Coping with bedbugs

karinlJanuary 12, 2010

Or bed bugs - it can be spelled both ways, but either way, it's an eye opener!

They come in many ways, apparently, being clever hitchhikers. We think ours came home on a used book I bought (though my mother-in-law was also a good candidate for a minute there - darn it). They are apparently endemic in hotels.

What makes it an issue relating to home organization is that to purge them, you have to be able to closely examine all cracks and crevices in your bedroom, and especially on your bed, on a nearly daily basis for about a month (if you're lucky - longer if you're not). You need to be able to remove the mattress and box spring, take the bed apart and look at all the components from front, back, top and side. You need to take all the dresser drawers out and check them as well as inside the carcase and under and behind it.

Then, the bed needs to be isolated when in use so that the bugs' access to it can be controlled. At least a foot or two clear on all sides.

We live in a small house and have a small bedroom (8 and a half by 11), and it was just packed (I'm nothing if not efficient!). We could barely stand on both sides of the bed much less take the thing apart, and we had two loaded shelf units and a dresser so close to the bed that contact with the bedding overnight was inevitable. It was bed bug heaven! We had (and still have) no idea where they were hiding - shelf units, clothing, dresser, bed, stuff kept at bedside... cracks in floor, behind the door mouldings, where wall meets floor, oh it makes me tired just to think about it.

Almost everything has come out of the room for a while, and we'll be vacuuming daily. We have traps on each bed leg and a double-sided tape barrier around the bed (on the bed). We have encased our mattresses and box springs with cases that need to stay on for at least 18 months, so that if any eggs were laid inside there, they will hatch and die. The other option is pyrethroid pesticides - the pest control officer is coming tomorrow and will likely recommend spraying. The spray is a residual so kills bugs for a couple of weeks, and more than one treatment is apparently often needed. I'm not keen on poisons, especially in DS's room, but everything I've read so far suggests that the non-chemical approach will fail and that we will have to have the spraying done. So I'm not sure whether to just go for the spray now or be sure that I've given my best shot to avoiding it.

Germane to home organizing is the question of how we will re-organize the bedroom once the invasion is repelled. This question is necessary partly because we won't be sure for a long time that we were successful. The bugs can live for up to 18 months without food, so if some have been squirreled away in our bags of stuff taken out of the bedrooms, they may swing back into action if we release them too soon and we may have to start vacuuming to excess again. But also, I think this experience will have a lasting effect in that having a bedroom that is so cluttered as to preclude a thorough vacuuming will generate a sense of rising panic in us. We may put the headboard against the wall again in the future, but will probably be happiest if we can push the bed away and check behind it every so often. That means nothing under the bed that precludes pushing it, and no shelf unit for my sweaters at the foot end! Wah!

So it's not really about being clean but about having limited bug hiding places available and having the space to check them often.

A few entertaining factoids about bed bugs: no matter where they enter your house, they will find their way to the bedroom because they are attracted to the CO2 that you exhale as you sleep. The eggs hatch in about 10 days. They will usually nest within a meter or two of the bed, often on the mattress itself. There is very little available in the way of lures or effective traps.

And their bites are often characteristically made in rows of two or three, referred to as breakfast-lunch-dinner bites. Some people react strongly to the bites, others not at all. Me, not at all. If I lived here alone I still wouldn't know that I am sharing the place with bugs. The pest control officer I spoke with on the phone says he can guarantee they're biting me, but that I'm just not reacting.

Anyway, I can't replicate the wealth of information that is available about bed bugs on the internet or from other sources, but I hope this will function as a bit of a primer and a heads-up for those of you who have not yet had to get to know these little creatures.


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Melissa Houser

Karin, You have my sympathies on dealing with this! When my kids were small, we battled head lice for one entire school year. In the end, their infestation was coming from a girl on the school bus, but I remember the frustration and helpless feelings from trying to clean up and kill all those bugs.

I've never researched bed bugs, but I'm itching now, just thinking about it. I'd go ahead with the chemicals and any other preventive measures I could find. Would washing the items previously stored in the bedroom help eliminate the bugs? If so, it would be worth the time invested in a huge laundromat trip, IMO. I did a few of those myself when fighting the head lice scourge.

I also treated my car and the couches and carpets in my home, although I don't know if that's applicable to your situation.

Again, good luck!

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 8:26AM
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I think stripping the beds, wash everything in hot water, and constant vigilant vacuumimg of the mattress, boxspering and floors will eventually rid you of these pests. I wouldn't want insecticide sprayed in my bedroom. We used to sprinkle a lot of flea powder in our bedroom because we had a dog that liked to sleep with us (on the floor, not in bed). She developed lung cancer from breathing in the flea powder every night, which spread to her brain and killed her at the age of seven, relatively young for a dog. Try washing and vacuuming first.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 12:26PM
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Karin - Try one of the steam cleaners (Steam Buggy?) on all the crevices regularly.

