We’ve all had “that moment” whether you’re a pest control professional, a homeowner or renter. That moment where you read a story on bed bugs or hear a bed bug sufferer’s story and say to yourself “it’s just a bug, what’s the big deal”. That moment where you think “it doesn’t transmit disease which means it’s no different than having a mosquito in your house”. In fact having a mosquito in your house is theoretically worse because it can transmit disease. That moment where you wonder why people react so strongly to having a bed bug in their house.
I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t completely explain it. I can’t explain why having a bug that bites once every few days and is the size of a sunflower seed may as well be Dracula living in the house. I can’t explain why you wake up 5-times in the middle of the night with a flashlight searching for that elusive bug. I can’t explain why you dream about bed bugs crawling on you and your family 5 straight nights and struggle to get more than 2 hours of sleep for 7 nights in a row. I can’t explain why you’d readily throw all your furniture out even if it doesn’t make any sense and sleep on the floor and live out of garbage bags for 2 months……but many do.
Then it happened…..
I woke up one morning with a few bites on the back of my neck. I dismissed it like all first-time bed bug sufferers do. I figured it was the mosquito that bit me the night before or the rash I received from wrestling with one of my dogs outside. Then it happened again and there was no turning back. I woke up almost exactly one-week later with a row of 3-bites down the back of my upper arm. There was no mistaking who that was. Why they often bite in 3’s, tend to appear in rows and clusters and tend to be on exposed skin surfaces (arms, shoulders, neck and face: what’s typically exposed when you sleep) isn’t completely understood but I had seen enough of it to know I wasn’t sleeping alone. Sure enough there she was. A fat, fully fed female bed bug sitting on the bottom of MY box spring (thankfully I had encasements on my box spring which made it much easier to find).
Now remember that I’m a guy who does this for a living. I’ve seen infestations so large you wouldn’t know where to begin. I’ve had bed bugs walking on my hand while trying to perform experiments on them. I’ve even found 1 or 2 walking up my shirt as I was walking out of a home I just treated for bed bugs. But none of those situations were my house and none of those situations contained my wife, 4-year old and 2-year old. None of those situations contained MY bed where I go after a long day to turn off my brain and get much-needed rest.
So there I was waking up every night because I thought I felt something crawling on me. There I was inspecting the bed every day for weeks on end to make sure the issue was gone. There I was wondering when we would find another one.
Thankfully if ended up being just one bug. It probably came home with me from a job or one of my many business trips. I assure you now I’m careful when I return home from work and strip-down any time there’s a chance someone may be with me. I assure you I empty my suitcases and store my luggage in bags so they can’t infest my home. But I most strongly assure you that I now know what it means to sleep with a bed bug and the stress that comes along with it.
And so how I’ll leave this is with a quote from To Kill A Mockingbird: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Wait until you have a night where you sleep with one in your bed and then you can comment on what it means to sleep with a bed bug.