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Bed bugs AND fleas in rural Mexico

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  1. stranded

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    Joined: Oct '15
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    Posted 4 years ago
    Mon Oct 12 2015 0:08:27
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    Okay. So. The saga begins.

    I first got bites -- just two -- in a clean hotel in Mexico City where I kept my suitcases and clothes on my bed and on the floor near it. Stupid, I know. After staying there for four or five days and getting bit on the penultimate day, I packed up my bags and drove two hours to the small city where I am working at a middle school with a grant from the U.S. Government.

    The first three nights there I kept getting bit at night at these people's home where I was staying, where I also held this dirty puppy that for sure had fleas. The bites were generally around my ankles at first but then I started getting them all over my legs and on my upper body when I wore shorts or a loose sweatshirt to sleep. They were in pairs and sometimes threes about two inches apart, which is what made me think they might be bed bugs in the first place. I didn't wake up to anything biting me in the night, but each morning I had 6-8 new bites that I noticed before noon.

    Then the first night in my new place I got bit on my upper body, which I think was because I slept in the same sweatshirt that I had slept in at their house. The people had generously given me a thick wool blanket and a smaller fleece one which I hung from a shelf in the corner of my room to dry for a while because they were damp. They gave it to me clean, but you have to remember that there are no washers or dryers anywhere here, and hot water only in the showers when the boiler has been turned on for a few minutes. The following day, stupidly not having caught on to what was going on because I was in fierce denial, I put the dry blankets on my bed for a while.

    After that I realized I had to face reality and freaked out and quarantined pretty much all my clothes (I had just unpacked them into various drawers) and the blankets in plastic garbage bags and took them to the laundromat the next day. Or what I could carry, anyway. I put my two suitcases in garbage bags as well, although I couldn't close them because they were too big. I put these on the roof. One of the other teachers at the school where I am working came over that evening and helped me search my mattress that night but we didn't see anything. We sprayed it with a can of raid anyway (horribly toxic, I know). Again, I shook out and bagged the bedding I'd been using in thin black trash bags and left it on the roof for a while, but, unfortunately it was the rainy season so I doubt it ever got very hot. The landlord conveniently offered me another blanket that day, which I've been using ever since -- that was early September.

    Everyone I told here seems to think getting rid of bedbugs is as simple as putting stuff out in the sun for a while but everything I've read says they are a nightmare to get rid of. Half the people also think they are the same as fleas in that they come with animals (which are everywhere here, and all filthy) and spread diseases. The one thing they all tell me is that they don't really have those kind of bugs here, but who knows how true that is, since they also seem to think they come from being dirty, so it's possible that people just don't broadcast it. Then again, it's not a place that gets a lot of tourism, so it's very possible that it just hasn't been exposed to them since DDT mostly wiped them out.

    So anyway, I've been keeping most of my clothes in bags when they're not at the laundromat, where I've been having some of it dry cleaned and some of it just washed. It's hard to seal the bags completely since they are very thin plastic and often have holes, and furthermore I just have to tie the top because the only ziplocks I have found were a joke and didn't work at all. I asked the people at the laundromat to wash everything with very hot water and dry it for a long time but I'm not sure they are, and plus I think that would ruin most of my clothes. So far nothing has come back shrunken. Lately, I've gotten sort of lax about the bagging, and started hanging a lot of things up in one of those portable closet things you set up with a bunch of bars. Oh, and I'm renting a single room in a house with a big courtyard between my room, the three rooms next to me -- one in use and the other two empty, but keep in mind that my door is made of plywood with huge gaps underneath it as well as around the pipes that run along my ceiling -- and the family's home, bathroom, and kitchen on the other side. This means that the portable closet thing and my dresser are right next to my bed, because I have nowhere else to put them. I keep my shoes on the floor.

    My dad brought me a cover for my mattress and pillow and a bunch of space bags when he visited about a month ago (being careful to keep all his stuff in a hotel room, where I slept in the other bed in pajamas he'd brought me from home, careful to check that the clothes I was wearing didn't have any bugs in them), and we steamed a bunch of my clothes with a handheld steamer then too. We saw zero bedbugs but I saw one flea. After that, I didn't get any more bites until about two weeks ago when I got something. The placement was kind of similar to the original ones but these weren't nearly as itchy and didn't get nearly as swollen so I didn't know what to make of them. They went away after a few days.

    In the meantime I'd been trying to search my room and found what was maybe one dead bed bug on its back in the corner of my room. I got a picture but it's kind of blurry. I can't decide if it looks like the bedbugs on google or not. I might have found another thing in a white scarf that I (not sure why) kept on the bed one night while I slept and wore the next morning, and maybe one more in another article of clothing but I forget where. They were small so I thought they were like adolescent bed bugs but I guess they could have been fleas? Anyway, I checked my sheets and the outside of the mattress cover and the top of the boxspring and the edge of the bottom with a mirror and the wall behind my bed and my headboard and behind my headboard but hadn't seen any of the awful colonies or blood spots or any of the stuff that comes up on google images.

    ANYWAY so I finally took the bedding sealed up in a space bag to the cleaners and told them I thought it'd been exposed to bedbugs and they said they'd use a special chemical on it. When I went back to get them they were like wow, you did have bugs they were jumping everywhere, my mom said to put them out in the sun so that's what we're doing (great). The next time I went back they were like we've cleaned them 4 times but some are still alive. Now we're going at it with a rock. But pretty much the most definitive thing I've read this whole time is that bed bugs don't jump. So those things that had been incubating in the sealed bag for a while, including two blankets given to me by the lady who I stayed with that has not so clean pets, definitely had a million fleas.

