Bed bugs unconfirmed and freaking out a bit [stain IDs needed, scroll down](14 posts)
Oh man. Prepare for a bit of a long narrative.
So my mom is mentally ill, has been all my life (schizophrenia). She also lives in a giant public housing complex in Portland, OR, and last summer she called me in tears saying she had bed bugs. This happened at the same time that she had a sort of breakdown/relapse. She said some guy came in and did some sort of treatment, but she doesn't use the internet and doesn't think all that clearly, so I know she is not vigilant or well-informed about bed bugs. She says the bugs are gone.
I've limited my contact with her all this time, but I did give here a short ride in my car one time, have hugged her a few times while meeting at restaurants, and accepted a sweater from her which I left in the back of my boyfriend's pickup truck for months and then finally washed and dried. I've also stayed in a few hotels and kept my bags in the bathrooms, but one morning I remember finding a suspicious pink mark with a red center. But overall, I've been totally paranoid about bed bugs because they freak me out.
So, I've been living with the boyfriend this year in a large, freestanding house that we've been house sitting for this last year while I finish my degree. No problems, though I wasn't the most educated about avoiding bed bugs in every day life, mainly just thinking Mom was the only way I could get them. We've had a sugar ant problem since last fall in the house, but I've let them be because they're pretty harmless. Boyfriend left for a job out of state that I will also be starting when I graduate in a few weeks. My aunt who lives in an affordable housing complex in Portland visited after he left and stayed on the living room couch for a week. She does not have bed bugs as far as she knows.
But then about the time she left, I started feeling like I was getting bitten when I'd sit on the couches for hours studying. I just assumed it was the sugar ants biting me. I could never find anything, and I don't have any welts or visible bites. But this annoying pinprick stinging kept continuing. Last Tuesday I got paranoid and started wondering about bed bugs. I looked all over both couches and cursorily examined my bedsheets and mattress (though hadn't noticed any biting while in bed, only on the couches). I have a 10x hand lens that I used and carefully examined any suspicious looking little speck or crumb. Nothing I could tell for certain. No obvious signs. I was so freaked out not wanting to spread a new infestation that I slept (poorly) in the bathtub. Freaked out my boyfriend who is kinda OCD about creepy crawlies over the phone--he said, "don't bring them out here!"
Thursday I had a pest control inspector come out to have a look for free. This is just a smaller college town, and the company does not specialize in beg bugs. The guy said he goes out twice a week on possible bed bug cases, but has only ever found two actual infestations. So he spends less than 30 minutes looking fairly carefully at the two couches and barely looking at my bed too when I ask him to. Finds nothing. Says his company likes it when he actually does find something.
The next day, my landlords came home early! They are retired and the wife recently suffered a stroke, so they already have a lot to deal with. This is all their furniture as well. So my plans for possibly ordering bed bug detection devices, steam cleaner, etc. are down the tubes. What would they think if they knew I was worried about bed bugs in their home!
So then today I'm vegging in my bed and I start feeling something biting me again! I keep trying to catch whatever it is in the act, to no avail. Still no welts or marks. I've been super paranoid since last Tuesday, have vacuumed the whole house, done lots of laundry, still doing more, and looked at a lot of fuzz balls. So then I get out my hand lens and start looking around the bed. There are two bedside lamps attached to the wall that have lampshades with a few scattered tiny black spots on them, but I have no idea how long they've been like that. Under the lens, I can see that there's what looks like a little piles of poop on some of the spots. There is one small dark streak on the curtain above the bed. I looked around the dust ruffle of the bed and the top of the box springs, picking up objects and hand lensing them. Can't find anything for sure. I felt around (couldn't see and too scared to take the bed apart yet) under the wooden "eave" of the box springs and came back with dust and a few of what look like teeny tiny clear, yellow spheres. They look like eggs, but they definitely don't look like bed bug eggs. Sometimes I think I am seeing potential pieces of nymph castings among the bits of dust bunnies and whatever, but nothing has ever screamed "bed bug". I have also been finding really tiny dropping in several rooms where the carpeting meets the wall--look like mouse droppings but only like 1-3 mm in size. Never seen mice though. Could it be mites from mice? How would I know? What could I do about it?