It might kill a few.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 5:34PM
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Don't forget you might be taking them to your car and bringing them back in again. Treat your auto too.

Read up on DE as a non-toxic solution.

Here is a link that might be useful: DE

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 9:11PM
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You definitely have my sympathy as well and it looks like you have done some excellent research already. In addition to the good points and tips already left; I do have another that you may add to your repertoire of evil bed bug fighting techniques.

Look into Eucalytpus oil. Eucalytpus oil can be used on a proactive basis, but also to kill off bed bugs. Place several drops all over the mattress (then vacuum to add heat). I add the Eucalytpus oil to a spray bottle with a small amount of water to make it easier to spray all over the mattress. Wash all of your bed linens in hot water with several drops of eucalytpus oil added directly to the washing machine. I store my oil right next to my laundry soap in the cabinet above my washing machine.

You need to use the full concentration (you can find at natural food stores, and most health sections at pharmacies/grocery stores). Just make sure you aren't getting the reduced oils that you might commonly find for massage oils etc.

Note that is interesting to me, maybe boring to you all :) In large part due to my need for organization I got into more natural cleaning products. A lot of this was because I had a cleaning product for everything, and my mission for anti-clutter was being overcome by cleaning products everywhere- oh the irony :) I exaggerate a bit but you still get the idea. I threw out most of my products and started using baking soda, vingear and essential oils for almost all cleaning. I now only store a few items and they are non toxic which is good for my mischevious 5 year old and 10 year old fur baby.

Good luck and maybe that idea might help someone!

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 10:25PM
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As I read your post, I am concerned that I have opened my home unknowingly to these pests. I shop at thrift stores often, buying old pieces of furniture (some upholstered), mostly dressers and chairs. I am now worried that I have brought them in but have never seen any signs. How did you know you had them? Gotta run for now ... time to get back to deep cleaning.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 9:29AM
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Hey Paranoid :-) we knew we had them because DH and DS were getting bites. If it were just me I still wouldn't know - I don't seem to react to bites. We did actually find one bug that may have been a bed bug before we knew what was going on and unfortunately didn't keep it to check it now. But you can also look for signs, most notably droppings and moulted skins, on your bed, your bed frame, and most often in the creases at the bindings of the mattresses or box springs (and the corner protectors of box springs). They are drawn to people as they sleep, so on the bed usually nearest the head end. If they are in your house they will have come to your bed - within about two weeks if you brought eggs in, and sooner if you brought in adult bugs or one of the juvenile stages. I've posted a bit more about that on a thread I started on the Antiques and Collectibles forum, and there is also tons of information available on line.

Laurie, I totally agree with your approach to cleaning products; mine is similar though I haven't used Eucalyptus oil (Dr. Bronner's Eucalyptus soap though) and will add it to my arsenal, though your point about the irony of being cluttered with cleaning products is well taken! I don't think any oil will kill the bugs unless it is sprayed directly on them, and I am not quite visualizing how vacuuming would produce heat? Even with steam cleaners, from what I've read it's tough to get the heat to penetrate far enough into the mattress to kill. Thus the attraction of impermeable mattress covers, which simply confine the bugs without food for so long that they starve.

So thank you all around for the suggestions. Yes, it's a lot of laundry and for a while not putting clothes back into the bedroom, and vacuuming. The trick is knowing where to vacuum, and for that you have to understand the bugs' behaviour. Way more complicated than lice, which we also had once while the kids were small! The PCO assured us that at such an early stage the bugs are almost 100% likely to be on the bed itself, so vacuuming that thoroughly a couple of more times (I mean really thoroughly, taking off the box spring and dismantling the frame) may cover our area of risk. But I have also looked at, and will continue to watch, all surfaces and crannies of all the other furniture in the room as well as the gaps at the edge of the floor, which are still open where we have not yet installed our baseboards.

Examining the furniture so carefully requires some space, to pull things from the wall and turn them around and get behind and under them. All facilitated by having less clutter around. But also a challenge to keep your life going when you suddenly have to change where you keep everything.

One more interesting factoid I found on the internet last night is on an Australian website, which states that the Australian bed bug explosion has occurred since 2000, when the Sydney Olympics brought people from all over the world to Australia. So here in Vancouver, I guess we'd better brace ourselves - and it's bad here already! If you're looking for a growth industry for either investment or job opportunities, consider pest control :-)


    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 3:58PM
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Okay, I have a question. Are bedbugs the same as dust mites? I think my neighbor said that she was allergic to dust mites.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 10:05PM
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No dust mites are more common.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 11:30PM
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Karin, you have my sympathy, too! When I read about the huge infestation in NYC, including the top hotels, I started wondering about the risk of buying used clothing at thrift stores. I live 100 miles from the city, but many NYC residents have a weekend house here. I still shop at the Salvation Army, but I hope it doesn't turn out to be poor economy.

