I think I saw a bed bug, what do I do now?
October 13, 2009 8:44 PM   Subscribe

I think I spotted a bed bug this morning. What do I do now?

I've been getting itchy spots over the past couple of weeks and I just blew them off as being allergic to something here and getting mosquito bites since the itchy spots varies in sizes and location.

This morning I spotted a tiny bug on my comforter, about less than 1cm in size and it was a clear, light brownish in color. It was reaaaally small, and I wouldn't have noticed it if it wasn't moving around.
When I was leaving for class today, I spotted a bug, about 1-3cm [wasn't really paying attention to the size, was too freaked out about finding a bug on my portfolio bag] on my art portfolio bag and I got rid of it and flushed it down the toilet.

I am currently in a freshman at my college and i'm dorming here as well. I currently have 4 suitemates and no roommate in my dorm room.

Since now I think I spotted a bed bug[s], what do I do now? Should I sleep on the couch in the living room or the empty bed in my room tonight? Should I burn all my clothes? I'm afraid of finding more bugs since I have a fear of them. I'm seriously starting to freak out about this.
Throwaway account at stopthebedbugs[at]gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
You live in a college dorm? Work your way up the chain, starting with your RA or whatever. Maybe post a flier asking if others have seen them too. Start documenting any future finds or bites. Basically, make the case that the college needs to hire an exterminator to take care of the problem.
posted by jedicus at 8:57 PM on October 13, 2009

when my apartment had an infestation ~1yr ago the health board told me that any clothes, sheets, etc. needed to be run through the drier since the heat would kill any eggs, stuff that doesn't fit in the drier (apparently) can be frozen for a few weeks instead (I live in the frozen wastes of Canada, so put outside in the winter), and to get an exterminator to spray pesticides up the crazy.
posted by selenized at 9:10 PM on October 13, 2009

Oh, in the mean while, wash all of your clothing and sheets that can stand it on the hottest cycle available, then dry them in small batches to maximize the temperature. If they can stand it, use bleach in the wash cycle. Obviously don't do this to any clothes that would be shrunk, faded, or otherwise harmed by the process. 113 degrees is sufficient to kill the bugs, so the hot water cycle should be enough. Do this regularly until the bugs are exterminated.

Things that can't be washed but that can take the heat can be placed in an oven on a very low temperature (e.g., 160 degrees). It should only take a few minutes for the objects to come up to temperature and for the bugs to die. Obviously take great care when doing this, and only do it with objects that can definitely handle it without harm.

Once you've done your sheets, buy a mattress bag and cover your mattress. This won't kill any bugs or eggs in your mattress, but it should help prevent them from getting out. You can get a mattress bag at a moving supply store, such as a U-Haul. Make sure it's securely sealed.

Vacuum everything thoroughly, then empty out the canister or throw away the bag in an outdoor trashcan or dumpster. Do this regularly until the bugs are exterminated.

Until the problem is completely resolved, don't take anything home that you don't absolutely need. Ideally you would take only the (freshly hot-water washed) clothes on your back.
posted by jedicus at 9:12 PM on October 13, 2009

I've recently been through this myself. Here's what I've learned:

Step 0: It might not be bedbugs. It might be a rash or an allergy or something. So keep that in mind as you go through the rest of the steps:

Step 1: Don't freak out. Bed bugs are annoying and hard to get rid of, but they don't transmit disease. They'll annoy you, but that's all they can do to you. Healthwise, it's not any worse than going camping where you know you're going to get bit by mosquitoes, so think of it like that. Actually, it's better: mosquitoes can transmit disease.

Step 2: Look for actual evidence that you have real, actual bedbugs. (Bedbugger.com, is going to be a golden resource through this whole process - this page for photos during this step). They're small, and they can vary in appearance a lot, but they're not too hard to detect. Look in folds in the bedclothes and the creases in the mattress, under the mattress, the bedframe, the headboard, inside your pillowcase - anywhere that's nice and out of sight. They're good hiders, but they shouldn't be hard to find. It's nice if you can score a few actual bedbugs for this step. If you can - save them. Grab a ziplock and stick them inside. Bedbugs serve as decent proof that you have bedbugs.

Step 3: Once you have evidence, if you're in a dorm, go talk to the RA or residence hall director, or someone. If you have a real, live bedbug-in-a-bag to point to, they'll take notice. Ain't nobody wants an infested dorm. They won't be happy about it, but they'll want to deal with it ASAP before they spread.

Step 4: In the meantime - if you can possibly stomach it, keep sleeping in the same bed. You'll keep getting bitten, but it'll keep them from spreading. Spreading is bad. And remember, they're not going to hurt you, other than the itchies. Unfortunately, moving to the couch or a different bed is only going to bring you a night or two of respite, if that. The little bastards are attracted to your body heat and CO2, and if you move, they'll come find you - and that'll spread 'em.

