apartment complexes, and prisons due to their high turnover in occupancy. Bed bug infestation in a particular location is not generally a reflection of poor hygiene or bad housekeeping as they do not discriminate where they will nest. An old motel or a 5 star hotel are equally as nice to a bed bug.
“There were over 10,000 complaints filed with the New York City Department of Health in 2009 alone. It is safe to assume that many complaints go unfiled to avoid the negative publicity that a hotel, for instance, may receive if their infestation became public,” the company website further states.
I asked my friend several questions regarding her personal experience with bed bugs.
What made you think you had bed bugs in the first place?
I just noticed weird bites on my body and in unusual places where you normally wouldn’t see mosquito bites – my stomach, back, near my bra strap. And they seemed to be in threes. And I had remembered hearing something about bed bug bites coming in threes because they eat on you for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s so gross to think that I’m their buffet. The exterminator told me they are attracted to bodies that run hot. So, it makes sense they gravitate towards a perimenopausal woman, I guess!
So, what did you do to confirm your hunch?
I googled bed bug extermination. And I ended up calling Bed Bug Finders, LLC, on a Sunday. The owner of the company answered the phone and basically talked me off the ledge for the next 30 minutes. He agreed to come out the next day to inspect our house. Their company actually brings a dog out with them to do the inspection. The inspection took about two hours and they went throughout our entire house.
[Per the company website: Our unique service comes in two parts. First is bed bug detection. We have three bed bug dog detectives available to inspect your home or business and detect bed bugs. Bullet, Pasha and Ruby are smarter than the average human – they can maneuver into areas people can’t, and their keen senses of smell can find even the most hidden bed bugs. Further, we keep our canines’ sense of smell sharp by testing them every day with live bed bugs.
If our dogs don’t find anything, then you can relax. If they do find bed bugs, no worries – we have served hundreds of customers with proven results and peace of mind.
If one of our bed bug dogs does find the pests, we will discuss our second step of our state of the art bed bug heat elimination service called Heatreat.
And if unfortunately we find bed bugs, you don’t have to worry that your neighbors will find out. We will show up at your house with no labeled uniform employees, an unmarked truck, and a hose from the truck will go through a window or door into your home for the heat treatment. It’s very discreet.]
And what did the inspection turn up?
He told me we had bed bugs and he detailed all of the spots in our house where the dog had detected them. And when he did, I just burst into tears. I felt so gross. Obviously, he was accustomed to such a reaction. He said, “You ok? You ok? You can cry. We’ve seen tears before. You can’t believe how many women have cried in my arms. I’ve had men cry in my arms. I hug more customers than I do my own wife.”
[Bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed and hide in mattresses, clothing, furniture, carpets, and other household items. Female bed bugs lay 200-500 eggs during their lifetime at a rate of three to four per day. They emerge at night to feed on unsuspecting warm-blooded hosts for three to eight minutes. A single feeding can sustain a bed bug for months before feeding again. Bed bugs are not known to carry disease, but their bites result in skin irritations similar to mosquitoes or fleas. The bites can take a psychological toll on people who may not sleep well for months after being bitten. Businesses and hotels can suffer financially from loss of business if an infestation is not detected early, the company website also states.]
So, what did treatment entail?
Basically, we had to remove every item of clothing, linen, window treatment, etc. and get it dry-cleaned and heat-treated. The cost to do so has run into thousands of dollars. And, none of it is covered by insurance. Once we did that, we had to put all of those items in sealed bags where they have to remain for three weeks.
While we are going through that, the extermination company will do two separate chemical treatments to our entire house. One has already been done, and the second one is conducted two weeks later. We were told they have a 100 percent success rate in treating single-family homes, and they have a 60-day guarantee.
Allegedly, it’s much harder to treat multi-residential units. And our company told us many extermination companies just “spray and pray” and that they don’t offer specific bed bug treatments, so those typically don’t take care of the problem.
We had to pay the extermination company $2,600 for the inspections and treatments. In total, with dry cleaning and purchasing of mattress protection and various other things, we’ve shelled out probably $5,000 or more. But there will also be big costs down the road with everything that I have thrown away that I will need to replace – linens, clothing, stuffed animals, rugs, pillows, suitcases, etc. It’s crazy.
We’re lucky, though, that our infestation wasn’t too pervasive. For instance, they weren’t embedded in our mattresses, so we were able to keep our beds. We just had to purchase special mattress and pillow covers.
The extermination company also begged us not to sleep away from our house until treatment was complete. And there were certain precautions they advised us to take such as getting dressed with clothes that had been treated and were sealed and then upon putting our clothes on, immediately leaving the house. As hosts, we could spread the contamination.
They told us, people just want to run away from the problem. The tendency is to want to go check into a hotel or stay somewhere else because you’re so disgusted by this infestation in your own home.
It was really hard sleeping in my bed those first few nights, knowing the bed bugs would be coming to feast on me later. I had to drink a lot of wine those nights!
Any idea how you contracted the bed bugs?
We’re not positive. But we think we acquired them from a business trip my husband took to Florida where he stayed at a Ritz-Carlton. Either that, or from another bag in the luggage compartment of the plane. We contacted the Ritz-Carlton, and they are currently investigating.
Are you bed bug free now?
We won’t know until the treatments are complete but so far, so good. They seem to be dying off as I am starting to find their body casings. Thank God. It’s been an emotional and financial nightmare dealing with it all. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.