The Washington Post published Jessica Goldstein’s story of dealing with bed bugs yesterday. The article (“An army of bedbugs was partying in her mattress. What else could go wrong?”) does a good job of conveying what it’s like to deal with the hassle involved with having bed bugs, and reminds us how the stress of bed bugs may come at the same time as other crises (Goldstein unfortunately also loses her job the same time).
It would of course be worth checking out this article solely for Andrew Rae’s fantastic graphic of cartoon bed bugs partying in the author’s bed. The story, too, is one many users will relate to: a saga including an all-night laundromat trip, a Packtite, the prep, the prep, the prep…
As is often the case, Goldstein’s Pest Control Operator tells her to double bag, wash, dry on hot, and then again double bag every fabric item in her home. Goldstein writes,
Minimalists among you are probably thinking, “Well, I don’t have that much stuff.” Inaccurate. You would be shocked at the sheer quantity of your possessions. Everything you own is quite a lot of things. Those T-shirts you keep stuffed in a drawer and hardly ever wear. That bag of clothes you’ve been meaning to drop off at Goodwill. Every partnerless sock. Every last thing.
This type of preparation for bed bug treatment is required by many PCOs, and will be familiar to many if not most who’ve had bed bugs, even though experts tell us (a) it is often not necessary (some who do bed bug treatment never require it), and (b) if the item is clean, washing is not necessary, drying on hot alone is sufficient to kill bed bugs and eggs.
Part of what’s awful about bed bugs is not always getting the most knowledgeable advice, which is all too common.
Along those lines, consider what happened when Goldstein first calls the PCO to say she thinks she has bed bugs:
The next morning, I call pest control. The man who answers has a voice like Coach Taylor’s from “Friday Night Lights.” I report that I have bedbugs.
“First, we’ll need to verify that what you’ve got really are bedbugs,” he says. “Did you save one?”
“No,” I say.
“Oh.” He sounds disappointed.
“I didn’t realize I was supposed to.” Is that an established part of the common knowledge canon? Like how you’re not supposed to drink beer before liquor?
I describe the bug, the bed, the blood. I wonder, is this the same conversation Egyptians had with Old Testament Pest Control during the Passover days? “First you saw blood, and now there are — what, locusts? How do you know they’re locusts?” Wait. Is someone smiting me?
Pest Control Guy confirms my diagnosis. “It’s definitely bedbugs.”
It’s a beautifully told tale, but should this sort of telephone diagnosis be happening?
Probably not, even if the consumer was right in this case, and they were bed bugs. Experts tell us blood doesn’t confirm bed bugs’ presence, fecal stains do. And these are two quite different things. Pest management professionals should do a thorough inspection and see visual evidence before confirming the problem is bed bugs.
Of course, given how things played out, it sounds like Goldstein’s team were able to confirm the problem at least when they started treatment, but it’s best to do so in person well before treatment is planned (and before the resident sinks money, time and energy into lengthy preparations for treatment).
I also found it very strange that the PCO told Goldstein she would be “displaced for a while” (she goes off to stay in a hotel during treatment) and that he tells her he killed a bunch of bed bugs in a way that causes them to “explode” and leave a bloody mess dripping down her wall.
There are many ways to kill bed bugs, but your home should not look like a murder has taken place afterwards.
I know you’ll enjoy this story (and the illustration!) so please check it out and please share any perceptions you have about the article or my response to it below in the comments.