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Housemate brought home bed bugs - what to do?

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  1. saturday

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Fri Oct 21 2011 18:31:29
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    Hi everyone,

    I'm new to this board, so I apologize if I make any newbie mistakes.

    About a week or two ago, one of my housemates came home from a trip where they stayed at a hotel that had bed bugs (the mattress had bed bug feces and blood). Over the next week after she got home, she started noticing bites, which were IDd as bed bug bites by her doctor.

    Since then, she has been staying with her mother, while coming back to the house every day to remove and treat her possessions. She has put a bed bug encasement on her mattress, and she has a wooden bed frame, so no box spring. She has been vacuuming, washing/drying, and leaving bags of her possessions in her car in direct sunlight for days.

    My question is this: how can we best prevent the bed bugs from spreading to other rooms? We live in a condo with 3 bedrooms. Our flooring is completely wood laminate, and there is a hallway between the bedrooms. We also have a dog. I sleep on a mattress with a box spring. So far, none of the other people in the house have noticed bites.

    Also, I was wondering if anyone knew anything about this mattress encasement, which seems to be well-reviewed: http://www.amazon.com/Sleep-Tite-Malouf-Mattress-Protector/dp/B004NJ368C/ref=cm_rdp_product

    I also read on this website that this encasement is recommended: http://www.amazon.com/AllerZip-Waterproof-Zippered-Bedding-Encasement/dp/B000VNR3SS/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    Thanks in advance,

    Saturday

  2. saturday

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Fri Oct 21 2011 20:41:59
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    P.S. I have read that double-sided carpet tape or Vaseline might work as a perimeter that bed bugs can't cross. Is this true? If so, what brand/type of carpet tape would you recommend? (I live in the U.S.) I need something that I can put on walls and wood laminate flooring without damaging it. Also, do you know of any safe products that would work as repellants?

    Thanks so much!

  3. laststrawsue

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Fri Oct 21 2011 21:11:38
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    If she's using the leave-in-car method of heat treatment. I hope that the stuff is bagged so she's not infesting her car (to then re-infest everything, including her mother's residence). And I sure hope you live in a hot climate, where it's hot this time of year.

    I was curious after reading this was a method people were using... so I tested with temperatures in the mid 70s F for several hours, in my black car... with a remote wireless thermometer. Inside a back pack which was inside a black garbage bag in direct sunlight, the temperature never reached 122F (the necessary temperature to kill bed bug eggs according to entomologist information I have found).
    The highest it got was when the thermometer itself was not inside a plastic bag, and it was 78F outside, and it got to 116F for about an hour. That may be enough to kill a live bed bug, but any live bed bugs would've vacated that area to a cooler part of the vehicle as the temperature rose.

    In short, after my experiment, I decided the car was NOT a viable method for bed bug treatment, unless it was going to be in the 80sF or higher outside, all day long. (Not possible this time of year where I live.) And even then, probably not something I would seriously consider taking the risk with.

    Again, even if you live in Bakersfield or Tuscon... (presumably hot sunny climates even this time of year) I wonder if there might be areas of the car where the bed bugs can retreat that would not be reaching 122F.

    From all my reading, I don't know that it's possible to create a perimeter that bed bugs absolutely can't cross.
    I'm speaking being someone who was infested by the neighbors in the apartment below me, who I share nothing with, and have no personal contact with. (The maintenance man told no one, bought bug bombs at Home Depot & bombed their apartment. 6 months later - the entire bldg is being professionally treated.)
    I've learned that the bed bugs can travel through the walls into adjacent rooms/apts.
    Caulking is recommended on some web sites. But can you caulk & secure every outlet, every crack & crevice everywhere?

    From everything I've read, the best way your house-mate could've prevented the problem from spreading, would've been by continuing to sleep in her room, and having her room professionally treated.
    Once she stopped sleeping in her room, the bed bugs started skipping meals... and that will surely lead them to start traveling to find another source of food.
    I have read that bed bugs will REGULARLY willingly walk up to 20ft from their nest for their regularly scheduled meal. I imagine that a hungry bed bug might be willing to walk farther & relocate their nest to a closer food source (ie: sleeping human)?

    I'm sorry about raining on your parade, or freaking you out. But I just want you to become informed about things that may not work at all, before you go spending money...

    I think many of us misspent at least a bit of money at the outset on what turned out to be half-baked, ineffective, or downright counter-productive.

    The bed bug problem is one that needs to be approached with a great deal of information, care, strategy, planning, and in many cases professional help is necessary.
    In the case of multi-unit dwellings... the situation is much more problematic.

