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turning bedbugs into deadbugs
October 17, 2005 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Bedbug problem-- at the end of my rope. Help! DDT? Other solutions?

About two weeks ago, which was a month after we moved into our apartment (in Brighton, MA), my girlfriend and I realized we had bedbugs. We're pretty clean, and we hadn't been there long, so the only signs were the bites and two bugs we found. We immediately did everything you're supposed to do-- plastic-bagged everything, threw away our furniture (an easy chair and a futon-- both the mattress and the frame), pulled everything away from the wall and had the exterminator come, and dry-cleaned or laundered every piece of fabric we own. Yesterday, three days after the extermination, we realized that we're still getting bitten.

Everything we read about these things seems to be true-- they're tenacious little fucks. They're making our lives somewhat miserable, and I can't really live like this anymore.

At this point, I want to try DDT. I know DDT is illegal for agricultural use, but I also know that it's not the most dangerous thing in the world for people, only mostly just for birds. I'm willing to be as safe as possible, but I need these buggers gone. Has anyone ever done this? What is the legality of this solution? What is its safety? I have a pet cat; will this just kill her (I imagine not, as I've heard that it's even relatively safe for mice)? How do I go about getting DDT? Are there any other sure ways?

(Also, by the way, I should remind everybody, given the question, that advising people to do illegal things on metafilter is usually a bad idea. My email is in my profile.)
posted by koeselitz to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know of any sure way. What makes you think DDT will be better than anything else?

Whatever is done, it has to be applied to the entire house at once. If you live in an apartment (or semi or row house), all the units need to be done at once. Bedbugs live in hard to get at spaces -- inside the walls, inside the TV, etc. What you need to eradicate them is a fog. As far as I know, DDT is used as a spray, not a fog.
posted by winston at 12:12 PM on October 17, 2005


Have you visited this site?

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/bedbugs/

It seems to be a good reference.
posted by justkevin at 12:19 PM on October 17, 2005


See if you can find an exterminator that offers a guarantee. And then keep calling them back until the bugs are gone. Otherwise just budget for multiple applications. That's what it takes.
posted by winston at 12:21 PM on October 17, 2005


From what I've read, a first treatment is only that - a first treatment. Bugs can survive for a year or more without feeding, and it's essential not only to move furniture away from the wall and spray around it. Every joint in your wooden furniture should be thoroughly treated, and maybe it'd be best on a second treatment to empty out chests of drawers, wardrobes, other furniture, and have your entire apartment treated by the best, most professional outfit you can find. If you have a trusted and willing friend nearby, maybe you could go on a weekend away and have them let treatment people in and stay there while they work.
posted by paperpete at 12:30 PM on October 17, 2005


I'd be leaning toward doing this:

1 - I'd put as much of my stuff in a storage unit as possible. It's futile to fight this in a cluttered house where they have lots of places to hide and breed. Also any bedbugs in my stored stuff would (slowly) get starved out or would go roam elsewhere. Like someone pointed out they can survive for a year, but what can you do.

2 - Now that I have a minimal Ikea-style house, I'd get a tube of silicone caulk and would systematically secure and seal all cracks, baseboards, loose floor planks, etc, in closets too. I'd keep the place immaculate like a hospital.

3 - In the meantime I'd inspect the mattresses, linens, and frame thoroughly, top and bottom, no holes, then put the bedpost legs in small plastic buckets of water. This is a trick people used in west Texas in the old days to avoid roaming scorpions. Keep away from the wall and keep sheets and laundry from dangling down.

4 - If the bedbug war looks grim, I'd probably move. I'd also slowly take stuff out of storage and inspect carefully to make sure I didn't bring travellers in.

It would be interesting to know how hotels deal with this. I'm sure they're prone to infestation, but I've stayed in a lot of hotels/motels and have never heard of a problem like this. This tells me the problem has got to be solvable.
posted by rolypolyman at 12:34 PM on October 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


Note to anyone considering moving to Brighton, MA-- there has been a raging bedbug infestation there for going on three years. Seriously.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:41 PM on October 17, 2005


Holy cow, no kiddin'. The Allston Brighton Bedbug Eradication Initiative provides assitance to Allston Brighton tenants and property owners who have been affected by bedbugs infestation.
posted by rolypolyman at 2:31 PM on October 17, 2005


I was living in Astoria, Queens just a year ago and my bedbug problem drove me to throw away all my furniture and move to New Mexico. Every time I feel even slightly itchy I get all paranoid.
I have no real solutions beyond advising you to flee, but I wanted to share with you a solution my West Texas brother-in-law shared with me- back in the old days to get rid of bedbugs Mexicanos would throw infested mattresses on a fire ant pile. After a couple of days the ants would have hunted the mattress clean. It wasn't practical advice for me in New York, but it made me feel better to visualize it.
posted by Sara Anne at 2:54 PM on October 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


As Sara Anne attests, bedbugs can make one do radical things. But before you do that, take rolypolyman's advice about the caulking. You may also want to try steam cleaning. And before you try DDT, make sure your exterminator is experienced with bedbugs and uses one of the new generation of pesticides, which actually sterilize the bedbugs. One brand is called Gentrol -- discussed here.

