Bed bugs: When the bed bleeds, you know you’re in trouble

By |  August 21, 2017

Illustration: Leo Michael

Bed bug jobs are never fun. Anytime you are forced to deal with dozens, or sometimes hundreds, of bloodsucking parasitic insects, there are probably other things you would rather be doing. That said, we pest professionals know bed bug jobs are good money. Besides, somebody’s got to do it.

One day about 10 years ago, in my first year as a pest management technician, my boss informed me we picked up a bed bug job — and, considering I’d never performed one before, this would be a good learning opportunity for me. My certified operator and I headed out first thing the next morning.

We arrived at an older home on the river, reminiscent of an old fishing cabin outpost. As we pulled up, a man with several dogs was waiting in the front yard. He informed us he was the property owner. He told us he was a bit skeptical that he had a bed bug problem, but his girlfriend, who recently moved in, insisted he have the place treated.

Now, it’s worth noting this customer could pass for Captain Ahab himself — the kind of guy who shaves with a straight razor twice a month and hasn’t felt a sunburn in the 30 years since his skin turned to full-grain leather. Despite one of our technicians having previously been out to the property, and confirming the presence of bed bugs, our customer insisted he has never been bitten and that his girlfriend probably just has sensitive skin toward sand fly or mosquito bites.

So, we went inside to take a look. We confirmed that bed bugs were, in fact, present. Immediately what stood out most was the custom-made bedframe the client built himself. It turns out he was a dock builder, and using the old splintered pilings from docks he had torn down, he built the four corners of his bedframe. He had already removed the mattress and placed it in a new vinyl mattress cover.

We began our treatment of the wooden pilings of the bedframe, and the hundreds of cracks and splits within them, using a liquid application. Within minutes, bed bugs started coming out. At first, there was just one here or there. Then, as they realized they couldn’t go deeper to get away, they started pouring out by the dozens. But that’s not what makes this a pest nightmare.

You see, as the product ran down the pilings, it began to puddle a bit on the tile floor below. Only, the puddles weren’t the white color you’d expect. They were a dark blackish-red. The pilings were literally bleeding from the buildup of bed bug fecal matter.

My first introduction to bed bugs was definitely a pest nightmare.

Shane Green is founder and president of Green Pest Services, Port St. Lucie, Fla., online at

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