Author’s war on bed bugs included a little chocolate

The dreaded bed bug. (Drawing courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
The dreaded bed bug. (Drawing courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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My bed is an island. It’s covered with books, notebooks, research, pens,paintbrushes and, often, my beloved granddaughter. Still, it’s an island. No part of my sheets or other bedding touches the floor or a wall. My pillows, mattress and box spring are each encased in squeaky bug proof covers.

And there is talcum powder that I’ve spread along the edges of the room – bed bugs are somewhat intolerant of baby powder.

I moved into this great apartment last fall. And was immediately assaulted by bed bugs. A pest control company came. During the first of four weekly applications I walked around with the bed bug guy, peppering him with questions, as he sprayed some concoction onto the walls, baseboards and into electrical outlets. I was enjoying his company until he said “Yeah, the weight of this chemical will take down bed bugs but I don’t think it can take down a person.”

I fled to my computer to start researching.

An  EPA report was full of DO NOT DO THIS statements– such as do not spray in a school classroom when occupied. The Alaska Pesticide Control program and research from Michigan State University WERE helpful and, eventually, it all boiled down to this: prolonged stress, considerable financial investment, physical and psychological harm – did I mention my 2 am trip to the ER when I was covered with red itchy bites, and my blood pressure had skyrocketed. When I finally saw an ER doctor he said… it’s not a medical problem. You can go home.

Everything in the apartment had to be put in big black trash bags and moved into the middle of the living room and sealed for at least three weeks, boxes should be broken down and thrown away. Throw away as much as you can of Everything.

Vaccum – vaccum, vaccum. Buy bed bug encasement protectors – well over $200 dollars to “outfit” my bed. Shower every night before bed. Wash your bedding at least once a week and dry on high, high heat for a long, long time. Do not use shared or public laundromats as you – and your bedding might spread the bed bugs.

I  declared my own WAR on this invasion of rapidly multiplying, blood seeking bugs.

And I was ruthless and utterly fearless with my piles of research, talcum powder, and duct tape sitting on my Island Bed as I vacuumed, washed, scrubbed, showered and bagged day after day, and night after night. Medication helped. Also, chocolate.

Anchorage Writer Sumner MacLeish is the author of “Seven Words for Wind: Essays and Field Notes from Alaska’s Pribilof Islands.” She listened to our report last week on the difficulty, expense, and stress for rural residents trying to get rid of bed bugs. MacLeish has lived in rural Alaska but it was not until she got to Anchorage that she first encountered Cimex lectularius.