Meanwhile, I am having a really really hard time with all of this, and I don't know how to make it any better or what to do or who to talk to. Oh, and meanwhile, mom has been staying at my grandma's house with all of her belongings due to mental illness-related issues. I've told Grandma that Mom likely still has bed bugs, but Grandma is getting dementia and she's just not on top of it or assertive to Mom about her concerns, and she feels bad for Mom. So now Grandma's probably got bed bugs too, one more family member I can't spend time with. I feel like I'm obsessing too much, but I just do not know how to allay these fears, aside I can't be too extreme in my investigations without alerting the landlords about my fears.
And then there's the fact that I've got to move out of state in just a few weeks. I do not want to take these bastards with me if I have them. I've considered just getting rid of everything but the essentials that can be washed or wiped down.
Any help out there? I know this is really long, but had to vent and I feel like you guys would be really good to talk to about this.
ok, first of all, try to take a deep breathe, as you are dealing with multiple stressors.
Yes this is a frightening topic and one nobody wants, letting them (the bug and it is only a bug) control you. Trust me, I understand as I am bug-phobic and will willingly admit it!! lol
Being aware and reading the FAQS section of this site will help.
If you have what you consider to be evidence/signs, (fecael matter on your lanp) take a clear pic an post it here.
knowledge is power and you should never treat without confirmed evidence
good luck and keep us posted
There seem to be two issues here:
1. How can you confirm or rule out bed bugs?
2. How can you do this without worrying the landlords?
1. is easier. Normally I would suggest monitors, but obviously you can't do this surreptitiously.
There's a new product (Bed bug blue) you can use to test potential fecal stains. (See FAQ on bed bug blue linked from Useful Stuff.)
You could potentially test some of the fecal stains, on your own, though on certain surfaces, eg porous ones, I suppose it's possible you might make the stain run. That would not be good.
Which brings me to #2.
Even if you can do some things secretly, it's probably best to let the landlords know you've started feeling itchy recently and are wondering about potential causes which might include bed bugs, fleas, etc.
It doesn't sound like you took a lot of risk with your mom's bed bug situation (though if it comes up again, leaving potentially infested stuff exposed in a car is not a good plan!)
I don't think you should assume that IF they are bed bugs, that they came from your mother. And telling the landlords this is possible might alarm them needlessly, when you're not sure you have bed bugs, or if so, how they came in.
So I do think telling them about the itching and need to find the cause is important.
Oh and #3: how to move?
Look into the possibility of treating a pod or moving truck with Vikane gas. It is cheaper than replacing a lot of stuff. If you have only small items and no furniture, a Packtite might work.
Make sure your partner monitors in his new location. It's possible he has them and does not react to bites.
And finally, #4:
Do mom and/or grandma have a social worker? If so they can often help with these kinds of things. They need an inspection or at least a monitoring system in place (which can be cheap, but someone responsible needs to implement and check it).
Is Grandma really in a house? If she's somewhere with a manager or landlord, you may be able to request an inspection. This comes up all the time in multi-unit buildings. You don't need to tell the landlord where you think they came from, but obviously if they do have bed bugs, your
mom's next move needs to be better controlled.
If she is in a house, then you may need someone like a social worker or relative to intervene.
Thanks so much for the quick responses, guys. Edtt, I will take some photos tomorrow morning in good light and (attempt) to post them. Is there a way to post photos directly or will I need to upload them to a site like flickr?
Nobugsonme, I really appreciate you addressing all the various concerns. I have been considering purchasing some bedbug-related things: mattress and box spring encasements, an active monitor, a packtite, and maybe a steam cleaner, as well as making some trays filled with cornstarch to put under the legs of the bed frame. The test you mentioned also sounds helpful. I am a student and on a budget, however, so I'm reluctant to spend too much money. Though am willing if I find out I do have bed bugs.
As for the family matters, I don't know that there's a lot I can do. My teenage cousin is living at Grandma's house as well, I could have her install some DIY passive monitors and interceptors and keep an eye out for bugs, but she doesn't have any money to spend. Mom is on disability, and a very meager income as such, but I could maybe get her to do a few small things. She is in a lot of denial, though. I don't want to push too many buttons with her. And right now I'm too busy freaking out about my own situation, frankly, to devote much energy to dealing with the family part of the equation. I live two hours away from my family, and when I move I'll be a couple states away. It may sound cold, but due to a number of reasons the idea of just staying away for a while sounds very appealing right now.
