Living / 11 October, 2023 / My Baba

Bed Bugs: A Reader’s Experience + Expert Advice On What To Do

Reports of growing panic in Paris and other French cities have surfaced, with bedbug infestations seemingly on the rise in recent weeks. Experts have identified this upward trend extending back several years, and it has raised concerns and apprehension about bedbug issues in the UK as well. One of our UK readers has been in touch to share her first-hand experience of these parasitic insects. What’s more, she has some top tips to prevent, find and cure an infestation of bed bugs.

Is a UK invasion on the way?

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?

According to data published by Rentokil, there was a 65% surge in reported bed bug infestations between 2022 and 2023. It’s estimated that over the last two years, approximately 5% of households in London have experienced a bedbug infestation.

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 vacuumed his whole bed, teddies and room and got online in the hope of finding a quick fix.

Do shop-bought products kill bed bugs?

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.

We got out with our lives, thinking we had outsmarted them when I spotted another climbing up the children’s bedroom wall the very next day. I was devastated! Just before setting off the second fogger, I thought it was time to call a professional to get some advice.

I was told that I needed professional treatment and that using foggers was a big mistake as this caused the bugs to scatter to corners or escape to other rooms within the house. I was aghast to find I had made the problem worse.

Time to call the professionals

I decided I had no choice but to arrange for a professional visit. They 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 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 the 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.

Advice on what to do if you think you have an infestation

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 rooms. 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, vacuuming everything at high power and disposing of the vacuum bag afterwards.

Fourteen days prior to the scheduled deep cleaning, my children had to endure sleeping in their infested beds, thereby luring any remaining bugs back into the bed and through the Domesticus Earth treatment. Regrettably, this also meant they continued to suffer from bedbug bites. To describe my emotional state as distraught would be a grave understatement; I felt utterly heartbroken for them, and the weight of the situation left me depressed.

Teddy bears and bed bugs

I had about ten bags of teddy bears and bedding waiting to be washed. 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. 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 standing 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 split into pieces, and I wept. A four-year-old having no idea why his mummy was being so strange, but with no complaints, just adapting to the routine because I said so. I felt near to breaking point.

The deep clean: getting rid of an infestation

The deep clean day came, and I sent my kids to my parents, and the cleaning 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 nevertheless, 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!

Heat treatment for bed bugs

The day they were booked to come, we were told to strip all the sheets and take 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).

Heating the house up to 60 degrees to get rid of the bugs

We arrived home at 8 p.m., 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 Advice 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 runs 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.

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 advice straight away and make sure the company you use is BPCA registered and that they give you some kind of guarantee.

Some facts about bed bugs

  • 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.
  • They’re most active at night.
  • They can crawl more than 100 feet in one night, so they can go to different rooms to find a meal.
  • They do not discriminate between a clean and dirty home. After all, when they attach themselves to you or your luggage, they have no idea what your home will be like.

Using a fogger

  • Whilst foggers can help, 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 wander 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.
  • They’re quite flat in shape, so tend to get into cracks in wood, slats, wallpaper cracks or the seem of a mattress.

The life cycle of a bed bug

  • A bed bug can lay up to 10 eggs a day, which takes around two weeks to hatch. It takes around 37 days to reach adulthood, where they can mate and lay eggs.
  • With a life span of up to 18 months, 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 bug’s 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.

Bed bug poo: what to look for

  • After they have taken a meal, they become very fat and then find it hard to get back into their nests, so they 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.

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