    Definitely read the FAQ on this web site of "dos & don'ts"

    http://bedbugger.com/2007/01/20/faq-think-you-have-bed-bugs-some-dos-and-donts/

    My #1 advice is that you don't go buying things willy-nilly before you get a strategic plan in order.
    And the start of your plan should be a proper inspection of some type - of both your house-mate's bedroom, and the rest of the dwelling, preferably by a reputable and competent pest control professional with experience with bed bugs specifically.
    (I do not recommend Terminex - the company my landlord hired. The "inspector" was basically a trained sales rep, who seemed to know far less about bed bugs than I did at the time - which was a lot less than I do now!)

  4. rs1971

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Fri Oct 21 2011 21:45:59
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    It's possible at least in theory to isolate a bed but I think that it's impractical to think that you can use double sided tape and / or vaseline to keep the bugs from moving from one part of the house to another. If there is a host i the house they are going to find it when they are ready to feed.

    Here's one important point though: it's impossible for anyone to identify bed bugs by their bites. Without lab work, it's not even possible to reliably differentiate between insect bites in general and other sorts of skin conditions. So you absolutely, difinitely should not take the doctor's diagnosis as confirmation of an infestation. The thing to do at this point is to be vigilant, look for real evidence and possibly consider installing passive monitors. (check the FAQs at this site for details)

    Good luck!

    -rs1971

  5. saturday

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Fri Oct 21 2011 23:21:39
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    rs1971,

    She was originally bitten in a hotel where there were signs of bed bugs (feces and blood on the sheets), and then after she got home, she was still getting bitten, so I'd imagine that they are probably bed bugs.

    Saturday

  6. AshamedandScratching

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Fri Oct 21 2011 23:35:02
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    The thing about bites is they can pop up later--up to 9 days after they occur. I moved into my new place and woke up with a couple of questionable marks even 4 days after I no longer slept in my infested apartment. So if she stayed where in a room that was badly infested the marks could pop up in the timeframe you reference.

  7. rs1971

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Fri Oct 21 2011 23:42:52
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    saturday - 16 minutes ago  » 
    rs1971,
    She was originally bitten in a hotel where there were signs of bed bugs (feces and blood on the sheets), and then after she got home, she was still getting bitten, so I'd imagine that they are probably bed bugs.
    Saturday

    It's entirely possible that she did bring bed bugs back from the hotel but it's also entirely possible that she didn't. The bites might be delayed reactions to bites she received in the hotel or they might be something different altogether. In the vast majority of cases where people post on bedbugger because they were or think they were exposed outside of the home and are afraid that they brought them home with them, it turns out that they didn't. All I'm saying is don't panic until you've actually found physical evidence (live bugs, cast skins, fecal traces) in your home. Well, you shouldn't *panic* even then, but you know what I mean.

    -rs1971

  8. saturday

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sat Oct 22 2011 0:00:03
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    rs1971,

    Phew, okay. I'll try to calm down. I really do hope she didn't bring them home with her. She has said she hasn't actually seen any physical bugs at home. It's just the bites.

    Any non-drastic prevention measures you guys think I can/should take now, just in case she did bring them home? (Not actual treatment, since like you've said, we don't know there's an infestation yet, but just things we can do to hopefully prevent an infestation from taking place.)

    Also, are there any ways I can make it easier for me to detect if there are bed bugs spreading around in my home?

    Thanks guys!

    Saturday

  9. AshamedandScratching

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sat Oct 22 2011 7:21:06
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    Get a flashlight and a magnifying glass. In the egg/nymph stage they are very small but not invisible.

    Look at the FAQs on inspection. (http://bedbugger.com/faqs/) Learn how to conduct one and make it a part of your routine. Right now I'd probably inspect Every few days, but not so often that I disturb the bugs.

    Look into passive monitors that attach to your bed and provide a harborages you can check regularly.

    Finally if the housemate was bit and reacted to the bites, she was exposed to a does of something she's allergic to. Her skin will be a bit more reactive after if this went on for a few nights. So she could possibly have bumps from things she never reacted to previously.

  10. loubugs

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sat Oct 22 2011 7:47:58
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    Actually bites can reveal themselves up to 14 or 19 days. Not sure what percentage of the general public will react within a few hours to 19 days, unfortunately. Persistent feeding by bed bugs most likely affects the reaction period from long wait time to shorter wait time. Massive amounts of feeding (lots of bed bug saliva) could result in less reaction in the long run, but in some people, could cause a massive reaction by that person's body/physiology.