The only large items I'm planning to bring are my bike and my wooden spinning wheel, I think. Was hoping to sell a lot of my other possessions to save up some money, but I don't want to sell people bed bugs...
As for telling the landlords... could you guys treat me like a baby and help me figure out exactly how to breach that subject without making it sound like I think we have bed bugs? The husband is a retired entomologist for the Forest Service, by the way. But I think he only worked with tree pests.
What do you guys think about mouse mites? Anyone had experience with something like that?
I agree with edtt and Nobugs, perhaps adding that if you have K9 ressources in your area why not let the dog in and smell you stuff? you could be in the clear
An account on flicker will wrk just fine.
Try to use the macro setting on you camera. If you can put a coin in the pic as a size comparison.
Regarding your family, mental illness is devastating, for everyone, do what you can, when you can, we do our bet in life. No bugs is correct, when/if you are ready there should b professionals that can help you.
Sorry you are dealing with this.
Let go of the idea that whatever problem the home has, that it's your fault. Even if it's bed bugs, there is no evidence you are to blame. It seems just as likely you picked up bed bugs or fleas or some other problem. It can happen to anyone.
If you let that idea about blame go completely, it should be easier to tell
your hosts that there might be a pest problem.
They will likely be less annoyed the sooner you tell them, and they do have a right to know,
so I would just steel yourself and tell them.
That there's no obvious evidence means they have a mystery to solve, and you can try and help, but it doesn't sound like the diagnosis is at all obvious.
Hello again lovely people. So I've taken and uploaded some photos to a flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/79537799@N04/?uploaded=26&magic_cookie=16ad6a8d8d84bdedf20aacebb2704518 . Follow the link for the photos. I had not previously noticed the black spots on the windowsill, eek?
Also, this morning I noticed some miniscule living bugs scattered on the backroom counter around a potted plant. I asked my ex-entomologist landlord to have a look at them, and he used my hand lens for a few seconds and pronounced them a type of mite (can't remember the name, starts with ch--) that has a hard shell and "looks like a beetle". I said, "Phew, I was worried it was bed bugs or something!" and he was like, "Nope, just mites." And I totally wanted to continue the conversation and have him come look at my bedroom and talk to him about my suspicions, but he was already headed back to the living room and I chickened out.
I felt or imagined biting all through the night last night, tossed around all night and kept searching for bugs in the sheets. The photos with the dark wood background are the various things I picked from the sheets during the night. Now examining them in better light, I am much less sure they're bugs or nymph exoskeletons. I can take better photos later once I find some tape to put them on if you guys need better pics. I looked at the bugs in the windowsill cracks with my 10x lens and found only spiders and flies and dust, though I wasn't able to see deep into the cracks.
Nobugsonme, it is so good to hear what you have to say. I really don't want to come across as the "dirty" renter and hate to add stress and financial burden to their lives. But last night was so horrible, I just want to figure it out so I can stop worrying, and I think I'm gonna tell them. Just waiting for the right time.
Hate to think about sleeping on that bed again tonight.
Hey there-- I am not the person to ID the stains, but I am changing your tread title to attract expert identifiers.
I think the key bit of information you must convey to the landlord is that you feel itchy like something might be biting you at home. You have heard about the resurgence of bed bugs and wonder if there might be a problem with them or a biting pest of some kind. You have to tell him this -- skin reactions are not definitive evidence of bed bugs. They are, however, the reason for your concern. And they are key to the discussion.
He's an entomologist. Outdoor bug expert or not, he should have caught wind of the bed bug comeback, and know how to look up the signs of bed bugs.
But you need to make him know why you're asking if the bugs you saw are bed bugs, or whether those lampshade and window stains are anything to worry about.
Just thought I'd add that I found similar spotting on the window frame and sill of the window in the adjacent office room, though about half as much. That room hasn't been used as a bedroom for at least the last nine months and the desk and chair are not touching the window wall. Maybe the spotting was in the rooms before I moved in? Really wish I'd have inspected everything when we first moved in, but then again, don't know if a few spots even mean anything.
Any experts had a look at my photos and have some insight to share? I'd love to hear it.
Still hoping for an expert weigh-in re: the photos I linked: http://www.flickr.com/photos/79537799@N04/?uploaded=26&magic_cookie=16ad6a8d8d84bdedf20aacebb2704518.
Because of the holiday in the US, I would give it a little time. We're likely to see more activity from the pros here on Tuesday.
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