Declaring the big V in the War on Bed Bugs.(18 posts)
They are gone. I would first like to take this time to profusely thank the creator of this blog and everyone who has posted/contributed. My boyfriend and I used this blog as our primary source of information, from diagnosing our bites to how to get rid of the bugs, and I feel like we owe it to all of the readers out there to post our success story to give others hope.
My boyfriend and I decided to move to the city of Philadelphia from Virginia at the very beginning of September 2008. He moved up mid-month and I followed a month and a half later, but was visiting almost every weekend. Due to our financial situation, or lack thereof, the apartment we ended up taking was in a very old rundown building consisting of 3 apartments. Our dwelling was on the 3rd floor. The place was not well taken care of and by that I mean there were humongous holes in the wall behind the refrigerator and behind all of the furnaces. Not to mention the toilet did not even have a seat, but we won't get into the rest of the house. The neighborhood was not the safest, and our landlord could barely speak English. He owned the entire building. Things were already not looking good.
In the month and a half I was still at our old house in Virginia, and my boyfriend was at the new apartment in Philly, like I said, I'd visit each weekend. I started coming home with little itchy bumps on my arms, legs, and feet. I didn't think anything of it until I woke up in the middle of the night one weekend with four giant red welts on my face and one on my arm. I was convinced I had some sort of virus. My boyfriend had nothing on his body.
After two trips to the doctor in VA before I moved to Philadelphia, we chalked it up to fleas from the dog (never saw a flea on her or noticed her itching) and left it alone until the number of bites accumulated and the itching became so unbearable, it made me literally crazy. I started noticing more bites at work and had the first panic attack of my life, tunnel vision and everything, because it seemed as though the bites would appear right before my eyes all through out the day and night. I was losing my mind and I was scared.
About a week after I moved into the apartment with my boyfriend permanently, I was home alone and noticed more bites on my legs. My head was spinning, I was freaking out because I had no doctor in the city and I had been panicking about this for over a month now. I got on Google and as soon as I started realizing they may in fact be bed bugs, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something crawling on the wall. I looked up a picture. There it was. Flat, rust colored, obviously recently fed. We had bed bugs.
I looked up what to do, and began by notifying the landlord. He obviously did not understand the severity of a bed bug infestation, I believe because of the language barrier. He proceeded to tell me that he had never had complaints from the other tenants within the building about bedbugs and somewhat implied that we had brought them with us into the apartment...which was impossible. The building was already infested, which was obvious from the lack of upkeep and from the sight of our 2nd floor neighbor's clutter, but the neighbors must not have cared about the bugs, or they must not react severely to the bites. After this conversation with the landlord, he called one of his friends who works for a legitamate extermination company who came to spray the house twice in December. The bugs stayed at bay for no more than 1 week after each treatment. My boyfriend and I realized our only choice was to move. Now, I understand that this may be bad news for those of you who are home owners and for those who are not financially capable of moving, and let me just say we had to wait months before we were financially stable enough to even look for a new place. This forced us to live with the bed bugs for 3 more months before we could finally get out, and it cost us a lot of money, but it had to be done. This was hell on earth.
The infestation worsened from January-February 2009 and we could not get a hold of the exterminator to come spray again, surprise surprise. Meanwhile, we were doing everything we thought we were supposed to do, we covered the mattress in plastic, sprayed the baseboards with black jack spray, and washed our clothes often. During this time, we were also avidly looking for a new place for 2 months. Nothing fit our standards, we were scrutinizing cracks between the baseboards and the floors, dismissed anything with carpet, and judged each landlord/owner up and down. We finally were lucky enough to find a great place.
