It seems the widespread problem seen in the States is gradually (and possibly literally) creeping its way over to the UK. Bed bugs are something we have all heard of in the saying ‘Don’t let the bed bugs bite’, but could it be true that they’re biting more of us than we all realise? One of our readers has been in touch to share her first hand experience of these dastardly parasitic insects and what’s more, she has some top tips to prevent, find and cure the rather embarrassing problem. I don’t know about you, but this post is already making me ITCH.
Bed bugs are something that a lot of Brits have come across, but being such a proud nation, stiff upper lip ‘an all, of course, we never talk about it. Well, I thought I would detail my account (anonymously, of course!) to try and raise awareness of this actually very common pest in the hope that it helps anyone currently being eaten alive at night by this little persistent critters.
I first realised our home was housing bed bugs when I found a bug crawling across my son’s bed when I was changing the sheets one evening. I’d never seen a bed bug before but I knew straight away what it was. I was absolutely horrified! The thought of something feeding off my young children was unbearable. Immediately I hoovered his whole bed, teddies and room and got online in the hope of finding a quick fix, a cure.
I found lots of products claiming to kill bed bugs and decided to buy some foggers to fix the problem. When the foggers came we set one off in the children’s room and quickly left the house. We then washed all the linen and their teddies at 60 degrees – apparently the lucky number to make sure they die.
Thinking we had outsmarted them we went on with our lives, until two weeks later, when I spotted another climbing casually up the children’s bedroom wall at around 6.30pm. I was devastated! Just before setting off the second fogger I thought it was time to call a professional to get a little advise.
I was told that I needed professional treatment and that using foggers was a big mistake as this causes the bugs to scatter to corners or escape to other rooms within the house. I was aghast to find I had probably inadvertently made the problem worse.
I decided I had no choice but to arrange for a professional visit. They were very good and sent a lady out to us within three days. She couldn’t have arrived soon enough.
After taking my son’s bed apart the lady found one live bug in the slats at the head end of the bed. You could see clear signs there had been more there, by the amount of bed bug poo near to where it was found.
No other bugs were found, and we were graded as having a ‘low infestation’. The lady steamed my two children’s beds and distributed a product called Domesticus Earth on the bed frames. She left me with some plastic bags that were able to go in the washing machine so I could take laundry out of the room without the risk of carrying bugs and dropping them in other parts of the house. The lady had a brief look over our bed but was positive they were not there. This was reassuring.
I was advised that I must not remove anything out of my children’s bedrooms unless it was tied up in bags or shrink-wrapped. I was also told that my kids should not go in and out of their room, instead, in the morning they should be stripped before leaving in case they had a bug attached to their bedclothes.
We were told to wait 14 days without hovering and then carry out a ‘deep clean’ of the room which would mean taking the beds apart and hovering everything at high power and disposing of the hoover bag afterwards.
14 days before the deep clean meant my children had to sleep in their infested beds for that amount of time to attract any bugs back to the bed and through the Domesticus Earth. This also meant they were getting bitten. To say I was distraught about this was an understatement. I felt absolutely heartbroken for them. I was thoroughly depressed.
I had about ten bags of teddy bears and bedding waiting to be washed and I felt the cruellest mother in the world sending my kids to bed each night knowing they were a meal ticket.
One very slow week passed and I began contemplating getting another company in for another treatment to make sure the problem was fixed. I had no confidence in the original company whatsoever. The more research I did, the less happy I felt. They knew I’d let off a fogger yet they only treated the one room? But, after calling around and gaining some prices I felt I needed to see through the 14 days and go from there as alternative treatments were costly. And after all, we were supposedly classed as a ‘low infestation’.
Each day I stripped my kids down to their pants and their nappies before letting them leave the room, and their bedroom was off limits during the day. One morning my son knocked on my door before I had time to get up and see to him, I opened the door and he was stood there in just his pants, wanting help with the toilet, and not understanding why his mummy made him strip to leave his room to do so. My heart spilt into pieces and I wept. A four-year-old having no idea why his mummy was being so strange but just getting on with it, with no complaints, adapting to the routine because I said so. I felt near to breaking point.