Several years ago I had bat bugs, which are related to bedbugs. Bat bugs feed off bats, and if the bats vacate the premises (as our attic-living bats did), the bugs then go in search of another host--who turned out to be me. I was wildly allergic to the bites and had no idea what was causing them. A local extension office agent identified the culprits. I bombed the attic and froze them out of my bedroom. (I moved out of that room and turned off the heat.) I've read that bedbugs are much harder to get rid of.

PS: I also buy second-hand books all the time. Picked up four today. I fervently hope that's all I picked up.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 10:12PM
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A few years back, after returning from an overseas trip, I unpacked the suitcase into the washing machine. A few minutes later, I found a very small insect biting my arm.
It was a bed bug!
The suitcase got pitched outside and the standing rule at our house is:
No suitcases on hotel beds, no suitcases on our bed and they spend some time outside after trips.
Unknown if the bed bug came from the hotels, the luggage hold, the cab abd it certainly could have been the domestic leg of the journey, as easily as the overseas leg.
We got lucky and missed an investation.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 12:00PM
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From what I have read it is the higher end hotels that are experiencing the surge in bedbug infestation due to the greater number of international travelers. Australia had an explosion of bedbugs after the Olympics. Watch out Vancouver.

I have a friend who travels internationally for his job monthly. I keep warning him to be careful and proactive but he tells me he "Stays at high end hotels. Not trucker stops." He don't get it!

Here is a link that might be useful: Olympics

    Bookmark   January 20, 2010 at 4:46PM
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Dilly, thank you for that link. I'd missed that article, although it's local to me. (It's a site I don't read often as I find its politics a little smothering but they do mix in some good work occasionally). If you're that good at searching you can probably find a few good sites that will ruffle your friend's composure :-)

Gardenspice, you're right that the bed is always the issue: use the suitcase stand! In addition to washing. I think steam cleaning the suitcase once empty might work. You were lucky to find that bug and good for you for reacting fast. We saw one before we knew what was going on and didn't ID it before throwing it out... and Des, that is one thing that differentiates bed bugs from dust mites: you can see bed bugs! In their nymphal stages they are smaller (and white) but an adult is gold-brownish and big enough to see, especially on a light surface.

Alisande, that 2nd-hand shopping thing is why I started a thread about this on the collectibles forum too. The whole frugal mindset, as well as the collection habit, have to be exercised with care. And actually, the green 3Rs are also called into question. Reuse and recycle - anything that moves stuff around from one home to another - is problematic. Reduce too: I've also been hesitant to take my shopping baskets or bags to the grocery store, and I quite cheerfully get the cashier to bag my groceries in virgin plastic! I blithely disregard the baleful glares from my fellow eco-freaks, secure in the knowledge that I am acting for the greater good, though I did give a measured look to a woman yesterday who was having her single milk bottle DOUBLE bagged. I mean, there is a limit!

By the way, the evidence has ended up implicating my mother-in-law after all, not my second-hand book (phew). She is a little confused and is losing her memory so although our alert did get the pest control called in by the landlord, it was hard to ascertain whether a bug had been found, but now we know that she definitely has them. My family visited her at Christmas and the coats were put on her bed.

Keep THAT in mind for the next party you go to :-)

Thanks for all the empathy, it helps. By the way, in re-examining the bed we found a nest of eggs that my vacuuming had missed - DH has sharper eyes than I do. So every day we progress a little, but it's not over yet.


    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 12:19PM
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You're getting a lot of bad info here that will make things worse.

Go to, they have a wealth of information there from pest control companies and people who have been dealing with them.

Pyrethoids won't kill BBs- they just spread them. Rubbing alcohol will kill them if you soak them in it, but there's no natural solution for them besides heat.

I still don't know what I have- I do know it's not bedbugs, and that it's connected to an outdoor cat that's on Frontline Plus, but no idea beyond that.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bedbug site

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 11:39PM
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karinl is one of many sites I've consulted extensively, though I certainly don't pretend to have read it all, nor all sites. In the interest of keeping this thread useful, I'd be happy to hear what I've said that would constitute bad information, if you're referring to something that I've posted.

Certainly some topics have not been covered thoroughly, such as avoiding picking them up in hotels - there is a great deal more to be said about that, and some travel sites do - but my purpose in posting here is to raise awareness; others can search out information according to their own needs. Also, I can only refer to my type of problem which is bringing home a bug or two, not, for example, moving into an already infested apartment.