Now here's how we left the bed bugs at the old place:
All of the precautions we took, we got from this website. Thank you, thank you everyone. Let me please take this time to warn any readers seeking advice on escaping these bugs... you MUST accept that you will have to part with most of your belongings. This was easy for me and my boyfriend, because we caught the bug problem early enough after we moved in to not buy any furniture for the place. Yes, we lived in an apartment with only a kitchen table and a bed for 4 months. That still did not make this any less of a painful experience, since we had to get rid of personal things that had been in each of our families for decades. Two nights before moving day, we filled what seemed like 30 garbage bags full of stuff to be tossed - linens, pillows, tons of clothes, electronics, literally everything except necessary clothes for work and sentimental family items we simply could not part with. We tossed it all to the curb. In one night.
The move out date was March 5th, a Saturday, which was a whirlwind of a day. Nothing, absolutely nothing can go from the old place directly into the new place. We took precautions with everything...
1. We first dropped the dog off at the groomer's...we booked her for a bath and an extremely short haircut just to be safe.
2. Next was a trip to the laundromat with all of our clothes where we washed everything that could be washed in scalding hot water. We dried each load for no less than 60 minutes on high heat. Everything that could not be washed, we dropped off at the dry cleaners. Over $100 dollars in dry cleaning. The plastic laundry basket was sprayed and wiped down with clorox bleach. Our batch of clean clothes was the first thing to enter the house, and I literally pushed it through the front door without stepping inside.
3. A trip to the store was in order - we bought an air mattress to sleep on, more trashbags, black jack bedbug spry, and big ziploc bags. Ziploc makes huge bags that hold gallons. Find them. We then went back to the old apartment, black jacked everything we had to take with us, placed into the big ziploc, and double-bagged with trashbags. This stuff included shoes, laptops, necessary books, a big tool bag/kit, jewlery...everything we had to bring that wasn't clothes. **I have since read a lot of good stuff about black jack. This is the spray we used when we first discovered the problem, and I have to say that if you plan on fighting this battle without moving, the spray stinks up your house forever. The smell never goes away, but didn't seem to stick to our belongings after we froze them for 2 weeks. I recommend it for those who are moving. It kills on contact. I have read tons of reviews on other sprays which are of higher quality, we just could not afford the wait or the price for these products.
We were in the new house after one day. And had basically a few clothes and personal items to our names. We fit as many of those ziplocs into the freezer as we could and put the rest downstairs in the basement. We kept the bags in the freezer without opening the door for 2 weeks, then unpacked. We have had 3 shifts of this in all. Everything has come out fine, including the laptops. We just let them dry out completely before turning them on by setting them over the heater for a day.
It has been a little over a month that we have been in the new house. All of our belongings are out of the freezer and the ziplocs, and I have not had even one bite or seen one bug. I will say that this experience made me hit rock-bottom mentally and I'm sure it will have a long term effect on me. Every speck of dirt I thoroughly inspect, any new little bug I see I put in a small ziploc bag until I can diagnose it (2 small spiders), and I still very vividly dream about bed bugs. I cannot tell how long this will last. I do not know what I would do if they returned. I am confident that we escaped the problem and did not bring them with us. These past 6 months have been the worst of my life, but I want to be the voice that all of you hear that says it is possible to escape it. IT IS POSSIBLE!
One of the worst things about this is that this apartment has now been posted on craigslist since we abandoned it. Nothing is being done about this problem at this address. My boyfriend has posted on this ad that the apartment is infested and I have registered the address on http://www.bedbugregistry.com Other than these two measly online posts, we are helpless against this problem at this address, which makes us feel horrible...but what is worse is that bed bugs are a bigger problem than the general public thinks. Dealing with bed bugs is a life-altering experience. The bed bug problem will never be resolved until landlords are bound by law to notify tenants about past and present bug problems, respond to the problem following PCO protocol, and to be responsible for damages and losses accrued as a result of the bugs.
Good luck, everyone.
Congratulations on winning the fight and my best wishes of a very happy post-bb life!
Hgv, glad that worked so well for you. Success stories are fantastic to read.
