The Real.Est List
Bedbugged! How not to get rid of your stuff
Bedbugged! is a weekly column by journalist and bed bug survivor Theresa Braine. For more, click here.
So there I was, trying to sleep on my sofa bed, even though I had just found bed bugs crawling out of the arm. I was about to learn how not to get rid of bed bugged furniture. Furniture tossing isn’t required, for one thing. There are ways to treat it, though I didn’t find that out till later. But surrounded by helpers as clueless as myself, I was about to do everything one shouldn’t do.
(A brief pause while I exhort and disclaim: Do not try this at home. Call a competent professional, even if you can’t afford it, because you can’t afford not to. )
I was in quite a state by the time TC, my so-called exterminator, arrived the next morning in answer to my frantic call of the night before, toting a silver keg of noxious chemicals. I don’t remember what they were, and he did not have the paperwork handy. (It was not DDT. He was not clever enough to procure it, and bed bugs are pretty much resistant to it anyway.)
In fact he did not have any paperwork handy. I had tried to find him on the list of licensed exterminators-- he swore he had a license--but I could find no record of TC or his supposed employer on the New York State Environmental Conservation Web site of licensed exterminating companies. I decided to overlook that. I just wanted the bugs gone.
TC pulled apart the two folds of material where arm meets couch to reveal bed bugs deeply embedded; several industrious-looking creatures tooling around, plus a couple of apparent breeders. I thought I was going to vomit.
But there was more. TC did the same with the outside of the arm, where it met the side of the couch, to reveal at least a dozen. “See this female?” he said, pointing to one of them. “And those are the eggs. And the babies.”
I was sobbing.
TC grabbed his pesticide hose, opened the throttle wide on his magic pumping can and let loose like Rambo on the couch with a stream of poison. Not good enough.
“Out! I want it OUT!” I gasped. “This couch has to be taken out immediately!”
I was out of my head. All I could think about was getting that damn, disgusting thing Out. Of. My. House. Right now.
Just then, at the apex of my freakout, my downstairs neighbor happened by and offered to help. The two men complied with my demand, or tried to—the sofa wouldn’t fit through the apartment door unless you took the bathroom door off. We tabled that project and put the couch back in the living room, dead and dying bugs and all. As for the ones fleeing from the spray, we sprayed them some more and stomped on them—the ones we noticed.
Later that day the guys who had renovated my apartment, whose licenses were no more discernible than the exterminator’s, broke up the built-in bed frame and the couch. As they pulled apart the nailed-together plywood sheets that comprised the bed’s headboard and platform, I realized that it was a veritable Bed Bug Trump Tower. It was riddled with plump adults, unfed nymphs, poppyseed-sized hatchlings—a veritable gallery of the five life stages—tucked into crevices thinner than a Metrocard. The thing was zoned for bed bug condos.
Some of my “roommates” scurried out, heading for the baseboards. I sprayed them with Steri-fab, an alcohol-based pesticide that is one tool in the bed bug warrior’s arsenal. I thought I got them all but there was really no way to tell.