World exclusive: Bedbuggers experiment with being bitten, on purpose! (Part 4)

by S on April 23, 2007 · 27 comments

in bed bug bites, bed bug research, bed bugs, photos

Editor’s note: Remember from last week, how our hero G experienced no signs or symptoms from his adult and nymph bed bug bites? When it comes to the saga of S and G, things are continuing to develop, literally. Read on for the latest update from S. In case you missed them, check out part 1, part 2, and part 3 of the saga.

We have some news. It’s not earth-shattering, and it’s not bad, but it’s pretty interesting.

Saturday night, we looked at George’s arms and found bumps. There were two bumps in the spot where he was bitten by the adult. He said, “Oh yeah, I think it stopped and restarted biting at one point.” One bite was a little larger than the other.

adult_bites_on_G.JPG

Then we checked the arm with the nymph, and there was a bump there too.

nymph_bite_on_G.JPG

His bites do not itch. He thinks they might have shown up a couple days ago, but he barely noticed them because they don’t itch at all. They look like pimples. Non-itchy pimples.

Throughout our bedbug ordeal, I remembered noticing pimples on his back. But nothing ever itched him, and I always assumed he just had some pimples on his back. Now, of course, I am wondering if they were bites. Non-itchy bites.

Interestingly, George’s two adult bites are of different sizes. The adult started biting him, for about ten seconds, before he moved his arm slightly and the bug stopped biting (it actually flipped onto its back, it was so weird – I have heard of bedbugs “playing dead” and perhaps that was this response). Anyway, then it righted itself, and went back to biting, in what we thought was the same spot. I guess it was actually half an inch over.

Today, if we look at his smaller adult bite, and his nymph bite on the other arm, they look pretty much identical in terms of size and color. His larger adult bite was where the bug spent the majority of its time. This leads me to believe that the length of time the bug spends is as important, if not more important, than the size of the bug itself.

Meanwhile, the flaming skin around my adult bite is taking up much more space on my arm, than the skin around my nymph bite. The centers of the bites look the same – a little hard whitish-clear bump – but the itchy skin around them is definitely different for nymph versus adult.

S’s bites on day 5

S_s_arm_day_5.JPG

My overall finding is that while my two bites started out the same, and looked & felt exactly the same for about two days, the adult bite remained swelled over a larger surface area than the nymph bite, for the following three days. So I do believe there is a difference, though in my case, it appeared over time.

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1 willow-the-wisp April 23, 2007 at 4:09 pm

What pertinence all this has to do with many of our recent conjectures here, and in the forums–is like hyper-incredible!
Unexpected outcomes!
Yeah!
And Thanks x 4 “guys”
Willow

2 wantmyskinback April 23, 2007 at 4:22 pm

S, have you been putting anything on the bites? I know you said you took oral anti-histimines. I wonder what they would have looked like without the anti-histimine? I hope you are ok, in general…

3 S April 23, 2007 at 4:31 pm

I agree that they may have looked worse without the Benadryl, but I couldn’t bear it.

The first two days, I was all about experiencing them in their natural, insane-o itchy full glory. After that, it was just too much. I think I took oral Benadryl 3 times a day, for the past 5 days.

Now, they are a little better (it’s been a week). So no more medicine.

4 willow-the-wisp April 24, 2007 at 1:05 am

This is a tad off topic to begin with: It has to do with the bed bug on G. and how it had flipped itself back over. I’m curious. When this happened did the bed bug freeze up? Was it “playing dead” Or, was it wriggling its feet madly in an effort to right itself again? The reason I ask is twofold: 1–An Entomologist said bed bugs often seem to wander randomly (or aimlessly) stopping for various lengths of time for no apparent purpose, and 2–The few bed bugs I captured in my bathroom (which I had originally figured to be adults but now know were more likely to be 5th stage instars) tended to land on their backs quite often. At the time I was surprised. But they did not freeze up at all. They wiggled their feet like mad, yet; it seemed to me that they were just not able flip back over. This was the case on five or six occasions. So when you posted that G.’s adult somehow flipped over, it made me more curious about bed bug movements and in no way does this down play G.’s “latent immune reactions” .
Indeed, it seems apparent to me that I, too, had been slightly scratchy on the back for several weeks prior to the discovery of the hoard of bed bugs on the seams: Back in January I simply attributed it all–along with that “boil” on my thigh–to be from stress. And so here we have yet another subjective case (on my part) claiming that my first bite was more horrendous and quite swollen (and mistakenly considered to be a stress boil) and the other bites, mostly on my upper and middle back, which were less irksome in general, were thought by me to just dry skin and “stress pimples.” In retrospect I thought too, that my constant waking up in the middle of the night for months was also all stress related and I was quite happy with my easily found assumptions as all would seemed quite “sane” at the time.
And the whole thing makes me wonder, too; if we, as a species, have an adaptive quality that has caused perhaps a genetic component expressing as non reactive vs. reactive, rather more like a right hand or left hand or a blue eyed or a brown eyed expressed gene. If so, this would be a point in favor of the bed bug having definitely evolved with us for at least hundreds of thousands of years, and it would also point to some reasons why it is as adaptive to us as are pigeons, rats and spiders.
Our genetic pool is quite wide and I suspect so is the bed bugs: so perhaps it is not just chemical immunity it is also due to such a large gene pool that may be causing so many strains to seemingly be floating around unchecked and undestroyed. Government, in this case, should all above be true: REALLY needs to take a MUCH firmer stance on total irradiation. I can put up with pigeons—I cannot tolerate another dose of bed bugs…

