W. O. Buggy’s bed bug elixir: get yours here! Or, some notes about bed bug detection and treatment options

by Winston O. Buggy on May 22, 2007 · 19 comments

in bed bug detection, bed bug education, bed bug research, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, history, pesticides, thermal treatment, tools and weapons

Editor’s note: this is part two in what will be a three- (or more) part series by a well-known bed bug professional, writing under the pseudonym,
Winston O. Buggy. Thanks again, Winston!

On sale here!
Dr. Winston O. Buggy’s bed bug elixir.
This material will kill em, kill the eggs, shine your multi-colored hobnail boots, and it smells good too.
Sounds too good to be true?
Well, it is.

At the outset, we professionals felt that the materials that were available for general pest control to treat roaches, ants, etc., would work just fine for bed bugs. They hadn’t been around for a while so they should be easy to knock off. Well, as most of you can attest to, not so. Gentrol insect growth regulator was at first thought to be a long-term addition to the arsenal, but here too the buggers came out ahead in the long run. In fact, treatments for bed bugs are among the more complex ones, it is like treating for termites or the elimination of established urban rodent colonies. But it’s made even more problematic because of the bed bugs’ close proximity to people and their personal belongings. Since W. O. Buggy’s elixir is not available (and mind you it did not contain DDT), the question is what is available and where are we today in terms of bed bug control. There are several ways to attack this problem as well as several different types of materials. And it is important to understand that no one material, treatment or approach will do the whole job.

First question: why do you think you have bedbugs? Remember several things can appear like or cause “bites”: soaps, allergies, meds, mites, mosquitoes, fleas, heat, etc. At this point, you should conduct an inspection. You will need a flashlight, toothpick and magnifying glass. I recommend the Rim-Free Lighted 2x Magnifier from Radio Shack, primarily because the angle and LED hit the spot, great for furniture and other seams ($10). Open the door, turn on the light, then proceed to stick that toothpick everywhere it can go and examine these spots. High, low, behind and under moving back carpets checking between clothes turning over couches and beds all this has to be done. One spot of note in older apartment buildings are steam risers which are found in the bathroom usually next to the hamper.

Did you find anything? What is it? keep a sample in a pill case or some other escape-proof container in which it won’t get squished. If it is positively identified as a bed bug, try like the dickens to figure out how you got it. Because this will be an important barometer which can establish a time frame, important so as to avoid re-introduction, let you know if perhaps it’s a good time to get a new boy or girlfriend, and if its possibly time to rush to that suitcase stored in the closet which has bed bugs trapped inside since your last excursion and treat or discard it.

If it is identified as a bed bug you need to follow the mechanical steps of control; perhaps these were highlighted best by Dr. Potter in a recent Bedbugger post.

With that out of the way, you may and probably should go chemical. First off if a product is non-toxic, it means it doesn’t kill– so lets get rid of that word because we obviously want it to kill the little suckers. Soaps are for dirty bugs (and perhaps Jess) and you really have to coat them: fine for your garden aphids but for a cluttered home, I think not. Enzymes are good, they kill on contact as well as most products and they have a low toxicity to non-target organisms. It also allows for repeat applications, but remember they only kill what they contact. Same with some of the alcohol products such as SteriFab. Of course, here you can get an unwanted synergistic effect if you do the treatment by candle light (Don’t! It’s Flammable!) and alcohol stains, well actually removes the finish and bleaches.

Next we have the traditional chemical approach. With the exemption of a few specifically exempt status products, pesticides must be registered for use with the EPA and must have an EPA registration number on the label. The label itself is a legal document which will list the pests that the product can be used for and the manner in which it must be used. While no pesticide is completely safe (remember we are using it to kill things), the real danger is in the misuse. If a product such as Tempo WP is labeled to be mixed with a gallon of water and sprayed into cracks and crevices, the risks it presents are limited.. But if you take that same pack and pour it around or use it as a dust the inhalation hazard is significant. Unfortunately, it may even appear to be working at first because it may actually be repellent for a while but in the meantime you and possibly others are inhaling it. I have seen this practice repeated with flea powders and a whole range of products which when used improperly increase the chance of exposure, and hence the hazard.

