Bat Bugs and You

Oh, hai!

NOTE: This page is a work in progress. It’s taking me forever to write, so I’m just putting it out there half-written. Comments are turned off, but you can e-mail me at lauren at lloydand lauren dot com and I’ll try to put an answer up here. Remember: I am no expert.

So, you’ve been searching the internet for some specific information about bat bugs, haven’t you? You’ve seen the few pages that show that the difference between bat bugs and bed bugs is that bat bugs have facial hairs longer than their eyeballs, bed bugs have the shorter. (Bat bugs are the Grizzly Adams of insects.) What you want to know is what the heck you are going to do about this situation, and where is the middle ground between “Don’t sweat it” and “I need to burn my house down”.

Let me tell you my story.

First: Some background. I am super, super paranoid. When I believe something has gone wrong (or might go wrong) no amount of pesky ‘facts’ will change my mind.

One Sunday my husband woke up and told me something had bit him. He had saved the offending insect in a bowl, and when I saw it, my stomach sank through the floor. “That’s a bed bug.” Frantic internet searching proved it to be true.

*IMPORTANT TO KNOW* We had very few bugs during this whole episode. During the course of six weeks (the time of this writing), we found a grand total of less than two dozen. We did not have any massive infestation in the actual house. I can’t vouch for the attic at this point.

We had company coming that evening, so the day was spent frantically trying to find information and re-clean the whole house. Thankfully they were going to sleep in a camper, but I was freaked out about them just walking in the house.

Mistakes I made: I ran a bunch of stuff to the laundromat to dry on HOT and didn’t bag it up first. The likelihood that I spread a bat bug is very low, but I still carry the guilt. If you are going to another location – BAG UP YOUR STUFF.

Helpful Hint: Buy clear garbage bags if you can. During the initial panic, we just used what we had – black garbage bags. That was fine for the initial processing of items, but later I found clear bags – labeled ‘for recycling’ so you can see the stuff you’re recycling – and that made it much easier to see what was inside. (I processed everything through the dryer twice. Once for the first black bag, once before going in the clear bag (about a week later), and I’ll dry it again before actually using it. Did I mention I was paranoid?

We called the people at Orkin the Tuesday (Monday was a holiday.) after we found the bugs, and they said we would want several days to get the house ready for the first treatment. We said, “No. Come as soon as you can.” They made an appointment for Friday afternoon. Helpful Hint: If you have children, give yourself a couple of extra days. I’d been working very long days at work, so after spending 10-11 hours there, we’d come home to spend another 5-6 hours bagging/boxing up our stuff. It was exhausting. Helpful Hint: Get a bucket of chicken to last all those days. You’ll be way too tired and busy to make dinner.

We emptied everything out so the exterminator could get to every nook and cranny.

The ‘processing’ mostly consisted of throwing a load of clothes in the HOT dryer for 30-60 minutes, then sealing them shut in bags.. We didn’t wash things that were in the closet, just dried them. Lloyd has access to a walk-in freezer, so we sealed some things up and left them in there for a couple of days. I don’t know if that was entirely successful, and there was much debate on how long to leave them in, but you can research that for yourself. Helpful Hint: the little freezer on your fridge will be no good. You’ll open and close it too much to be effective. If I had my own way, we would have bought/rented a chest freezer and left stuff in there for weeks. (Reality check: All the stuff came back and there were no bugs in any of it. So Lloyd was right. Hmmmph.)

Regarding heating things in the oven: Helpful Hint: Have your homeowner’s insurance paid up. I heated some things in our oven (set on 170) for 15-20 minutes, but things like plastic – even though they will survive – will let out some nasty fumes. Same with varnished wood things. Also, I heated up some pillows and blankets and started a nice little smoldering fire in the oven. Proceed at your own risk.

This is a fire hazard.

(The jeans are just there to show my paranoia. We whittled down the clothes that we used to a few shirts, bottoms, socks, etc. While still un-poisoned, we washed everything in HOT and dried it as soon as it came off our bodies. My jeans shrink in the dryer, so I baked them.)

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