Archive for Sunday, September 26, 2010

Boomer Girl Diary: When the bedbugs come for me, I’ll be ready

September 26, 2010


Some things I would enjoy discovering in my bed: crisp, 800 thread-count sheets, a sexy sprinkling of red rose petals, Jon Hamm in his skivvies. Better yet, all three simultaneously.

One thing I would NOT relish finding is a bedbug. Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew.

Seriously, my goombahs, I’d rather find a bloody horse’s head under the covers than that creepy bloodsucking insect, also known as wall louse, mahogany flat, crimson rambler, heavy dragoon and redcoat. (Who else thinks ‘crimson rambler’ sounds like your dad’s old sedan? “Hop in the crimson rambler, kids. It’s Dairy Queen night!”)

An attack by these parasites leaves your body covered with itchy red welts that are so gross, I could barely look at the 1,160,000 photos on Google. Imagine waking up after a fun night in Times Square to discover you look like a leper!

(Who is scratching themselves right now, besides me?)

Bedbugs have, by all accounts, invaded the country - the east and west coasts, anyway. They’ve infiltrated countless hotels, dorm rooms, airplanes and lingerie shops. (Victoria’s secret is, apparently, out of the cubby.)

It’s gotten so bad, the entomological community decided to hold a Bedbug Summit in Chicago this week, offering “the best information on bedbugs available to date,” according to the organizer, Phillip Cooper of – wait for it --- Bedbug Central.

The event was a combination conference and trade show, complete with the latest bedbug technology, like sprayers and steamers, and even bedbug sniffing dogs to rent. There is, apparently, big money in bedbug eradication and prevention. One enterprising company is marketing a ring-shaped device that fastens around the leg of the bed to prevent bedbugs from climbing up to the mattress.

Now, why didn’t I think of that?

Wait a minute! I DID!!

It was the fall of 1981. My son, our firstborn, was just a month old. We lived in a 2-bedroom starter cottage in Kansas City. My husband worked a swing shift and often left home at 10:30 at night for the salt mines. It sounds miserable, I know, but because I was young, dumb and happy, I didn’t complain. Much.

One night, when my hard-working spouse was away, I woke for the baby’s midnight feeding. (Maybe it was the 2 a.m. feeding. Or the 4 o’clock. I don’t recall. The kid ate, like, all the time!)

Anyway, just as I was placing my sated, sound-asleep baby back in his adorable antique iron crib, a mouse scurried across the mattress! I shrieked a blood-curling scream, drew my son close and did what every self-respecting mother would do in the same situation: Run home to Grandma’s.

The next day, as my husband set traps in every nook and cranny, I constructed what I would come to call “critter guards”. These were cardboard disks, approximately 5 inches in diameter that I covered with aluminum foil and affixed to the legs of the crib, which I had moved to the center of the room to prevent critters from dive-bombing the baby from the curtains.

My husband was undoubtedly skeptical that my latest craft project would have the desired effect but he was young, dumb and happy, so he humored me (and probably thought, “At least, it’s not another frickin’ macramé pot hanger.”)

Still, I am pleased to report that no mouse, or other creature, ventured into the crib again.

I KNEW I should have patented those critter guards! I could have sold them to every hotel in Manhattan. Do the math: two beds per room at four legs per bed? Ca-CHING! Donald Trump’s order alone could have funded my retirement in Panama.

Well, as Mark Twain said, “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.”

On the other hand, maybe it’s not too late to exploit the bedbug situation for my personal gain. After all, experts predict the buggers will be hitting sheets in the Midwest in 18 months. Surely there’s a way to make money off this disgusting pandemic!

Wait a minute! Did someone say 'bedbug sniffing dogs?' I’ve got a cocker spaniel, for crying out loud! Her sense of smell is 40 times more acute than the average human. If she can sniff out an old bone from the bottom of the compost heap, surely she can handle a few crimson ramblers.

Ah, but that means I’d have to train her with actual live bedbugs. Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew!!


asbury 7 years, 6 months ago

We have a fly hunting dog.....we didn't teach her...she sniffs them out, chases them around and then nabs them right out of the air......I suppose teaching her to sniff out bedbugs wouldn't be too much of a stretch! BTW , no mouse in the cradle, but a cockroch in a nursing pad during a night feeding sent me running home too!!

Mark Kostner 7 years, 6 months ago

Bed bugs are no joke. I had to deal with them twice this year. I got rid of a bed and a couch and had the place fumigated. Then later I stayed in a hotel that was infested with them. The bugs tended to attack my extremities, especially legs and feet. The bugs are very small, and most were practically invisible. The bug bites were like a cross between poison ivy and ticks. Having them is traumatic. It's a bit humbling to realize that you are another creature's dinner and you're not on top of the food chain. Unlike other bugs, bed bugs come toward you and not away. They are quite aggressive.

KansasPerson 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't know about this "only on the east and west coasts" information -- I have heard that they are definitely in all states. I read that Ohio was having an especially bad time with them. There is a website you can visit,, which is "a free, public database of user-submitted bed bug reports from across the United States and Canada. Founded in 2006, the site has collected about 20,000 reports covering 12,000 locations."

Just looking at their map gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Furthermore, I was sitting in the cafe at Borders a couple weeks ago, and I heard a very thorough conversation at the next table between two (I'm guessing) KU students. One was telling about the bedbug infestation in her new apartment, and how the landlord had claimed that the apartment had been thoroughly cleaned before the student had moved in, but how she had found bedbugs everywhere, including in the carpet.

I admit I'm a bit phobic about them, to the point where, during unavoidable hotel stays, I will put my luggage in the bathroom (less chance of the critters in a tiled space) and give the bed a very exacting inspection, including under the sheets, between the mattresses, the headboard, and the wall. From what I've read, you can spot them pretty easily because they leave blood spots. (Ick.)

I know I probably sound crazy but I would really just freak if I accidentally brought them home from a hotel (and you can get them in the most expensive hotels, too -- check that registry!). From what I've read, you practically have to burn all your furniture and move into another house to escape them. Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but not much!

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