Be gone, bed bugs.
June 5, 2011 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Bed bugs after two and a half years?

I recently reclaimed my things from storage, after having bed bugs in the fall of 2008. At that time, I stored my things in all plastic, and all belongings were treated. This is a fact: my things were well-sealed, and nobody in the place where the things were sealed and stored ever had bed bugs or got bites in those two and half years. I've also been away from my belongings for over two years (it will be three years this November), and reincorporated (with some post-bed bug experience trepidation) with a few exercise things and clothing, as well as a suitcase.

Everything was either treated, laundered, dried for two hot cycles (once to remove dampness, the second on high heat to kill any bed bugs), all inspected, and then sealed (sometimes twice) in plastic bags, and finally stored.

Yesterday evening, I got a bug bite while watching a movie. Now, I get random bites sometimes. But, it happened in the context of being in the company of recently "rescued" items from when I had bed bugs. I don't have a lot of my own things in this space (unique temporary housing situation), but: could it have been a bed bug bite?

Because of worry and doubt, I sealed the clothing I was wearing in plastic bags, and tried to feel the bite for the tell-tale line. As far as I can tell, it's only one bite, but maybe it's two, I can't really tell. I remember what the bites felt like, and they were usually very swollen for several days, but the bite today is down, however its itch last night was very similar to the bed bug bites I remember having.

Could it have been a bed bug bite? Is this even possible? Doesn't anything ever kill these things? (Time, no possible food sources, an over 18-month period of time in sealed plastic, etc.) I don't want to wait to get more bites, and I'm okay with just throwing everything away...again. Storage was sort of like throwing everything away, after two years.

Please email the mods if you'd like more details. Entomological experts, people with successful bed bug eradication experience, pest experts all welcome to chime in! I just want some peace of mind, and if there's no possible chance of it being bed bugs, I'll gladly assume it was just some random bug that didn't like the fact I was sitting where it was mucking about—as long as it's not a bed bug!
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You say 18 months, but it sounds like it's been about 30. Bed bugs live about a year without food. It can't be them. It was probably an ant or spider or mosquito or any number of other things.
posted by smorange at 10:31 AM on June 5, 2011

It could be them. Not everyone reacts to bed bug bites, so the people living in the space may have been keeping them alive but not reacting to the bites.
posted by kevinsp8 at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hmm. I would assume that it's a spider or something like that. They had nothing to eat while they were in storage. I've gotten things out of storage that had entire spider egg sacs in them that were NOT there before I put them in storage. I think that there is more for a spider to eat there than a bedbug unless someone was sneaking into your storage unit to sleep on your stuff.

Of course, if it's going to drive you insane and you don't need the stuff, you might want to just get rid of it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:58 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Were you watching the movie in a theater? One of our local cinemas temporarily closed last summer due to a bedbug infestation. You may have picked them up again somewhere. (I have a sinking feeling that bedbugs are going to be an increasingly common, and ultimately commonplace, problem, and one day we'll all look back and marvel at those innocent years in which we thought we could get rid of them for good, or even a few years at a time.)
posted by artemisia at 12:18 PM on June 5, 2011

It's impossible for us to tell you there's no chance that it was a bed bug bite, and given your past experience, I would say it's more likely than not that somehow you did reclaim a live bed bug or two in the process of unsealing. Not what you want to hear, of course, but at least you've had a couple of years of relief and some sense of how to deal with them. I still remember my own short bout and the absolute paranoia those itchy bites engendered.

Still, bed bugs are, as artemisia says, increasingly common and it's also possible you brought one home with you from someplace else, or a visitor did, or they were in the storage place and the residents didn't react. I mean, none of these things are provable.

I think it's prudent to enter a vigilant bed bug caution mode. Isolate your bed, spread diatomaceous earth (this is my preferred solution), and see if you get more bites. If bed bugs are present you'll likely run into them again soon enough, if not, after time you can be more relieved.
posted by dhartung at 4:33 PM on June 5, 2011

On countless bedbug forums you''ll see advice regarding sealing and storing your items.

Most storage places have hundreds of units. Now imagine a few dozen renters of a storage facility are victims of bedbugs. All it takes is one or two of those renters to have not properly sealed their items. The bedbugs are now free to roam the storage facility. And roam they will - in search of a blood meal. They respond to Co2 and vibration. Someone loading a nearby storage unit could be a tasty target. You could have gotten them from the storage facility.

It's also possible you could have gotten them from a taxi, movie theatre or the countless other sources of bedbug delight.

I'm sorry you're going through this. It's a horrible thing to deal with. Here's a link to a DYI bedbug detector.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:17 PM on June 5, 2011

It may be mites.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:28 PM on June 5, 2011

From the OP:
1) "reclaimed my things from storage" = from the basement of a friend's non-bed bug infested house (multi-level; full disclosure to friend(s), and everything was properly sealed)
2) "watching a movie" = watching a movie at current residence
3) current residence = not where bed bug infestation occurred years ago

The bite is single, and not multiple, so that's good—I haven't gotten any more since. And, it's not itchy today at all. Those bed bug detectors don’t work, per my experience (based on when I actually had bed bugs and put them under my bed frame).

Is the life span of bed bugs such that my getting a bite from a bed bug circa the time I last "had" them is impossible, and assuming all previous sealing and treatment were effective? I don't want to screw myself over by using belongings that could re-infest me, but I think it's highly unlikely that's the case. This recent bite, though (based on context), just threw me for a loop.

Also, thanks everyone for relevant input. I just want to be practical, rather than freak out about bed bugs over nothing/the impossible (I hope).
posted by jessamyn at 6:16 AM on June 6, 2011

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