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The ONE bedbug that turned my life upside down.

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  1. bb_overkill_girl

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sat Oct 13 2012 18:26:24
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    What a horrific week - or month, really. Apologies in advance for the long post, but I have appreciated reading other peoples' stories here and thought maybe mine might be relatable or of interest to someone else. I would also welcome any advice on next steps.

    My live-in boyfriend was traveling a lot for work in Sept, and that's where the craziness and obsession all started. Having been made paranoid by media about the BB epidemic in NYC, he and I are both vigilant about checking for bugs when we get to a new hotel room. He is even more vigilant than I am with this - and says that this room had been spotless - he checked the mattress seams, lifted to examine the back of headboards, etc, as soon as he arrived and saw no tell tale signs. Stayed three nights, and at 4am on the third night, saw ONE LIVE BEDBUG. He squished it in a tissue, and it certainly did seem to be a bedbug. He called me all upset, and I spent at least 12 hours that weekend online researching what he/we should do next.

    But this was not the bug that turned my life upside down. BF washed & dried everything he could on hot when he landed at his next stop, I bought a Packtite and we Packtited his suitcase, messenger bag, and everything we could (not laptop, camera, toiletries, etc though) as soon as he got home, in two rounds, holding what didn't fit in the first round in a plastic garbage bag. It was a clumsy first Packtite process, and I doubted whether it really got hot enough for long enough, especially with the big bag, and I worried that we'd missed something. But it seemed like we made a valiant effort, and didn't visually spot any BB signs. I put white sheets on the bed (not our usual style) and was in firm denial when we got two very small dots of black within the first days of white sheets. We didn't notice any bites or other physical signs at the time. Chocked up those two spots to dirt and paranoia.

    Meanwhile, within a couple of days of this same event, we also received a furniture delivery from a family member who was moving cross country - a couple brand new pieces that had barely been used, from a house that had barely been lived in, transported by an expensive and reputable moving company. Didn't think to even check for signs of BBs.

    So, flash forward to about a month later (last Friday), when, after an indulgent and wonderful nap, I spot a bigger spot of black on the bedsheet. This seemed undeniable, and I decided to look more closely around the bed.

    Within two minutes, I'm peeking through the folds of our white bedskirt, and about a foot away from where my head is when I sleep, there lies ONE LIVE BEDBUG surrounded by black mess - undeniable fecal. I stick it on a piece of tape and spring into action.

    photo-29

    The BF & I carefully inspect the rest of the bed together. When we look closer, we see 3 other tiny black spots on the bedsheet, nearer the foot of the bed. No signs on the CleanRest mattress encasement we've had on the mattress for four years, and no signs on the outside of the box spring (unencased), but the boxspring under-lining had a couple rips and seemed like a haven for bugs. I ran out to the dollar store in our neighborhood (only quick solution on a Friday night) and bought two vinyl mattress covers. Not BB certified - more like the bedwetting protection style. But better than nothing. We put both covers on and duct taped the outer zipper shut.

    The next day, we called the landlord and asked that she come over to discuss something in person. The landlords of our rowhouse are generally responsive, but there is a bit of language barrier (chinese) and they're very cheap. She came over, looked at the bug, and said she'd do some research and get back to us with a plan.

    The next day she calls and says she will hire a company to come and spray our entire apartment, but not the other two units in our building, including theirs on the ground floor, which has been a constantly rotating hub of various couch-surfers and AirBNB guests for the past two years - they rent out their children's old bedrooms now that they're away at college. I was almost certain that they would have a BB problem, and that they might be the source of ours. Also, both my BF & I are somewhat sensitive to chemicals, and not interested in dousing our entire place if we just have a tiny problem, or if we might have to do the whole thing over again when we find out that the rest of our building is infested with a larger issue.