    Professional entomologist/arachnologist. I consult on all matters dealing with insects and arachnids, including those of natural history and biology to pest management and forensic entomology investigations.
  11. AshamedandScratching

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sat Oct 22 2011 8:05:41
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    Thank you. I had seen the 9 number at some point and it is what I recalled later.

    I find the allergy response sort of fascinating because I was highly reactive very quickly.

  12. laststrawsue

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sat Oct 22 2011 9:14:02
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    Saturday, if I were in your situation... monitors ftw!
    Either look up how to make viable monitors yourself, or buy ones that are recommended by people on this web site (who seem to know what they're talking about).

    If it was possible in my situation (not because of my type of bed)... my personal 1st choice would be those double wells for bed post legs. There's a link on this site, I know.
    My reason: I've read about successful results from people who've used them... and it makes sense because it's a very logical trapping method - and the best bait of all - a real live sleeping human!
    If set up correctly, and there's no way for the bed bugs to get onto your bed other than going into the wells, they will be caught & trapped there. And that means 1st, you'll have evidence that they're present. But even better, it means they will stopped before getting into your bed & biting you.

    That said, before using those, it'd probably be important to make sure they're not in your bed already, by rigorously laundering (hot water, hot dryer for 45min) all bed clothes, keeping them sealed in plastic bags before you put them back on the bed (so you know they're not compromised), and carefully inspecting & vacuuming the entire bed, mattress, box spring, frame, leg posts, back board, etc... and maybe encasing the mattress & box spring if either show any damage where bugs could've potentially slipped inside unseen.

    This is just what I would do if I were you.

    And others are right, bites alone are not enough to confirm your house-mate brought the bugs home. I'd assumed she had a good reason to believe she did bring them home - to be going through such trouble, and being unwilling to sleep in her own bedroom.
    But it is true that bites can take days to "show" on the skin. I'm no longer sure how long it takes for mine to show up. I was thinking it was a matter of hours, but I read where someone deliberately let a bed bug bite them on the arm, and it took 2 days for the bite mark to flare in that spot. I've also read a week mentioned on some professional pest & government web sites.

    Before now, the only time I ever heard of bed bugs was when a friend of mine, several years ago, she & her husband stayed in a very nice hotel in Vancouver. Her husband wound up covered in bites, itching like hell - first night there, they found the bugs in the bed & the bitse, in the middle of the night. She had no signs of bites at all, then, nor later.

    That said, you don't want to just sit & wait, until you're getting bite marks, & find fecal stains & castings to show up somewhere.
    My apt has been infested for at least 2 months, I've found 2 bugs, and many bite marks, and I've still yet to find any harborages, nests of bugs, fecal stains, blood smears, castings, or anything.
    Definitely look into how you can trap some evidence quickly, if it exists.

  13. laststrawsue

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sat Oct 22 2011 9:37:04
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    Oh, and I'm sorry if I'm freaking you out, when there may be no reason.

    It's just that I'm in the camp that didn't take the 1st warning sign seriously. I have an excitable neighbor (with a tendency to be dramatic & exaggerate) who told me a rumour that one of the other tenants had an infestation of some type. But what she described, about the kid scratching her head, and the boy getting his head shaved - it sounded like a case of lice to me. Add to that a couple of years ago exterminators were brought in for a roach infestation when this same neighbor freaked out because the people below her said they had bugs, but it turned out that the people who reported roaches, actually had ants, and didn't know the difference (perhaps a language barrier issue). So when the neighbor had said "maybe bed bugs", and it sounded like lice... we were not overly concerned.

    Well, I wish at that point 4 months ago, I'd gotten some type of monitors.

    And now I find out that 4-5 months ago, there was actually a confirmed infestation of bed bugs in that apartment, and the maintenance man used bug bombs from Home Depot to treat their apartment, and no one was told.

    Knowing what I know now... that the tenants who had the first infestation do a lot of visiting and have a lot of overnight visitors at their house. They're fairly recent immigrants who live out of luggage. That the man travels on business & is away for several nights in a row weekly.
    I'm not making judgment on their lifestyle - it just so happens that their lifestyle puts them in a high risk group for bed bugs.
    Add to that seeing an unusual amount of discarded mattresses & sofas on the block. (And at least 2 or 3 of the families in my bldg constantly visit with other families on the block.)

    Apparently my story is not uncommon for those living in multi-unit bldgs with infestations... Which is why I now feel the need to urge people toward aggressive early inspection & action.

    As with most things - the earlier it's dealt with, and the more properly it's dealt with, the better & quicker the results.