Certainly there is some question about the effect of spraying pyrethroids, and that is why we aren't resorting to spraying. But we can afford the luxury of trying to DIY because we live in a detached house. If I lived in a multi-resident building where I had no control over what the neighbours do and where I couldn't monitor the results of what I do, I'm not sure I wouldn't resort to trying them at the perimeter of my dwelling.

Again, please specify what in this thread constitutes bad information so that we can all learn more. And good luck with identifying your problem.

In other news, we found the favoured harbourage sites on my son's bed tonight - three bugs and about a dozen eggs - they are really tough to spot, it's always DH who finds them. We gave the sites the steam treatment - this problem has generated a plethora of new appliances, first a new vacuum cleaner since the 22-y-o el cheapo wasn't up to the task, and now a steam cleaner (not a garment steamer, which is not as focussed). We'll be checking these sites and similar ones daily now, while monitoring bite frequency, because we assume they are the best spots and that any remaining bugs will move right in.


    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 1:55AM
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Karin1, thank you for bringing the bed bug problem to attention.

Over the years here at GW I've tried to start threads about the bed bug problem sweeping the country in the US, only to be pooh-poohed and mocked. People just don't realize that bed bugs are not from keeping a dirty house or hanging out in questionable places. There is a lot to read on the topic and some of the info out there is contradicting, even from respected sites, so it is hard for many to sort out. I urge everyone to educate themselves on the matter by reading as much as they can.

I used diatomaceous earth to finally quell a flea problem in my home and to eliminate a sudden ant infestation in my kitchen. I continue to use it proactively. Haven't seen a single house centipede since using it. I also use natural oil repellents and believe they work. Maybe they work. Maybe they don't. But my house sure smells good. Diatomaceous earth WILL WORK to kill bed bugs. It works with a mechanical action not a chemical one. It is non-toxic. But, you have to know how to apply it and where.

I linked to an article below showing the results of testing for kill with various insecticidal dusts including good old plain diatomaceous earth. What completely surprised me was the results said that DE with pyrethrins is more effective due to a faster kill rate. The efficacy of the pyrethroid dusts against both resistant and susceptible strains surprised even the researchers. Pyrethrins as a spray and used alone are not effective on bed bugs like they are on fleas, but their research suggest that bedbugs carrying the pyrethrins in the DE sticking to their bellies is was caused the faster kill.

I encourage everyone to read as much as they can on the matter and to be proactive in preventing an infestation in their home. Start now.

Here is a link that might be useful: DE and Bed Bugs

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 2:37AM
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Karin, your info is mostly good, but the info you were getting was the issue. Just letting it go will not lead to the problem burning itself out- it will get harder, and harder, and harder to treat. I do understand the small bedroom- ours is about that size and would be crammed if we didn't have an extra bedroom.

DE will kill them in about 10 days, if you can expose them to it. The problem is that you have to apply it very, very carefully and in the right spots. The stuff is horrible for your lungs if you inhale it, so it's not safe anywhere it might be disturbed (ie, hit by moving air), and is particularly bad if you vacuum it up. Natural does not equal safe.

As far as horrible advice:
I think stripping the beds, wash everything in hot water, and constant vigilant vacuumimg of the mattress, boxspering and floors will eventually rid you of these pests. I wouldn't want insecticide sprayed in my bedroom. We used to sprinkle a lot of flea powder in our bedroom because we had a dog that liked to sleep with us (on the floor, not in bed). She developed lung cancer from breathing in the flea powder every night, which spread to her brain and killed her at the age of seven, relatively young for a dog. Try washing and vacuuming first.

This is why bedbugs are an epidemic. Washing in hot water is fine (the dryer works too). Just vacuuming the mattress is meaningless since they live deep inside it- if that worked, steaming it would work too, and no one would have bedbugs anymore. You have to wash, dry and then bag your stuff to keep from recontaminating.

About the flea powder- that stuff is bad news. It's transported in non-climate controlled ships and trucks, and some nasty things frequently happen to the chemicals in it. Unless it was "just" DE, which should be handled with as much or more care than any other pesticide.

Eucalyptus oil is also pretty nasty stuff. Again, natural and safe are not the same. The toxicity is .5mL per pound for death. A mere teaspoon will kill a ten pound baby. And, as if that's not enough, there's no evidence that it works any better than rubbing alcohol. Although it might send your BBs running into your couch or deep in your walls to live.

Treating the car is easy since they probably won't stay there anyway- leave it in the sun all day when it's fairly warm out and that will kill them.

