Three days in a row this past week, I woke up with what strings of what seemed to be bug bites along various parts of my body. They were itchy, and seemed to be multiplying exponentially each day. Although my sliding window-door has no screen, I hadn’t seen hide or hair of a bug in my room, except for a small fly which I’m still not sure I killed. After doing a little research online, I decided on the third day that I probably had bedbugs, which only come out at night and are quite adept at hiding themselves away. (I am now a bedbug expert, so if anyone would like more information, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve even read a bit about the so-called “assassin bugs,” if anyone’s interested.)
Although bedbugs seem rare here and the problem could also have been an allergic reaction or that damn rogue fly, the latter two seemed very unlikely given the circumstances. Deciding to act quickly (one bed bug can lay 4-5 eggs per day), I went to Carrefour to get something to kill them. Carrefour having nothing appropriate and no one who knew anything about pesticides, I called my landlord for advice, who told me to come back to the apartment and borrow his magic spray bottle full of who-knows-what. As a firm believer in the secret weapons of grumpy old landlords, I followed his orders to the letter and essentially fumigated my room. One is supposed to wash linens in hot water and then dry them on hot in case any bed bugs have taken refuge inside, but since I don’t have a dryer here and I wasn’t even completely sold on the bedbug theory in the first place, I decided to take everything sensitive out of the room and go with the all-chemical procedure.
It’s tough to tell, but so far I think it’s worked. It’s not really clear to me whether any given bug bite is new or old, or just a delayed reaction, but at any rate I haven’t woken up with any new swaths of the stuff, and that’s a promising sign. I’m holding off on declaring victory just yet, and I suspect that what Wikipedia aptly terms the “psychological effects” of bedbugs will be with me for a while: let me assure you that the thought that there might be little creatures crawling over my body at night sucking my blood is not particularly comforting, and just writing this post makes me feel itchy. That said, I have to say that when put in perspective, it’s a far cry from worries about things like deer ticks in the northeast (friends from areas in which ticks are non-endemic: did you know Lyme disease, if undetected for too long, can permanently impair brain function?), or even poison ivy, which has been known to ruin months of my life at a time – while bed bugs can cause allergic reactions, they’re not known to carry any diseases.
Plus, I learned how to say “mattress,” “smelly bugs” (a general term for crawling, infestation-type insects), and “pesticide” in Chinese – brings back the oh-so-fond memories of summer 2009 and the never-ending battle against the mold in my bureau. I guess that when you’re studying a language, every infestation has its silver lining.
And if the problem still isn’t solved, well, I’ll have no choice but to bring this guy into the picture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masked_hunter. Those bedbugs will wish they’d never been born.