    And of course, I hope it's all for nothing, and that there's never been bed bugs in your house at all, and it's just been a scary false alarm.
    (Because the only people I would be quick to wish bed bugs on would be like serial killers, or horrendous dictators. And maybe people who say they're no big deal and ordinary people should just put up with them. LOL)

  14. saturday

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sat Oct 22 2011 14:40:01
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    laststrawsue,

    Thanks for sharing all the great info. I do hope it's all for nothing -- the only sign she has that the bugs were brought home are the new bites showing up. So hopefully it's just a delayed reaction.

    Also, I'm hopeful that if they are here, they haven't taken hold deeply yet. Unlike in your situation, I have no reason to believe my neighbors upstairs have a bed bug problem, so any problem that exists here would have been started from the few bugs that might have come home on my housemate's luggage.

    Sadly, we have a box spring, so no way to use those leg wells. However, we will probably buy some encasements. Also, we currently have black sheets, but it might be a good idea to get lighter-coloured ones.

    Anyways, do you recommend any other kinds of monitors that wouldn't be super expensive, but I could use considering I have a box spring bed?

    Thanks!

    Saturday

  15. saturday

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sat Oct 22 2011 14:42:09
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    Also, where do you guys think I should be inspecting, other than in/under my bed? What are common places of harborage for bed bugs?

  16. buggyinsocal

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sat Oct 22 2011 14:59:19
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    Saturday,

    There are a few pieces of information that may be helpful--some of them now, some of them in the future. Most of the will be helpful in the future ones are ones that would have been more helpful before your roommate came back into the house after exposure, so please understand that I'm including them because bed bugs are going to be with us for the foreseeable future. Since bed bugs are a pest of exposure, everyone needs to be aware of the fact that bed bugs exist, how they work, and what steps each of us can take to minimize the chances that we're likely to bring them home with us.

    At this point, I personally would not try to protect the beds in the sense of near isolation--at least until you've got a better handle on whether the bugs came home with your roommate. If the bugs have been introduced into the condo, they've already had time to get into the beds if any did hitch hike home.

    Mattress encasements can be very, very useful, but it's also important to understand their limitations. Encasements don't deter bed bugs; instead, encasements work by making it harder for bugs to get into beds if there are bugs in the home.

    However, bed bugs have the ability to lower their metabolism. If they are denied a food source, they'll do so, and some life stages can survive for up to 18 months without food. If there are bugs trapped inside the encasement, the encasement must remain 100% intact for 18 months to be certain that you are not infested.

    If your bed and living situation make it possible for that to be easy to maintain (bed frame doesn't have any sharp corners; you don't have pets with claws; you buy high quality encasements, inspect them regularly, and can afford to replace or double up if one tears or a zipper fails) then putting encasements on as part of a larger "make my home unfriendly to bed bugs" program can be a good idea. But too often, people have unrealistic expectations about what encasements can and can't accomplish.

    As frustrating as it is to hear, right now, your best bet is to play the wait and see game. There's nothing you can really do right now that is effective in terms of keeping the bugs that are in the condo out of your bedroom--at least, there's nothing that I can suggest that is both safe and reliable enough (and is likely to keep the problem as small and contained as possible.) I know that's not what you wanted to hear; trust me when I tell you that it's not what I wanted to tell you, but based on what we know, that's the soundest advice I can give you.

    A lot of self-treatment strategies run the risk of causing the bugs to spread.

    Even though what I'm about to say flies in the face of every instinct you have, if there are currently bugs in the condo, you want to keep them right where they are.

    See, the problem is that bed bugs are also very hard to detect. They are the stealth masters of the insect world. An individual bug only needs to feed once every few days. It doesn't take them long to feed. They come out to feed when their food source is most likely to be most deeply asleep. So for the vast stretches of time that they aren't feeding during the time of night that we're most deeply asleep, they're hanging out in their haborages.

    Because they don't want to die (like any other living organism), their harborages are places that feel safe to them but are also still close to the food source.

    If you use any techniques--chemical, mechanical, or barrier--that prevent them from getting to the food source or that alarm them, the bugs will emit alarm pheromones to warn other bugs away from the hazard. Once that happens, the population will scatter farther away from the food source and hide even more deeply. That response makes them even more difficult to treat,

    For that reason, at this point, it sounds like your best bet would be passive monitors. Passive monitors work by understanding the bugs' natural behaviors and essentially corralling them so that they can be more easily detected. There are two kinds I know of on the market: Climb Ups and Bed Bug Alert Passive.

    For the rooms not belonging to your exposed roommate, Climb Ups on the beds might make you feel better. If the bugs aren't already in those beds (which seems likely), Climb Ups would capture the bugs on their way to the beds.