I hope you're not the rule of having to get rid of most of your possessions. I've parted with an extreme number so far, and will probably still get rid of my bed. At the least, the bed isn't coming with me when my boyfriend and I move in together. Still, the rest of my furniture seems to be okay, and treatment apparently took care of the two couches my roommate and I have.
I hope others have success stories of fighting for their possessions and either winning, or ridding as a last-resort option.
Sorry for the delayed reply. I would absolutely recommend getting rid of most of your possessions unless you can fully treat them via spray, ziplocs, extreme heat or cold, and keep them wrapped up and out of the way for 6 months. As I'm sure you have read, bedbugs are so thin and can hide themselves and their eggs anywhere. The possessions that were the most difficult to treat and move for us were 2 guitars and about 20 books we could not part with. These are very dangerous objects to be moving from an infested house because there are so many nooks/crannies, and pages for them to hide in, and the bugs will usually lay eggs on paper or wood. They are also the hardest to treat because you're essentially dousing your books and guitars with tons of moisture and then exposing them to extreme temperatures which can cause a lot of damage to the books and warp the guitars rendering them useless. Three months later, everything seems to be fairing quite well. Feel free to ask me anything else, I'm more than willing to give advice and help anyone else out however I can.
Another reply for Emmm, if you specifically meant furniture in your last post, and are financially set, I'd look into Vikane treatments. There are a number of posts about that on this site.
I'm quite aware of how small the bugs are and how extensive they can be within our stuff.
We've recently had a k9 in and give us the all-clear. As we're unpacking contractor bags that had vapona pieces in them with our stuff, things will be given an extreme once-over and such. I'm not sure, I might just get rid of my books-- who knows? But when I don't go into hyper-paranoid mode, I really do feel like we got all our bugs and after divesting myself of some (not all) furniture and a lot of stuff, I don't think I'll have to get rid of all sorts of things I can't afford to replace.
And Vikane, the general "final answer" touted around here, isn't available in Canada. I really wish people would stop suggesting that.
I just want to stick up for thermal as a final answer option. I had thermal treatment in June of 2008, despite having had bed bugs (without realizing it) for months, and got rid of them in one go with relatively minimal (and mostly preventable and totally within my definition of acceptable losses) damage.
My general understanding of thermal is that it tends to be more available on the west coast of North America (I know there's a thermal provider in Vancouver, so it's not only not prohibited in Canada, but is available in at least one place.)
This does very little good for people in, say, Ontario, which I know has a significant problem. However, I mention this because it seems like it would be more possible to get a thermal provider started up in Toronto than to get the Canadian government to approve Vikane.
If thermal were more widely available in Canada, I think it would be just as good a "final answer" option as Vikane.
With Vikane, you'd have to convince the government to go through a lengthy process to approve a chemical not currently allowed, and given that we know that Vikane contributes to environmental problems, what I know about the Canadian government makes that seem unlikely.
On the other hand, thermal can be set up as an house call sort of thing, or fixed chambers (like one built into a new apartment building in Vancouver) can be set up. It's a technology/process that's already been through governmental approval in Canada. I don't mention this to dangle it in front of you, but because as a citizen of the US I can't very effectively lobby anyone who matters to make thermal more widely available in Canada. You, however, might be able to do so. Once you've recovered enough from the work load of bed bugs to have a spare minute to write your governmental reps.
Buggy, I've read about your thermal experience (a few times) and have no issue with thermal. I've spoken to a PCO who openly said he was looking into more research on thermal remediation before buying a machine up here. (In fact, I think I'll contact him today and find out how that's going) I can see thermal making its was here as many PCOs I've spoken to in Toronto (and I mean good PCOs) seem to either do a lot of research or are sent to education seminars on bed bugs (in the case of Orkin Toronto). That it wasn't available for me is very unfortunate, but it's possible it could come around soon. I didn't know it was in Vancouver, so that's a big hope there. And good for them-- their bed bug problem could be a nightmare come the Olympics.
