Needed: Clarification, hope.(8 posts)
Hello all you lovely, itchy people...
I'm a newcomer to the forums, though I've been dealing with BBs for about two months now.
To make a long story short, I had to choose between ending up homeless or moving in with friends of mine until I could get back on my feet... and I didn't know that the place was horribly infested until RIGHT BEFORE I moved in. Cue panic. BBs have been one of my biggest fears for a long time.
I have only actually SEEN two since I moved here- the most recent one was just about an hour ago. He was slow-moving and very very flat, so I suspect he hasn't eaten in a long while... hopefully.
Anyway, the landlady is ignorant and extremely unhelpful so far... the guys I live with are messy and leave clothes and clutter all over the house... and the house we live in is three floors, and so full of cracks, nooks, and crannies, that I nearly cried when I tried to get a feel for where the little assholes could hide.
I'm currently on government assistance. I'm piss broke. I have some help from my parents, but they're not rich by any means, and can only help with a few hundred dollars at most.
I'm also in Ontario, Canada.
My questions are...
Am I stuck here forever? Basically, it's dismayingly clear that the infestation will take AGES to clear up, if we are ever successful. Due to financial issues, the guys feel they need to wait three more weeks before calling in the exterminator and this problem has already been going on for at least six months... I do NOT want to think about how many BBs there are in this place.
I'm thinking that my best bet is to seal everything I can live without, load it all in a truck, have the truck treated with vikane gas, and stick it all in a storage unit for two years. What do you think?
How paranoid do I need to be? I have obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety issues, and as you can imagine, they're in overdrive in this situation. I need a decent idea of how paranoid I should be. I've been keeping small things in ziplocks; do I need to worry that there are bugs on the mouths of the bags? If I touch the outside of a bag, is my hand now contaminated? If I rest a bag on the floor for a few minutes while I fold my clean laundry and load it in, is the bag contaminated? Should I be freaking out about putting socks on before I leave the house, even if it's just in the doorway? Can I re-wear clothes that have been stored in a bag? Is it OK to reuse bags if I've kept them tied up or in the freezer while empty? Just give me a ballpark figure... I've been acting as if my whole house is covered in AIDS-infected blood and it's running me ragged. Pretty tempted to just burn the place down.
I have dreadlocks. Please, leave your prejudices at the door. I take good care of them, and yes, they are clean. They're pretty precious to me; they reach to my thighs and I've had them for nearly six years. I've been keeping them in a tight bun at all times while in the house except when I wash them (once a week, which is already irritating my sensitive scalp... it only accepts twice monthly washing without complaint... I know that SOUNDS gross, but I've had very honest friends inspect me many times and there's never been any ickiness). I've read here and there that BBs don't like hair and won't go in it... I need some reassurance. I keep them covered when I sleep just to be sure, and when I wash them I let the length soak under scalding water for a while... should I be worried?
I'm an artist. This is the really tricky one. I have tons of art supplies, delicate papers, finished artwork, and a collection of hideously expensive markers that I don't just use daily, but rely on to bring in money as I live off of commissions (and I have commission work to finish). How the hell do I decontaminate them enough to safely bring them to a new place? I certainly can't store them for 18 months, and none of this stuff can be boiled, frozen, or put in the dryer. Direct pesticide spraying is very dubious... and I don't trust my art in the microwave. I don't want to mail my commissioners buggy art... Help? *cries*
Technology. I've not been able to find anything conclusive when it comes to decontaminating tech. I have an old IBM powerbook, a horribly expensive tablet (that I also need for my art), an external hard drive, and a PC, along with various accessories. So far it's looking like my only surefire option is the 18mo storage... Any ideas?
Critique my decontamination routine! I go to my boyfriend's house every weekend. I obviously am terrified of infecting them, so this is what I do before I leave...
1. I wash and dry the clothes I plan to wear in hot. They go in the dryer for a full hour.
2. While my clothes are drying, I shower in the hottest water I can stand. I bring my glasses in with me because I'm scared of them getting buggy if I put them down. I run them under scalding water for a few seconds too. I keep them in a ziplock while I sleep.
3. I wash my hair (mostly just my scalp, as it would take a whole bottle of shampoo and two hours of rinsing to do the whole length of my hair) and rinse thoroughly. When the shampoo is gone, I let the lengths run under scalding water for as long as I can stand it. This is definitely not pleasant and I've burnt myself a bit doing this, but I'd rather that then bring house herpes with me.
4. I turn off the water and dry off without leaving the stall. I use a clean towel that was kept in a bag, though I've had it hung (not touching anything else) on the towel rack while I've been in the shower. Is that bad? Should I keep it in a bag until the second I use it?