One tip I haven't seen that even we're considering as a prevention method- and we only travel a few times a year- is a PackTite (I'm not affiliated w/them). It's basically a nylon bag with a heater that will kill BBs. If our big suitcase would fit in one, we probably would, although it is getting a little paranoid. Now our friend who travels 4+ days a week is nuts not to have one.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 1:25PM
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Cocontom, thanks for adding some excellent information and cautions regarding what's been posted here. As I think it's all been posted with the best of intentions, I don't fault anyone for what they've contributed, but in an ideal world it would need to be sorted by value and accuracy. There have been some things that needed more attention, both good and bad.

For example, I neglected to credit LazyGardens for suggesting a steam cleaner. It took us a while to decide exactly how we would deploy one, but we did get one earlier this week and it is a big help (cool tool for other uses as well, and cute too!). It's true it won't heat inside a mattress or box spring though, which is why we've gone with encasement of those. I think this is the tool I would use to protect against bringing the bugs home from a hotel - I'd wash and dry all the clothes I brought, bag stuff for examination that can't be washed or steamed, and steam clean the suitcase. I have seen the PackTite video and I can indeed see its value for someone with a big problem or frequent risk. I think you could rig something like that up yourself too.

Diatomaceous earth is another thing altogether. From the reading I've done, there's no question that it works and, taking Dilly Dally's research reports into consideration, that it can be part of a successful strategy where there is an infestation. But you still have to understand the movements of the bugs, and I have to admit I'd have to be in some pretty severe trouble before I risked breathing it. However, there's no question that a severely infested apartment would constitute "pretty severe trouble." All that said, most references that I see to using it for bed bugs fail to mention the danger it poses to humans. And I did not know that about Eucalyptus oil but as I use some products made with it, a little obviously goes a long way... that natural does not equal safe is something we can probably all stand to be reminded of.

Washing the bedsheets - it's hard not to do that initially just for comfort, and we have run them through the dryer several times subsequently. It makes you feel better and might dislodge the odd egg or bug! But the preferred harborage of the bugs is wood, and if you have a wooden bed that is where they will be. They don't vacuum out of the crannies they find easily either. They need to be found and destroyed. Steaming those little caves that they've found does that! We are then leaving the caves open and vacant so that they can collect any other bugs that there are. It's like prime bug real estate. That is a strategy that uses their predictable behaviour to defeat them, which I think is the key. I am writing a little more about that on a site where I write under my own name... since my screen name here is part of my real name, a little creative searching should find that if anyone is interested.

And the car... that was a major bit of anxiety for me for a while, since it is not warm enough yet to bake them in there. I finally figured out that they will get so hungry in the car that they will become activated by the entry of a warm CO2-breathing being during the day and likely crawl aboard for a ride into the house sooner or later. So I'm pretty sure they have all come in by now, if any landed there in the first place.

In aggregate, I've actually become a little disillusioned about the quality of a lot of the information provided about bed bugs on many sites, including several that should aspire to a higher quality. I mean, GW is what it is, and I think we all take it as that; other sites purport to be sources of expert information. What people with a problem need to do is understand the nature of the little beasties, how they arrived and how big the problem is, and how they are most likely to behave in the physical set up of the home they have. Pest control companies to a large extent aren't helping to focus people's efforts. I did have a PCO come in but I asked for "bed bug coaching" not spraying or eradicating, not even inspection since we'd done that. As coaching, it was very much worth the price and took my chances of success as DIY from about 30% to 99%.

Here's hoping!


    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 3:50PM
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Time magazine has an article describing how to build a bedbug detector. The article also seems to indicate that the inexpense homemade device is effective at eliminating them through trapping. It would be worth a try, I think.

Here is a link that might be useful: TIME: DIY Bedbug Detector

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 3:06PM
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I'm so happy I stumbled on this thread! I got a beautiful, classic, solid brass king bed for $69--the bargian of the century. Brought it home to show dh. Loooong pause. Dh says, "uh, it's very nice, but I don't like metal beds." I was crushed. We decided we'd use it for now, while searching for a wood bed frame that he likes better.

With his travel for work, and our proximity to NYC, I think it won't be hard to convince him a metal bed is cheap insurance. He's an engineer--cares more about function than look anyway. Bug resistance is a wonderful function for a bed. I think thats why there were so many metal beds a century ago. If this bedbug resurgence brings about renaissance of beautiful metal beds, well, at least there's a silver lining...

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 8:18AM
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I live in a co-op apt. building and bed bugs are one of my paranoias. I'm terrified my family will pick them up and they'll travel to my neighbors, and it'll be all my fault.

We went to WashDC last week, and I'm still sort of kicking myself that we didn't wrap the suitcases in plastic bags and double-twist them, while they were in the hotel.

So far, so good--we stayed there 4 nights, so I'm crossing my fingers that we'd have gotten bites if the room had been infested.

And this is a PERFECT ORGANIZING TOPIC--because decluttering and organizing (and keeping your home in good repair--our wood floor has TONS of spaces between boards, etc.) can make waging this battle easier.