So what is available? Well, as mentioned in my first piece, misguided legislation have forced many products out of the market. Some due to legitimate concerns, some due to a lack of true scientific evaluation and feel-good politics, and some because they simply could not afford to maintain registration due to increased requirements. A prime example of this is Ficam, a material which is used elsewhere with a degree of success, but here in the US is no more. The same in fact would have been true of Drione, one of the remaining effective dusts. Prior to the bed bug outbreak this product was due to go by the wayside simply because of economics, and now it is probably one of the good long-term materials when used properly in wall voids, outlet covers and cracks and crevices. For best results try applying it with a blush or other brush.

Now that summer is upon us, heat and humidity in some parts will cause an increase in bed bug activity. But in the world of control it is our friend, and the bed bugs’ enemy. While steaming is here and will continue to improve as more work is done, heat treatments of items and apartments will also increase as technology improves. The technology is here, it is just not cost-effective yet. Mattress covers specifically for bed bugs are also coming of age. They now come in different qualities. There are some decent heavy vinyl ones for under $30 and some more comfortable ones at $70 and up. I suggest you reinforce contact points such as bed frames with duct tape. With these covers you must remember to leave them on for a full year. While there are many improvised bed bug traps like the use of carpet tape and current glue traps, they are passive and you hope that the bed bug finds it and crawls into it as opposed to going under it, as they so love to do. Within the year, new traps will be coming out utilizing a synthesized aggregate pheromone. FYI, these are already used for a number of pests including roaches. And as time goes by newer and improved versions will come out but these will remain a monitoring tool and not a cure.

So perhaps the take-home message here is that to be successful you will have to use several materials and methods and use them in a systematic approach to get and stay bed bug-free. At this point, I would like to include a link and while you may not chose to, or be able to use the mentioned products and I’m not recommending you do, it does provide a good blue print for a control program.

Perhaps one of the most encouraging directions bed bug control has taken is in the area of education. I believe, along with others, that the increased informational flow in regard to bed bugs through both print and web media has played a significant role in reducing the time it takes many people to properly diagnose the cause of their problem. By reducing this time frame they end up treating the infestation early and are more likely to achieve lasting control quicker. It is also my opinion that this site is the best broad-based site that I know of, in part due to administration as well as a cadre of dedicated, intelligent folks.

1 wantmyskinback May 22, 2007 at 9:57 am

Winny O. Love this peice. Bubbly and well written…easy to follow. Thanks!!! Hope all the newbuggers can enjoy it and find sound advice here.

2 lieutenantdan May 22, 2007 at 10:27 am

Thank you for taking time to help us.

When we discovered our infestation little information was available. I had to research like crazy to find opinions on PCOs, chemicals and how to and what not to do. It has been a trying and stressful time for me, my wife, my dog and family. I wish more professional people would take an hour or two every other week to help and provide us with this kind of information. Please, I can’t begin to stress the importance when providing information to always include the fact that all people who experience an infestation develop some form of delusory parasitosis which in my opinion, in extreme can be life threatening causing substantial amount of stress taxing your heart and mind and relationships.

Again, Thank you.

3 nobugsonme May 22, 2007 at 11:37 am

lt. dan– if you actually have bed bugs, I don’t think “delusional parasitosis” is the right term. Is it? 🙂

Winston, thanks again for your contributions. I’m always grateful when bed bug professionals contribute either in posts like this or in the comments.

4 lieutenantdan May 22, 2007 at 12:39 pm


Good point. I thought that I was using the correct term.
Maybe not and if not I stand corrected.

How many times during the day have you felt as if something was crawling on you or biting you and when you check you see nothing?

This happens several times a day to me and I have not seen a bug for months.
This can happen anywhere at anytime. What would one call that experience? Once upon a time I just called it an itch.
I have never felt this way before I had an infestation. I am convinced that it will take years for me to get over this. Do I still have bed bugs? I do not know.

5 Winston O. Buggy May 22, 2007 at 1:00 pm

It is certainly not clinical delusional parasitosis if you have truly had bed bugs
because there is a basis for the concern and responses from your immune system / histamines can be triggered which may give the sensation of something crawling.
Of course there is a point when you have to move on. People deal with stress differently and people have different physical responses and levels of infestation.
So having battled bed bugs part of that battle is moving on. Easier said then done.
Occasionally pest management professionals have to deal with folks who want absolutes, shh here’s a trade secret, there are no absolutes (except for vodka). We can look at the service record, take your word in regard to your preparation, comings and goings, etc; and try to arrive at what you want to hear and what we
would love to tell you, that yes we absolutely got every one and yes there is no way they will be back but it just ain’t so in every case every time.