    We insist on having a k9 inspector come to look at the rest of the building. Landlord refuses, saying that it's best to just have the pest controller come out and spray our apartment, since no one else thinks they have a problem. These are people who don't notice/care when the yard is totally overgrown, or trash is strewn all over the yard, and are generally unhygienic when it comes to leaving food and garbage out for days - we've battled the cockroaches and mice that travel up from their place for years.

    I think about it further, and decide that it's so important to me to find out what's going on in the whole building, that I agree to pay myself for an independent k9 inspector to come out. We do a lot of internet research, make some phone calls, and feel really good about who we landed on. Seemed like his dog had great training and experience, and good reviews on this forum. He was very patient and generous on the phone, giving us advice and time without complaint. He agrees to come the next day and inspect the whole building.

    We do our apartment first, and the dog signals (repeatedly jumps up 3 feet in the air! really something!) near the mattress only, which we still have encased with the double vinyl covers. He explains that the dog can pick up scent from inside encasements, and also that he doesn't necessarily signal in an exact spot. The BBs that he's smelling could be anywhere in the room. The guy does a quick visual on the whole room and sees nothing. He leaves with the feeling that we have an issue inside the boxspring, and we should get one of the three recommended BB encasements (MattressSafe, ProtectaBed, or a third that I can't remember) on the boxspring ASAP and at least have that room chemically treated in case there are more. Neither he nor the dog pick up any other signs of BBs in the rest of our apartment or either of the other units in our building. We buy a set of Climbups from him on his way out as well.

    I'm equal parts A) relieved that the problem isn't so big that we're going to have to move, B) ashamed that we - who always make a great effort to keep our place clean and well-maintained - are the ones who have the BB problem, and C) pained at how much I paid for it. I rationalized the whole thing by reminding myself that I've paid more than $325 for medical imaging that turned up no results too.... Peace of mind is not cheap.

    The landlord seems very smug afterward and says now she's not going to pay for treatment since they're not the source of the issue. We discuss it the next day and she says that she will pay to treat our one room after all, but that we need to let her do it her way, and not complain about the people she hires. In the past she has hired dubious folks to do maintenance, and I was worried she would hire someone who was unlicensed and/or wouldn't have the English skills to communicate with us about what they were spraying and where, and what the next steps were, etc. She gets the first appointment available with this mystery PCO, and I remind her that they need to bring their license, and tell us what chemicals they will be using. She finds out the name of the company and tells me that they will be using Suspend DS. I research both of these things and try to stay cautiously optimistic.

    I buy a MattressSafe boxspring ($35) & mattress ($65) encasement from a store way uptown in Manhattan, as well as tons of Ziploc XL bags (6 boxes x $7 each = appx $42) from Home Depot. I consider possibly returning the mattress encasement if we see no new signs - bites, bugs in climbups, new black spots on white sheets, etc - leading up to or in a few weeks after the treatment. But knowing myself, I'll probably stick it on after treatment and feel like I've done more to protect us in the future.

    I can't even believe the amount of time, energy, and $ (about another $60) I spend on laundry and running stuff through the drier. I am self-employed, and I barely get any work done this whole week. Everything is a judgment call - my boyfriend thinks I'm taking it way too far for just one bug, but every horror story I read on this blog tells me that you can never be too careful. I start to resent him for not being more helpful, for putting all of the decisions on me. Everything is a judgment call that could go in any variety of ways. And the fact that you can't talk about what you're going through with anyone for fear that they won't ever come stay with you again (family) or have you over/hang out in close proximity (friends).... It's completely un-doing.

    We bag up all of our clothes, Packtite a bunch of stuff that was in the bedroom that can't go through a drier, and bag a bunch of other stuff that we don't get around to Packtiting before the treatment. My whole living room is full of Ziploc XLs, with a Packtite in the center. It's like a weird plastic Stonehenge.

    On Friday, one week after finding the ONE LIVE BUG, the landlord comes over with the PCO, who brings his license, and speaks enough English to generally communicate with us. After going back and forth on it, we decide to remove the MattressSafe boxspring encasement and the vinyl encasements beneath it. Together, we cut off the paper-y under-cover on the boxspring, and I brace myself to find a big gross infestation site.

