Yorkshire Girl: PCO bed bug learning curve; bed bugs at work

by nobugsonme on March 5, 2007 · 4 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, bed bugs in the workplace, england, misinformation, pest control services, reader questions, united kingdom

And now, for something completely different: A letter from a reader in England (she asked me to post it for your input).

Yorkshire Girl’s story of bed bug woe:

Living in the North of England you don’t hear many stories of bed bugs – in fact I think most people assume they are the same as dust mites. I know to my horror they are not.

The first week in January, I finally identified the odd bug in the bedroom to be bedbugs. Had noticed an odd beetle here and there for months but as we live in a very old terraced house just assumed they were some kind of brick beetle. Put down the blood spots on bedding to various things – partner’s spots (editor’s note: spots = pimples, for you North Americans), old cat on bed always in fights etc. We must have had them for months – it was only when we moved the bed and I found a scene I never want to see again that we knew something was very wrong. Even then we had no idea what they were – 5 minutes later on the internet and we knew.

The problem is now getting rid of them for good – we are lucky in that our local council offers a free pest control service for people in our area with bedbugs. We are not lucky that they have very little experience of eradicating them. The PCO herself admits she is still learning and that last year they only dealt with 6 cases (this year – from April 06 – has reached over 30). She has now treated the bedroom twice. Inbetween the bedroom being treated we found them in the living room downstairs – I rang the pest control office and her manager wouldn’t belive me. He jut kept saying bedbugs are only ever found in bedrooms. I told him they were most definately the same bugs as we had in the bedroom. Reluctantly he sent the PCO out again.

We still have them upstairs – and yesterday found 5 in the bathroom.

As the house is so very old there are gaps behind the skirting boards and in the floorboards. I think they are spreading. The worst thing happened yesterday. I work in an open plan large office. At lunch time after i’d been at work 4 hours i looked down and one was on my leg! I quickly squished it but it had obviously just fed off my leg as was full of blood. I only hope I haven’t infected the workplace. Does anyone know if this is possible? The PCO is coming out to treat the bedroom for a third time tomorrow – I know its useless asking her advice re the office I work in as she didn’t even know to advise us to wash all our clothes on the hottest wash.

I have a feeling this year is going to be one long fight.

Many thanks for any advice or help!

Yorkshire Girl

Hello Yorkshire Girl!

I have a few responses, and I am sure the readers will have more to say.

First, bed bugs infest homes, not beds, as you discovered, so they can be in any parts of your home , though often are found in baseboards, floorboards, and ceilings, and behind electrical switchplates. They may be in and around the sofa or other sitting places. If it is an attached house, they may even come from another house. Finding them in bathrooms sometimes happens in multi-unit dwellings, apartment buildings or what you’d call a block of flats–they can travel along pipes and in larger buildings might enter the home along a plumbing pipe coming from another unit. In your case, if there’s a shared wall, they could be in there, and so they can come from a neighbor–or go to the neighbor, if the home is attached! They may even be in a bathroom in a single house, though I don’t think this is common to all sufferers, I do imagine it’s more common in a larger infestation, and if you’ve found a number of bugs, including five in your bathroom yesterday, it does unfortunately sound like a substantial infestation.

Your house should therefore be treated in its entirety, since you have confirmed the presence of bed bugs in the sitting/living room, bathroom, and bedroom. (Most of us here have had problems in bedrooms and living rooms–being bitten on the sofa is very common.) Your PCO needs to understand this. If they do not believe you, send them to our site. And if they think we are not knowledgeable, or they’d like to converse with other PCOs, they can go to the theBedBugResource.com, where PCOs discuss their methods amongst themselves. Any PCO who is still learning about bed bugs (and I don’t blame them for being at that stage, due to the recent upsurge in bed bugs, they may need time to catch up) would probably benefit from talking to other PCOs with more experience.

Your PCO needs to treat your entire house and come back to retreat every two weeks until the problem is entirely gone. This is because the treatment does not kill the eggs, which will hatch within 10-12 days and start biting. Once you are bug and bite free for several weeks, they can ease up.

