Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bedbugs Bite

The great plague of the 21st century has hit Val's Galorious Galaxy, and let me tell you: it is not Galorious.

On the plus side, in one week, I have become my own foremost expert on bedbugs and have never been more intimately familiar with the microscopic subculture of the biome that is my bedroom. But on the minus side, why couldn't I have become this Destroyer of Bedbugs a few months ago, before they invaded my little biome?

Early in August, my housemate casually warned me, "I think I might have bedbugs." Oh, I was a little grossed out, and I vacuumed a little more thoroughly the next time I cleaned, but after he washed all his bedding and told me he wasn't getting bitten any more, I thought no more of it. Biggest mistake of my life.

About two weeks ago, he casually mentioned that he, in fact, was still getting bit.

"Do your bites look anything like this?" I asked him, revealing a red spot the size of an apple and another one the size of an apricot, which had bloomed on my arm, followed by a smattering of smaller itchy dots up and down the arm and on select other parts of my body over the past week or so, and which I had assumed was poison ivy until my boyfriend informed me that it looked like scabies, and I had suddenly remembered that the whole reaction had started as two itchy bumps. Well, no, my housemate's bites hadn't broken out like mine had, but I always have had a knack for going into immune overdrive, and so I decided that I actually had bedbugs. Later I revised my theory to accommodate all possibilities by concluding that I had had 2 bedbug bites on my arm, which I scratched with fingers covered in poison ivy residue (I had pulled some up 1 day prior, wearing gloves of course, but poison ivy is insidious stuff).

But anyway, the point of this story is bedbugs. I cleaned a little more thoroughly after I began to suspect fauna, rather than flora, as the source of my rash, but bedbugs are just as insidious as poison ivy, and the bites didn't stop.

Early last week, I made an "indicator" out of corrugated cardboard glued to a white sheet of paper (which theoretically would provide a nice retreat for bedbugs with all its nooks and crannies, and which would show the presence of said bedbugs by all the fecal matter they would deposit on the nice white paper before scurrying into their cardboard home for the day), and stuck it under my mattress.

Well, three days passed, and when I went to check it, it was gone! Gone like my pair of Spenco insoles! Gone like my maroon arm warmers! What kind of unscrupulous creature was stealing all my stuff? I mean, usable things that both happened to be stored in the same place are one thing, but a piece of carboard glued to a piece of paper? It couldn't have been stolen! I got under the bed to look for it. I looked and looked, but it was not there. I moved all the boxes off the table under the bed (loft bed, remember). Not there. I pulled out both sets of plastic storage drawers, and then all the boxes piled on top of each other beside them. No indicator.

But while down on my hands and knees, trying to maneuver my flashlight into the crack between my bed and the wall, behind which lies the crack between my bookcase and the wall, I saw motion off to my right. Looking down, I saw its source. A tiny, almost indiscernible creature, scuttling along on a plastic lid that had fallen behind the bed. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before! It must be a bedbug! I found a plastic bag and shoved it in, lid and all.

My memory of what transpired next is a little hazy, because it seriously freaked me out! But following that I somehow found another live bedbug, which I affixed to a piece of paper using artwork fixative spray (living with cockroaches has taught me to have no mercy for certain kinds of pests) and two more dead ones, tethered to an equally dead ant by bits of spiderweb or hair.

I do recall that I finally got to make use of both the magnifying devices that have been sitting untouched in my desk drawer since time immemorial. My Fresnel lens (thank you, Sister Irene!) proved that the big bug was indeed an ant and not a bedbug, and my pocket telescope/microscope (thank you, uh, I don't even remember) revealed the dark center of the translucent insect that proved it had been feeding. Ewww.

I vacuumed like I had never vacuumed before, and when I pulled out the bookcase from the wall, I found my indicator underneath it, unmarred by insect fecal matter. Interesting that my bedbug indicator, by disappearing, accomplished what it would have failed to do by staying where it belonged.

That night, I had a great deal of trouble sleeping. The next night, I might have slept better but for waking up at the crack of dawn with two new holes in my butt. If there is a plus side to this, it is that the bedbugs enabled me to find my missing maroon arm warmers in another cleaning spree this afternoon. The insoles remain missing in action.


Geoff said...

This post is making me itch.