Friday, February 22, 2008

Do I Still Have Bed Bugs?

I felt the urge to respond to this anonymous commenter who inquired:

Hey, are you actually living with bed bugs? I mean, are you doing anything to keep them from, like, taking over your place 'cause I read that they multiply very quickly. And, what about you and M's body and face? Don't you guys get a lotta bites from these suckers?

Respond when you can. Thanks
Well, anonymous commenter,

First off, thanks for keeping up with the ongoing saga between M and I. To be honest I've been deliberately vague about the actual current status of our bed bug situation, mostly because more and more people are becoming aware of this blog, and my other blog in which I am not so anonymous. What's more, M also has her own blog in an effort to promote her cooking career and we're being invited to more and more public events, and quite frankly, I don't want anyone to think we're cooking with bed bugs in the food or our home is overrun with bed bugs or we're walking around with some whacky "bed bug disease". You'd be surprised how many people still think that bed bugs carry disease.

To answer your question, do we actually have bed bugs? Yes and no. We still have them, but we're not actually suffering from them anymore, and we've kept them under control. We see maybe two or three bed bugs a month, and rarely are they still alive. I don't get bitten anymore, but M does, which makes me believe that females are more susceptible than males to bed bugs. Even then, the bites are just as rare as bed bug sightings.

But this peaceful scenario did not occur overnight. Yes, my apartment was once overrun with bed bugs, to the point where I was sleeping on the floor with the lights on and hatchlings were being born by the thousands only inches from my sleeping head. To wake up in the middle of the night and the first thing you see is scores and scores of tiny brown bed bug eggs and babies just inches from your retina is worse than any nightmare you've ever had. It's an image you never really forget, and I always remind myself of that image whenever I feel like slacking off from keeping my home clean.

I had a lot of wooden furniture, which served as the perfect haven for colonies upon colonies of bed bugs. I've had to throw out almost all of my furniture and replace it with plastic and steel furniture, which was not easy since I was broke and had to spend a few months in a relatively empty living space until new non-wooden furniture entered my home piece by piece. In short, I had to go through a dramatic lifestyle change in order to rid my home of bed bugs. And even then, the eradication is never 100%. No exterminator can guarantee 100% bed bug annihilation, which didn't matter to me anyway since I couldn't afford one. Most exterminators highly recommend their bed bug-infested clientele take the same drastic steps I've taken. Also, I don't like the idea of unknown chemicals (especially industrial-strength chemicals which are illegal for non-exterminators to purchase) being sprayed in a space in which I eat and sleep.

As I've discussed before, I use an eco-friendly approach to killing roaches (because roach sprays and foggers causes bed bugs to scatter and hide, making it harder to kill them all) and I advise people to do the same with bed bugs. The most eco-friendly method I've found of getting rid of bed bugs is to simply get rid of your wooden furniture (if you have a full-blown infestation, chances are good that you will find small colonies of bed bugs already living in your furniture). The other step is to replace that wooden furniture with furniture made of plastic or metal. The other step is to adopt a lifestyle of serious routine cleaning. I mean, cleaning your home has to become like a religion for you if you want to get rid of bed bugs. That includes clutter. Throw away any old newspapers or magazines you may have lying around. Store your books in plastic food containers. It may look weird to have shelves full of books sealed in Tupperware but a full-blown bed bug infestation and a body full of bug bites look even worse. M and I have a financial goal of making enough money that we can someday hire someone to do all the routine cleaning.

Everyone tells me to tell my landlord to take care of the problem or to call 311 or to sue my landlord, but this is wayyyy easier said than done, especially when the assholes giving me all this helpful advice don't actually have to do any of this themselves. As I had discussed in earlier posts, holding landlords responsible for a bed bug infestation can be tricky, and if the landlord has a lawyer and you don't (which is my case) they can convince the city that not only are they not responsible for your infestation, but that you may be held liable for introducing bed bugs onto the property. It's also difficult to expect the government to do anything about a bed bug infestation because bed bugs do not carry disease and therefore do not pose any kind of public health threat. However, you can argue that a bed bug infestation and their biting can cause mental anguish, but this is obviously much harder to prove than a physical injury.
I simply don't have the time or money to travel to and from court over and over, fill out forms, take photos of my apartment, etc. What's more, the landlord may retaliate by trying to find you in violation of your lease. And in New York City, the hometown of over-regulation, some leases have so many terms most tenants are unknowingly in violation of them in some tiny superficial way.