5. I get out of the shower on tiptoe, put on my deodorant as quickly as possible (not bagged), grab my sidebag and my shoes in their tied up bags and throw them out the back door, run downstairs and get dressed right out of the dryer as quickly as possible while doing a stupid little tip-toe dance and trying not to let my clothes touch the floor... I cram my socks in my pocket and I run back upstairs and out the back door, and I put on my socks, shoes, and bag in the back yard. Makeup and stuff I do in transit... I don't care if people look at me funny.
Is this good enough? My cellphone is kept in a ziplock at home, and I take it out of the bag to put it in my sidebag, though sometimes I put it in a new bag then put it in my sidebag... I take things out of their bags and toss them back inside, usually tied up. I sometimes reuse them after putting them in the freezer for a few days. I thought that was okay but after doing more reading, I'm not sure.
Augh... please help. I feel like I've got six STDs or something. My boyfriend says that he's comfortable with me coming over because of the precautions I take... but I want your opinions.
Sorry for the long post... I'm a bit off my rocker lately. I wish the heebie-jeebies would stop!
P.S.- The most useful thing I've done for myself so far is sleeping in Ninja Pyjamas! Shirt tucked into pants... pants tucked into socks... shirt sleeves tucked into armwarmers... those tucked into socks on my hands... A t-shirt with neck and sleeves ziptied shut goes over my head, and a bandana goes around my head to protect my hair in case I pull it off my face in my sleep. I tuck the bottom the head-shirt into the neck of the torso-shirt, but loosely, which isn't the most reassuring thing, but I can't seal myself in or I'll wake up freaking out. I had an incident before I started doing this where I woke up with a TON of bites, SIXTEEN of which were in clusters all over one side of my face, and I was so pissed off that it completely ruined my whole day. Since I started sleeping in my ninja PJs, I haven't been bitten a single time. Also, the shirt covering your face makes it much easier to sleep with the light on... try it, seriously! It looks totally dumb, but not being horribly itchy with Quasimodo face is utterly worth it.
Hi and welcome! I'm not sure how to put this, but since you asked... my honest answer to "how paranoid do you need to be" is "not as much as it sounds like you are". You can relax a little bit.
Though a lot of what you're doing is good, it sounds like you're also stressing out about a lot of things needlessly. Remember that even the tiniest of baby bedbugs are not invisible: if you hold an object up in good light, you'd be able to see a little speck crawling around.
In my experience, they don't crawl on you unless they're about to bite you, and they normally won't do that while you're awake and moving around unless they're hungry and desperate. When I've had bugs crawl onto me while I've been awake, they've usually bitten me right where they first got to me -- on the bottom of my foot, for example. And once they've fed, they hustle off to the nearest hiding place. They don't generally like to just get onto you and hang out there.
We've heard horror stories about dreadlocks, but it sounds like you've got that under control. The scalding water should kill 'em, or at least physically remove them, and if they were hanging out on your scalp, they'd also be biting you on your scalp, so you would know.
"I've been keeping small things in ziplocks; do I need to worry that there are bugs on the mouths of the bags?"
No. Hold it up to light and look for anything moving, but probably not -- they don't like to climb or hang out on plastic. They prefer organic materials (cardboard, paper, wood, fabric). They also don't usually lay eggs on plastic.
"If I touch the outside of a bag, is my hand now contaminated?"
No, not unless you see a bug on it.
"If I rest a bag on the floor for a few minutes while I fold my clean laundry and load it in, is the bag contaminated?"
Probably not, though it's theoretically possible if it was sitting there for long enough that a bug climbed onto the outside of the bag. Maybe alcohol wipes would help (both for your hands and the outside of bags?) I don't think it's very likely though.
"Should I be freaking out about putting socks on before I leave the house, even if it's just in the doorway?"
I wouldn't think so, though if there's a bug that wants to bite you, it would certainly crawl onto your socks if it had the chance, so I wouldn't hang out in the house with the socks on.
"Can I re-wear clothes that have been stored in a bag? Is it OK to reuse bags if I've kept them tied up or in the freezer while empty?"
Yes and yes. I do it all the time.
As for things like your glasses... if they were on your glasses, you would see them. They're not likely to crawl onto there in the few minutes you're in the shower, but if you just hold the glasses up in good light and look for anything that moves, you'll see the bugs.