Finally...you may want to investigate the legal situation with your landlord, both with respect to guaranteeing you a livable apartment now, and whether he knew about the bedbug infestation when he let you move in.
posted by footnote at 3:28 PM on October 17, 2005


Koeselitz, first, my condolensces for your infestation. I just experienced a bedbug infestation this summer, and upon learning of it, I learnt as much as I could about bedbugs, including extensive quizzing of my exterminator.

Allow me to make some comments.

First, you say "we're pretty clean." Disregard that. Bedbugs are interested in carbon dioxide and in blood, and have absolutely no correspondence to the level of filth or cleanliness in your apartment.

Second, with regards to still being bitten after the extermination: that's understandable, and may not be as bad news as you are first thinking. What your exterminator most likely did is spray down a contact kill when he came in, but that's not going to get the bugs that were still in the walls or not visible. Your exterminator probably put down a pyrethrin-based spray for that -- which is a slow-acting poison barrier. The bedbugs will still have enough oomph as they pass it to come out and bite you (occasionally), but it may taper off.

Still, I hope a second treatment has been officially planned? Most often, eggs will hatch in the meantime, creating a new generation; a second treatment is usually needed. If not, don't panic -- sometimes it's not needed. It varies depending on how early you caught the infestation.

As for the DDT, it will be very difficult for you to get your hands on DDT, and I personally don't suggest you investigate that option.

With respect to some of the other responses, I don't wish to show disrespect to anyone here, but I need to correct some misinformation.

Winston is incorrect -- you do not need a fog. Fumigation techniques have been demonstrably ineffective on bedbugs.

Rolypolyman is incorrect -- you specifically do NOT want to put your stuff in a storage unit, because of the very reason he then points out -- they may be in your stuff. Best that any bedbugs in your stored stuff remain in an area where they sense food -- namely, you -- and then cross the poisoned barrier to try to get to you, and die. If you store your stuff and then reintroduce them, you essentially highly increase the risk of the bedbugs returning to your furnishings.

Paperpete is correct when he suggests that you empty out drawers, wardrobes, and other furniture to increase the effectiveness of future treatments.

I put pretty much everything I learned about my bedbug experience in the Wikipedia article on bedbugs, which I recommend you check out, especially the "Removal of infestations" section.

It also contains some links to a few bloggers' entries about their bedbug experiences (including my own), which you may find of use, or of comfort.

If after checking out the Wikipedia entry you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line -- my e-mail address is in my profile.

And, again, my sympathies. This is definitely NOT a fun experience to go through ... but keep in mind that it WILL, at some point, end.
posted by WCityMike at 5:34 PM on October 17, 2005 [3 favorites]


Rolypolyman is incorrect -- you specifically do NOT want to put your stuff in a storage unit, because of the very reason he then points out -- they may be in your stuff.

Well, if you stored everything for over a year, then supposedly the bugs would have died by then -- the buggers are bionic, but not immortal. I suppose the ethical problem is that the bedbugs might infest other people's belongings in the storage space.
posted by footnote at 5:54 PM on October 17, 2005


Even if you get professional assistance, which you WILL need. You should wash all clothing around/near the bed, bed linens, and any other cloth the bed bugs are near at the highest heat/Plus, you should iron and vacuum everything. HUGE pain in the ass, but don't skimp on this, on bug spray, or on professional bugbusters! They will bug you endlessly if you do!
posted by smartypanties at 6:03 PM on October 17, 2005


Footnote, officially, they can live for 18 months without food. How practical of a "solution" is it for him to live "minimalized" for a year and a half, when the better solution is to just have it sprayed? Actively poisoning bedbugs is a far more intelligent solution than trying to starve them to death.
posted by WCityMike at 6:11 PM on October 17, 2005


Looks like I just put in a link to this page ... that Wikipedia link should be this URL. Sorry 'bout that.
posted by WCityMike at 6:18 PM on October 17, 2005


Don't freak out. My boyfriend *just* got bedbugs here in NYC. He freaked out, but you don't need to.
The bugs take about 3 weeks to fully die out after extermination. The extermination kills the living bugs, but they have almost certainly laid eggs that have to hatch, expose themselves to the poison, and die. He still saw the odd bug up to 2.5 weeks after the exterminator came, but after that, no more.
If they didn't tell you this, you should be vacuuming every day to suck up any eggs you can get to.
I didn't look at the wiki link so this might all be up there. If you are still seeing bugs in a few weeks, call the exterminator again. Until then, be tough, and don't move any of your stuff back into the room.
Good luck!
posted by ch1x0r at 6:55 PM on October 17, 2005


I imagine buckets of water would work against scorpions. Does anyone know if bedbugs can swim? In the old days, they put a tin of kerosene under the legs of the bed to keep them out, and you had to keep the bedding from touching the floor. I don't think kerosene might be such a good idea, but there's probably stuff that would work and be less toxic/flammable. Maybe diatomaceous earth? Anything else that destroys the integrity of the waxy coating that keeps them from dehydrating?
Disclaimer: Only bit once, as a kid, and they burned the bedding when I got home. I certainly sympathize with anyone who has a problem, that was just icky.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:36 AM on October 18, 2005


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