Help! Bedbugs in my brand-new place!
August 15, 2010 11:27 PM   Subscribe

I've got bedbugs in my 6 month old brand-new condo. What now?

I've been waking up with bites on my legs and arms for about a week now. At first, I assumed it was just mosquito bites. I even went to the walk-in clinic to ask the doc, and he said they were not bed bug bites and were nothing to worry about.

After being home for about an hour this afternoon, I noticed I had a new bite on my leg that was really itchy. Also yesterday morning, I saw a bug on a white pillow, when I tried to squish it, there was a large blood spot. That was the first time I had seen a bug.

Tonight, I pulled out my mattress from the frame, and to my horror, I've got bugs on the mattress and on my sheets. There's also dark brown/black stains on the folds.. and some blood on the slats.

I immediately got rid of the mattress and put it in our loading dock area until I figure out what to do. I also got rid of the bed slats, but I kept the frame set up.

I vacuumed the whole room throughly and wiped down the entire bed frame with bleach.. I checked several times after and didn't see any bugs.

Problem is .. the mattress is literally six months old... can it be saved with a cover? And how long do I need to wait before sleeping on it again after I install a cover (if this would work)?

I should also mention this is a brand-new building in Vancouver, Canada.. and I am a very clean person... I know this can affect anyone but I am really surprised.

The only thing i can think of is an old antique chair that a friend of mine gave to me recently, that he found in the alley behind his building. It's like a dining chair. I've gotten rid of it as well. Stupid, I know.

Do you think I need to call an exterminator (expensive!!) or can I fix this on my own with a new mattress and/or cover and lots of vigilance?

Unfortunately I am not sure if they have gotten into my couch... where I will be sleeping tonight.. I did give it a really, really good vacuum in the meantime.
posted by ninefour to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you're at the point where you can see the bedbug infestation, a mattress cover is NOT going to be good enough. Maybe after a thorough extermination, but only then. The bedbugs don't just live in your mattress, they hide in every minuscule nook and cranny. Oh holy crap good luck . . . luckily I was a renter and I could just throw everything out and move away. Please, please, please, do yourself a favor and call the exterminator immediately. No price is too much for getting rid of those things. Sleeping on the couch will only draw them out to the couch and then tomorrow they will colonize everywhere between your bedroom and the couch.

I ended up in a hotel for the last month of my lease because the bedbugs got so bad and were so difficult to eradicate. Take all precautions!! Call the heroes a.k.a. exterminators!! Holy crap good luck!!
posted by sunnichka at 11:37 PM on August 15, 2010

Bedbugs are not to be trifled with. I've known a few people who had them and the end result was throwing out a lot of possessions (mattresses, clothing), and one or more rounds of exterminators, and months of headache. Don't mess around; call the exterminator.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:46 PM on August 15, 2010

After personally dealing with bedbugs, I'd weigh the costs between an exterminator and a brand new mattress. The latter might end up being cheaper after the former doesn't work.
posted by Political Funny Man at 11:56 PM on August 15, 2010

You cannot deal with this on your own, short of throwing away a lot of possessions and moving out of the building. But even this is a bad idea, because just throwing things away (many just throw out their mattresses, for example, and think they're done) actually helps spread the infestation. In fact, when this happened to me in NYC, I was told specifically not to put anything outside until it had been treated. (NYC is in a special level of bedbug hell right now.)

I should also mention this is a brand-new building in Vancouver, Canada.. and I am a very clean person

Building age and cleanliness don't factor into it, unfortunately. All it takes is one couch guest, whose building is infested, crashing in someone else's apartment to spread bedbugs from one place in the city to yours.

You should get an assessment from a properly licensed exterminator (okay, pest management professional). By "licensed", I mean that certain chemicals are used to deal with bed bugs, and not all PMPs are licensed to use them. In addition, not everyone you can find in the phone book will know how to do the job right: it isn't one visit, it's several, over several weeks. There's a whole strategy to dealing with the little fuckers.

You should read the EPA's guide on bed bugs. It'll give you some info and help you find a PMP who can assist in dealing with the problem.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:49 AM on August 16, 2010

You can make your own bedbug detector pretty cheaply. You basically just put some dry ice in a jar and bedbugs should be attracted to it, you set it up so they can't get out. You could use that to check and see if any bedbugs are still in your apartment, if you think they're gone.
posted by delmoi at 1:52 AM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

As a note, moving a bedbug-infested mattress through the building's hallway will tend to spread the infestation to other units, unless you are very careful not to shed bugs/eggs as you move the mattress (i.e., by carefully wrapping the mattress).

You can't solve a bedbug infestation on your own. You will need a professional exterminator. And the exterminator -- if you picked a competent one -- will ask you to do many hugely inconvenient things. Basically, every item in the infested room(s) will need to be run through a hot clothes-dryer, dry-cleaned, steamed, or thrown away, as appropriate.

