By KALEIGH UNDERWOOD
As you read this you should know this is all personal experience and from advice given to me from an exterminator. It may not be what you are told to do, so take with a grain of salt.
With the recent news of the bed bug infestation in the jail, I can’t help but shudder. About this time last year, my roommate and I found ourselves in the same position.
It started when my roommate, Caitlyn, noticed the bites. Thinking they were something else, she originally dismissed them. It wasn’t until a few nights later when she woke up in the middle of the night and flipped on the light, did we have to truly come to terms with the situation.
This is not something I have admitted to many people. Bed bugs get a nasty stereotype because they are just that…nasty. But truth is, anyone can get them. I take pride on how much of a neat freak I am. I hate clutter. My cleaning routine is daily. I make sure I live in the kind of house that you would feel safe to eat something off the floor if the ten second rule had to be applied. Yet here I was, with a pest that is commonly associated with unclean living conditions.
If anyone is made nervous by the situation, I have some tips for you.
First things first, if you do find yourself with this predicament, call the exterminator immediately. This seems like a given, but we were told that it amazed the exterminator how many people think they can handle infestations on their own. News flash…you can’t!
Second, you need to bag everything. We used large black garbage bags of the name- brand variety because off brands tend to rip, which basically defeats the purpose. You need to buy a lot of these because you will have to double or triple bag everything. Now, if the weather is either summer or winter, the next step becomes easier. Once you bag everything and you know that the bugs will not be able to escape the bags, place them in either a very hot or very cold environment. As it was the middle of summer when we were dealing with this, we loaded a car full of our bags, and placed it in the hot sun with no possibility of shade, and left the car to sit for a few days. After a few days, you get the bags out, and wash and dry the items inside with the hottest possible water, and the longest and hottest dryer setting you have.
Another good alternative for things that cannot be washed, like books for example, is to double bag them in ziplock bags and put them in the freezer for a few days. When you take them out, check for dead bugs. If you find any, put them in a bag and dispose of it immediately.
We even turned off the air in our apartment and left for a weekend hoping that the outside would heat the apartment enough to kill anything left inside.
Once an exterminator comes and sprays, you may feel a sense of relief. That relief never came for us. We kept cleaning until we were absolutely crazed.
As far as products you can buy to kill them yourself to aid with what the exterminator sprays, I recommended diatomaceous earth. It will be cheaper than any product specifically designed for bed bugs, and typically the powders that are marketed for that purpose contain it anyway.
Diatomaceous earth is completely natural, non-toxic, safe to handle, and fine to use around pets. It is made up of fossilized sea creatures.
The way it works is simple. The bug has to come into contact with the powder. When the bug crawls through the powder, the powder begins to break down its waxy shell or exoskeleton, which makes them more prone to death by dehydration.
Many websites recommend taking your bed apart and dusting every nook and cranny with the powder. I also recommend using the powder as a physical barrier between you and the bugs. What furniture that we didn’t throw away got filled with the powder. We gave them much more than a dusting.
After a few days of being left out, we always replaced the old powder with new. (I’m not sure how long it is good to stay out, but we were extremely paranoid.) To get rid of the powder, you should vacuum. If you have the kind of vacuum with a bag, throw the bag away immediately. If you have the kind that needs to be emptied, empty after every time you vacuum and wash with bleach.
You should know that it doesn’t kill the bugs immediately, (it can take up to a week or longer), but the effects are long-lasting.
If there is one thing you should NOT do, its buying and setting off bug bombs. These bombs cause the pests to run into the walls, where they can live without food for up to year. Which is what happened to us…we think.
One of the biggest things you need to be aware of is a piece of advice our exterminator gave us: Bed bugs are the ultimate hitchhiker. You would be amazed the places that have infestations of these little critters. Movie theaters, restaurants and offices make the list! It isn’t just homes and hotels anymore! Bed bugs don’t necessarily have to live in a bed.
I’m not saying to live in a bubble. That just isn’t realistic. I am saying however, that when going out in public try not to take bags or purses with you. I know this may be hard for some of us, but try to leave the bags in the car or even at home.
All in all, its an experience that I chalk up to an “adult life lesson”. I don’t wish it on anyone and I hope that for the sake of everyone in Irvine it can be contained to the original infestation point.