My issue with Vikane being thrown around has been addressed before. Forget about pricing (I know some can't afford it, period), with it not available in Canada-- a current hotspot for bed bugs--it's frustrating to see it be the first suggestion out there. It's like running into a wall every time with every question and every consideration. I get that it's highly, highly effective. I understand all arguments for Vikane. All those points are even more frustrating every time they come up because Vikane just isn't available to everyone, and it's hard to hear "this will fix it, probably!" and know you can't have access.
One reason Vikane and other products aren't available in Canada isn't just environmental, but because we require extra research for products, and that means an extensive amount of money from companies that make them. They won't pay it. (though why DOW won't, I don't know. ) When in the middle of the battle, it's easy to get mad at my government for this, but when I consider how bad my asthma has gotten with all the fumes around here (and that's with precautions) and how sensitive my skin has gotten (I understand that's not rare), just that alone, I realize it's inevitably worth it in the long run. Bed bugs are a terror, but they ARE temporary. Things like cancer, asthma, and other environmental diseases, they aren't.
I mention this because I know someone who really feels her breast cancer was partially caused or made worse by some pesticides used when she eradicated a roach problem years ago. The woman she lived with at hte time developed breast cancer at the same time as well-- and neither had it run in their family. Of course there could be other variables, but it's worth taking into consideration.
I really hope thermal is available to Canadians soon-- and in apartments. I know we've been lucky in our battle. It's honestly probably over, thanks to a decent PCO, early detection, vapona strips (DDVP in Canada, I think), and a lot of money and inconvenience. Until thermal's available, what's best now for me is to get information out there so others can catch it early and avoid this nightmare taking their lives over.
In my mind, I file thermal right up there with Vikane in terms of having the potential (in both cases if done properly) to be the final solution.
Like you said, it also has the advantage of being pesticide free. And like you, I know plenty of people who are very careful to avoid exposure to chemical pesticides. Like you, I want there to be a bed bug elimination option that doesn't involve pesticides that has a high success rate if for no other reason than if I had a house next to a person who avoided pesticides, I don't want to get a bed bug infestation from them when theirs gets out of control. (On another level, I also get that bed bugs are all about a loss of control and that some people respond to that by trying to assert control over what they can, which means giving people more options.)
I wish Vikane were also available in Canada. But I'm also practical. If thermal already exists on the west coast of Canada, and it's already been improved, if I could, I'd push to make that more widely available first because it would give more people immediate relief from bed bugs, and ultimately, policy wise, I think that should be the priority of any government.
As for Vikane being the first option offered on the boards, I suspect that, like the lack of Vikane in Canada, it's partly a geography thing. I don't think I've met anyone in person in California who used Vikane on bed bugs or who heard about anyone who did. But again, I think that's because thermal is already widely available here. It may be, in part, another sample selection issue. There are probably more people on the boards who live in places where Vikane is available and thermal is not, and since they're speaking from their own experience, they mention one and not the other.
Sometimes we people from the US don't do a good job of remembering that we're not the center of the world, and that issues in different countries are going to be different.
I share your wish that when people talk about Vikane, more of us would remember to note that it's not available everywhere. I don't comment on every post about thermal as an alternative mostly for reasons that you mentioned in your post. I'm worried people are going to feel like I'm preaching thermal as the only or best treatment. I try to talk about it when it's relevant because I feel like it gets less air time around here than some other treatments, and I've obviously been very happy with it.
On the other hand, I grew up a different Christian denomination among fundamentalist Christians in my city, and I got tired of people trying to recruit me, so I am perhaps more worried about not making people feel preached to in terms of having the One Way to any problem. ::shrugs::
Anyway, I think your general point is a good one. Vikane, even setting aside the cost issue, which is a problem in an of itself, is not only not the only final answer, it's also not available everywhere, and as a result, we would all do well to keep that in mind when we comment, myself included.
I'm glad that future bed bug sufferers in your part of Canada have you going to bat for their future rights. Keep up the good fight.