The deep clean day came and I sent my kids to my parents and the clean began. I thought it would be best to do the whole house in the likely event that they had moved. As I was stripping my bedsheets I saw a bug by the headboard. It was dead but never the less it was in my room! That was it, I decided I had to do something else to try and make sure this was sorted as soon as possible. I called another company and requested a ‘heat treatment’ to be carried out to the whole house. The heat treatment involves a specialist company coming out to your house, and heating up each room to 60 degrees for a few hours to completely kill off the bugs, eggs and nymphs. This came at a very high price, around £1k, and I had to borrow some money but it was something I had to do for my sanity. I was living in a nightmare and I just wanted to wake up!
The day they were booked to come we were told to strip all the sheets and take out all electrical or battery operated equipment out of all the rooms that were to be treated as the heat would damage them. We had to leave the property all day and take any pets with us too as they would not be able to stand the heat or the chemical treatment they perform after. We packed up our two cats and put them in a cattery for the first time in their lives. Literally, everything about this process was traumatic.
They were booked in to heat treat the two bedrooms and the living room and then lay chemical poison down (which had to be left for a minimum of four hours until it crystallised).
We arrived home at 8pm and I was not convinced the job had been done. Having a room heated up to 60 degrees for hours would surely leave the house a bit on the warm side but no, it was slightly chilly if anything. I also had a pair of jeans on a washing line in the living room that was still damp. There was also no job card or note to say what they had found or done. I was furious. I called the next day and wrote an email asking for answers to which they were not upfront with giving. I ended up speaking to The Citizens Advise Bureau and put together an email quoting relevant acts that they had breached by not providing the service I had paid just shy of £1000 for. Ten days on, I am sitting on the sofa and a bug appears. My blood ran cold. It was running around like a mad thing. From my research I could tell instantly that it was not a full adult but almost. I disposed of it down the kitchen sink. Eventually, after more emails and legal references, they came back to treat the house for the second time. This time when we got home the house was well above 30 degrees and we found lots of dead spiders in corners of the rooms, a clear indication the job had been done properly this time.
We are now three weeks on and there have been no more sightings so I am crossing my fingers that we have finally won the fight. It was an exhausting and traumatic process for the entire family, pets and all.
To anyone having a problem with these home wreckers, my advice is to make sure you seek professional advise straight away and make sure the company you use is BPCA registered and that they give you some kind of guarantee.
- Bed bugs are not known to transmit disease or pose any serious medical risk but they can leave itchy and unsightly bites, which could create a secondary skin infection if itching
- Unlike fleas bed bugs can not jump or fly
- Bed bugs are most active at night
- They can crawl more than 100 feet in one night so can go to different rooms to find a meal
- Bed bugs don’t discriminate between a clean and dirty home, after all when they attached themselves to you or your luggage they have no idea what your home will be like
- Whilst foggers can help the pest control companies have stated that the foggers are a gas and cannot hit all parts of the room so as soon as you set one off the bugs scatter running in all directions and resettling in lots of separate places in the room or adjacent rooms
- The bugs are drawn to the smell of humans and can get confused and wonder into dirty washing looking for their meal, this is why lots of people tend to bring them home from holidays. We put our dirty washing in our suitcases and they climb in to hitch a ride to a new home
- Bed bugs live off human blood and are attracted to the carbon dioxide we give off. They tend to set up their nests close to a host and are hardly ever further than 3 feet from the bed
- Bed bugs are quite flat so tend to get into cracks of wood, slats, wallpaper cracks or the seem of a mattress
- A bed bug can lay up to 10 eggs a day which takes around 2 weeks to hatch and then it takes around 37 days to reach adulthood where they can mate and lay eggs
- Bed bugs can live up to 18 months and adults can last 12 months without feeding, nymphs can only live for a few weeks without a blood meal
- The Domesticus Earth is a white powder that is made up of fossilised remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. The fossilised remains are made up of silica and the small pieces affect the bugs exoskeleton as they cross it which makes them dry out and die. But this can take 6-10 days once they have come in contact
- Domesticus Earth does not affect the eggs
- Washing at 60 degrees can kill them
- After they have taken a meal they become very fat and then find it hard to get back into their nests so tend to poo to make themselves able to fit so seeing black spots could be a sign they have been there. If you wet a cotton bud and wipe the black spot if it smears it is a pretty good indication that it’s indeed bed bug poo.