Friday, May 7, 2010


The last few months I was in New York, I was keeping a horrible secret! If I told anyone, it could have meant social ostracization. People would have looked at me with a mixture of disgust and pity, and they would not wanted to come near my roommates or me, or even enter our house. What was this horrible secret, you ask? In New York it can only be one thing: bedbugs.

Back in March I got a couple of really nasty bug bites. I thought maybe there were fleas in the rug, so I took steps to kill them, but the bites persisted, and every few days I'd get a few new ones. However, my roommates were unaffected. When the flea poison didn't seem to do anything, I began to get scared. Bedbugs are a serious problem in New York. Posters on the subway cars and buses alert people to the rising population of the pests, which are extremely difficult to kill. I feared the worst. But I searched my bed and my room for signs of the nasty little creatures to no avail. I looked for the clues that websites said to look for, and came up with nothing. Even still, I began carrying a spray bottle of alcohol around and dousing all of my belongings with it. Almost every day I'd change my sheets and take my blankets to the laundromat. I washed every article of clothing I own. I sealed my mattress in a plastic cover. Still no sight of bedbugs, but still a few bites every so often. But I wondered if I was imagining it. Maybe the itching welts were caused by something else? Finally, in desperation, I wrapped my entire bed frame in packing tape, sealing every crack and crevice, so that if there were bedbugs hiding in the paper-thin cracks, they could not come out and bite me. I began sleeping with my light on to discourage them. Once a haven, my bed was now a war zone.

Finally one night after working on my computer late at night, I decided to go to bed. I went to pull back the covers on my bed, and underneath the blankets, there was a bedbug! Small and flat and disgusting looking, it was walking slowly along, probably looking for me. I immediately killed it with alcohol, put it in a ziploc bag, and threw it away. Then I searched my bed, every fold of the sheets, for more bugs, but didn't find anything. It was very hard to sleep that night, but I didn't get any more bites. I continued to change my sheets and wash my blankets and be on the alert, but I didn't find any more bugs after that one, and didn't get bit again the rest of the time I was in New York.

After all the public service announcements I've heard, all the websites, and all the horror stories, it's surprising to think that there was just one bedbug, but maybe I killed the others in my efforts, or maybe the one was just a random hop-on. Sometimes you're forced to stand or sit very close to other people on the buses and subways, and it's easy for the little bugs to crawl from one person to another. So, I don't think my apartment was infested, and there is no reason for anyone to be afraid to come over and visit my roommates. In fact, I think I was pretty lucky to live in New York for almost three years and not have a problem with bedbugs before this. That said, its definitely something I never want to have to deal with ever again! Now that I'm in North Carolina, where it's hot and humid and the perfect environment for insects, I've been getting lots of mosquito bites, but they are nothing compared to those bedbug bites. In fact, I feel silly complaining... but I still do. Why do bugs like to bite me so much?!

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