    But we find nothing. No traces of bugs in all that mess of fabric, cardboard, wood, and staples. None.

    The PCO guy says he will spray Suspend DS on everything, and PI on any spot where he spots live bugs, and we shouldn't go in or sleep in there for 24-48 hours. He says we can come back in 8 hours and open the window if we want, but that everything will still be wet. This is contrary to what I've read online, that you should be able to return after 6-7 hours, and that you should sleep in your own bed after treatment for consistency, but what can we say at this point? He's the licensed professional.

    We leave and put our bedding & drapes through the washer & drier (the people at the laundromat have got to know something is up - I've been living there all week). We get a call that he's done after a half hour, and I go back to lock the doors. He's writing up an invoice for the landlord, and he says that he saw no bugs at all while he was spraying. I ask him, "Honestly, do you think it was a good idea to treat our place, or do you think we're just crazy?" He smiles, and says, "No comment." He doesn't think we will need a 2nd treatment. But says that if we see more bugs or get bites, that maybe they will in 2 weeks.

    We will spend one more night (tonight) sleeping in my BF's office (2nd bedroom), and at least a little while living out of the Ziploc XLs. But how long before we should unpack and move on with our lives? Should I even bother Packtite-ing the bagged stuff that I didn't get to before the treatment? Another set of exhausting judgment calls that will leave me in doubt. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

    I feel like a psycho, who went way too far with treating a nonexistent problem. It seems like it really could have been just one bedbug in our apartment, and I've wasted all this money, anguish, and time because I was afraid of the worst. Treating a tiny problem with the same techniques that you should use for a full-on major infestation. What should we have done instead to treat a very minor (or maybe even non-existent) issue?

    Sorry for the novel, and all the tense-changes - just had to get the story out of my system!

  2. theyareoutthere

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sat Oct 13 2012 19:03:18
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    You've been through a lot, don't be hard on yourself.

    For people reading, if you don't have a problem, probably the passive monitors (or some other monitor) with monthly checks of the bed would be the best solution. Even optomizing the bed.

    You are right. You read on here of people who find only one and then find 100s in the boxspring since they are nonreactors.

    Again, don't be too hard on yourself. You'll get a better idea if all is well in the next couple of weeks.

    I'm not an expert, so I won't comment on next steps.

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  3. bb_overkill_girl

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sat Oct 13 2012 22:07:00
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    Thanks for the kind words. I stand by my decisions based on the info I had at the time, but still feel alternately sheepish and unconvinced that we're clear of the bugs.

    It really does help to know that other people have gone through this stuff. Especially since it's so taboo. My boyfriend and I were joking last night - it's one thing I've certainly never seen a post about on Facebook! Very grateful for this forum, and for the experts who weigh in so regularly with sound advice.

  4. theyareoutthere

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sat Oct 13 2012 22:36:23
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    I think you should stand by your decisions...you did the best with the information you had.

    I still haven't bought passives and reading your post makes me determine that it's time.

    Did they ever inspect your neigbhors (dog or otherwise?). It sounded like the dog was only at your place? There have been cases where neighbors don't know they have them.

  5. theyareoutthere

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sat Oct 13 2012 22:36:23
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    I think you should stand by your decisions...you did the best with the information you had.

    I still haven't bought passives and reading your post makes me determine that it's time.

    Did they ever inspect your neigbhors (dog or otherwise?). It sounded like the dog was only at your place? There have been cases where neighbors don't know they have them.

  6. bb_overkill_girl

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sat Oct 13 2012 22:46:46
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    Yup - they inspected the neighbors both visually (flipping & examining mattresses, etc) and then with the dog, and turned up nothing. I was honestly shocked because of the sheer volume of ever-changing travelers who have stayed there for short periods of time in the past two years. I guess they're very lucky.

    However - as soon as they finished with my bedbug treatment, the pest control people went to work on the ground floor apartment for mice and roaches!

