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Do I have bed bugs?

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  1. ekj

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    Posted 11 years ago
    Wed Jun 18 2008 0:42:36
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    So, I had myself completely convinced that we have bed bugs, but now I am not so sure. I can't tell if I just freaked out or if I am now sticking my head in the sand. Here are all pertinent facts:

    I woke up about two and a half weeks ago with a bunch of itchy bites. Probably 30 or so. They were scattered over my arms, legs, and mostly on my torso. None underneath my underwear (which has snug-fitting elastic). My husband had no bites at all that we could tell. The cat had slept under the covers the night before (he doesn't usually), so I assumed he had picked up some fleas somewhere and they got me. The next night I think I had more bites (hard to tell exactly, but I definitely got more bites over the next week or so - very itchy). The bites could be bed bug bites, or they could be flea or mite bites, based on online photos. I picked up some Frontline at our vet a couple days after the first bites, and treated both the cat and our dog. Then I started Googling, which led me to wonder if it was bed bugs. I did see a couple of bugs right after the first bites appeared, which I assumed were small fleas and smooshed. In retrospect, I couldn't swear that they weren't bed bug nymphs, though - I found them before my Googling spree had commenced, while I was still under the flea assumption.

    In our timeline, there are two ways we could have brought bed bugs into the house. We have not had anyone over lately, and I work from home. My husband's office is not near other people, so it is very unlikely we brought them home in our day-to-day life (we live in Seattle, for what it's worth).

    First, we bought a sofa from a consignment store about three weeks prior to the first bites. I have since inspected it as thoroughly as I can without ripping it apart, and there are zero signs of bugs of any kind. I looked inside the cushion covers, and there are no signs in there, either (the inside is bright white, so I think any fecal matter or bugs would show up quite easily). I looked through all the tufts and crevices - same thing. (And now I know about buying used furniture, but at the time I was more concerned about stains/smells, and the sofa is in immaculate condition!) I did fall asleep on the sofa for part of the night one weekend before the first bites, and did not get bitten. I moved up the the bedroom at some point, though, and I don't know how late it was (might have moved before their feeding time?)

    We also stayed at a hotel two weeks before the first bites. We did not receive any bites AT the hotel (that I can remember, and these suckers ITCH, so I think I would have noticed). We inspected the suitcase that we took once the bites started, and did not see any bugs or signs (a bit harder to tell in this case, because it's black).

    I inspected our mattress and boxspring and also found no signs. Nothing in or behind the bedside tables. Nothing in the wall outlet behind the bed. Hard to say about the baseboards, which I have not removed, since we have carpet. Nothing visible, though. Nothing hanging on that wall where they might be able to hide. After I started panicking about possible bed bugs, I did cover the mattress and boxspring with sealed vinyl covers (duct taped the zippers), and moved the bed away from the wall. I put double sided carpet tape all around the metal bed frame's legs (we do not use a headboard). No bugs. No more bites, either, that I can tell (the old ones still itch, and I have a fair amount, so it's possible that I have gotten one or two bites in the past week, but nothing like the initial onslaught).

    I am not against calling in a PCO to inspect, but it seems like things are easier when you have some sort of evidence other than bites to show him/her. It doesn't seem possible that sealing the mattress and boxspring would have actually solved my problem (could the entire population have been living in there? seems unlikely), and we haven't had a single capture in our carpet tape trap. When I've woken in the middle of the night, I've turned on the light and checked the sheets - no bugs.

    So, I am wondering what people who are more experienced with this topic think of my situation. I will probably buy the fancy bed bug mattress covers regardless of the result, if only for peace of mind (and I am allergic to dust mites, so having a good allergy cover wouldn't be a bad thing either way). Do I probably have bed bugs and they are just taking a breather? Did I have fleas that have since been killed off from the Frontline on the pets (that would explain the bite timeline, but I feel like I would have seen more fleas at some point)? We also definitely have something living in a sort of attic space (over a back room, where the second story doesn't extend) - I've heard critters scampering around over the past few weeks, and I assumed it was squirrels. Could it have been rat mites? Would those have disappeared like this?

