Bedbugs: Summer Edition
July 18, 2016 4:30 AM   Subscribe

How do you know when bedbugs are gone, when it's summertime?

So, we have bedbugs again, for the second time. Everything in our apartment is bagged or boxed, and we've been treated twice so far.

We found out we had bedbugs when I got some suspicious bites and called a bedbug dog to come in. The dog only pointed at the outlet by our bed, nowhere else in our apartment, including the actual bed. We've since taped up the outlet. The inspector found one dead bedbug, and nothing else. We have not seen any live ones in the weeks since.

What's strange is that the first time we had bedbugs, I hardly reacted at all, while my husband had many large and very itchy bites. This time, he has nothing. I've been getting a few pinprick bites, but nothing (I think) for the past week and a half or so.

ACTUAL QUESTION: how are you supposed to tell, in the summer, whether "bites" are: actual bedbug bites, mosquito bites, or skin irritation from sweat, heat rash, etc.???

How do I know when they're gone?
Last time we waited to start to unpack things until a month or so after our last bites. But if I can't tell what's actually a bedbug bite or not, how do I know when to stop living in the hell that is a bedbug house?
posted by dysh to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I guess I should mention that the initial bites that made me suspicious were in groups of 3 or more, but more recent things I've categorized as "bedbug bites" have been mostly singular.
posted by dysh at 4:32 AM on July 18, 2016

You should check in with the experts on the bedbugger forum, but I'm sure they are going to tell you that you can never go by bites. You should go by when your exterminator/dog gives you the all clear. [Usually a month after your last treatment].
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:52 AM on July 18, 2016

Response by poster: So I guess the problem with getting an all-clear from the dog is that the dogs aren't allowed to come to houses that have been treated within 30-60 days, and we're scheduled to continue treatment monthly indefinitely. (Sorry for threadsitting, I think this is important information?) But I will check bedbugger for sure.
posted by dysh at 4:54 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've heard good things about this type of bedbug trap. The idea is that you put each of the four legs of your bed in one of the little dishes, and don't let any other part of the bed touch the ground or the wall or anything else. Then any bedbugs that try to crawl into your bed at night get stuck in the traps, where you can see them come morning.

I don't know how long you have to go without seeing any before you can definitively say that you're bedbug free, but they'll at least tell you if the little bastards are coming for you in the night.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:32 AM on July 18, 2016

Best answer: I've had one bedbug, too. His name was Gary. He had an appetite. In the end, we had to ask him to leave. It took three visits from one exterminator and a fourth from another before Gary stopped coming around, but he got the message in the end.

I'd say 3-4 weeks after you last notice a bite, you can be cautiously optimistic that your bedbug has left this mortal coil.

A bedbug bite doesn't have a dot in the centre, that's how you know who the culprit is.

I find that if I wear a citronella patch on one ankle and one wrist, mosquitoes don't bother with me, but YMMV. A mosquito bite is just simply a different experience from a bedbug welt, though, it does have a central dot, it has a different quality of itchiness to it, it's smaller, and so on.

One thing to look out for is that bedbug bites can sensitize you to every kind of skin irritation for a while, and your emotional reaction to bedbug bites can really amp that up, as skin is very strongly affected by emotions. I was taking a daily antihistamine and I still got this one bite-looking thing three weeks after the fourth exterminator visit. I freaked out at the thought that Gary still walked among us. But then I looked more closely and saw there was a red dot in the middle. I figured that it wasn't Gary, it was someone else, and my skin had overreacted to a random insect bite that normally I wouldn't even have known I had. Turns out I was right about that.
posted by tel3path at 5:41 AM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is pretty helpful and is based on differences in insect behavior. Bed bug bites will tend to line up with the edge of sheets or where your body meets the mattress. Bed bug bites will tend to be in a line or row. Mosquito bites will tend to be random, and they don't tend to bite through clothing. The Terminix page claims that mosquito bites tend to be raised, welty, with uneven borders and bed bug bites tend to be flat red spots, but I don't think I would put much weight on that. Individual humans may have different immunological reactions to different bites, leading to different appearances.

I find it professionally interesting that bed bugs tend to bite in orderly lines, because Hemipterans also tend to lay their eggs in orderly packets. I'm sorry about your bed bugs, but at least you can comfort yourself with the fact that you are being preyed upon by the BEST order of bugs that there is, the True Bugs? Sorry. Entomology. One tends to love ones study object.

I think you're probably good. The bites you're talking about are probably mosquito bites. Apply some mosquito repellent before going to bed. If you don't want to use DEET, the best alternative is a high concentration (~ 30%) of oil of lemon eucalyptus (not the essential oil, but the processed oil called PMD, p-Menthane-3,8-diol). Repel is licensed to claim 6 hours of mosquito repelling effectiveness, and tops the Consumer Reports list of repellents. The downside(?) is it will repel bed bugs too, so it won't help with distinguishing between the two. On the other hand, maybe you could make some traps, such as Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The suggested. I'd make the bedbug trap and a mosquito trap with baking soda and see which one catches some dudes. Did you know that you can catch more flies with vinegar than honey? It's true!!!
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 7:45 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Personally, I found previous bedbug bites to be distinguishable by (a) how damn itchy they were for such a long time; and (b) their more welt-like appearance.
posted by WCityMike at 8:03 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, WCityMike, that's what I'm thinking -- different people's immunological reactions will be different, and so while I think it's possible to learn the difference between bed bug and mosquito bites on yourself based on their appearance, I don't think it's possible to generalize. The behavioral differences, though, I think are probably going to be the same across the board. Insects don't have a lot of behavioral variation within a species.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 11:16 AM on July 18, 2016

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