6 nobugsonme May 22, 2007 at 1:25 pm

Lt. Dan,

The clinical term for what you’re describing is formication. It can be caused by bed bugs (a histamine reaction as Winston describes). It can also be felt by sufferers of DP, but your cause is not delusional. In some ways, knowing the source is better than not, in my opinion. How’s your bed bug situation at home? I hope they’re gone soon, if not yet.


Here’s a question for you, which is coming up on the forums today. As you well know, some PCOs tell clients to bag everything they own for 18 months. Others tell them to bag everything until one or two treatments, and then unbag for the duration of bed bug treatment. Still others tell them to bag nothing, ever (save those laundered clothes, which seems like common ground for all). When it comes to stuff besides freshly laundered clothes, obviously, following your own PCO’s protocol is the way to go. I’m interested if you have any light you can shed on this issue, though. Thanks 🙂

7 lieutenantdan May 22, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Thanks Winston your advice is appreciated.
Like I said I may have used the term incorrectly.
Move on. I have heard that before by people who have never personally experienced an infestation. I believe that once one lets his or her guard down that opens up the possibility of an acquiring an infestation. My infestation has taken several months of my life away from me and also a large sum of money. I could have taken a beautiful vacation to Europe with the money this has cost me. Have you personally experienced an infestation? Most professionals have not. Several PCOs and the two dozen Entomologists that I have spoken with have not and my Doctors have not. I still find it hard to sleep on my AIR mattress not knowing if a disgusting little blood sucking parasite will suck my blood for three minutes while I sleep and poop all over me and my furniture and possibly give me a disease.

8 Winston O. Buggy May 22, 2007 at 7:13 pm

Although I have been bitten on two occasions once willingly and once not I
have not suffered the sleepless nights, bites and swelling, anxiety and self inflicted embarrassment that many have felt. I have tried to IMAGINE what going home to hungry vampyres must be like and it must suck. I have felt bad telling folks they have to throw stuff out and have sometimes held back, perhaps I should have been more linear. I have spoken before a number of groups, some of whom consisted of case workers who told of horrible conditions. I no longer look forward to staying in hotels search the room upon check in and when my apartment was painted I went out and bought an air mattress to avoid the hotel scene. But no I have not lived with them. But I feel I as I am sure other professionals do that we have a level of understanding.
I will tell you that I have also encountered people who deliberately did nothing about their bb because 1. they wanted to sue the landlord 2. Were used to them and didn’t seem to care 3. Just did not want to be bothered 4 Were waiting for someone else to come and clean the apartment. That really pissed me off.

9 James Buggles May 22, 2007 at 8:51 pm

Are there situations in which bedbugs would first hide in a location other than the mattress/bed or do they always reside there first until they run out of room?

10 nobugsonme May 22, 2007 at 9:27 pm

I’ve heard a number of other bed bug professionals describe what they do when they go to hotels. It’s convinced me that one does not have to have had bed bugs in order to imagine how bad bed bugs are. It sounds like you have a pretty good idea too.

11 jessinchicago May 22, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Ahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa!!! Soap! I assume that’s a reference to my (humiliatingly) famous dirty mouth, huh? Too funny.

Winston, I just love it when you write for us. You talk to us, not down to us, and you make a whole lot of sense.

Once again, thank you for taking the time. It is much appreciated.

12 hymenoptera May 22, 2007 at 11:26 pm

I’m really getting a lot out of this post and the comments too.

13 willow-the-wisp May 23, 2007 at 2:41 pm

I’ll certainly second that last remark.
The formication and the D.P. … well it is sort of hard to know which is which, especially if you are in the midst of a battle with the bugs. And, moving on is harder for some of us and for many reasons: Seemingly, I’ve moved on to a large degree, yet I know I have to keep my guard up for various reasons:

a–The way they treat for bed bugs here where I live (including I will likely be the last room to get the shoddy bed bug treatment again–If it comes down to that again).

b–Many neighbors do many things, one would hope they would NOT do, if one did not want to become continually re-infested. I’ve tried talking reason…

c–they are just in the neighborhood now. That last fact alone, is cause for constant concern, yet I am, for the most part “adjusting down” from high alert about Bed bugs accordingly, to my constant, semi-harrowing living situation.