The same goes for pieces of artwork: I would say keep them in plastic to the extent you can (large ziplocs?) but unless we're talking about highly complicated sculptures with lots of nooks and crannies, you can probably inspect before sending them off to their new homes and they will be fine. You can also put some things in the freezer, just use your judgment as to what will get damaged and what won't. If you go that route, make sure your freezer is turned as low as possible, and keep them in there for a few weeks. (Yes, this isn't as sure as heat, but it's worked for me -- it just doesn't work if you have something very bulky, that would insulate the bugs from the cold.)
Otherwise, just isolate -- keep stuff in bags unless you're using it, and inspect before and after use. If there are any bugs or eggs in it, they'll eventually come out in search of food, and you'll probably spot them.
I *have* had a bug crawl onto a towel in the bathroom that was hanging there while I showered. If the towel is dry, maybe you can leave it bagged until you use it.
I admire your ability to sleep with the shirt over your face like that -- I would feel like I was suffocating! I did the socks-tucked-into-pants thing for awhile, but then they did bite me in whatever places I left exposed, so gave it up. As you said, bites on the face are the worst.
Wirehead, thank you so much. I'm definitely panicking a bit less!
Uh oh. Horror stories about dreadlocks? Now, I've gotta know. Do you think BBs would lay eggs in them? I do keep them covered while I sleep, but I've always been terrified about getting bugs in my hair. The knots themselves are pretty tight, but I'm sure a nasty little 1st instar could find SOMEWHERE to hide if it got on them. I need to buy a bucket so I can immerse my hair in hot water...
Is it the heat of the water that kills them? I've heard that just water won't kill them.
About re-wearing stored clothes, I spend most of my day sitting at my desk. Is it likely that they'd lay eggs on my clothes while I stay mostly still? The thought is horrifying.
Okay, so it's reasonably ok to put my socks on just before I step out the door. I've been assuming that the second something touches the floor, it's contaminated... though I've read elsewhere that it actually takes a few minutes for them to locate you and crawl on. Thoughts?
Aw, gross. Okay, so I'll be keeping my towels bagged until I use them! Thanks.
Usually I hate sleeping with anything on my face, but since the Quasimodo incident, it seems so preferable that I've just gotten used to it. To avoid feeling like you're suffocating, choose a t-shirt that isn't really really thick. I use one that I can breathe through pretty well, and I snug the fabric over my nose/mouth when I get comfy; I can actually breathe pretty easily. Even regardless of discomfort, waking up bite-free and getting proper sleep is totally priceless. It's also a good boost of morale knowing that the little sonsofbitches won't be able to feast on you while you're unaware. HAH! Take that, you assholes.
As anyone who's had to live with these things knows, ANY boost in morale, any bit of humour, anything that helps you de-stress a little is incredibly valuable.
One good thing about this is that I definitely feel like I'll be able to comfort and help anyone else who gets these things, and more quickly and effectively than I am because I'll already know what to do. It's a nice thought, at least!
I'm still not sure what to do about my laptop... hopefully I can get someone to treat a truck full of my stuff with Vikane and then keep them surrounded by DE for a while.
Ah, we also have a cat in the house. I keep the door to my room closed so he can't get in, but he doesn't really come upstairs anyways... how likely is it for him to be carrying hitchhikers? Eggs? Poor kitty... I don't know what we're going to do when the PCO comes in.... if he ever does.
Thanks again, Wirehead! I'd love to hear more opinions from you lovely people. <3
I have a cat and he's been forced to learn to love a warm bath. I don't always shampoo him, but we give him a good wash and brushing. Cats could possibly get eggs on them and move them around the house, but the bugs aren't going to live on the animal - they don't do that. If you wash the cat every few days he/she isn't a concern. When the PCO comes the cat will have to be removed from the house (as will all the people).
I know you don't have much money, but maybe all the people in the house can pitch in to buy a Packtite for after the house has been treated by a professional - you could also use this for when you go to your boyfriend's house and save a lot of work:
FYI - keeping the light on isn't going to keep the bugs away so you can stop that, but I don't blame you for covering your face after such a vicious attack.
Yeah, it's the heat of hot water that kills them, you're right that water alone won't do it. In my experience, if it's hot enough to scald your skin, it's hot enough to kill bugs. But even if it isn't hot enough, it would flush them out.
I don't think they'd lay eggs on your clothing while you were wearing it. They tend to prefer quiet, hidden places to lay their eggs, which is why the seams on mattresses are a favorite spot. They'll look for something that's NEAR a food source, but not ON a food source -- it wouldn't feel "safe". They might bite while you're sitting still for all that time, though.
I can't answer the dreadlocks question. I think someone on here had a problem with them but I don't remember the details -- maybe a forum search would turn it up.
