The Lord of The Bedbugs: An Epic Infestation That Never Was(19 posts)
In June of 2010, I woke up in the morning and noticed weird bites around my waistline. I figured something bit me as I was out on the patio the day before. The bites were bites, like mosquito bites, but didn't really itch, and numbered around 6 the first time (some were in rows of 3). Nothing bad really, just little bites... Until the the next day...
Not only did I get 5 more bites the next day, the bites from the day before began to itch, and itch they did, like no other itch I have ever experienced in my life. They started swelling up, about double the size. I went to the doctor. When I told him what I was experiencing, he looked at me like I was a leper. It was embarrassing. He got closer, and looked at the bite with a magnifying glass. I knew he knew why I was there. Its been all over the news in NYC. I'm worried about bed bugs.
"It's definitely bites of some kind... Some kind of infestation." he says.
I ask him if it could be bed bugs, as I had seen some recent trends in the news.
"yes, it could be. It could be anything really. Its hard to say from just looking at the bite."
He prescribes me a cortisone cream and sends me on my way. Apparently, infestations are not his speciality. I don't blame him. I would have kicked me out too.
I start googling bedbugs. New York pops up first as the "undisputed" capital. Great, I think. I ask my two roommates if they have experienced any bites. "Nope," they both say. I assume they both don't react to bites. Only a fraction of people do. I read this on the internet.
As per the various articles and sites dealing with the subject I follow protocol and look around my bed, bedframe, and walls.
I find nothing.
No blood stains. No bugs. No nymph's or larvae. No feces. Absolutely nothing.
I do more research.
"They are elusive," I read.
"They hide in cracks and crevices," I read more.
"They can survive for almost a year without feeding but that is the least of your wories since once you get them, they are notoriously difficult to get rid of."
I'm sick to my stomach. I've got bed bugs. This is totally what I'm dealing with here.
I go to the Duane Reade drug store near work in midtown. I've always been a "do it yourself" person and figured I could make a project out of this. I buy every bug spray ever. I buy bug spray that says "kills bedbugs". I buy bombs (which I later learn exacerbates the problem). I've washed my sheets. Washed my clothes. I spray bug spray. I fire off bombs. I leave town for two days. Experience 2 days bite free. Return. Put on new sheets and my washed blanket and everything else in hot water with high heat. Wake up. Bites. Three more bites. Its only been a week since the first bites and now I'm covered with about 15 itchy welts. It was extremely frustrating, and all of the bites occurred around my waist, with a few near my thighs, an one on my arm. These evil bastards, I think. My clothes hurt to wear. They are doing this on purpose, I think. They are diabolical. They eating me one section of my body at a time. It was symmetrical. They would do one half of my body in same spot as the other half. Smart suckers. Literally.
I assume its nice and warm around my waist/thigh area I've read that they "like the warmth," and its probably like a sauna under my belly (I'm a 6 foot 200 lb male).
I read an article about DE, about steamers, about how bed bugs are just so hard to get rid of. I buy a steamer. I steam everything. Its not a vapor steamer though. I got the cheap-o walgreen steamer for $40 because I live in NYC and rent is a billion dollars. Supposedly it causes moisture buildup, which can lead to mold. Wonderful.
I steamed everything anyway. Mold is the least of my worries.
Literally, every last piece of furniture, bedding, cracks, walls, dressers, chairs. All of it. Steamed to all hell.
The bites stop. Finally.
I get 2 weeks without any bites. And then they return. I return to panic mode and run the steamer again, and after, I augment with DE powder. I put it around my bed. A few more bites come, even after the steam and the DE. I'm freaking out. I need to call the pros.
I decide that this is not the project for me. This must stop. I finally called my landlord. She's appalled by my revelation. She says that they have never had a problem. I believe her. I say they could have hitched a ride on the crowded subway, or crawled up from the restaurant under my apartment. Who knows. I tell her I have all the tell tale signs.
"have you found any?" she asks.
I tell her no, but that its not unusual not to find them. No argument from her. She decides to send an exterminator. The exterminator finds nothing. I'm confused. I tell her that I'm not crazy, and I look up bed bug detection only to find that its not perfect. They've got god damn dogs that are trained for years just to sniff them out. Thats how hard it is. My landlord has always been inept at best. We've had numerous issues in getting them to fix things and had a rat problem which I think they poorly tackled (it took weeks to get rid of them). I figured this was all the help I was getting.
After my landlord failed to help, the bites come and go for weeks. I steam. I spray deltamethrin. I keep getting bit. Every 3 days. Every 5 days. I think I'm in the clear, and then I do my normal waist, arm, thigh, inspection in the morning only to be shocked that I've been bit again. Despair. Sorrow. Depression. NYC is trying to kill me, I think. I go days, sometimes weeks, and then bam. Bite. Bites. 1, 2, sometimes 3.