    For your roommate who was exposed, the BB Alert Passive might be a better fit.

    BBAlert Passive can also be used on beds or couches on which the Climb Ups don't work for any reason.

    Please note: in this case, more does not equal better. In order to maximize the effectiveness, you need to use either Climb Ups or BB Alert passive by piece of furniture or by room. (I'm honestly not sure about that one. David Cain who invented the BB Alert Passive can probably advice you about whether you could use Climb Ups on a bed and a BB Alert Passive on a couch in the same room.) I do know that you don't want Climb Ups and BB Alert Passives on the *same piece of furniture*.

    Pest control these days is generally integrated pest management; we don't use the kind of broad-spectrum pesticides that were used decades ago. As a result, PMPs need to know precisely what pest and where it is in order to treat most effectively.

    Unfortunately, since bed bugs are so hard to detect for most of us who are untrained, if you'v been exposed, the trick is to wait until you have signs. This runs counter to what you'd expect, right? I mean, it makes sense to think that you want to do something now before the problem gets bigger. The thing with bed bugs is that if you're exposed and you don't take the necessary precautions before you bring items back into the home, because of the nature of the pest, there isn't an effective way to get to things early. In the case of bed bugs, early means before you even bring your clothes and luggage back into the home. I don't say that to blame anyone; part of the problem with bed bugs is that since as a society we believed that they were gone for decades, many of us are poorly educated about them, so until there's much more widespread information and higher quality education, we're a bit behind the game, and many things that seem like common sense not only don't work but can make infestations harder, more expensive, and/or more difficult to treat.

    Take heart that bites can take weeks to show up after being bitten. Just finding new bites doesn't mean that they've been brought home.

    Make sure your roommate educates herself about how to inspect for bed bugs. If anyone in the condo finds conclusive signs of bugs on site--live bugs, eggs, fecal spots, and/or cast skin. Make sure all of the roommates educate themselves. Inspect weekly for the next two months. Use tools like passive monitors to increase the chances that if there are hitch hikers that you find them quickly. And if you see signs, get an experienced PCO who knows bed bugs in to inspect ASAP. Don't clean before the PCO comes; the less disturbed the area is, the better the chances a good, experienced PCO will find your bugs.

    And hang in there. Bed bugs can be beaten. Hopefully this whole experience will soon be nothing more than a very anxiety producing learning experience that will mean all of you will know how to dramatically decrease the chances of bringing insect hitch hikers home with you.

  17. Buggybumpers

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sat Oct 22 2011 15:17:40
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    To the party who [rightly] measured the temperature in the car I want you to know that, indeed, 78 degrees in the summer is nothing and doesn't even happen except at night in many places in the US--as you suspect. I live in NORTHERN Utah and that is about 800 miles above Los Angeles. Most of the time in the summer it's about 90 degrees here of dry heat and usually more. It's not unusual for it to hit 100 and very commonly does in southern Utah all summer long. Most of the time, since my car is parked in a lot covered with asphalt, I can hardly touch the steering wheel when I get inside until the AC kicks in. This summer, I was glad, though, as I figured anything in my car would die!

  18. rs1971

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sat Oct 22 2011 15:26:48
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    I've really got to get one of those remote wireless thermometers and take some measurements inside my pickup next summer. I live in a region where during the summer it routinely gets to 108 or 110 degrees with the occasional spells of 116ish. There are times when the vehicle has been sitting in directl sunlight for any period of time that it's almost impossible to even open the door with my bare hands. I totally get what the experts are saying about the bugs ability to find 'cold' spots, but I find it hard to believe that in this climate the 'car as packtite' approach isn't viable.

    -rs1971

  19. laststrawsue

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sun Oct 23 2011 12:29:04
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    Oh fyi - my tests were done the 1st week of October in the NE US. When the high temp for the day was 76°F.
    The car sure felt hot. But when it came down to it - the therm probe inside a sealed black plastic bag inside a back pack, stayed pretty cool!!

    I imagine that much of the entire structure of my black car gets above 122 in the summer when it's 85°F as a high for days in a row. There are times I cannot touch the steering wheel when I get in it after it's sat in the sun a couple of hours.

    I have no doubt if you live in a climate where in the summer it goes over 105 regularly during the day, and you have a car sitting in direct sunlight in a paved parking lot for hours... that the entirety of the car likely gets up to 122 for long enough to sear the beasties.

    I was just pointing out that the temps needed are pretty high... for this time of year, in most of the U.S. And that it seems rather uncertain to me to trust this method in most situations.
    Not a sure enough way to put me at ease when it comes to the risk of bed bugs.


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