One other organizing link: people are taking their stuff to storage to leave it there for 18 months--and if they don't seal their stuff off well enough, their bed bugs may walk over to your stuff.

I think buying used clothes isn't as big a deal as you could think--toss them (unwashed) in the dryer on high.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2010 at 1:28AM
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Good to hear from you again! Haven't seen any posts from you lately.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2010 at 4:12PM
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I've been sidetracked w/ etiquette forums. It's good to be back.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 8:18AM
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There are some great products which wrap your mattress completely and dont allow any bedbugs to get into the fabrics. I've used one and it works great.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 3:33PM
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Slateberry, if the cause works for you, then well and good! Mind you, I don't think the metal bed is a fool-proof protection. In the first place I've heard that the bugs will climb the walls and drop off the ceiling onto the bed (not sure if that's an urban myth or not) but also you'd have to be vigilant about nothing creating a bridge onto the bed, them not being able to travel onto it via pyjamas hanging on the doorknob... but it would be tougher for them to travel on the bed and to hide. And if they can't bite you in bed they will bite you elsewhere.

Sue, interesting thought about cracks in the floor. Our ancient fir floors are full of gaps, and I was worried about them at first. But the only place we ever found any was the bed itself. Unless you have an infestation (or a metal bed :-)), the bed is where it's at. The key organizing issue is to keep enough space open in the room to take the bed apart and examine and vacuum or steam it.

The storage locker was also a panic item, in fact we considered that as a potential source. But bedbug psychology suggests that they wouldn't wander much between lockers. They go to where they sense people breathing, and if they don't sense anyone they pretty much stay put. So unless you spend a lot of time in your locker, they won't be drawn to it.

I think you're right that if you didn't get bitten in 4 nights you didn't get them - unless you are non-reactors! Another good check is to use white bed sheets when you aren't sure so you can watch your bed for droppings and blood streaks.

Mattress and box spring encasements are definitely a good idea if you get bedbugs. But you should assess your relationship with your mattress first. Wrapping your old one pretty much means you make a commitment of another 2 years to it. If it's on its last legs, better to get a new one and wrap that.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 12:04PM
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KarinL--is the wrapping not transferrable should you get a new mattress?

--Talley Sue

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 1:32PM
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Sue, mattress wraps aren't cheap - the single for my son's was $70, and though you can get cheaper ones they aren't as tough. You can, of course, discard it with your mattress if want, but I'm too cheap :-)

If you decide to transfer a wrap to a new mattress within let's say 8 months, you face the possibility that there is still a live hibernating bug in there that you release or transfer to your new mattress. It may be unlikely, because I did hear something that suggested the bugs only go into their hibernating (long term survival without food) state in the absence of a host, but these things are pernicious enough that I would err on the side of caution.

By way of an update, we thought we'd beaten them in late January, then my son had new bites in mid February and we had to re-examine his bed and found 2 new babies - we must have missed a couple of eggs initially. Then all was quiet again for a few weeks, and now we seem to be getting bites again, and again, found 2 newly hatched nymphs. This time I'm mystified how it happened - maybe they're crawling out of the vacuum cleaner or something, and it's taken this long to get to the bedrooms.

Like I say, pernicious. And that's why I haven't yet put all the stuff back in the bedrooms. Not that it will all go back, because we'll always want to be ready to check the beds, but still, it's been nearly a three-month disruption.

But, since it has driven a purge and re-organizing process that needed to be done, ironically it has its upside.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 1:22PM
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"One other organizing link: people are taking their stuff to storage to leave it there for 18 months--and if they don't seal their stuff off well enough, their bed bugs may walk over to your stuff.

Aaach. I have thinking this may be the reason my home became infested with fleas. I let my brother store his stuff he previously had in a storage locker place, in my place when he moved back until he could find an apartment and another storage locker place. Shortly after that fleas were attacking me. My other suspicion is that during that time period I had traveled and stayed in hotels. Maybe the fleas came home in my luggage? I don't know. It took me six months of diligence to eliminate the fleas from my home.

I shudder to think how difficult it would have been had I gotten bedbugs instead of fleas.

Critters are very sensitive to movement and the presence of carbon dioxide and move towards it when they sense it. Both fleas and bedbugs move towards CO2. You don't have to spend a "lot of time" in a storage locker to attract them out of hibernation to your stuff. Fleas eat dead skin flakes and organic matter. The females need a blood meal in order to reproduce. Only female fleas bite. They don't live on blood like mosquitoes do.

