July 28, 2010 by wcobserver
By Susan McCarthy
I’ve never been much of a trend-setter. Marketers refer to people who are the first to buy or change their behavior as early adopters. They’re the first to “go organic”. They own the first electric cars or the latest I-Pad. But this week, my family and I find ourselves in a newspaper headline with the likes of Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Hollister’s at the top of a new trend. We had bud bugs.
Sure we had warning signs, but they were easily explained away. Itchy little bites on my youngest son; we took him to the doctor twice. Impetigo, apparently a common skin infection in young kids who scratch a lot, was cleared up with antibiotics, but after a few weeks, more bites. We blamed them on chiggers. We live in the country. There were little tiny dots of blood on the bed sheets. Bleeding from scratching his “chigger” bites, right? Apparently, that is one of the tell-tale signs; the rascals poop blood on your sheets. We even explained away some bugs that were on my older son’s bed at least a full month ago. They’d hung on the line overnight. We re-washed them and put them on the bed. We didn’t see them again.
But one morning two weeks ago, we were stripping the beds in the boys’ room to wash them and found bugs in both beds and immediately hauled them outside to the deck and went to the internet to see what they could be. We had some very large bed bugs; we had an infestation.
And that is when what will probably be the most memorable week of our summer, began. Bed bugs, by all accounts, are not easy to get rid of. Heat over 110 degrees will kill them. So will freezing temps. It almost made me wish we had lice; at least they die if you vacate your house for a few days. Bed bugs can live for a year without feeding. The exterminator told us over 30 nymph bugs can fit on the head of a screw. They hide everywhere; even the light switches had to be removed and sprayed when the exterminator came.
We consulted at least six exterminators who all had a different recommendation for treatment and they ranged in price from $225 to $2500. You’re vulnerable when you call; you’ll spend anything to get rid of them. We spent $1300 and went with a company that had a lot of experience. Even though the bed bugs had been detected in two rooms, we had the entire house treated because so many things traveled from the boys’ room to other rooms in the house. A blanket my son had had on his bed two nights before was in the living room. Their laundry traveled down the hall to the laundry room regularly. The clarinet case, a laptop, and toys all made it from the most infested room to other rooms in the house.
We had to pack every item except furniture out of three bedrooms and two bathrooms and two hall closets and move it all out of the house. The professional ridding process was laborious. It took two men all day and involved three treatments, including fogging the worst rooms. They even built a heat box in our house and baked all of our mattresses, box springs, sofa pillows, stuffed animals and rugs at 140 degrees for an hour.
While they worked, we borrowed my Dad’s truck and went to a laundromat to wash over 60 loads of laundry in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer. The laundromat literally closed when we arrived. Jennifer, who had worked there 7 months, said she’d never seen all 34 washers and dryers spinning at once. But we were the third family in recent weeks to visit there with bed bugs. We worked non-stop for over 6 hours, waiting until 11:30 p.m. to break for dinner. Jennifer stayed with us until the last load was repacked into a clean bag and re-loaded in the truck, staying an hour past closing. We spent $220 at the laundry mat.
I, of course, burned the bed-bug infested sheets, mattress pads, and pillows from the boys’ room. They, too, had to be replaced. We were advised to purchase bed-bug covers for our mattresses and box springs; another $600 for four beds. My older son’s box spring, which is only a year-old, was burned; that set us back even more money. Our credit card is exhausted.
And we’re living out of one bedroom in our house. We don’t have too, but we’re waiting until the exterminator returns on Saturday to confirm every bug is dead. Then we can clean and unpack everything.
Everyone asks” how did you get them?” We have no idea. But our exterminator told us movie theaters are a good place. Hotels. We were advised not to store suitcases in the house and to wash all laundry in hot water when returning from a trip, even the ones we didn’t wear. Retail stores are another place; we’ll be sure to wash and dry new clothes, sheets, towels, etc. before wearing them or putting them in a drawer. I’ve always been a cold-water washer; it’s more environmentally friendly, but I’m now a hot water convert after this experience.
The bed-bug sightings in retail stores have been in New York. If they’ve been in a headline, you can rest assured they’ve spared no expense to treat their stores to protect their brand. They’re bed-bug free. Who knows about the rest? We are living proof that this can happen to anyone.
In the meantime, sleep tight.