    A few days later, I spread the only flea powder I have been able to find -- some kind of "make your cat small better and also kill fleas" powder I found in the pet section at the grocery store -- all over my floor, left for a few hours, and then swept away what I could from my shitty tile floor. I set up a homemade flea trap with a shallow dish of water and dish soap and a desk lamp on the floor and left it over night, but didn't catch anything that looked like fleas, just a variety of tiny flying insects.

    BUT those blankets are still at the cleaners, undergoing whatever process they've resorted to now -- they might be regretting having agreed to treat them --, and one night about three weeks ago I slept in this pair of socks that I took out of the dirty clothes hamper (gross I know but I'd barely worn them when I put them in there) but not in the Spacebag that I normally seal the dirty clothes in (I don't know why not. What's wrong with me?) They'd been there like that for a day or two when for some reason I decided it was okay to take them out of there and sleep in them. That morning I had a bunch of new bites around my ankles in pairs and one group of four about a centimeter apart. They itched like the first round a month earlier and lasted equally long, probably going to leave more scars. Undoubtedly the same thing.

    A few nights later, I had gotten maybe two more bites per night and I couldn't sleep. Finally, I pulled this big gross armchair that had come with the room away from the wall because I thought I saw a cast skin in it. Under my small wastebasket which had been next to it, I found blood spots. On the other side of the chair, by the way, was where I'd been keeping my dirty clothes hamper. I wasn't crazy! I saw a few adult bed bugs up against the wall where the tile had started to peel away, so I vacuumed them up with my handheld vacuum and put it in a zippered bag and out in the courtyard. I dragged the armchair out there as well. It was impossible to tell if there were eggs left behind after my vacuuming because the edges of my floor are all covered in white paint splatters from when they painted the walls, so I boiled some water and poured it on the area. That night I think I got a couple more bites.

    The following morning, I told the landlord, who offered to "fumigate" for me. I took him up on it and stayed at another teacher's house that night (keeping my stuff in a garbage bag. I'm so worried that I've already infected the first people I stayed with, despite the fact that they keep telling me they haven't noticed anything, I just can't bear the thought of accidentally infecting anyone else when they have all been so exceedingly generous.) I figured I would let him do his amateur thing first since he has a hotel and maybe it wouldn't be so amateur after all, and then if that didn't work, call in the professionals and have to pay -- he wasn't charging me.

    Anyway, when I returned the next day, there was something called an agricultural grade fumigator and its box in the courtyard. It had a reservoir full of liquid, but the box didn't say what chemicals it used. I know that sounds horribly toxic, but the job was done, and after getting headaches from the scent in my room for a couple days, I've finally managed to swing the door open and closed enough to get rid of it. The chair was gone -- not sure if they've gotten rid of it or just moved it somewhere else in the house -- and they'd moved all of the furniture a few inches away from the wall and kindly gotten rid of some of my clutter for me. Remember, my room is so far from air tight, though, that I'm not sure fumigation would do anything but drive them elsewhere. When I saw the landlord, however, he told me that they had gone ahead and fumigated every room in the house. I'm thinking that being in the hotel and apartment rental business he for one understands the gravity of the situation.

    Alright, so it has been six days since the fumigation, and I haven't gotten any more bites. I am planning to ask him to fumigate a second time on the 20th, which will have been 15 days since the first time, hopefully allowing any remaining eggs to hatch. In the mean time, I set up homemade traps around the legs of my bed since I saw how to make them in this University of Florida video http://news.ufl.edu/archive/2014/05/a-better-bedbug-trap-made-from-household-items-for-about-1.php which has been an absolute godsend since my mailing address doesn't seem to exist on Amazon so even if I did want to pay a bunch of money to import some of the products people are talking about from the U.S. I couldn't.

    Regardless of all this, I am hoping to move to a nicer place when my three month contract is up, or sooner -- the one thing I want to be SURE not to do is bring them with me. I am looking for a self service laundry place where I can be sure that all the stuff I'm not having dry cleaned and immediately bagged up gets dried for at least an hour, but as for the rest of my stuff, I'm going to try a combination of vacuuming and steaming and hope for the best. Not sure if I should unbag all my clothes, bring my suitcases back and have him fumigate again or keep them separate. Also not sure how long I should wait to see if they keep biting/get caught in the traps before I decide it is safe to relocate. Wish I could call a licensed pest control officer and have them officially identified but I'm afraid that's just not a thing here. I've found a few numbers for professional fumigation but none of it even mentions bed bugs. It's also hard because there has been some terminology confusion with the language barrier... the word I have been using is chinches, but there are so many colloquialisms here that it's hard to tell if we are even talking about the same thing.

    Anyway, if you've made it to the end of this novel, thank you -- it's more than I'm expecting already. If anyone can shed light on why they might have stopped biting for weeks and a month at a time and how to tell how bad your infestation is using climb up traps, I would be eternally grateful.

  2. Winston O. Buggy

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    Joined: May '07
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    Posted 4 years ago
    Mon Oct 12 2015 8:05:49
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    "Bed bugs AND fleas in rural Mexico" imagine that. Try contacting a university there with an entomology dept, they may have contacts.


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