Finally summer ends and so do the bites. After about 6 months, I get a couple of bites one day. I freak out, but don't do anything. I want to see what happens when I do nothing. No other bites come for a year. I assume maybe they were rogue. This city has a problem, they pulled a hit and run. I'm bite free for over a year.
Fast forward to June of 2012. Same bites come back. Its been over a year without anything occurring. I figured I beat them. This time I wait before freaking out. Alas, the bites continue. I would wake up with a couple, every morning. Several days pass and I decide I wasn't dealing with this again. I call my landlord to help this time. To help for real. I demand that she send a beagle to sniff them out. My apartment has 5 giant rooms and there was no way I could afford the inspection and treatment ($500 per room to treat, $500 to inspect). She says the last PCO didn't find anything nearly 2 years ago, and prodded me as to why I didn't say something since then. I couldn't tell her it was because I thought she was an inept landlord who was mentally deficient. I had a pretty good deal on this place. It was a big and near the train, but I digress.
She caves and informs me that a canine inspection was going to take place. Finally. This is what I need. Proof that I'm not crazy. Proof that these invisible monsters are taking vengeance on me for murdering their parents. Alas, I'm starting to sound like a crazy person to myself. I'm scaring myself now. I'm losing it.
The next day, I get an email. Its from my landlord and contains the report from a well known PCO with a canine team. It's NEGATIVE for bed bugs. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I'm crazy. I'm insane. I'm a crackpot. This whole time I'm treating my apt with poison, and I'm using psychic powers to create these bites or whatever they are.
I go to the dermatologist this time.
He looks at my welts, I tell him that I thought it was bed bugs. He seems quick to dismiss them as the cause. I ask him why.
"well, its the summer. People go to the park, get bit by all kinds of things. It doesn't have to be bedbugs." I think to myself that this doctor is a moron. He's worthless. These are bed bug bites. He's confirmed they are bites. "What else could they be," I ask. He prescribes me cortisone cream. I continue to prod him for his input. "fine, I can inject you with an antihistamine, and make those bites go away in 2 days." I agree and take 5 shots in my waist. How did I get to this point? I hate shots. But these bites were hell.
I turn to the internet yet again. I google "no bedbugs found but still being bit." What I found astonishes me. It blows my mind. It gets the gears in my head spinning. It all makes sense. Why didn't I see this somewhere during my research? I just Doctor House'd this issue. and this was what it was:
GOD DAMN CARPET BEETLE LARVAE HAIRS.
I have seen carpet beetles in my apartment before. They are quite common in NYC. They cannot bite. I paid no mind before since bedbugs were clearly the enemy here. Sure enough, they can't bite, but carpet beetle larvae can crawl around my felt sofa, which I would sit on every night before going to bed, while watching TV.
I also read that carpet beetle hairs stiffen with static electricity and turn them into rigid spears. I've been getting shocked nonstop at my new office. Something with the rug there and my sneakers.
There pointy, spear like, hairs falling out as they crawl along.
These hairs, lodging themselves in my clothing.
Specifically, around the tighter spots were there is constant skin contact. My waist. Carpet beetles eat clothing and fabric.
I realize I must rid my apartment of these hairs and the beetles.
I went to PC Richard's and bought the most expensive vacuum they had (Some Dyson), and vacuumed the life out of my apartment. I sucked up every last ball of lint and vacuumed the apolstery of my furniture.
I read that water and steam are good for making the hairs soft and unable to stab. This would explain why the cheapo steamer helped, but didn't fix my problem completely. I needed to vacuum up all these god damn hairs. And that is what I did and guess what happened?
No more bites appeared. I had finally figured it out. Bed bugs never bit me once in all this time.
I was simply allergic to these carpet beetles hairs and nothing more.
Thanks for taking the time to write this, Scott. We tend to use bites as a diagnostic tool, and there are so many potential culprits such as stress, allergens (which you have to carpet beetle larvae), hormones from pregnancy or other, etc.
This is really helpful to others who may be suffering a similar mystery. Thank you!
I have been meaning to write this for a few weeks now. I've always checked out this board, but this is my first post. There really is very little information on the subject of carpet beetle larvae hair reactions and wanted to share my experience.
I would be curious to know how common it really is since a lot of the remedies are the same for eliminating bedbugs (steaming, vacuuming, washing clothes, and murdering bugs). In the end, people could be paying for PCO treatment when it's completely unneeded while going insane in the process.
Thank you - it adds another dimension to the information on here - for those who don't find samples. Who would have thought? Glad you figured it out!!
