Sunday, October 26, 2014


This is intended to help travelers and anyone who has the misfortune of acquiring the dreaded bed bugs. These little critters are as small as a flea when hungry and as big as a fruit fly when bloated with blood. At any hotel, no matter how cheap or fancy, clean or dirty, you must look for these guys. But that being said, if you see one, it’s too late.

Whether you see one or not you should assume the little bugs are hiding out in your bags. When we get home we leave our luggage in the garage. All of our laundry is washed and dried at a high heat. The bags sit out there for a week. We take our clothes off in the garage and put those in the washer also.

When we travel we put our clothes in plastic bags inside our luggage for two reasons. First you know some security guy is going to rifle through your stuff. This keeps his/her paws off your undies. Secondly it keeps the bugs and critters out of your stuff until you feel confident enough to unpack at the hotel (which occasionally never comes).

This last trip was a done in the usual manner, but bed bugs still got in. The hotel in Novato had a bug crawling across the bedding in plain sight, which is a very bad sign because they are usually shy of light. This one splatted a lot of blood when killed. Another sure sign it was a bed bug… a big one. We knew we were in trouble.

Karina came out of her room one morning a week later and showed me the famous cluster of three bites (breakfast, lunch and dinner) on two different places. By-the-way, she hadn’t washed the clothes she’d been wearing and had brought her suitcase into her room before we asked her to bring it back out to the garage. We hoped the bites were fleas or mosquitoes, the next morning she was covered in bites.

I called in sick to work (thank goodness I have such a good boss) and went to work on stripping my guest’s room and ours, going over her mattress with a hairdryer on high heat, tipping the top mattress on its side, setting off bug bombs, and doing a ton of laundry. I would rather have been at work!
Then we held our breath for two days. On the third day she came out with three new bites and she was in tears. The latest bites seemed to have thrown her into an allergic reaction and she was put on a regimen of antihistamines with excellent results.

So I stood in the kitchen and began to google bed bug bites and I stumbled across a medical site that had horrible testimonials from people who’d spent untold thousands on their homes, throwing away mattresses, carpet, wood baseboards, bed-frames, the cost of exterminators, and finally the cost of relocating. In the midst of this was a short and up-beat note from someone who’d used Diatomaceous Earth (DE).

I remember this stuff from when I was a kid and my dad used it in the pool filter. It’s fossilized insect remains. It looks like greyish beige powder. I researched it and found that one of the main uses for DE is to physically kill exoskeleton insects such as fleas, ants and bed bugs . . . yippee! It isn’t a chemical or poison. NOTE; It is often mixed with poison, so beware! Be sure you purchase “Food Grade” or “Human Grade” DE. Big hardware stores usually sell the poison powder with DE as a minor ingredient. If your pet or child eats it, it could be lethal. They sell DE for pools, but I don’t know if that is safe for consumption. If anyone has a definitive answer to that I’d love to know.

Go to a feed store or pet store where it is pure and used for animals. If your cat steps on it and licks its paw it will only kill any insects it may have consumed. NOTE; You should wear a mask while dusting your house with it because the dust can irritate your lungs and eyes too.

So we bought a $17.00 bag of powder (and only used a fourth of it). Once home we pulled everything away from the walls, tipped the mattress on its side again, donned the masks, and using a powder sugar sifter we coated the perimeter of the room and the mattress (we just put the sheets right over the powder). I had to put drops in my eyes because they got itchy. We sprinkled up and down the hallways on the carpet and along the baseboards. I emptied out a small spice shaker and put the DE in it for the smaller spaces. NOTE; if it gets wet it is useless and messy (like outdoors near sprinklers or dew in the morning).

Karina volunteered to be bait. The idea is for the bugs to walk through the powder. It gets into their joints and shreds them . . . like walking through a field of machetes. Physical, not chemical death.
She has not had a bite since. It’s been one week. We’ve vacuumed and reapplied once, with the majority of the powder under and on her bed. We also followed the feed store’s advice and put some around an ant hill in our yard. There’s still a few straggling ants because it keeps getting damp from the morning dew.

Try DE before you spend thousands of dollars, and risk poisons in your house.

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