5 Barb April 26, 2007 at 7:25 am

S,

Can you tell us how long the one bite itched? Sometimes I have so many at a time that I can’t tell which one is the new one and which the old one, but it seems you have pretty conclusive information about how long each one of these continued to itch and how intensely. I sounds to me like they were worse on day five than day 2 – is that correct?

Thanks

Barb

6 S April 26, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Hi Barb,

I’ll do the best I can to explain the itches.

There were two bites, an adult and a first instar nymph. They bit me within 15 minutes of each other.

For the first 14 hours (Monday night to Tuesday morning), neither bite itched.

Day 2 (Tuesday) they started to itch, pretty badly.

Days 3-5 were HORRIBLE. These days, I could barely concentrate on anything else. They both itched, very intensely, nonstop. I took Benadryl 4 times a day, and still.

On Day 6 they started to calm down a bit, but I still took Benadryl a couple times a day.

Days 7 and 8, I didn’t take any Benadryl. They had stopped itching nonstop, but still itched pretty considerably.

On Day 9 I decided to try wearing my watch (which sits near where the adult bite is). That was a bad idea. Day 9 was worse than the two days before it, because of the constant irritation. The skin around both bites flared up again, too.

Today is Day 10. They still itch, but it’s much more tolerable. They only itch some of the time, and the itch is much less intense. But they are still not gone. Now, they look like pimples.

7 willow-the-wisp April 26, 2007 at 12:05 pm

S., … how is G ‘s bite doing???
Or is that all still yet another sequel coming soon???

8 Fedupandparanoid April 26, 2007 at 12:17 pm

Hi S, did you get the PM I sent? Glad the itching is lessening

9 S April 26, 2007 at 12:23 pm

G’s bites are still there, and still non-itchy. They just look like little pimples.

Hey Fedup, I did get it – I’ll respond in a bit!

10 willow-the-wisp April 26, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Oh hello S., Yes, thanks for keeping such great notes and being so descriptive, really, it helps us all out tremendously.
Q.
Based on what you see of the bites now, and compared to what this type of a bite usually has produced in the past—what would your likely conclusion be of their appearance, say six month from now?

11 Barb April 27, 2007 at 7:44 am

S. I guess you have become a bit of an expert on the subject. Sorry to inundate you, but you were trying to learn answers to questions that many of us had.

So, You were receiving bites that you didn’t think were from ‘live bugs’? Every Thursday night, I get bites on the side of my face. I have a class on Thursday night. While I am sitting in class, I start itching. This is always happening on Thursday, which seems kind of weird to me. I am getting other bites, but they are more random.

Do you have an opinion on stress or other things causing old bites to flare up? Some of your ‘imaginary bites’ looked like pretty large bites. Were they itchy? Less itchy than the real thing?

Your arm may be more sensitive than other parts of your body – perhaps that is why that one got so much larger.

What ever thoughts you have on the subject would be so helpful.

Perhaps you would like to do another experiment………

Barb

12 S April 27, 2007 at 10:50 am

Hey Willow, you ask a really tough question. 🙂 I’ll do my best.

Something that I’ve realized is that since I just gave myself two new, real bites, I might have extended my “phantom bites” for another few months! Ugh!

I can’t be sure which “bites” are from what. But, for example, last night I found three very small, non-itchy pink bumps on my chest. I can’t remember if I’ve had bites there before – I may have. But last time around, I would have DEFINITELY thought these were new bites. (Because I’ve never had pink bumps on my chest, before bedbugs!) Now, because they are tiny, and not itchy, and because of my huge reaction to the recent real bites, I do not believe these are new bites.

This morning, there are two “bites,” on my chin and neck. Again, I would have definitely thought before that these were new bites. They are a little itchy, and the chin one is white with some pink skin around it (similar to so many that I’ve had before on my face). They itch just enough to get my attention, but it’s like 1/10th of the itch of the test bites. I’m pretty sure the neck one is in a place where I had one before, and the chin one may be too. So anyway, I feel like these are old bites, flaring up.

