Reader question: if I don’t react to bites, how do I know they’re gone?

by nobugsonme on December 25, 2007 · 5 comments

in bed bug treatment, how to get rid of bed bugs, reader questions

An anonymous reader who has bed bugs in an apartment wrote to describe her bed bug problem.  She definitely has them but neither she nor partner react to them.  She says,

The thing that troubles me the most is how will I know if they are ever truly gone?

They say bite free for x amount of time, but if there is no reaction how do you know? Maybe you could address this in a post? From what I gather most people are alerted by someone in the household’s reaction.  I don’t have that situation since neither of us react.  Please let me know?

When you’re one of the people who has itchy visible bites, as I was, then it’s easy to think that it would be better not to react to bed bug bites.  Not so!  In fact, those who have no one in their household who reacts to bed bug bites are in a very difficult position.

Rick Cooper suggests that if people have not seen a bed bug or felt a bite for 60 days, then they are gone.  On the other hand, it appears that in many cases, people just do not see the bed bugs easily.  Many PCOs do minimal or no visual inspections.  Therefore, we can’t really assume anyone will see bed bugs or their eggs even if they are still there.  This is a very tricky situation with no easy answer.

Reader, I don’t know how seriously infested your home is, but it seems that most cases require more than 2 treatments.  You should probably assume you will likely need three or more treatments spaced two weeks apart.

Since visual inspections may not turn up a bug or egg, I would recommend using a bed bug dog, if there is one in your area (get references).  You need one that alerts to eggs and live bugs (since alerting to dead bugs will not tell you they’re gone).  If you had the k9 come after the third treatment, you might be cleared at that point.

If this is an option with your bed bug dog specialist, try to make a deal in advance for the dog to come again if needed at a reduced rate.  I don’t know if this is the done thing, but it seems to me it would be lousy to keep paying the same price repeatedly, and getting the “all clear” from a dog really may be one of the things that will put your mind at ease.

This is imperfect advice.  Bed bugs are expensive, and I realize I am suggesting something that may be a hardship for many, and something landlords may not pay for, therefore adding to tenants’ considerable costs.

I also realize others may disagree with my assessment and suggestions, which is fine–I am open to hearing different perspectives.  I know for example that many PCOs insist they can get rid of bed bugs in one or two treatments.  If the dog can come multiple times without a huge financial burden, then re-checking after two treatments (or whatever the PCO insists on) may be an option.

Are there others?  How do you handle this, PCOs?
I hope PCOs, bed bug dog handlers, and entomologists will comment below with their advice and suggestions.

1 loubugs January 6, 2008 at 9:50 pm

A woman came over to my lab because she also wondered if she doesn’t react to bed bugs, how will she know if she is still getting bitten and still has them but doesn’t see any. She had bugs, bites and reactions before. She tried feeding the colony in a jar on her for around 13 minutes. First a few minutes in one spot on her arm and then about 10 minutes on another spot on the same arm. She didn’t have a reaction by the time she left which was an hour so so. I spoke to her later and she said it took about 40 hours before getting a reaction and it was quite a reaction by that time. It’s interesting about the lag time in reaction. Few people may take longer to react than 2 days. Of course, I think the “normal” reaction time is within a few minutes to a few hours. When I feed the colony I react in a few minutes with swelling, but not itching. It’s not known (since her reaction required 40 hours) if she would have reacted at all if only a few bugs bit her rather than so many feeding at one time: Maybe the volume of bug saliva had something to do with it in her case.

2 nobugsonme January 7, 2008 at 2:23 am

Thanks Lou– this reminds me of S’s experiments, where she and her boyfriend tested whether they reacted differently to nymph and adult bites, and indeed whether he reacted at all. For anyone who missed it, the first post in the four-part series is here.

3 GARY VISCONTI May 14, 2008 at 12:16 pm





4 nobugsonme May 14, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Hi Gary,

Try the third FAQ here:

Ice also helps. Good luck.

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