Friday, October 7, 2011

Night night, sleep tight

It's my bedtime, and I'm avoiding going there for obvious reasons. Instead, I am going to tell you more of my bedbug saga. Don't expect the brilliant telling you received in last post; my 17 hours of wakefulness have not been kind to my writing ability.

Following my great revelation of 2 weeks ago, I went into cleaning overdrive. I vacuumed every corner of my room, washed every sheet and blanket on my bed, stuffed all of my stuffed animals unceremoniously into a plastic bag, and began researching.

My bedbug infestation, as with most things in my life, does not follow the typical pattern.

For one, I insist on calling them bedbugs, even though traditional terminology would prefer "bed bugs" (with a space).

Hey, now, they're the scourge of humanity. Doesn't that at least make them worthy of a compound word?

But aside from my usual nomenclatural stubbornness, what sets my bedbugs apart?
  • They aren't in my bed. Oh, I've checked high and low. Every day I do a flashlit inspection of my mattress, hoping and fearing that a bedbug might rear its ugly head. Yet, I can find no sign that they are in my bed, or indeed, have ever been there. Other than the marks that they leave on me while I'm sleeping.
  • They seem to shun soft surfaces. Although I do tend to find them around cracks and crevices, which they are said to enjoy, my bedbugs seem to congregate around the very materials they are supposed to avoid. I found a whole host of them on the plastic storage tubs I keep in my closet (by "host" I mean approximately 5) when bedbugs are supposed to dislike plastic. And as I've already said, they left my mattress high and dry.
  • They do not bite in a "breakfast, lunch, and dinner" pattern. I have noticed I find their bites in pairs, but never in threes. Apparently my bedbugs are trying to lose weight.
I have concocted a plan to rid myself of bedbugs. Unfortunately, this requires doing a lot of laundry.  There are now 6 rather large garbage bags in the basement full of my clothes and other fabric items (ahh, now I know why sewing is a bad hobby) and I haven't even gotten to my winter clothes collection yet! When my housemate saw all the junk I had dredged out of my closet (just my closet, mind you, and just the bottom level...not the shelf on top, or the storage area under my bed, or my second closet, or any of my shelves and tables), he said, "How you fit all that stuff in your room, I'll never know." Yes, there is a time when it sucks to have the remarkable ability to store a whole house's worth of stuff in a single room, and that is when you have to clean it to remove bedbugs.

I have put duct tape (sticky side out) around the narrowest parts of my bed frame (being a sturdy bed, it doesn't have legs as such) and pulled the bed away from the wall. Then I removed the ladder from the bed, too, and am slowly mastering the art of jumping into a bed that's 5 feet up in the air. In the three days that I have been taking these precautions, I haven't gotten a bite. I don't think. Unless this itchy spot here is one. It's too bad I'm itchy by nature. I'm probably causing spots to spring up simply by the power of anxiety!

I vacuum all exposed areas of the rug every couple of days, and am about halfway done cleaning out my closet. I found bedbugs crawling around the zippers of all my most fabulous boots. Other clothing items, you can throw in the washer or dryer and be done with them, but boots are another matter. I had to put them in the oven on 170 for 20-40 minute periods. I'm storing all my heat-treated items in the car. Good thing we're having an unusually warm spell coming up. It will hopefully bake out any survivors.

I also learned you can freeze bedbugs to death. So I have put many of my paper products in my housemate's freezer downstairs and will leave them there 2 weeks. She's never here, anyway.

My other housemate bought some diatomaceous earth, which he sprinkled liberally (OK, he "dumped") all around his bed. He claims he's not getting any more bites...but he claimed that once before. When this is all over, I shall avail myself of the diatomaceous earth and put a protective circle around my sleeping area, and another one around the perimeter of the room.

But first, the major offensive: pesticides. I will show no mercy. I'm having trouble getting my housemates on board with this campaign of destruction (mostly because I don't believe they're as horrified by this whole mess as I am, but also because they're a little less Type A than me about pretty much everything, including basic housekeeping), but if we don't take every precaution we can, we risk having them come back and having to pay around a thousand dollars for professional extermination.

So here's the plan: Clean, clean, clean. Strip the house down to essentials. Should I throw away the couch? I don't think it's infested, but it's ugly anyway, and I got it for free, and it would be one less thing to worry about.

Then set off a bedbug fogger in every room. Then once the dust has cleared, go back in and spray every corner the fog might have missed. Saturate those suitcases. And my rug. Every inch of it. Then break out the diatomaceous earth. I won't let my bedspread near the wall for months. I have been thinking about moving out, and if I'm not confident the bugs are gone by the time my lease is up, I'll be out of here!


Geoff said...

Cleaning can be fun! The freezing option sounds the best, however.

Valerie said...

It's the best only if you have the time to wait 2 weeks for every load of stuff you want to decontaminate, and it will all fit in a 6-cubic-foot freezer.