Step 5: Also in the meantime: the magic bullet for bedbugs is heat (IIRC: 120+ degrees, for an hour+, will kill both bugs and eggs reliably). Cold can do it too, but it takes a lot longer (weeks, I think). You don't have to throw away your clothing: you do have to wash it, and then dry them on hot for at least an hour. Your possessions are going to be harder, and a lot of that is going to depend on how the college decides to deal with things. But above all, you want to avoid spreading them. They rarely travel on people, but your stuff is fair game: try and hang up your backpack, for example, to minimize the chances they'll climb into it. Try and avoid taking potentially contaminated things to other places and other dorms.

Step 6: Go read stuff on bedbugger.com. It's a great resource and has lots of pointers for next steps.

Anyway, good luck! Bug whoever you have to, but if you've got proof (aka, the bugs) then you shouldn't have too much trouble getting the school to take you seriously: they do not want an infestation. And remember that like any other thing, you'll hear the worst stuff on the internet. Certainly they're evil, annoying little pesties, but sometimes you can deal with them quickly if you nip it in the bud early. Hopefully that's true in your case. :-)
posted by captainawesome at 9:12 PM on October 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

Listen to captainawesome. I just went through the same thing, pretty much.
-First, make sure it's bedbugs by capturing some in a ziplock. Then get your dorm to schedule an exterminator. You want to make sure that the exterminator comes at least twice, with about 10 days interval (the gestation period from egg to bug). Don't let them get away with just one application. I made that mistake at first...

- Take any linens and clothes and wash them as hot as you can. Then dry them for longer than you normally would (if you can) in order to kill any eggs.
- I got a few large plastic bins and put all the washed clothes and linens in them, then sealed them with packing tape before taking them into my apt again. That way, you only have to deal with them once
- Vacuum your bed carefully and often, more than you normally would, and dispose of any vacuum bags right away
- Get mattress covers - both for your box spring and your mattress. Any hidden bugs in your bed will be stuck there and unable to bite you. I recommend the Allerzip covers, as they are lab tested to stop bedbugs. Expensive, but worth it for the piece of mind.
- I also recommend using ClimbUp interceptors to monitor your bed after treatment. It's how I found out that the one application from the exterminator wasn't enough, and that they were still in the apartment. But because of the interceptors, I could tell that they were in the apt and not in the bed, as well as which direction they came from. It also gives me piece of mind now, a few months later, that they are still gone. And they are pretty cheap too.

- Be careful with your stuff until you are sure you are bug free, and keep sleeping in your bed. You don't want to spread them. A small infestation in your bed is a lot easier to deal with than several small ones on the couch, on the bed, and in your friend's room.

I totally know about the freak out. I'm still freaked out about the whole thing. But it turned out to be not as bad as the horror stories online, and certainly something you can deal with with some persistence and knowledge. Good luck!
posted by gemmy at 10:42 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

First of all YOU have to make SURE you indeed has bedbugs......To me the easiest way of going about doing this is sleeping with all white blankets/sheets/pillows and then the next day looking for trails of blood that they usually leave behind, I know it sounds odd but it is extremely hard to verify that you have bed bugs and to me this is the most simple solution. Once you do this you are going to have to take EVERY CLOTHING ITEM in your room and take it to be washed in HOT water. You will either need an exterminator to come into your room or have someone else do it for you....
posted by The1andonly at 7:32 AM on October 14, 2009

1-3cm?? That's not small enough to be a bedbug.

Hatchling bed bugs are about the size of a poppy seed, and adults are about 1/4 of an inch in length. (1/4 inch = 6.35 mm)
posted by desjardins at 7:41 AM on October 14, 2009

The dryer is what kills the bugs - I too have recently been through the joyous experience of bedbugs - so you do not actually have to wash everything in your room as long as you put it all through a hot (HOT!) dryer for an hour or, if your clothes cannot handle that, have them dry cleaned. Most clothing, it turns out, will do okay with the dryer treatment although several of my wool sweaters are now a little smaller than they were before.

Other than that, yes, save the bugs, give them to the RA and be pleased that you don't have to pay for the pest control. The exterminators will have to do the whole dorm and I can only imagine what a drag it's going to be. We had to stay out of our house for 24 hours during the first spraying and it took three treatments and throwing away the couch to actually beat the little monsters.

They sell allergy/dust mite proof mattress bags at Wal Mart that work just as well as the more expensive ones, according to our exterminator. They are now on all the beds in my house.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:58 AM on October 14, 2009

Work up the chain of you dorm, as mentioned above. Here, if you suspect bedbugs, they will bring through a bedbug sniffing dog to try and hunt them down, and then will take care of all the details for you.
posted by internet!Hannah at 3:22 PM on October 14, 2009

« Older Grf Mstrbtn   |   Dealing with a possible growth hormone deficiency Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.