When I look back over the calendar I’ve been keeping, I can sorta pinpoint the time at which my bites took a noticeable drop in size. It was March 2. My PCO had treated and inspected so many times, and he was trying a new method – covering the ceiling above my bed – to make sure they weren’t dropping onto me from the ceiling. I remember when he came to take the tape down, I said to him, “I had a bite every day this week, but they were ALL ON MY FACE and they were ALL REALLY SMALL.”

Yet, I still thought they were new bites, and I concluded that we still had nymphs, and that maybe they were biting me somewhere else. We thought they might be in the car, since some of them showed up at night after driving home, so we started treating the car with D-Force.

I didn’t understand how these could not be new bites (what the hell else could they be, you know?) but yet, I sensed a tangible difference between these and anything I’d had before. So even though we kept treating, I started having this little doubt. Like, “Could these NOT be new bites?”

Now, the ones I’m seeing are like “Oh yeah, these old things.” They are like, old and familiar.

Of course, they still disturb me!

I just tried scratching the one on my neck, to see what would happen (I am usually really good about not scratching, so this was an experiment). It made all the skin around it turn pink. There’s like a huge patch of pink skin, now. I really think these are just my skin, being hypersensitive.

Barb, it’s no problem to ask me questions. I know so many people are struggling with this too, and honestly, I am very driven to talk about it and try to solve it. I appreciate your questions.

The question of “could stress be causing this” is a toughie. Lots of people suggest that to me, all the time. It kinda pisses me off, just because no stress has ever done this to me before, you know? I’ve never had hives, or any sort of allergic reaction. The most I can say for stress in the past, is it has maybe caused me some pimples on my face.

But now, I do think some of my recent reactions have been linked to stress. Not “random stress from work,” but Bedbug Stress.

You know how when you talk about bedbugs, you start to itch? I mean, every SINGLE friend I’ve told about this, has said “Now I’m starting to itch!” Literally, every one. The thought of them makes you itch. If the thought can make you itch, maybe the thought can actually activate your old bites. Or just activate your skin!

So like, I don’t think “Oh geez, I’m stressed because of my coworker” can cause skin reactions, at least not in me. But yet, it does seem that when I think “Oh god, I hate bedbugs so much, sure hope they’re not in this couch I’m sitting on,” I do seem to flare up.

Your class thing on Thursdays is pretty interesting. I really don’t know. Do you think you could be getting bit in class? I know that sounds farfetched, but still. The other thing is, perhaps you have a classmate who has bedbugs? And maybe just being NEAR them makes you break out?

While my right arm is still showing no signs of a reaction to chitin (from the cast skin), I still think a reaction to the presence of bedbugs might be possible.

Yes, some of my “imaginary bites” were kinda big. But they were definitely not as itchy as the test bites. And they faded much sooner.

I do believe my arm may be more sensitive. There is a huge part of me that wants to go back, and test nymphs on my chest, neck and face. But I think we all know that’s not going to happen. I think that might traumatize me more than it’s worth. I just couldn’t handle it, on my face. Aahhh!

Barb, could you try skipping the class one week, and see if anything is different? When does the class end? Will you keep us posted, if and when you can skip a Thursday?

13 Barb April 27, 2007 at 12:34 pm

S. Last night was my last class. I don’t believe the bugs are in the class, because I have been being bitten for so long, I think the bites are with me personally. I also know I don’t react to bites for at least several hours, but I never know if my bite is from last night, last week or last month. I can’t believe I’m still being bitten, and It is so amazing that my face itches like crazy during my class.

I do have a couple of bites right now that are pretty itchy also. I just wish I knew if they were new.

I also don’t think the bites are literally from stress, but I was wondering if they were old bites that flared up as a result of stress. When coworkers itch from thinking about bites, I know for a fact that they don’t feel the ‘burn’ of the bites that we feel from the real thing.

14 nobugsonme April 27, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Barb,
Most people with bites itch if they are in a warmer or more humid environment.
Also, most people find new bites are “brought out” by a shower or bath. It is not typical to itch when bitten, rather, most bites appear after the fact (for me, it was always in the hours after a shower).
Excercise too, because it makes you warm.

15 willow-the-wisp April 27, 2007 at 1:34 pm

My computer chair was infested, and mostly at the top of the chair where my upper back meets the chair is still the itchiest. I have recently totally covered the chair, and–I did buy it, second hand, 4-5 months ago. (I know this because I saw a bed bug sitting on the top of the chair—this was about three or four days before I realized what it was.)
So … for me … it seems they are slowly getting less and less reactive–especially since I covered the chair in triple plastic bags (white ones). Sounds hard but was not so hard to do.
S. I thought long and hard before I posed that Question. It would be difficult to say, huh. I hope they will all fade as they have been doing:
Let me rephrase it: How are you feeling? And yes! No more bites for you! 🙂

16 Donnieaus May 30, 2007 at 9:06 pm

Hello All ! I am a newbie to the site – and LOVE IT. My neighbor told me about it. Been at war for 1.5 yrs now and here’s my solution for itching. I don’t like taking antihistamines at all. Since I keep a tall spray bottle of rubbing alcohol handy to spray the carpet and furniture – I found spraying my bites with the alcohol really helped a lot. I then apply a thin layer of hydrocortisone creme. This method is cost effective and worked for me. Good Luck!