The name "bedbug" is unfortunately causing a lot of misconceptions. Getting rid of your bed, or putting a cover on it, is an utterly ineffective treatment for a bedbug infestation, because the bugs are happy to live in any small crevice near a reliable source of warm blood.
posted by Dimpy at 5:07 AM on August 16, 2010

Heat-treat your mattress with a steamer and then get a mattress encasement... they can be expensive, but it will be worth it to be sure that your bed is protected. I saw some encasements at Sears and Walmart, but I wasn't sure about the quality so I got a Protect-a-Bed encasement at Home Outfitters. The encasement won't prevent bites, but will protect your mattress from new infestation and if any bugs are still nesting in your bed, they will be trapped there to die a slow death from starvation. The encasement will also help you isolate your bed, which is pretty key to getting a good night's sleep during the whole extermination process. Bedbugger is an invaluable resource. Read the FAQs and the Do's and Don'ts.
posted by kaudio at 6:20 AM on August 16, 2010

On TV I saw an exterminator bring a bunch of big heaters into a house and heat the whole place up to around 120 degrees which apparently bakes them to death. Just throwing it out there.
posted by Defenestrator at 6:45 AM on August 16, 2010

You can start the process of hot washing/drying everything you own now (clothes, linens, curtains, everything). No matter what process the exterminator uses, you will have to do this. If the items are clean, you can just put them in the dryer on high heat... otherwise, wash them in hot water and then dry them on high heat. As the loads come out of the dryer, seal everything in airtight bags.

If you don't need the items on a daily basis (blankets or coats you won't use for 6 months, just use regular garbage bags, twist the opening really tight, and then use electrical tape to seal the bag. Label the bag so you know what's in it.

In the case of clothes and items that you will need to access on a daily basis, you can buy really big (size XXL) ZipLock bags from stores like WalMart. They're a little pricey, so don't buy a lot. You can get some slightly smaller ones (size XL) from the dollar store chain Dollarama, if there is one near you. (I know they're based more in central Canada, but I think there's at least one in Delta.)

This is a long and emotional process... expect that you will be depressed. I know I broke down and cried several times while I debugged all of my worldly possessions. But our apartment is now bug-free... so it's possible. MeMail me if you want -- the hubby and I have been through all that.
posted by kaudio at 6:46 AM on August 16, 2010

I had bedbugs last year and threw out my padded bed frame before getting in touch with the landlord. The exterminator said that I didn't need to throw out the mattress or even the bed frame because the treatment would've saved it.

So, long story short, before you start throwing everything out, get a good exterminator in there for at least one if not two visits. It's not the end of the world, just a hassle and it'll be fine.
posted by eatcake at 7:51 AM on August 16, 2010

You need an exterminator and so do your neighbours, too. A good exterminator will, as Dimpy noted, make you do inconvenient things. The infestation is farther along than you think, it'll take at least two visits for your exterminator to kill the little bastards.

Either slash the mattress so no one takes it and pitch it out or bring it back in. The bugs are more likely to be in your furniture anyway. I had them in my window sill. They love cracks. Do you have kids or pets? Because you need to stay in your bed to be bait, or the bugs will move to them. That was the worst part of having bedbugs for me. Sleeping in what I knew was an infested room and bed, so my cats and dog wouldn't get bit. is a great resource.
posted by QIbHom at 8:19 AM on August 16, 2010

I exterminated bed bugs by myself without throwing any of my possessions out, not even my mattress, and without employing an exterminator. This is how.

It's possible that I was somehow lucky, or that something was anomalous, because I regularly see bedbug posts on metafilter which say 'you must call an exterminator, you will have to throw lots of things out' but that wasn't my experience.
posted by Flitcraft at 8:22 AM on August 16, 2010

Getting them was one of the worst experiences of my life, it made me crazy for months afterwards. Luckily I was a renter and I could move.

An easy way I got my belongings de-bugged after moving was to load everything I owned into a moving truck (really everything, since they can live almost anywhere and if you even miss a single egg or bug you can get re-infested), driving to an exterminator, and having them vikane gas the whole thing in an enclosure.

Kills bedbugs, and the gas penetrates well. Just make sure the exterminator you go to knows to use more vikane than is normal for termites. A little pricy, but really the only way to be sure. I even found one in my dress shoes once before I moved out. Turns out it was one of the only places the exterminator didn't treat so it went to hide in there. If you want to be absolutely sure, vikane is one of the better ways.
posted by I like to eat meat at 4:32 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi everyone, this nightmare is thankfully over, albeit after lots of sleepness nights and $600 in extermination fees and a mattress encasement.

I ended up calling a pest control company, and the condo was treated twice, with 10 days in between treatments. I also purchased a mattress encasement. Since the second treatment, I have not seen any bugs and have not been bitten.

Thank you everyone for your advice.

I used Poulins based in Burnaby (I am in Vancouver). They came within one day.
posted by ninefour at 12:26 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Help me host my first ever proper, grown-up party!   |   Looking for job experiences involving human... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.