I had a bedbug scare. I got two series of bites on my neck/shoulders. The proverbial 'breakfast,lunch, dinner' going along where there were distinctive blue veins. The two series of tiny, tiny bites itched like crazy. I was panicking thinking I got bedbugs in the home from a bunch of picture frames I had just bought from Goodwill Store. I don't have any more bites and checked for signs of the bugs in the home. I think I may have been bitten from trying on some coats when I was a the store. Thank gawd I did not buy any of them. I am positive they were bedbug bites I had.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 3:29PM
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My friend got them when her son,a college student who travels to see friends,brought them home.
She was concerned about the toxicity of some cures.She stumbled across one that seems to work for her.She put rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and sprays it frequently on her bed and the floor.It doesn't damage anything and it seems to be killing them.It wouldn't hurt to combine this with other measures to rid them permanently.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 12:43AM
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Hi. I don't usually post on this forum, but I came across this topic. When my last new mattress was delivered I noticed that the new mattresses (although wrapped in plastic), were in the same truck with the old take-away mattresses. The delivery guys took the plastic off the new mattress and set it up. However, I think there is a very good chance that they could get bedbugs in their clothes from the old mattresses and transfer them to the new location. The next time I get a mattress I will ask if they would deliver in a bug-free truck!

I've never had the problem but my poor niece did. She lives in a co-op in Manhattan. They had to exterminate the entire building at the same time. Thank heavens it was a smaller building, as they go in Manhattan.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 9:31AM
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Just finished reading this thread.

I had the misfortune of dealing with bedbugs in a temporary rental apartment a couple of years ago. I don't know if they were there to begin with (as I suspect) or brought in with my luggage from a corporate hotel I stayed in for a month (which I do NOT think is the case since I was there for 30 days in the same room, and didn't have a single bite the whole time there).

Once in the apartment, I began showing symptoms within a few weeks of being there. I thought at first they were mosquito bites because there was a gap between the a/c unit and the window. Then, found what appeared to be a bedbug in the bed but not knowing what one looked like, ignored it. A week or so later noticed blood stains on the sheets and found another bug and by that point my entire legs were covered with bites/welts.

Called the landlord, who insisted it couldn't be possible. Come to find that the person who lived there before traveled a lot, so I suspect he may have brought them into the apartment. She called an exterminator - who found them not only in the mattress the couch as well. Utterly infested in the couch. Yech.

So, a major cleanup with in order as others above have detailed. Mattress had to be covered in those plastic coverings; couch fumigated, entire apartment dealt with including all the wood furniture because they like to hide in all the crevices of dressers/bed frames, and even in outlet covers apparently. All of clothing had to be sent out for dry cleaning as well as all of the bedding. They did NOT recommend just washing/drying - said dry cleaning was best.

3 treatments had to be done, weekly to get rid of the suckers. To say I was paranoid the entire time about sleeping is putting it mildly and, when I finally moved out and into my new apartment was terrified that perhaps one had survived and made it with me. Thankfully - not! But, I still got rid of all the old luggage I had just in case. I couldn't stand the thought of keeping it. And luckily, the place I moved into never had transient tenants - just one person who lived there pretty much his whole life (he owned the building, and had made an apartment up there for himself - more a "home" than an apartment).

Quite the serious issue, and not one easily taken care of. And one, as others point out, which has nothing to do with being unclean. I don't wish it on anyone, one of the worst things I ever went through :(

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 5:31PM
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Well, this thread certainly eliminated a tufted headboard from my bedroom decor must-haves. My budget thanks you. It's also nipped my antique shop wanderlust in the bud. My husband had a couple of bad experiences with second hand furniture and always resisted my attempts at incorporating vintage finds in our home. He wins this round. Yikes. Thank you all for sharing your experience. I did not know that bedbugs were becoming a real problem again.

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up with a series of bites on one leg. Definitely not mosquito bites. I thought they were spider bites but now I wonder. Most of them were grouped in threes.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 8:19PM
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That sounds like "breakfast, lunch, dinner" to me! It's certainly an indicator that you should investigate more deeply, ASAP.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 1:19PM
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If the bites are in a row, I agree, and thanks, Sue, for posting again and reminding me to respond. Funnily enough, I have been totally consumed the past two weeks with tackling the bed bug infestation at my mother-in-law's. Yes, for those of you who have followed this thread from the outset, the source of our infection has now been narrowed down to her almost for sure. As for where she got them, could have been from a neighbouring suite in her building, could have been from her son (NOT the one I'm married to) staying for a while a year or two back - he's a heroin addict who has spent time in some very questionable accommodation, as well as the street.

I will be posting shortly a bit more on the battle at my mother-in-law's. But for now, for Suz, or anyone else who worries they've just brought some home:

Examine your bed first. The most common harbourage sites are along the piping on the mattress and even more under the corner protectors of the box spring and underneath it on the rails. If you have a wood bed (or a tufted one!) examine its nooks and crannies. Take it right apart. You can see adult bugs quite easily, juvenile ones with a slightly more careful look, and even eggs if you educate yourself what to look for and look closely - get a nice magnifying glass if you have to, or a pair of high powered reading glasses.

