Bed Bugs are no joke + Tips to exterminate them

7 Nov

In our house, there’s a traditional bedtime nursery rhyme that is no longer funny. It goes, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” It was cute and light-hearted—until we actually dealt with bed bugs.

How to get rid of bed bugs on Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad

Cute ladybug because bed bugs are yuck!

Discovering the Bed Bugs

The nightmare began after we went away on holidays for a week. On our first night home, I was looking forward to a good night’s rest. Instead, my toddler kept waking up crying, which was unusual for her. She’d been sleeping through the night for several months now. I also found myself itching like crazy, but I was too tired to really think about that. I just wanted to sleep—and to get my toddler to sleep.

Then, while I was laying with her in her little toddler bed, I fed something squish between my fingers while I scratched an itch. Carefully holding that thing between my two fingers, I eased out of her bed and went to the bathroom. Turning on the bright lights, I looked at what I’d squished. I’d never seen a bedbug before, but I knew right away that’s what it was. Then I looked at myself in the mirror.

If I’d been the screaming sort, I would have screamed. There was another bed bug crawling across my chest and multiple baby bedbugs (just little brown pinheads, really) on my pajamas. I methodically squished them all. I also understood why I was so itchy now. My entire right side looked like I’d gotten a bad case of the chicken pox. I had red dots all down my right arm, right leg, and around the right side of my torso.

I sliced several leaves off my aloe plant (conveniently located in the bathroom) and slathered it on my right side. That eased the itching. I didn’t want to go back to bed, knowing there were more bed bugs hiding there, but there wasn’t anywhere else to sleep. So I crawled back into bed.

Dealing with the Bed Bugs: Phase 1

In the morning, as I expected, I found my toddler also covered in bed bug bites. I immediately began researching. I threw all our laundry through the washer and then the dryer. I washed or bagged all of my daughter’s stuffed animals. I scrubbed the beds, the walls, the floors. I vacuumed. I sprayed tea tree oil all around our rooms. And then I waited.

For a week, the bed bugs seemed like they were gone. Then a few more bites appeared again. I began applying tea tree oil to our bites, as it eased the itching quicker than the aloe did. I did laundry on a weekly basis.

I also went online, looking for solutions to bed bugs. I try to use only natural products around my house, so I was wary of calling an exterminator. Instead, I read reviews and bought the best bed-bug-proof mattress covers I could find (affiliate link). I spread diatomaceous earth underneath our beds. I bought bed bug traps, though none of them ever caught a single bed bug (even when we were getting bitten like crazy and I was finding bed bugs in the corners of our beds).

For several months, this went on. There’d be no sign of the bed bugs for weeks at a time. Then either I or my daughters would have bites. The bed bugs never bothered my husband—either he was immune to their bites or they preferred me. I’d do laundry, spray tea tree oil, etc. I tried to scrub every crack in the beds, so the bugs would have no where to hide.

I even got my husband to take apart my older daughter’s loft bed to properly clean it. We found so many bed bugs there that we ended up just hauling the bed frame to the dump. We emptied everything else of that bedroom, cleaning it all carefully for bugs, and cleaned the room. I scattered diatomaceous earth everywhere. We waited a couple weeks, then I scrubbed and vacuumed some more. We moved back into the bedroom. And a few weeks later, the bed bugs were back.

Dealing with the Bed Bugs: Phase 2

Finally, I realized that I couldn’t deal with them alone. The problem wasn’t going away. I called an exterminator, recommended to me by a friend. He sent me a very long to-do list and booked a time to come spray our home. I spent basically the next month dealing with bed bugs. I had to wash and dry all our clothes and bedding and then place it in plastic bins or bags. I had to move all the furniture away from the wall and vacuum daily. We had to evacuate the house for an entire day while he sprayed and inspected.

Then I had to keep vacuuming daily (without putting anything back) for the next two weeks, before he came to repeat the treatment. We lived out of boxes in our living room and dining room and invited no one over. Finally, after the second treatment, I was able to put our furniture and clothing back. I had to keep vacuuming regularly for a while.

After the first visit, the exterminator gave me a report. Our infestation was “severe” (but not extreme). He’d found bed bugs in all three bedrooms as well as our living room chairs. On his second visit, most of the bugs were gone. We had a couple incidences of bites after that, which caused me to phone him in alarm. He assured me that the chemical was still present around the house and would eventually kill all the bugs. And he was right.

After the Bed Bugs

I spent six months trying kill the bed bugs on my own and another month dealing with them with the exterminator. They are the most horrible pest I can imagine and I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy. I now take seriously the warnings to inspect hotel rooms for bed bugs before staying there. I know more about bed bugs than I wish I did. I hope, by sharing this story, that I can save you some of the pain I went through!

Looking back, I realize that we probably had bed bugs for much longer than I’d realized. The major infestation came after we went away for holidays. Maybe all the bed bugs were hungry when we got back because we’d been gone. Maybe they’d been busy reproducing because it was midsummer and hot. I don’t know, but that’s when I finally realized that we had bed bugs.

Before that, for probably a year, one of the girls would occasionally get an itchy bug bite. It seemed like a mosquito bite, except that we lived on the west coast and mosquito were rare. Someone said it might be spider bites, but I found conflicting information about that online. Somehow I never thought of bed bugs until I actually squished one.

If you find any sign of bed bugs in your home, I recommend:

  • buying and installing bed bug proof mattress covers on all mattresses. (These covers are also water proof, so they serve two purposes if you happen to have a potty training toddler in the home…)
  • vacuuming bedrooms daily for at least a week (and throwing the bag out after each vacuuming)
  • washing all bedding at least once a week
  • washing all dolls and stuffed animals, or putting them in the dryer on high for at least 20 minutes, or placing them in sealed plastic bags for several weeks to ensure no bed bugs remain
  • call a professional bed bug exterminator if these fail to get rid of the bed bugs in your home (don’t wait 6 months like I did!)

Bed bug bites are extremely itchy (I’d describe it as a “burning itch”). This is likely the first sign of bed bugs in your home. I found the best treatment for bed bug bites was either fresh aloe or tea tree oil. I put tea tree oil, without dilution, on my own skin and my girls without any problems, but it is known as a harsher essential oil so use it carefully the first time. Tea tree oil is available at many pharmacies or health food stores.

While I realize there are social stigmas about bed bugs, they are NOT related to cleanliness or lack of it. Bed bugs don’t care who your are or how much money you have. They just care that you’ve got tasty blood.

So sleep tight and I hope you never have bed bugs bite!


Guest post for Mom Monday-Anonymous Mom.

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