Emm, I am in Toronto as well and would appreciate any info you have about a PCO that is considerng offering thermal here - we have had 8 pesticide treatments over the last year, the most recent of which was two weeks ago. K9 is coming back in 2 weeks to check and see if they are gone (please, please let them be gone) but I would welcome thermal as an option, and the sooner the better.
i made a new post response to this topic (sorry i had to) but i dont understand just why this poster felt she HAD TO throw so much away.
Are there not certain items which can be tripled wrapped in plastic and left in quarantine for 2 years? Better to have it lying around in your home (safely wrapped of course) or even in the freezer for 2 years to open after much time, then throw it away forever.
I don't doubt she was right to be so cautious.. but I am just wondering that she could have thrown less away and been safe..
she could get them again like she said.. then what? I wish i threw less away, seeing as it makes no difference as I had them all along.
I felt like I had to throw so much away, simply because if you take more belongings with you, you're increasing your chances of infesting the new home. I am quarantining 2 bags of books downstairs in my basement, triple-wrapped, of course, that have been sitting there for 7 months. I was even nervous to keep those in the house at first. I do not plan on unwrapping them until the outside temperature reaches below freezing and I can toss the bags out on the patio for a few nights. Those who have the storage space within their home, could do this with most of their items and avoid throwing out a lot of stuff. This can also obviously be done with rented storage space. Still bed bug-free 7 months strong.
Better off to keep the bags in the house and warm. Cold slows the bugs metabolism and prolong the starvation period.
Cold sucks in any form as a 100% reliable treatment.
Freezing for 2 weeks worked for our laptops, shoes and other items. I've read that extreme cold and extreme heat will both kill bugs (that are wrapped up) fairly quickly.
hgv001 - 8 hours ago »
Freezing for 2 weeks worked for our laptops, shoes and other items. I've read that extreme cold and extreme heat will both kill bugs (that are wrapped up) fairly quickly.
But temperature matters -- freezer temps vary a lot. And duration matters. And how fast the temperature is reached matters. And whether the temperature is maintained matters.
Knowing exactly how long to keep your stuff in a freezer (without opening the door once) depending on your freezer's temperature? Not easy. I think that's why Jim declares it not reliable.I started and run the site but am "not an expert."
Hey everyone, it's me again, a year and a half later.
Last night, I listened to a friend tell me her story about living with bedbugs here in Philly. I was then compelled to post some more comments on this thread about our method and respond to others who have commented on this post.
I'd first like to address my previous statement, "you must get rid of most of your belongings." I now realize this is not true. If you have the funds, it is possible to treat all of your possessions, furniture included, without getting rid of anything. Treatments include Vikane (in the US), thermally, or by some other method. The fact is that at the time this was happening to me, I was not in the financial position to do that, and therefore did not take any costly options into consideration. I recommend you do this if you are able.
I'd also like to say something about the freezing treatment - I have come to the conclusion after reading numerous articles on this that heat is a much better option than cold when it comes to treating possessions or an apartment/house. Bed bugs can lie dormant in the cold, while extreme heat (130 - 140 degrees F) will kill the pests immediately. Of course, I could not heat electronics such as my laptop to that high of a temperature without it melting, so I thought freezing it would be my next best option. I wouldn't quite say this method is guaranteed to work for everyone, but it did for me.
Bed bugs have made a huge resurgence in the news this past year. It is becoming very clear that this has become a big problem in major cities across the globe. It is distressing to me that there is still no concrete proposal from city officials to eradicate this problem. I wonder how bad it will have to get before a plan is put in place.
PS, we've still got things wrapped up in bags and duct taped in storage. Just in case!
One more thing. I mentioned in the original post that our only choice was to move because the PCO treatment was not working, and our neighbors on the 1st and 2nd floors did not want to treat the entire building. I read treesinbrooklyn's success story, which shows that is it possible to treat your own apartment, even if you have a neighbor with an infestation. Please refer to that post if moving is not an option for you.
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