What a great post (and great title BTW) to remind us that what causes bites and bite-like reactions in our homes is not always bed bugs. I've been battling an unseen source of bite-like reactions for a year now, but have come to realize that while some signs are consistent with bed bugs--i.e. bite-like reactions on skin after getting up in the morning and feeling itchy every two days to two weeks--other signs simply are not. Mainly that I feel bites at night and during the day too, but never see anything and in spite of numerous searches I have yet to find an actual bug or cast skins anywhere. In a tiny one-bedroom house. And neither have two bed bug dog inspections done a year apart from a reputable company. I do however find carpet beetles, carpet beetles and still more carpet beetles and fleas. Plus some sort of psocids and mites too.
Thank you for this great post. I'm just going to keep vacuuming and misting the air down.
Thank you LA Woman. Have you had a canine inspection yet? I really owe it to that little pooch for saving my sanity. If there is anything that I've learned from this experience, it's about the process of elimination. Find the EXACT cause first then address it.
Sorry, I read too fast. It looks like you had a canine inspection. Any excessive static?
Good luck, Scott...some things in your post are beginning to "ding/ding" with me...don't feel like you need to read this..
Static...I feel a snapping sensation sometimes and our carpet cleaners clean the carpet in my cube regularly because 1) I'm allergic to dust mites and 2) I complained about something "snapping" my feet and there is sometimes a red area around my shoes and/or socks. I go barefoot at home and have wood floors, so never noticed it there. The carpet cleaners told me it was "cable bugs" which is a result of a lot of static from all the cables running through the office with old carpet. It's a kind of static shock.
There is a lot of static in my office (old carpets, lots of computer lines, etc) and I will from time to time feel something snapping at my feet when the humidity decreases (pretty sure it's when it decreases..it's been humid here and I haven't noticed it for a while and now the humidity is decreasing). I was finding that I had less issues when I vacuumed with my hepa filter vacuum myself once a week (it also decreases dust mites on the cube walls..I guess), and it stops for a bit right after the carpet guys deep clean the carpet monthly.
I feel the snapping around my feet, unless a wear certain sandals. It is at its worse where the shoe meets skin. It is generally the foot/ankle area, but sometimes I will feel it where my clothes are tight: waist, bra area, etc. This is interesting. I've never seen beetles in here, but we have an ant problem in the break room and an occassional mouse, so a carpet beetle is probably not out of the question.
You mention getting shocked/snapping, do you get itchy welts/bites where you have this snapping sensation? I never experienced any pain or biting sensation or snapping where the welts appeared, I just remember getting shocked a lot when touching things while this was going on.
Yes, it's not a biting sensation..it's like a rubber band snapped. I should say (since my posts run on) that I have very sensitive skin..the wrong makeup or detergent causes me to break out in rashes. I tend to get these round circular welts. I have have sometimes had some skin issues that look like spider bites with two points of entry a small distance apart.
Originally, there were some sort of marks. It was mostly red, with some welts, and then it would get redder if I scratched it (duh). One time, when it first started happening, I looked down at my Mary Janes and there were red circle all around the exposed skin. My feet were swelling and it was very bad around where the shoe meets the skin. It is less noticeable when I'm on my heavy duty allergy medication (which doesn't rule out anything). Now, it's just red. I don't get shocked often anymore, but I used to. Work is very static and I think I've learned the one pair of shoes work best.
I wonder if I should bring in some lint tape and see if I pull up beetle skin (fyi..I felt something crawling on me 10 minutes ago and it was a black ant..crawling up my wrist..I was sitting outside for 10 minutes and attracted every sort of bug imaginable).
I feel relieved to hear stories about issues other than bed bugs. I am just getting over a bed bug problem, given to me by my neighbour which we discovered last summer. Since then, a pest control company has come in and sprayed every three weeks. I finally had to move out of my home to an apartment in March of this year, but I am still experiencing small "bites".
But I haven't seen one bb since I moved. I have moats on my bed which show nothing. I've sprayed a few times and have DE everywhere. Since I had to keep going to my other place I have been anxious that I might inadvertently carry something to my apartment; I've had to resort to antidepressants and councelling to just get through all of this...
I've read so much on this blog about "mystery bites" but no one ever seems to come back to tell us what the problem actually was, or if it was even resolved. So thanks, Todd.
Sorry! I meant "Scott".