    We are supposed to have my in-laws staying with us in a few weeks, and I am concerned about having house guests with a possible infestation, but I also don't want them to have to stay in a hotel if there isn't actually a problem. I am planning on sleeping on the sofa bed one night this weekend (once the current bites go away enough where I will notice any new ones for sure), and offering myself as "bait." Is this a ridiculous idea? It seems like if the bugs feed at least once a week, we'll have some really hungry dudes by then if any of them are downstairs and I'll be bitten. Also note: I work from home and frequently sit on the sofa with my laptop. I have never seen any bugs on me down here (I don't know how long it takes for them to start coming out during the day, but unless they are going upstairs and then coming back downstairs, any bugs down here won't have eaten since the sofa moved in almost six weeks ago).

    Sorry this is long, and for all the parentheticals, but any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  2. itchnscratch

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    Posted 11 years ago
    Wed Jun 18 2008 12:51:10
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    i am having a very similar situation. however i was too distraught to explain all the details in my post. unlike me you seem very level headed and sane about it all. you are a good example -as i was about to have a breakdown a couple of days ago. everyday i would wake up with new bites (about 40 in all) i have been searching for bugs/signs since saturday and can't find anything either. i did move myself into our guest room the past two nights. (my husband stayed in our room, he doesn't get bitten) i haven't any bites for two nights.....comforting yet scary. anyway, keep us posted. GOOD LUCK! i pray you don't have bed bugs. where are you?

  3. Gypsy

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    Posted 11 years ago
    Wed Jun 18 2008 13:08:40
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    You do know that moving into another room without having treatment can risk spreading the infestation into your new room?

  4. itchnscratch

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    Posted 11 years ago
    Wed Jun 18 2008 13:36:10
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    i know gypsy...thanks. but i was keeping my husband up, because i was looking under the covers with a flashlight constantly and just all around searching everywhere. not sleeping myself. i need to sleep. it was awful. awful. i REALLY felt like i was losing it (i am very sensitive anyway) it seemed the lesser of two evils at the time....still does. sometimes you just gotta do what ya gotta do. we have a wooden platform bed in our room. no boxspring, memory foam mattress. i took the whole bed apart cleaned and searched with a flashlight -NOTHING. same with mattress and bedding searched every seem. -NOTHING carpet tape on legs. -Nothing. pulled away from wall. no headboard. but i still was waking up with one or two bites. i search everyday, still nothing. i am terrified to sleep in there with the lights off. my husband doesn't get bitten. what is up with that? i feel like a loony!

  5. Bites44

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    Posted 11 years ago
    Wed Jun 18 2008 14:34:30
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    the bad news is that the bugs don't necessarily harbor in a mattress or in a box spring. You may not find any blood spots at all (one of my relatives definitely has them also and she never sees any blood spots), and you may not see any bugs, especially if the infestation is light.

    They hide very well, and this can be anywhere usually near the bed. For example, in the cracks in a wood floor; in the baseboards; in a bureau; even in an overhead light fixture. A wooden platform bed is a good hiding place, however, and I had to throw mine out and get a metal frame. They can harbor in the metal parts of the frame, even in the screws, and thus difficult to locate.

    To Itchnscratch, more bad news. You may not be bitten every night, as each bug takes a few days more or less to digest a meal, and then it will feed again. Probably (and I say probably, as there is much unknown about BB's) if you are getting bites every third day or so then your infestation could be light.

  6. itchnscratch

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    Posted 11 years ago
    Wed Jun 18 2008 17:40:46
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    it seems like people find them fairly quickly despite what i have read in the FAQ.... i searched every screw and crevice on that bed. i took the whole thing apart...... maybe i should spray every cranny with alcohol....doesn't that kill them? does it kill eggs? how long does it take for them to grow and shed their skin? it has been almost five full days and i haven't seen squat. has anyone else heard of this? how long does it typically take? i mean NOT that i want to see them but if they are there, i do. the sooner the better...i don't want those suckers spreading. i'd think they'd be hungry as i have not been bitten in two days. is it possible they bite my husband and he has absolutely no reaction and never will? does this happen???

  7. Gypsy

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    Posted 11 years ago
    Wed Jun 18 2008 18:40:39
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    I think then in your case, the best thing to do is hire a PCO with a dog sniffer. That way, if they find an infestation - great. If they don't, it can help put your mind at ease so you can sleep.

  8. itchnscratch

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    Posted 11 years ago
    Wed Jun 18 2008 18:50:26
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    true, but i really don't think we have dog sniffers in Chicago.. i searched high and low posted and asked too, but no one can tell me. double


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