Bedbugs- A Survivor Story
It’s 1949, and I am in my crib, snugly tucked in by Geraldine, my mother, cozied up to the blankie I have named “Roy Rogers” after my favorite star on tv, which is very new.
“Sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite” she said, and I smiled at the familiar bedtime ritual. Little did I know I would someday live with the nightmares that are bedbugs.
Fast forward to 2010. I’m grown now, a grandmother with grown children. I am not sure how they came to be in my house, but one sunny morning, I awakened, bitten, to discover the culprit scurrying away from the sunlit patch on the bed to make his escape.
I had never seen such a bug before. I looked under the sheets, did not see any more, but I caught the one and squished him, surprised at the amount of blood in him, bright red. I did not know the blood was mine. He had apparently been feasting on my flesh for quite some time as I slept.
Where do Bedbugs come from?
I am not sure how they got there. It could have been from the luxury suite of rooms at a hotel. We won the weekend in a drawing at a casino. I felt so lucky, so proud. Kennedy was supposed to have stayed in this hotel, back in the day, and we had the Presidential Suite. It could be that they arrived in a box of art supplies I bought a month before, pristine paints, brushes and accoutrements purchased at auction, undoubtedly from someone who lost the desire to do artwork, and I do art for a living. It looked like a good deal, at the time.
At first, I thought it was an allergy to a new detergent scent I had tried. I awakened in the middle of the night, covered with itchy welts in lines on my face, arms, and torso in clusters of three. Then I thought it was spiders biting me. I searched the room for webs…nothing. Until the morning I caught the first one, I had no idea what I was up against.
Some Bedbug Information
Something told me to look up bedbugs on the internet. I Googled them, and in the photos, there they were, brown, about the size of an apple seed. I read the description and went back to my bed. They were there, dozens of them, hiding behind the headboard, in the mattress creases, the box springs, and the bed pad, stained with my digested blood in their stools, smeared all over the Sealy Posturepedic that was only 2 years old. Heading for the hardware store, embarrassed to death, I bought bedbug spray. This was useless…they hid for a day and were back in force. I did more research. The mattress and box springs went out the door, thrown away. I burned the sheets and the bed pad. The pillows went in the garbage. I moved to the recliner to sleep. I had two days of peace, and they followed me to the living room, took up residence in the recliner and resumed biting me. I learned that they pick out a favorite person to bite, and leave others in the household basically alone. I was their favorite dinner guest. The first batch reproduced, and soon, tiny speck sized ones were biting and keeping me awake, night after night. They can reproduce about every 3 weeks, and mature sexually in about a month.
Getting Rid of Bedbugs is Not Easy!
The exterminator came for an inspection. He wanted $1000 up front, and said he would need at least 3 more visits. My house was full of books, clothes, paintings furniture and paperwork from 30 years accumulation. I found out the only way to get rid of them is to burn them out or freeze them out. They are resistant to almost all chemical sprays except DDT. Once the standard bearer of pest control, DDT is now illegal for its many side effects, and the removal of DDT is directly responsible for the return of bedbugs.
I learned that bedbugs are now a huge problem in the United States. They have been brought in by foreign travelers, returning soldiers from third world countries, or in shipments of clothes and bedding from these same countries who are used to their infestation and, frankly, do not care if we get a few billion of the nasty buggers. They are everywhere, not just in low cost accommodations. They can be found in the best hotels, on the subway, in theater seats, or riding from house to house traveling on people’s shoes. Whole buildings have been infested, not just once, but time after time. The bugs can hide within walls, in wiring under floor boards in cars, and can go into hibernation if the temperature gets too cold or the food source dries up, for up to 18 months.
I packed up a few clothes and froze them for 2 months in a chest freezer. The rest, except for 3 outfits, I threw away. The closet was empty. I also had to discard nearly all the furniture, especially the upholstered things, as they burrowed deep inside. We sat on folding chairs. The bedding was heated every night on high in the dryer. I cleaned out their burnt corpses from the lint filter before I went to sleep, but they came back in about 2 hours from their hiding places to bite me more. I could not afford the exterminator, being on a small fixed income.
May be best to hire an Exterminator
By the time the ordeal was over, I lost almost everything I owned. Any soft goods, books or papers had to be destroyed. This included all my clothes. Also, all the furniture had to be destroyed or removed. The wood furniture was put in cold storage outdoors for 2 winters, and some still has not come back home. I still have no bed, and am sleeping on a mattress and box springs sitting on cement blocks. When I can afford it, I will buy a new bed, mattress and box springs. Any new clothes or bedding that comes into the house is taken in on a run, not a walk, straight to the washer and then a hot dryer, and the packaging is unwrapped outside and never comes in the house. I cannot take a chance. The only way I could get away from the bugs was to leave, and I did, for a month. Those that were hatched must have starved to death, as they must feed every 24 hours or die. I have not had a bedbug for over a year now, and am bringing things back home slowly, inspecting each item. I wound not wish this curse on my worst enemy. Don’t let the bedbugs bite, indeed.