17 Barb May 30, 2007 at 9:17 pm

Donnieaus,

The rubbing alcohol – it kills the bugs? It doesn’t stain carpet or furniture?

18 willow-the-wisp May 30, 2007 at 9:20 pm

plain ice cubes are more cost effective and safer barb-for the bites, I mean 😉

19 Donnieaus May 30, 2007 at 9:33 pm

Barb – yes! Alcohol kills bedbugs and will not stain your furniture or clothes. Should you insolate a live one – hit it with the spray – he’ll die in about 5 seconds.

20 willow-the-wisp May 30, 2007 at 9:40 pm

a year and a half is quite a while don, what else are you doing about the bed bugs any caulking? steaming. PCO’s and the like out to your place?

21 Donnieaus May 30, 2007 at 10:11 pm

Hi Willow –

yes, it’s quite a while. I live in Hell’s Kitchen in a pre-war building. Problem is, not every tenant is getting sprayed or even aware they may have a problem. The PCO is provided by the landlord and comes every 12-14 days. I’ve rallied with 4 other neighbors (who have sited bugs) and we’re on the same Tuesday spray schedule. Other than spraying alcohol on rugs, etc. I vacuum and follow up with BlackJack Bedbug and Flea Spray – $4.99/can that lasts a month. It has all the essential ingredients and is quite effective. Like I said, it’s still going on…I’ve not been bit in a long time…but in these old bldgs. it’s the migration factor. Plus, any hibernators in my place are coming out now that it’s summer. Good Luck with yours!!

22 willow-the-wisp May 30, 2007 at 10:15 pm

thanks welcome and hang-tuff have you visited our forums? Don and Barb?

23 willow-the-wisp May 30, 2007 at 11:04 pm

Hope to here from you in the forums sometime!

24 nobugsonme May 31, 2007 at 12:40 am

Don,

Your landlord not only has to provide a PCO to fight bed bugs, s/he has to actually GET RID of them. Even having the PCO come to all of you every 12-14 days may not be enough if the PCO does not know how to get rid of bed bugs (some don’t). Furthermore, with respect, Blackjack Spray does not have _all the essential ingredients_, since bed bugs need serious aggressive treatment of the kind only well-trained and bed-bug-experienced PCOs can offer.

If I were you, I’d have the tenants report the situation to 311; HPD records it as a violation and the landlord has to FIX it–not fight bed bugs, but get rid of them. There are methods (like vikaning the whole building) that can be implemented. But traditional sprayings of the whole building might be cheaper.

I have a hunch you haven’t reported it to 311 because you don’t want to piss off the landlord. But I do think you’re all entitled to a bedbug-free home, so I hope you don’t mind me mentioning it.

Good luck and keep us posted! oh, and you’re the first person who told us they came based on a neighbor’s suggestion. Nice to know, but sad you’re all suffering.

25 Donnieaus May 31, 2007 at 5:53 am

Thanks NoBugsOnMe – are you the little pup that sings on the commercial about flea collars? A LOT of good suggestions there. I wasn’t even aware of 311. And yes, its fear of the landlord who can be a threatening jerk. (I’d use a stronger word than ‘jerk’ but sure I need to keep the posts PC) Just think any character on “Sopranos” and you get the picture. I’m going to begin printing posts like yours and if the situation continues start rallying with my neighbors even more. Share the good stuff.

Thank you!

26 nobugsonme May 31, 2007 at 10:07 am

Don, you’re lucky you’ve got a building where neighbors communicate in a positive way. If you all call 311, he’ll get some pressure to do things right, right away. I hope you’re able to do that. Good luck and keep in touch!

27 nobugsonme May 31, 2007 at 10:12 am

Oh and Don– the neighbors who are not yet infested should be mad too. As the problem goes on, more and more of them will become infested. And some of them doubtless already ARE–you should educate them about how everyone is not reactive to bed bugs. They can be infested and not see them or feel them.

Presidential Towers residents in Chicago are conducting a class action suit because they allege their landlord allowed bed bugs to spread around from tenant to tenant without properly eliminating the problem. Search for “Presidential Towers” in our search box to read more.

I am not _always_ happy about every bed bug lawsuit, but in cases like that, where the landlord is mismanaging treatment, I think they can be a good thing.

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