I’ve now had two experiences with bed bugs in different parts of the United States.
Back in New York, my family and I discovered there were bed bugs living under and in my mattress. I found clusters of bites on my body every few nights and alerted my parents. There were likely only 4 bed bugs, but, obviously, it could have gotten extremely out of hand if those 4 multiplied — which I’m sure they tried to do. We knew they were bed bugs and immediately called an extermination company.
It turned out due to the nature of our apartment building, an older New York City building, the bed bug exterminators could not conduct a heat treatment, so they chose a chemical treatment instead. While dealing with the smell of the chemical treatment, vacating the apartment, and taking many precautions to keep from spreading the bed bugs to the family friend we were staying with, the bites kept itching me for about 3 weeks after the initial contact.
Some of the bite marks actually ended up scarring for a few months, though those marks eventually went away over the years. We never had bed bugs again in our apartment, though the apartment continued to display the after-effects of the treatment for 2 years (yes, that long!) — visitors would say something smelled off during a visit.
Fast forward five years later
I am living in Phoenix, Arizona. During my first week here, my boyfriend and I went to a mall. However, before arriving at the mall, we stopped at a nearby lake. Once we finished shopping at the mall, we went about our day as normal, went to bed, and woke up the next morning. That morning, I discovered a cluster of itchy bites on my thigh and surmised it was probably mosquitos that bit me while I was at the lake, because I did have to swat away a lot of flies, and mosquitos, of course, breed in bodies of water. The bites did itch quite a bit, but I thought nothing more of it.
After about a week, the bites and the itching subsided, and I thought it would go away like all mosquito bites would. However, the next morning, again I noticed a cluster of bites, this time on my arm. I tried to stay positive and thought maybe it was another mosquito bite, but the thought persisted that I found them specifically upon waking. Four days passed and of course I was dealing with their itchiness again. They were very itchy, but not nearly as bad as the bed bug bites I had previously in NY.
I like to think that if the bites I dealt with in NY were a punch from Mike Tyson, the bites in Phoenix were a hi-five from a toddler. I was still trying to push the thought of bed bugs away, but I nonetheless checked for bug feces or blood stains on the bed, washed everything, and vacuumed as much as I could. While at work, I decided to contact All Bed Bugs Begone to ask what they thought of my bites. By that point, I actually found a third cluster on my left arm and was sick of not knowing what caused them.
The expert from All Bed Bugs Begone confirmed that my bites looked like bed bug bites, but mentioned that these bites may itch less than my previous ones, because they are from another type of bed bug (compared to the type I encountered in NYC). Two days later, my apartment was inspected by a professional who ended up finding one bed bug cleverly lodged between some loose seams where the mattress and box spring met. We ordered a precautionary heat treatment immediately.
The question remains: “Where did this bed bug come from, if the place we are staying at is on top of pest control?” Well, I think it came from the mall because that’s where we went the day before I woke up with a cluster of bites. When my boyfriend and I were shopping, we sat down on a padded seat in a store to try on shoes. In general, we were trying on clothes and moving through crowded areas during our shopping trip.
I can imagine that a bed bug could have easily dropped off one customer and lodged itself underneath the padding on one of the seats waiting for an unsuspecting victim to hitchhike and find its way into my belongings.
What did we learn at the end of the story, kids?
Like with driving, don’t ever be too confident. I am sure someone out there was duped by their own conviction of what “really itchy” means and thinking that just because preventative pest control measures have been taken at their home, or because they don’t usually find themselves in situations where they would come in contact with bed bugs, that they are immune from infestation and bed bugs are not something they need to look out for.
I am very thankful to All Bed Bugs Begone for their expert advice, which ultimately led to early discovery and extermination of my bed bug problem. There are many bed bug tips mentioned in other posts on this blog that focus on what steps to take when you realize you have bed bugs. I recommend reading those posts and immediately consulting a bed bug pest control professional if you have bed bugs or suspect that you do.