  7. theyareoutthere

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sat Oct 13 2012 23:04:32
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    I thought when I read that there were mice and roaches making the way to your apt..how could there not be BBs? It just goes to show you what an odd pest this is. And, I don't mean to say that BBs are where it's dirty...it's just that if mices and roaches made their way up, why wouldn't BBs?

    People do say it's the traveling that is the most likely source. The packtite will really help with that.

    I have some things in ziplocs on hangers (mostly winter gloves and scarves). I have spider issues and don't like to figure it out by putting on my gloves

  8. bb_overkill_girl

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sat Oct 13 2012 23:11:24
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    Ha, totally - I hear you on the gloves!

    It's funny - I really am not even fazed by other pests now. We found some mouse droppings in our kitchen on the same evening of the k9 inspection (when it rains, it pours....), and I was like - whatever! As long as they're not BBs! But I think I will seriously have a panic attack if we find a BB anywhere in the apartment after we unpack all of our stuff.....

  9. GTFOBugs

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sat Oct 13 2012 23:59:13
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    Like the above poster said, they make products now that are geared toward detection like the monitors (thank goodness).

    Honestly though, I don't see how I could have done any different than you. It's so different when your actually in the situation, and finding that first bedbug is enough to cause a coronary. While you may have spent a lot of time and money just to find your problem not really a "problem", maybe you can look at it as being ahead of the game. IF you didn't do any of the stuff you did, you would be forever fretting over it, considering the situation in the apartment below yours. You like your place and it's not like you lost anything really....you bought peace of mind and it will be with you longterm. I'm happy for you that your situation wasn't worse!

    As far as bedbug statuses on FB-LOL! I must have read a ton of stories in here and I can't recall which poster/post it was but they were on their FB page and hit the like button for "How to get rid of BedBugs" (or a similar facebook page). Of course it posted to their wall (YIKES). Yeah, some days I imagine just posting my bedbug status, just so I can get over the shame of it all. Or just seeing all the awkward reactions I get.

    Good Luck with all you're doing and wish you and yours the best!!

  10. bb_overkill_girl

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sun Oct 14 2012 0:18:38
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    Thank you for the support, GTFO! You're so right - I really should just be counting my blessings at this point, and taking it one day at a time with checking the climbup monitors and the sheets. I feel so humbled and impressed by everyone else here going through far more trying situations than mine.

    I haven't mentioned that one of the reasons my reaction to this was so heightened is that I'm expecting relatives to visit later in the month (a very rare occurance), and I will be so embarrassed if I have to deny them a place to stay, even if I don't tell them why. They've been planning on coming for months. Would have all kinds of negative familial ramifications for a long time......I really hope we're in the clear and comfortable unpacking and making everything nice here again in another week and a half!

    So funny re: the "Like" on FB - so mortifying! I don't think I'd be brave enough to post about this experience on FB, or to bring it up with co-workers, friends, etc. But I do think that if someone else brought it up first, my experiences would probably all come pouring out and I'd do anything I could to help them! All of this research and stewing really ought to be put to as much use as possible....

  11. GTFOBugs

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sun Oct 14 2012 0:53:10
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    Agreed. It seems the best way to get rid of this latest BB epidemic is to have a lot more public info out them, not the horror stories that freak people out. I admit I was surprised at how ashamed I was when I found out I had BB's. It's gotten better of late, but I still don't feel comfortable telling any most of our close friends or family...yet. We had been avoiding visiting/having visitors since we found BB's beginning of Sept. and been using school and work as an excuse. Fortunately no one has made an official complaint lol.

    I don't blame you with the house guest and with your vigilance I'm sure it will all go smooth. After a week or so you won't be thinking of BB's 24-7. Have a good time with your visiting family and keep us posted!

  12. bb_overkill_girl

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Sun Oct 14 2012 16:09:12
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    Thank you so much, GTFO. Seems like you never know if you're taking the right action with these things. But your kind and understanding words are very validating - needed that last night!


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