Bedbugs, from the moment you realise that you have them they will rule your life.
It was an innocent request from an acquaintance that changed my life. I can't be too dramatic here as the effect on me and others I live with will be long lasting.
Cassy (27) who came from New York for a 6 month working holiday, was an instant hit at the bar where I worked. We all thought her accent cute and her idiosyncrasies novel. She was not staying long, just a few weeks as she planned to travel up the coast for a month of surfing and rain-forest trekking.
She wanted to travel light and didn't want to take all of her luggage with her. I offered to store one of her bags at my home until she returned to resume work for the busy Christmas period. We slipped it into a bottom cupboard in the hall as it would be out of the way while Cassy went off on her big adventure.
It was about 14 days later when Jack one of my housemates showed me the mosquito bites on his body. He had been scratching for a few days and he was getting a little concerned.
I thought there was something strange about this as he was the only one of us being bitten. We joked that it was his French blood that was so tasty.
Well were we ever wrong. Looking back, had we known then what was really biting him we might have had a chance of stopping the full blown disaster that occurred.
Within the next two weeks we were all scratching and cursing and blaming poor Jack for bringing some horrible disease open us. By this time Jack had made an appointment with the doctor and we all waited with anticipation to see what we had.
BED BUGS !!!!!!!!!!!!!
What, bed bugs! Horror struck us all. We prided ourselves on how well we kept house. Sure we liked to party and have the odd ale but we employed professional cleaners and were even known to wash the Bar-B-Que. This was not the place you would expect to find bed bugs.
Within minutes of the news, screams and yells could be heard from every bedroom. But it was Jack's room and the lounge that had the highest concentration of the little terrorists.
We found them after tearing the sheets of the beds and looking in the edges of the mattresses. Little black bugs and their black spotted droppings.
Oh god what do we do now. Don't panic was the consensus, there has to be a simple solution. But where do we sleep tonight !!! Not in our beds. Fortunately it was very hot weather so we raced to the $2 shop and picked up some blow up mattresses and a pump.
We all ended up sleeping on the back deck . But that was no solution, the problem was still there in the morning, and the possums were keen to let us know that the deck was their territory at night.
My suggestion that we would have to get the house fumigated was met with howls of protests. The idea of flooding the place with insecticides just didn't sit well with anyone, for many reasons.
To the internet, we are not the first to have to deal with this. Research that is what is needed. Armed with a new understanding of our enemy we felt we could tackle this problem with less drastic measures.
By lunch time WE HAD A PLAN . But it was Sunday and we needed to move fast as we had work tomorrow. It was down to the hardware/supermarket to collect the tools. We bought rolls of durable plastic, cans of pyre-thrum based low toxic insecticide and rolls of sticky tape and face dust masks.
We took one mattress at a time out onto the front balcony, vacuumed up the bugs and sprayed all the ribbing. Then sprayed the ribbing of the bed bases. As all the beds were ensembles with no bed head or bed end, we could proceed with the next step.
The idea was to completely cover the bed with plastic . Take out our winter bedding (which had been sealed from moths and stored away for summer) . We would tape this and fresh sheets over the plastic to provide a comfortable surface to sleep on. Being very careful not to allow the bedding clothes and plastic to come into contact with the floor.
The next and final step was to spray all along the skirting boards and then on the floor, spray a ring around the bed. We sprinkled some talc to identify the ring as we did not want any of it on our feet.
The theory being that if there were more bugs hiding throughout the room they would, during the night, come down the walls and across the floor to the bed. In crossing the ring they would come into contact with the surface spray.
They would be able to gain access to the mattress by climbing up the bed legs. But this would not lead to a nourishing blood meal only to more surface spray.
Even though we had vacuumed the lounge within an inch of its life no one was prepared to sit on it. By 8pm cleaned but exhausted we decided to head to our local Thai restaurant for dinner congratulating ourselves on outsmarting the invaders.
We were still sleeping on plastic covered beds when Cassy returned. By this time we had figured out that the bugs had most likely hitched a ride in Cassy's bag. Jack's room being the closest bedroom to the hall cupboard and the lounge area was the first to be infested.
Cassy was shocked to hear our news and to receive her bag also sealed in plastic. It does seem likely though that the bugs were picked up from the backpacker hostel that she stayed in when she first came to Sydney. We have learned that they now have strict procedures in place to deal with this new menace.
I am pleased to report that our strategy worked. Albeit an exhausting one for us all.