|My mom used to
tell me, after tucking me into bed, that ol' saying that most of us
have heard, "Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite!" I never gave
that mysterious saying another thought.
Until August 2010.
We had just come back from a backyard birthday party. Two of my kids were complaining about all the mosquito bites they got on the backs of their arms and legs. I dabbed the bites with a little calamine lotion while remembering all of the citronella candles that my cousin had scattered around her yard. I figured she had had a mosquito problem and my family was part of the feeding frenzy that afternoon.
Over the next couple of days, it seemed like the bites were not only getting itchier, but new ones were showing up in the same areas. I even got a few on my legs. I was pretty confused. Then it happened. One morning, I saw a small bug walking across the bathroom floor. It sort of looked like a roach, but not quite. I grabbed a tissue and picked it up to get a better look. I never saw this kind of bug before, maybe one of us brought it in from the backyard. I squished it and was quite surprised by the bright red blood that came out. And then it hit me. That explained all the bites. It was a bedbug!
I spent part of the day looking up pictures and information about bedbugs; How to find them, how to kill them, what works and doesn't work. I have to say, I was getting scared because I saw some pictures of infestations that would make me want to walk away from most of my furniture.
That evening, I inspected every bed in the house but found nothing. I also checked my two couches. Nothing. I felt better, figuring I killed the one that did all the biting.
Three days later, I had several more bites on me, including one on my pinky finger. I took my bedding apart and found several bug legs and some black spots, which told me they had been in my bed. I was not too thrilled with the thought of having these critters hiding in all the nooks and crannies of my mattress and box spring, so I purchased zip-up covers for all of our beds. I also ripped out the material on the bottom of our two couches so I could get a better look, and I'm glad I did. There were multiple bug legs and skins in there. I made it a point to check both couches every day and vacuum them thoroughly. We were still getting bit every couple of days. The one on my finger was the worst one of all. I couldn't hide it, and it made my finger look deformed.
My husband and I decided to call in a professional. The man from one of the well-known exterminating companies came in an unmarked car, which eased my mind a bit. I really didn't want my neighbors to know. After a one-hour inspection, the salesman said he did see some signs of a small infestation in the past, he didn't see any live bedbugs. He told me what we would all have to do to prepare - bag all our clothes, vacuum and bag everything in our bedrooms, put any clothes that can handle heat in the dryer for 20 minutes to kill the bugs, and basically remove all clutter. It was going to take a lot of work on our part to prepare our home for the workers who would come in and thoroughly vacuum our home. It was going to take all day with five workers and it was going to cost - GASP - three thousand dollars. That included one return trip, but there was no guarantee. We thanked him and told him we'd think about it.
We didn't have three thousand dollars. What were we going to do?
We really didn't have a choice. We were going to vacuum A LOT and spray the stuff we got at the home center store. In the course of the next several weeks, we incessantly vacuumed the couches and the beds and the carpets and the mouldings and double-checked ourselves before getting into bed. I found one kitchen chair that had two live bugs under the cushion, so my husband unscrewed the cushion and took it apart to clean it out. I wanted him to just throw it out. That was where I must've picked up the bites on my leg.
All this time, we still had no idea of how we got these bedbugs in the first place. Was it at the movie theater? Work? School?
The chair that my daughter brought home from college turned out to be the most likely culprit. So many of her fellow students had sat in it in the last several months that it seemed inevitable that someone would bring one in.
I've seen many pictures and videos of horrible infestations on the internet, so to some, my reaction to the total number of less than a dozen insects may seem extreme. The fact that there really is no chemical that a homeowner could use herself that works all that well, and these creatures can really burrow and hide in some of the tiniest places, made this a very harrowing experience.
My husband and three kids have gotten bit over 120 times. That's not counting the 30 times I've been bitten. Since last August, I found a total of about 12 live bugs, and the parts of maybe another 15. It's hard to say, this whole part of my life has been a bit of a blur. Last month, after being bite-free for nearly six weeks, my husband got bit four times on his leg and foot. Luckily, he woke up to feel that burning sensation and searched the bed and found the culprit. We've had nothing since.
So, how do we live our lives now? How has this affected us? We won't drop our towels on the floor anymore. I use the hair dryer on my body every night before I go to bed, just in case. We wash and dry our clothes on high for almost every article of clothing. We're constantly shaking our jackets out. I panic as soon as I think I get itchy and feel the need to scratch.
We constantly live in fear of getting bit and starting this whole nightmare all over again. I'm just not sure if we'll ever be totally comfortable in our home again.