Sealing cracks (caulking) should be part of your treatment. Sealing floors may also help if you have large cracks.

Also, it’s possible that you took bed bugs to work. Make sure you read our FAQs thoroughly–remember that we’re told drying on hot is as important as washing on hot (scientists say the drying is what will kill the bugs), as much as this can be a nuisance for people who can’t do this at home. And remember to keep your washed clothing sealed in bags with airtight seals. Or they can be reinfested. Many of us choose to be quite cautious about how we leave our homes and with what, when we’re infested. For example, taking a shower and putting on laundered clothes straight from a sealed bag, going out the door with only a bag that was sealed while in the home, wearing a coat and shoes which have similarly been protected somehow. It is extremely exhausting, but can help stop the spread. Most of us are cautious about not infesting friends and family, and not getting them in the car or workplace. (We have a FAQ about not spreading bugs when we travel, which might help.) There’s a chance this was one hitchhiker who managed to get to work. Or maybe a colony has started there.

But it’s also probable, especially if your house is not attached to another house with bed bugs, that you brought bed bugs into your home–from a hotel, from another person’s home, or even from your job. You may not know where they came from, and it is possible they started at work. Whether you brought them to work or brought them home from work, your workplace should be treated. You should tell your boss you found a bed bug on your leg at work. I’m not sure you need to assume the blame for spreading them there, since you’re not sure that’s what happened (they move in two directions).

I know others will have additional advice for you, and I encourage you, Yorkshire Girl, to click “comments” with any further questions we can answer. Remember, you can always use your nickname and fake emails in the comments box, so don’t be shy about commenting.

1 hopelessnomo' March 6, 2007 at 2:29 pm

Hey Yorkshire Girl, I hope you might consider telling your neighbors. I know the thought is frightening but you might do it anonymously? If you didn’t know anything about bedbugs, chances are high that neither do your neighbors. I really believe that bedbugs will travel between attached structures. Get your neighbors on board and you might have a chance to rid yourselves for good. Good luck.

2 Yorkshire Girl March 8, 2007 at 2:51 pm

Thanks for the advice .
I spoke to the PCO when she came out last week and apparently she was due to go on an advanced training course for the treatment of BB’s but the local council then cancelled her place due to lack of money. She also told me they don’t have a computer at her work base. I don’t know how it works in the US but in England we pay an annual council tax bill which gives funds to the local council. I have decided to write to them to complain – its worth a try and who knows, they may reinstate the PCO on the training course.
I think the BB’s must have come from travelling abroad (I only recently moved into the large open plan office – after I had found BB’s at home). I never knew to check beds etc in hotels before, and last year we visited several European cities.
I have bought a sealent gun and this weekend intend to start sealing all the gaps and holes I can.
I am still thinking about telling the neighbours. I know I should but I am worried about how people will react.

3 hopelessnomo' March 8, 2007 at 7:26 pm

Hi Yorkshire Girl! That is sad, a PCO trying to learn about bedbugs without a computer! Definitely write a letter to the council. Perhaps you should also consider using your own resources (of time and research I mean) to help her since she is the one who is licensed to use pesticides in your home and you want her using the right protocols. I know you have a lot on your plate–just the laundry is probably keeping you plenty busy, but I’m thinking printing out documents and posing questions at PCO forums, etc.

Let us know if we can help.

I know how all this sucks in the most unbelievable ways.

4 hopelessnomo' March 8, 2007 at 7:37 pm

Also, I meant to add that you are right to be cautious about speaking to the neighbors. When I first suggested it, I should have added a caveat. I told one of my neighbors and, while she later told me that she looked for bedbugs after I spoke to her and found them (great), she never smiled at me like she did before and she looked me up and down in the elevator with suspicion and fear. Others, however, were helpful and forthcoming with their own stories. I never would have found out the extent of the building-wide infestation if I had not knocked on their doors. We all want to do what is right and ethical but it’s not always easy. Anyway, just wanted to clear up that I know. That’s the thing with us here, we just know what it’s like.

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