Just wanted you to know you were a lifesaver (or at least a sanity saver). Only cost us $1000 for the whole experience. Was sure we had bedbugs just as you described - bites on both my husband and me, no signs of them, etc. etc. Spent $50 on sprays and bombs which did no good. Hired the dog to sniff around ($300) from very honest company called Round The Clock Pest Control. Company said I did not need fumigation because no sign of bedbugs and their dog didn't alert, even though he showed signs of interest in area near headboard of our bed. Read your story above (loved the title) and did some online research on carpet beetles. Then looked along floorboards beneath headboard and found one happily crawling along. Compared it to computer photo and sure enough it was a carpet beetle. Hired pest control company with free inspection who discovered nest of molted shells in sofa-bed in den (which hadn't been opened in 2 years) and bodies of adults who had been trying to get out on our window sills. Next call to carpet cleaners who steam cleaned carpets throughout house & sofa-bed to tune of $350. Then pest control company came and sprayed entire house with Suspend + growth retardant two times, one month apart (because eggs hatch in about a month) and that was another $300. Rounded out at exactly $1000 which was well worth it just for peace of mind that we didn't have bedbugs and that we got rid of the carpet beetles. At least we hope we did. Read that they often come in on cut flowers (the adults look like ladybugs but different color and they do fly) so the beautiful flowers now stay in our garden and not inside. It is now 1 1/2 months later and all is well. BTW it is the larva who have the microscopic hairs that act like spears. Most people are not allergic to the hair stabs but hubby and I both were. One article said that about 80% of homes in America have carpet beetles at some time or other and probably never know it. They find holes in garments and attribute them to clothes moths. Scott, thanks so much for your humorous and factual report. We couldn't have done it without you. Betty El
Betty, Scott may not be on the website anymore, but this is a well written piece. Since I'm not a strong writer, I admire both how he explained the situation and kept interest going. The experts will say,"Look for proof of BBs" and people don't see the carpet beetle signs. What did the skins look like in the sofa bed? I found some clear skins when vacuuming mine (kind of clear to yellow) and then something that looked like a 3 cocoons under the bottom of my sofa a while ago. I wish I had taken pictures. At work, the carpet cleaners showed me something that looked like sawdust to me around holes in the carpet. It looked different from my sofa.
Hi! Hope I can help. The carpet beetle skins look light tan to yellow to clear. The carpet beetles look almost light and dark brown striped. There is no sawdust stuff (that sounds like termites). Go to Google and type in "carpet beetle images" and you will see what the adults look like and also the larva. The adults are shaped like lady bugs and the larva (which do all the damage causing both holes in clothes and carpets) have hairs sticking out and look like catterpillers 1/4 inch long. It sounds to me like you found the nest under your sofa. Next at Google type in "carpet beetle cycles" and you will get lots of useful information. Are you getting what look like bites? What happens is that static electricity sends these little hairs in the air and they stick into furniture and on the carpet. Then when you sit or lie on the furniture, or walk on the carpet when there is static electricity, the hairs go through your clothes and stick into your skin. If you are allergic, like I am, they cause what looks like bites. They are very red and in my case even when they didn't itch, they lasted a week or longer. Since the redness doesn't come out right away, sometimes hours or days later, it is really hard to pinpoint where you got them. If they are where your clothes are tight, they itch a lot more. Also sometimes I had 3 red marks in a row which is a mark of bedbug bites, so I was sure that was what was causing them. Thank heavens I was wrong. Good luck with identifying and getting rid of your problem. Bettyel
Hope I'm not too late to jump in on this and posted this elsewhere:
I posted here months ago because I was all itchy. Finally found some carpet beetle larvae but didn't remember or never saw what the adults look like. We moved not long after I posted the first time and everything was fine until about a week ago when I started seeing these guys on the couches, which are backed up near a window. I figured a beetle because they were shaped like ladybugs-and I saw the wings move on one. 2 days after that I noticed a few bites on my side. Then a few more the next night over night and then a few more overnight last night. They are suuuuper itchy and have red puncture holes in the middle, nothing like what I was experiencing before with the larvae. I came back here because I suspect bedbugs. Were anyone's "bites" here basically like mosquito bites with a red dot in the middle? They haven't bled but would if I let myself scratch more...
This is a really great post, thank you for sharing it!
It's easy once we get BBOTB (bed bugs on the brain) to remember that there are LOTS and LOTS of other insects, spiders, heebeejeebee things out there that stick, poke, bite, suck etc and leave their calling card.
I have not even written off the fact that there is a possibility that despite the fact I had some bites that led me to believe I had bed bugs (which I DID find btw) that the bites COULD have been from something else because I never once viewed a bed bug snack on me. In the deep extensive cleaning of my apartment, I've found lots of carpet beetles and larvae. For all I know, my reactions could have been related to that and it was just serendipitous I found the bed bug because I was obsessively checking for them convinced that is what was biting me.
Never again will I attempt to correlate bites with a belief of what bit me unless I see it happen with my own eyes. I'm going to be vigilant with passive monitoring and visual signs for bed bugs and that's it. Otherwise every single little itchy spot, welt, etc will be a source of major stress and anxiety for me and that's no way for me to live.
Buggybrained, thanks for writing that, something my husband was trying to tell me last night but was a little irritated with me so It didn't come out quite the way you wrote it, ha. I'm sitting waiting for a pco to come back in and give me a bid for a dog to come inspect. He reminded me it could be anything, also, but that of course bedbugs are always a concern.
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