If you have just been infected, and thus have just a few bugs, they will almost certainly only be on your bed. And even if they are on the nightstand or still in the hallway, wait a few days and do it again. They will always come to your bed. That is why you have to keep sleeping in the same place.

If you find them, gather them in a glass jar or plastic container (they can't crawl out of these) and kill by any means that appeals to you. If you have a bed that you can't examine all that well, say, a tufted headboard, then get a steam cleaner and just steam the whole thing as best you can. To the extent that the steam can penetrate, it will kill bugs and eggs. A vacuum cleaner can also be used, but is not as reliable as a steam cleaner for crannies you can't get into.

If there are crannies you have real doubts about, then consider caulking some of them, to seal in any current occupants and to eliminate harbourage sites in the event of future visitors. Obviously, not an option for tufted!

Any time you get more bites, check the bed over again. Or just do a broad-spectrum steaming. Carry on until you get no more bites, and count your blessings that you show your bites. My mother in law doesn't, so we'll be checking that bed for quite a while without really knowing whether we still have a problem or not.

And just a reminder, too, that it is flea season, and around here we had a light winter and my first forays into the garden this spring brought me in with groups of bites several times. I seemed to get one in my sweater and it would just stay in there and bite at will - I would have 8 or 10 bites in random groupings on my back or where ever. I finally put the sweater in the dryer, and that seems to do the trick for any kind of bug.


    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 3:39PM
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I'd say also - throw away your current mattress and purchase a new one, and get one of those mattress sealers for it. You MUST encase the mattress. Or at the very least encase the mattress you own after treating it, if you can't afford a new one. This way, any bed bugs living in other areas will not be able to continue to navigate to the mattress nightly. Remember, they do live in other areas other than that mattress, crevices of furniture, outlets, etc.

Getting rid of those critters once they have infested the mattress you are sleeping on is really, really difficult.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 11:03AM
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Sivyaleah is correct that sealing the mattress is important once you have established that you have bed bugs. But first and foremost, you have to establish whether or not you have them. And for that, encasing the mattress doesn't help.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 12:41PM
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I discovered I had them shortly after returning from a trip abroad. As I never got bitten in any of the hotels I stayed at, and two out of the three were for many nights, I feel pretty sure the critters got to my house by way of someone's luggage on the flight home.

Like everyone else I was horrified. While I never saw one, I was bitten on a number of nights. I guessed right away what the bites were and after doing a lot of research online, knew.

Of course, I washed all the bed clothes several times in the hottest water and dried them all on high. And, did the same with the replacements daily. I not only vacuumed the mattress and the room incredibly carefully, including the tops and bottoms of the baseboards and all the cracks in the wooden floor several days in a row, I took the bed apart and vacuumed the frame and the underside of the mattress. I also put each of our suitcases outside where I treated them to a thorough spraying with Raid. Then I left them outside to air a few days before bringing them back in and putting them in large plastic bags and in the basement. I think I taped them closed too. Needless to say, I also washed every bit of clothing that had been in the suitcases. And, any other clothing that might have come in contact with them.

When that didn't entirely end the bites, I bought vinyl mattress and pillow covers, cheap ones, and after vacuuming the top, sides and bottom of both the mattress and the two box springs, paying very close attention to the piping, I zipped them up and for good measure taped over the zipper with clear 2" wide packing tape, so nothing could get out. Or in. I sprayed the frame with raid and lice spray, especially the corners and legs, put the box springs and mattress back carefully so as not to disturb or tear the vinyl covers and put each pillow into vinyl pillow covers. I vacuumed the room again painstakingly before remaking the bed with clean everything. Though nervous about sleeping in it and disliking the sound and feel of the vinyl, I never got another bite.

It was an awful experience which left me feeling dirty, as though it was my fault, and rather helpless because I never expected to get them. I decided nothing less than all out war was going to get rid of them and keep them from spreading around my house. Perhaps others wouldn't use Raid and lice spray, but I would not hesitate to use them again.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 12:24AM
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PackTite Portable Bed Bug Killing Heater Unit

I found a site where you can check if a hotel has been reported to have bedbugs. From there I found this product with 3 reviews. If the reviews are not posted by the manufacturer it seems to help. You can put your clothes in it, even shoes. So you can take it on a trip and treat all your clothes. Of course I've heard they could be in the luggage. There is a spray for the luggage that lasts a couple of days I think

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 12:27AM
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For those who are encasing (I did, after an epic battle 4 years ago), don't forget to encase your box springs too!!!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 2:29AM
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