As for multiplying quickly, bed bugs can lay about 500 eggs in their lifetime. And those 500 bed bugs, upon reaching adulthood can each lay their own 500 eggs. So yeah, they can multiply quickly in a very short time.

I hope I answered your questions. For more details on my personal bed bug experience, I suggest you browse the rest of this blog.



Accidentally In Love said...

Hey! I actually CREATED an account to tell you what I did to get rid of bedbugs at my ex husband's apt. God knows I should have let them live.. were it not for the wee young ones :-).
Now, be careful what you wish for.. you might find yourself missing the little buggers when they are gone!
I searched and searched and searched and we tried different things (including a $600 extermination visit.. what a crock of crap that was).. what finally worked was tea tree oil. I bought a pure bottle online for $140 (it was HUGE.. you don't need this much, we probably only used 2 oz of it.. maybe 4). You can prob get some in NYC. Put it in a spray bottle(like from Target) and spray it until you can't breath!! Get the furniture, corners, mattresses. We actually threw out the mattress and sprayed the new one, but I wonder now if it would have killed them in the mattress too. At any rate, can't hurt for you to try. Tea tree oil. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I've read your whole blog from start to finish more than once. Would it be possible to explain in somewhat detail what exactly you do to control your bb infestation? What you do as far as vacuuming goes and clothing, etc. Do you ziploc bag clothing? Run outta the house in clean clothes? Because there are people who use exterminators and bag up their whole place and throw away almost everything and still have bbs and still get bit. How do you and M not get bit so much? You also wrote that you got another couch and loveseat given to you. How are the couch and loveseat not infested? How do you keep them bb free? I'm just confused as to how you control your infestation without an exterminator. I think it's great that this can be accomplished and maybe you can share what is done? Would that be ok? Right now I'm a little leary and a little buzzed so please excuse me if I came across as harsh or too nosy as that was not my intent. There are people on other blogs who go to extreme measures to get rid of bbs. If we don't hafta do this and just control the situation, like you guys do, would be great to know. Sorry for the long post.

Anonymous said...

The answer to the question "do you have bedbugs?" isn't yes and no. It's yes. I'm sorry, but if what you describe is true, then yes, you still have bedbugs.

There's been a reduction in the population in your apt. But you're still finding live bedbugs. Only some of the ones you find are dead. You either have bedbugs or you don't.

You're still getting bitten. You probably don't react anymore, but your girlfriend still reacts.

Since you're doing regular deep cleaning anyway, try steam on all your furniture and home crevices. Get a decent steamer. Read Australia's Code of Practices re: bedbugs. Deep steaming kills bedbugs.

Your blog's been around for a while. It might give people the wrong impression that it's acceptable to "live with bedbugs." This has gone on so long, you guys have probably spread them to school, work, public transit etc.

I know this sounds harsh, but wake up!

To second anonymous: your goal should be eradicating the bugs from your home. Don't settle for just getting bit less.

Anonymous said...

Bed bugs are mean,cruel,and blood sucking sons of *BEEP*! A few months ago my father was repeating getting bit up, he thought it was just an alergic reaction. He finally really examined the bite and saw one like hole in the bite. He researched it more and found out it was bed bugs! So he decided to check his matress. People these things were EVERYWHERE! They arn't the color people sa they are. When they are not filled with blood they are like a light tan, when they are filled with blood they are like a dark brown; and when you smoosh they they have like this tart kind of smell. Needless to say we "Got rid of them" so we thought. I was laying on the couch one evening and i ended up falling asleep, i woke up in the middle of the night i saw something BROWN on my pillow. I jumped up turned on the light and BEHOLD bed bugs... TONS OF THEM! We thought we got rid of them naaaa they all just went into my couch! So now we are going to get rid of our couch (its old anyways)! And about the alcohol thing... alcohol DOES work! You should see like their back end "pop" up. If you don't then they are most likely not bed bugs.

P.S... the price range for extermination( AND TO GET RID OF THEM YOU MUST HAVE EXTERMINATION)its about $300. Hope this information and little story helped

Bed bug extermination said...

Good point. Just make sure to keep your house and bedding clean to prevent the bugs from coming back.

parlie anderson said...

Bed bugs have gotten bad! I've been reading a lot of material from on bed bugs. You should check it out.Get Rid Of Bed Bugs