BTW, we have four cats in our apartment, and we just keep them out of the bedrooms. Bathing four cats every few days is just not a feasible project for me. As far as I can tell, the cats aren't getting bitten -- it does happen, but the BB far prefer humans (unlike fleas, they don't have the right sort of legs to crawl through fur).
"I've been assuming that the second something touches the floor, it's contaminated... though I've read elsewhere that it actually takes a few minutes for them to locate you and crawl on. Thoughts?"
Well, mostly the latter. Remember they're insects, not germs or something. I mean, IF you happen to put your foot down right next to one, then yeah, if it's hungry it will probably crawl right onto you since it will be able to sense your body heat right away. If they're farther away they've got to get to you first, and though they're pretty fast, they're actually not as fast as a lot of insects -- I think roaches, say, move faster, and if you've ever seen a house centipede, BB are WAY slower than that. Maybe the speed of an ant.
We have recently had them in our living room, and I'm like a magical bedbug magnet -- apparently I'm delicious. We have three different pieces of furniture, and I've been bitten on all three of them. But it was never immediate -- it was after I'd been sitting there, fairly still (reading or playing a video game) for anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours.
"One good thing about this is that I definitely feel like I'll be able to comfort and help anyone else who gets these things, and more quickly and effectively than I am because I'll already know what to do. It's a nice thought, at least!"
Yeah, I feel that way too. I try to be open with all my friends, coworkers, etc. so that I can act as a resource for them. I've already had people come to me for advice, either because they ended up with an infestation or because they just want to know what to look for when they're traveling or whatever. So, it's unfortunate we had to learn all this to begin with, but if we can help other people out, that's the silver lining.
NYCBugz: Thanks for the advice! I guess I'll wash the kitty right before I take him out of the house... I don't know where I'll put him, as I know the guys at my boyfriend's place won't want the cat in their house, but I'll figure something out...
Damn, I had no idea the Pack-Tite was so expensive. The guys I live with won't be willing to pitch in, I guarantee it. Bummer...
I know it's utterly unscientific, but I did seem to get fewer bites at night with the light on than with it off. I HAVE definitely seen them come out during the day with the lights on, but eh, I dunno... sleeping with the light on makes me feel a bit better. It's kind of like we have a REAL boogeyman.
Wirehead: Yep, seen all sorts of bugs... Ironically, I'm actually a bit of a bug enthusiast, and I even plan on having a pair of African giant millipedes as pets someday. I'm glad I don't have them yet- it would be really scary treating a house with DE and pesticides when you have invertebrates you DON'T want to kill! I'm certainly not enthusiastic about BBs... I kind of admire their tenacity, but I wouldn't shed a single tear if they were completely wiped off the planet.
Ah, I feel your pain, I'm delicious too. BBs love me, mosquitoes love me, and I react badly to all the bites. I wonder if the usual mosquito-avoidant regime of eating garlic and avoiding bananas would make one's blood less palatable to BBs? No harm in trying, I reckon.
Silver lining indeed. At least now I'm learning how to deal quickly and effectively with another infestation if it happens again...
Another general question.... I keep my sidebag, hoodie, and MP3 player/headphones in one of those clear blue recycling bags... yesterday, when I went to put them on, the bag had a teeny hole in the bottom. I assumed that those things were now contaminated- my MP3 player is now quarantined (sad days!), and I ran my sidebag, badges and all, through the dryer, along with my hoodie.
Too paranoid, or just paranoid enough?
The neighbours are really starting to think I'm mental... I'm sure they wonder why I bring a pile of tied up blue bags into the back yard and get ready to go out there. It kind of makes me laugh...
Yeah, I actually like bugs too... except the ones that bite me or invade my space to an unacceptable amount. (One spider in the corner? He can stay. Roaches all over the kitchen? This means war.) House centipedes are lovely... they look like something from an alien planet.
I hadn't heard that about bananas -- maybe I should cut them out of my diet! But, mosquito season is over, so maybe I'll test it out next year. I seriously attract them like crazy -- I can be sitting outside in a large group of friends, and get multiple bites while the people I'm with don't get bitten at all. And sharing a bed with my SO, the bedbugs always bite me, not him! It doesn't matter if we change sides or anything. Some of us are apparently the irresistible chocolate cake of the bug world. (I guess it's good to have a talent? Sigh.)
Awesome detailed discussion. Re: Water temperature when you shower - I think lower temperature would be okay. When showering, it's to flush any bugs off your skin and down the drain. With your hair, yes, I think it's a good idea to keep it covered up as much as possible. When you wash your hair, then that's when it may be a good idea to use hot water, but be careful with your skin.
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