03.01.09: bed bugs, day 0

hey, look at that! i was starting to tire of posts about food preparation, and the universe did me a solid by making me part of a new saga. we have bed bugs.

joe has been arguing this for a week or two now, and i've been calling him a hypochondriac. sure, he was covered with little red bumps - but i wasn't, and anyway, they were much smaller and lighter than the bite pictures we found online. besides, i'd just finished that book about bed bugs and knew what i was talking about. i peeled up our sheets and mattress pad, looked for the telltale fecal stains (like little black pin pricks), and found nothing. then the bumps turned up on me, too; this morning, i pushed the bed back from the wall to give the far corner a look. there i found...

L: hey, what should we name that first bed bug i caught and put in a jar?

J: benjamin.

L: because...?

J: because of all the benjamins it's going to take to get rid of him.

...benjamin. no photophobia for this motherfucker: he was lounging on our box spring like he was waiting for a mai tai. then i discovered a ton of fecal stains, just about a foot under where my head is when i'm asleep.

i called 311 and learned that i'm supposed to report a bed bug infestation after my management company fails to do something about it. i called our super and got no response; i then called our property manager, and ditto. we agreed that we would throw our mattress and box spring away (they're almost ten years old anyway, and the cost of reconditioning them would, i reasoned, be comparable to a new set on super-sale), so i made a run to the hardware store for painters' suits, plastic for the doomed mattress, and trash bags.

when the super called back an hour ago, he told us that an exterminator came around the building to inspect for bed bugs just yesterday, and did he come to our apartment? (he didn't.) i googled our management company and learned that several of the buildings on our block have been infested for years - and that some tenants have been to court about it. you guys, i smell big fun.

30-gallon trash bags filled: 3
today's cost: $30 (so far)


tom said...

Bedbugs are officially a Big Deal in Chicago. Trib ran a report on this last week -- the little (erm) buggers have led to months-long fights with exterminators and eventual surrender, with "no one should have to live like this" like-statements taking the place of Versailles and the USS Missouri.

One useful tidbit that I remember from the article: beware of "spray-and-pray" exterminators. If you are going to pay somebody to do the job, insist that they go nuclear and that they do so once, and then return to your post-fallout residence clear in the knowledge that the bugs be gone.

tom said...

Another fun fact learned from the Trib (and confirmed by the ever reliable Wikipedia): bedbugs can live for over a year without feeding. That's astounding. It also explains why spot spraying doesn't really work all that well -- all they gotta do is hide someplace where the poison ain't, and then come back a few months later. Scary stuff.

lauren said...

18 months, in fact - which is why it was once believed they ate wallpaper paste and wood as well (they don't; only animal and human blood). it takes 15 days for eggs to hatch, which in turn is why we won't be able to unpack for two weeks (the exterminator comes back to take care of the newborns).

they're quite the big deal here, too - complaints in new york city went from like 70 in FY 2004 to something around nine thousand last year. lots of local media coverage, as well as an article your humble narrator wrote and sent to press not two weeks ago. bed bugs like irony as well, apparently.

Rachel (heart of light) said...

Gah. I guess bed bugs are making a comeback all over the country. Awesome.

Good luck dealing with your unwanted visitors. I'll be reading your article just in case we get hit.