Some absolute do not’s after treatment for people who really want to be hyper vigilant:

1–do not … sit on your isolated and protected bed ever, nor should you ever put anything on the bed unless you know 99% sure that you, and whatever is being put on the bed–is bed bug free.
(Either that, or check your bed well every week.

2–check the bed about once a month well, after the infestation is gone.

3–Strategic and proactive placement of Fresh Water Diatomaceous Earth

4–keeping laundry more separated and more isolated and cleaner than you used to, unless you were already an “on overkill laundry-wise type” anyway.

Those 4 things are not too hard to do and will not absolutely guarantee you will never become infested again–but they will certainly help and so I recommend this for everyone in the entire world–whether you have the bed bugs or not.

If everybody in the world did these 4 things–bed bugs might have “nowhere to go–but into crowded public places. I smile when I think how we, as a global society, could isolate them out of our homes and into public places only. So much easier to treat 10 or 20 public places aggressively, and thoroughly, (I think) rather that 10,000’s of private dwellings individually.

Will it happen? Probably not … But we can do our best to keep them from setting up house in our homes again. Oh yeah, and very good strategic vacuuming and steaming and cleaning too … so make it 5 basic things. I correct myself rather than edit myself.

Thanks Winston O. Buggy this was really worth the extra wait!
Question … So you say you bring a blow up air mattress to hotels WITH you?
If so … where do you put it at night for sleeping?

14 Winston O. Buggy May 23, 2007 at 4:52 pm

Sorry willow if I didn’t make myself clear I said I bought an air mattress to
avoid going to a hotel when they painted my apartment room by room.
James B bed bugs may be in a lounge chair or couch if enough time is spent there
say home bound folks. Sometimes they will be content just behind a headboard for
a while or in privacy curtains in nursing homes. I actually just got back from
reviewing a really bad infestation in an apartment. It has already spread to 3
adjacent units in a T shape with them at the base. In this case the management company is doing there best to help but it’s a lot of bugs. Elderly couple clean but
with a fair amount of accumulated memorabilia, yeah they knew they were getting bitten but it didn’t really bother them.

15 willow-the-wisp May 23, 2007 at 5:10 pm

This is a timely comment, the 83 y. o. in my building whom I helped de-infest” the bed last week saw me just now, as I came in. He said the “termite” people were supposed to have come today and he’s got all of his stuff bagged but that he can’t stay all day and wait for them. So … apparently management here is more on the ball when people get me involved. That is good for them but not so good for me, if you know what I mean. Yes, he said “termite people.”
I have noted in my long career working with elderly that they so very often are so absolutely terrified that they will be blamed for things like water pipes breaking (and now bed bugs.) Could it be that this particular couple perhaps was fearful beyond reason Winston–Although you said the building was doing a lot to help out?

I have seen it time and time again. Elderly afraid of management, afraid of having to give up their home or their memorabilia, and often afraid the next stop would be a home. Maybe this will help you get a sense that some people only act like they don’t really care–and those often are the one’s who are so fearful–they stuff it to the point they don’t even know it is fear–And then we call THAT flat out denial. or, “FEAR BASED DENIAL.”

AND OH … YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN THE “DIRTY DARTS THROWN AT ME FROM THE MANAGER TODAY … (I usually throw them right back but this weekend is not the time for that.)

16 Winston O. Buggy May 23, 2007 at 5:25 pm

On More Time, Sorry Willow, But not in this case. Although I have seen it happen
in addition I have seen people with questionable legal status be victimized
or have kept it to themselves.

Actually in one of my power points I have a slide with bed bug treatment
accessories and I list the following with a grphic
… Darts; if your really good or really desperate!

17 willow-the-wisp May 23, 2007 at 5:43 pm

perhaps it “willow” “all come out in the wash” … in part three or …
donno but I’m glued to the chair, which; BTW, has three layers if plastic bags duct taped to it

18 willow-the-wisp July 23, 2007 at 10:13 am

I was reading thru these comments again, sudenly noticed my reply above was the last–and–exactly 2 months ago.
Are any new bites reading these blog comments and the articles?
All the above is great info and banter!
I guess I’m getting old or something … I don’t recall if “Winstons part three” ever materialized. parts one and two, again were well worth my reading, yet again.

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