What should I do to avoid a bed bug infestation and stop freaking out?
November 9, 2012 1:58 PM   Subscribe

How freaked out should I be about this bed bug I found and what steps should I be taking to prevent an infestation?

I live in NYC and spent some time last weekend volunteering to help people affected by the hurricane. We took some donations out to Queens in our car, stopping at a donation center to load up the car. I (in hindsight, stupidly) got a couple of bags of jackets along with the cases of food and water to take with us.

Later that night, while sitting on the couch still wearing what I had worn all day while volunteering, a bug crawled across the arm of the couch. I killed it and then realized that it looked like a bed bug. We took close-up photos of it and compared with online images, and also confirmed with an entomologist who specializes in bed bugs that it is, indeed, a bed bug. I am pretty freaked out about this and want to do whatever I can to prevent an infestation.

We've thoroughly examined the couch and have not found any other signs of bugs. We also examined our bed, with no signs of bugs. None of the donated items every entered our home, but the bag of jackets was on the floor of our car near my feet for about an hour. Neither of us has had any bites since the incident.

So far, we have isolated all the clothing either of us were wearing while we were volunteering in plastic bags, except our shoes. We have run them all through a hot dryer for an hour already, but I am going to do that again for good measure. Should I also do this with the shoes? They are leather boots so it may be difficult or inadvisable to do so - I'm not sure.

Also, how should we treat the car? I am fine with heat-treating all of the clothing and footwear involved, but have no idea what to do to make sure there are no more bugs or eggs in the car.

Lastly, since the shoes have (again, stupidly) NOT been isolated in plastic bags or treated since the incident, should I think about treating everything in my home that was in reasonable proximity to them?

I have read all the other bed bug questions and am reasonably certain we don't have an infestation, but I would like to make sure we do everything we can to prevent one.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Research the NYC bedbug pest control companies who can treat your car with either dry steam or cryonite (dry ice system). Purchasing a dry steam unit may be cheaper than what they charge, and would allow you to treat your home.
posted by anon4now at 2:16 PM on November 9, 2012

Winter's coming! The car will eventually be outside in frozen temperatures long enough to kill any bugs/eggs. But in the meantime, until we get a nice long cold snap, be careful about what you're putting in the car and taking inside the house.
posted by amoeba at 3:26 PM on November 9, 2012

Sorry amoeba, but that's really not likely to work.
posted by anon4now at 7:30 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

As far as I have been able to determine from reading about bedbugs, they don't especially like shoes, especially shoes that are worn regularly. Bedbugs seem to end up in shoes in the context of large, established infestations. I believe this to the extent that when I have been exposed to bedbugs (via volunteering on social services issues) I have stopped heat-treating my shoes.

That said, if a bedbug was actually crawling on you - usually they like to lurk in stuff except when they are biting - that suggests to me either that the bug had been starving or that there were a bunch in the donations and there may be more in the car.

I'd go with dry stream or cryonite for the car if you can afford it and a very complete vacuuming with a bag vacuum cleaner or a serious (pricey) steam cleaner (not one of the $39 Target ones, they don't get hot enough) if you can't.

Now, I am familiar with a similar story - volunteer space with donations, found and ID'd a definite bedbug, no infestation resulted over the next six months (and the situation was such that we would have noticed) so I am certain that one bug really can be just one bug. Good luck!
posted by Frowner at 7:08 AM on November 10, 2012

« Older My father can't take care of himself. Who can?   |   Another "should we get back together" question Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.