Saturday, October 8, 2011

What's eating me?

On Wednesday, an exterminator came to do an inspection (thank goodness the inspections are free; the other exterminator who gave me a quote quoted 925$ for the whole house! If I'm repeating myself, it's because I'm in shock, and I'm only a few steps away from "buh buh buh")

When he came, he looked all over my bed and couldn't find anything, then he looked at my housemate's bed and found fecal stains around the edge of the mattress! Success! Validation at last! Then he looked closer and realized that the stains were actually the dark varnish Housemate had used to finish his bed frame. Failure. He did find bloodstains on Housemate's pillow, but no evidence of live bugs.

I got out my undeniable evidence: the live bugs I'd captured under my bed the previous week. They're in there, I assured him. They're just really tiny. But they weren't. The one that I'd so carefully sprayed to the piece of paper was no longer there. The live one that had been crawling around on the plastic lid was nowhere to be found. They must have died of asphyxiation and shriveled away. One of the ones attached to the ant was still there, but looking a little worse for the wear, and the exterminator wouldn't look at it in my pocket microscope, instead summarily dismissing it: "That? That's not a bedbug."

It was a bedbug! I knew it. It was just a little too young and a little too old (that is, a little too small and a little too decomposed) for a positive ID. But I knew it was a bedbug. I had the bites to prove it.

That afternoon, after he had left, I decided to check my clothes in the storage totes in the closet. I'd asked him whether they were safe, and he said they'd be fine and I should just concentrate on getting a bedbug cover for my mattress (which sounded like a lame idea to me, since my mattress didn't have any bugs on it, and the bedbug covers are around 50 dollars each), and I didn't trust  him anyway since he'd rejected my sample.

First I started poking around inside the My Fair Lady DVD that was sitting on top of them. And when I shone a flashlight into the depths of its cardboard cover, I found (egads!) Two tiny translucent insects crawling around inside it. Despite my immediate horror, I set out to get better documentation of my infestation. So I got those little guys on tape. Meaning I stuck a piece of Scotch tape inside the DVD case and snagged the bugs. The box went into a plastic bag, and then, with great trepidation, I opened up the storage tote, and then started looking around on the lid. Closely. There were more of the vile creatures! These are the "host" of bedbugs I mentioned yesterday.

Since I didn't think it would be easy to identify insects that are all squashed between two layers of semitransparent tape, I decided to try to get photographic evidence as well (I recalled one website was offering money for good photos of bedbugs). It was time to put my new camera's super-macro mode to the test.

This was not easy. Try sticking your camera lens within centimeter of a miniscule insect that keeps walking around on a recessed surface whilst lighting it with a flashlight. After a few attempts, I was exhausted, and set about the daunting task of discovering just what else had been infested. The discovery of my bedbuggy boots transpired, and I was overcome with woe.

My housemate's comment about my space-bending storage abilities cheered me up a bit, but mainly I was too depressed to do anything else that night but quarantine everything in plastic bags and crawl into my no-longer-safe-haven of a bed. I didn't get any new bites that night, and I thought maybe this time I had 'em licked. But no, two new bites this morning.

After my requisite 5 hours of work today, I decided to find out whether my photographic experiment had been successful. And lo, it had! I found on my SD card more than one in-focus, well-lit shot of the insects I had subsequently consigned to their adhesive graves.

There it is! Between the A and the 7!

Well, something compelled me to double-check my findings, so I searched Google for "bedbug nymph." And the first result I found was "Booklice vs. Bedbug nymphs." I clicked.

"Several bedbuggers," said the article I found, "have mistaken [booklice] for bed bug nymphs. Notice the shape of the body is elongated, with three clear segments. There’s a pronounced head." Yes, that is definitely the shape of the creatures I found. Bedbugs, on the other hand, are supposed to have a flat, wide body.

1. Bedbug                         2. My bug                                        3. Booklouse
Well, it seems pretty clear that the samples I've found are not bedbugs, but booklice (also known as psocids, if you want to sound more scientific). Booklice, as their name implies, live in books. They do not eat blood or any other human byproducts. They eat mold and mildew.

So what this says about my house is that we may have some mold growing somewhere that I need to take care of. But what it does not say is why I got two new bites since yesterday!