West London woman describes three month bed bug infestation as “hell”

Image above: A bed bug on human skin

Isleworth couple’s struggle with bed bugs 

London has recently found itself in the grip of a bed bug panic. Pest control firms say they have been ‘inundated’ with calls and internet searches for information about bed bugs have shot up after lurid tabloid headlines warned of a new infestation heading our way from France.

Reports from across the Channel tell of a bed bug epidemic wreaking havoc in Paris hotels and on public transport. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has admitted that bed bugs on Transport for London services are “a real source for concern”. Some commuters are now refusing to sit down on Tube services in fears they will pick up the blood sucking parasites.

The Chiswick Calendar has talked to a woman who lives in Isleworth who has had recent first hand experience of dealing with a bed bug infestation. She describes it as “three months of hell”.

She prefers not to use her real name, so we will call her Katherine. She spoke to us because she hopes the experience she and her boyfriend have had will help others prevent an infestation or at least spot it early, before the bugs manage to establish themselves.

Bed bug eggs are only 1 millimetre long – about the size of a pinhead. A single female bed bug lays eggs every single day and lays up to 500 in a single lifetime, which is why a single pregnant bug can wreak havoc quickly.

Images above: Katherine’s bed bug bites

Bitten on the couch, in bed and in the guest room

Katherine’s ordeal began in mid-August when she noticed peculiar bites on her body. “I woke up in the middle of the night because I was bitten, like, two, three times, but I never thought about bedbugs,” she recalls.

She and her boyfriend embarked on a thorough inspection of their home, unable to locate the culprit, and initially suspecting mosquitos. Katherine, who describes herself as “obsessive” was determined to find the source.

Her hunt for the elusive attacker continued for days until she couldn’t ignore the itching any longer. “I thought maybe this is not a mosquito,” she said. “So we checked all around the mattress, trying to see if there was anything.”

Later, Katherine was bitten again while watching a film on her couch with her boyfriend. “I felt something bite me on my feet, and it was much stronger than a mosquito,” she said. “So we turn on the light and and I saw one! I just grabbed it, and then we Googled it, it was bed bugs. and I said ‘Nooo!’.”

Katherine thought she had traced the infestation back to a visit from a young couple who had been studying in Paris for six months, who had stayed with them for a week. She and her boyfriend soon realised the gravity of their situation, realising the the bugs had spread all across her home including the guest room.

Their experience was marked by sleepless nights, paranoia, and a seemingly endless cycle of laundering and fumigating.

“And also by the way, my boyfriend has never been bitten” she added, “Yeah, it’s just me, apparently they tend to prefer women because they are more attracted to pheromones. So if they can, like they will bite men too, but like if they have the option they will try to go for for women.”

Soon after discovering they were infested, they showered, grabbed a pair of clean clothes (and thoroughly ironed them), their laptops and temporarily moved in with Katherine’s in-laws.

Image above: more bites on Katherine’s neck

Couple have spent upwards of £700 on ridding themselves of the infestation

The couple decided to seek professional help to combat the infestation, initially contacting LB Hounslow for their services. The encountered another shock when they were told that they would have to wait 12 days for treatment.

“And I was like 12 days? No! And I said okay, you know what? That’s okay. Bye. Thank you. They were charging £300. So then we called a private one, just to do it in the same day. And you know how much it cost? £1,500 pounds… So we thought, okay, maybe the difference between private will be double or something like that. No.

“… So we booked an appointment with Hounslow and they give you a list of all the things you need to do in order to to be efficient. And let me tell you it’s 18 October and I keep washing my clothes eternally. Because what they tell you is to empty everything. All the clothes, everything you ever owned. Everything that has fabric, everything has to be washed at 60 degrees or frozen for four days.”

Bed bugs are known to thrive in places where people sleep or spend extended periods, making bedrooms and living rooms prime targets. They hide in cracks, crevices, and even in bedding, rendering them elusive and difficult to exterminate completely. This is why fumigation is necessary roughly every 15 days to eliminate new generations of bed bugs as they hatch from eggs.

“My apartment is completely upside down… we put everything in bags, that’s what they tell you so they can’t move on easily through your bedroom and your things. So we emptied all the closets, emptied everything. Absolutely everything. And they came to fumigate once.

They have to wait for 15 days to come again because the fumigation just kills the bug but it doesn’t kill the egg. So you need to wait for the egg to hatch and then spray again. So you kill that next round of babies.”

Katherine added that the real nightmare is the constant washing and maintenance, buying and spraying shop-bought insecticides and fumigation bombs, all the while never really knowing whether the bugs are gone.

She says she has spent upwards of £700 on the infestation. She is still washing and freezing items three months on, because like many Londoners she only has a small freezer with three drawers, into which she has to shove coats, cushions and shoes.

Images above: Frozen items of clothing are still a regular sight in Katherine’s freezer, bed bugs Katherine found in her hotel room last week in (Thursday 12 October) in Paris

“It’s been a hell”

I asked the effect the infestation had on them. Katherine said it’s been “hell”.

“It’s been a hell. And basically, I suffer more more than him. Because I was so, I am so paranoid, you know. I’m a very like, and this is something that I didn’t know before, but for me like bedbugs, where if you were dirty, like if you didn’t clean properly.

“I suffer a lot that I’m very obsessive with with tidiness and cleanliness. You just have one and the bastards reproduce so quickly. So yeah, it’s been it’s been a hell.”

The stress has been significant. As the bed bugs prefer to bite women, she has felt like a primary target. She’s turned paranoid about the presence of bed bugs, even when traveling. The couple recently visited Paris for a friend’s wedding, where she was haunted by the fear of encountering bed bugs in her hotel room. Astonishingly, her fears turned out to be justified.

“It’s funny now, but it wasn’t funny at the moment. One of my friends just got married in Paris. And I had to go to Paris. And I was like, Oh, my God. I wish i could just not go. So I went on Thursday (12 October) and went with my boyfriend. And we went to a hotel, the first night in bed, I was like, oh, no, no, no I’m so scared. I’m sure there are bedbugs in the hotel. Like I’m sure.

“It took me like an hour and a half to fall asleep because I was paranoid about bed bugs. I fall asleep, one hour after… Why do I wake up? Been bitten by bed bugs. Can you believe it?!”

To prevent further infestations, Katherine has become hyper vigilant in her cleaning habits. She is continuing to wash all fabric-based items at high temperatures and freezes those that can’t be washed. She maintains a regular regimen of spraying her home with bed bug repellents for “mental peace”, even though she has not seen any bugs for three nights now.

Katherine’s advice to others facing a bed bug infestation is: “Act quickly. As soon as you have a weird bite, just check, check and don’t let it stay because the more you wait the more they’re going to reproduce and then the harder it is going to be.” She recommends using bed bug-specific products to reduce the risk and encourages caution when having guests.

“If someone comes over now, I need to spray all over your clothes… and your suitcase.”