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I debated with myself about posting this part of our adventure.   I still would like to have some visitors and I really don’t want to scare off our family and friends.  But it is part of the adventure and adventures are hazardous actions of uncertain outcome.

Bed bugs from Google Images

Bed bugs from Google Images

The morning after La Feria Sky came downstairs and told us that she had a ton of mosquito bites. She had bites all over her arms, face and back.  Savvy pointed out that she had some on her legs. It dawned on us that many of the bites were under where their clothes had been. The bites also looked too small to be mosquito bites. Then I noticed a patch of bumps on my legs. Mike started thinking and came up with the answer: bed bugs!  We looked up pictures on the internet of bed bug bites.  Bed bugs typically bite in groups of three evenly spaced bites. They are referred to as breakfast, lunch and dinner bites. Who knows why they do this but it makes them easy to identify. Sure enough most of Sky’s bites were in lines of 3 about an inch apart. Uuugh!

So Itchy!

So Itchy!

IMG_1301

Bed bug bites 😦

So, we were able to tolerate that La Casa Azul wasn’t actually blue, we were able to buy a vacuum, massacre hundreds of spiders, scrub cat poop off of the decks and bleach pretty much every surface of the bathrooms and kitchen.  We even removed all of the coverings from the moldy, smelly couches, washed them and hung them out to dry.  But bedbugs??? This is stretching even my strong wishes to make everything OK.  The Casa Azul had a great view and looked awesome in pictures but the internet is unfortunately not scratch and sniff!

Cleaning and cleaning

Cleaning and cleaning

We spent the next few hours researching ways to fight bed bugs.  Eventually we e-mailed our landlord.  He answered back, “I am sorry to hear about your problem”.  OUR PROBLEM? Now we were furious!  He insisted that no one else has ever complained about bed bugs and he personally had stayed at the house without any bites.  ( Mike’s note: our landlord rarely bathes, lives alone with his three dogs, and reeks of body odor- not sure that a bug would want to bite him ) He also was certain that bed bugs couldn’t be a problem in Spain, because he had not heard of that.  Surely we must have brought them from America, he suggested!  We did find plenty of articles about bed bugs in Spain and in every part of the world, civilized and not.  

We did learn a few things from our research.  First, it is not recommended to just move out or go to a hotel.  The bugs will surely follow.  It is also not recommended to bomb a house with pesticides.  Bombs don’t reliably kill the bugs and the bugs will go to the neighbors and eventually come back.  We wondered why we didn’t see the bites right away.  We first noticed the bites a bit more than week after our arrival.  It turns out this time course is actually typical.  The bumps are caused by a delayed immune response.  Unlike mosquito bites, to which we react to immediately, it takes some time for our bodies to react to the bed bug bites.  This is especially the case if it is one’s first exposure to the antigen (bed bug saliva).  This means that if a person only stays in a place for a day or two, they might not notice any bumps for up to 7-14 days.  This information was pretty horrifying as it meant that the bumps we could see were probably just the beginning.  They did get worse over the next week, but with our efforts to decrease the vermin population we only noticed a few new bites each day thereafter.  Another interesting fact is that up to 50% of people don’t respond at all to bed bug saliva.  Initially Mike had none.   I had a couple on my arms and legs and one on my chin (yuck).  My bites did continue to appear and eventually I went around in long sleeves.  Savannah had many on her arms but Sky, dear sensitive Sky, was covered.  At one point she had more than 12 bites on her face alone.  The good news is that although the bites are really gross and very very itchy, bed bugs do not carry disease.  In addition, unlike head lice, beg bugs do not live on their human hosts.  They prefer to live in the creases of mattresses and in cracks in the walls.  This made living in the Casa Azul pretty much impossible.  The walls were nothing but cracks.  The ceiling in our room was made of bamboo and thatch, great bug motels. We decided then that the bed bugs were the final straw.  We just could not stay in the Casa Pesadilla (Nightmare).  We started looking for a new place the next day.

As I write Mike is sitting next to me, he says that he is glad that I am the one who is writing because he wouldn’t be able to write about this without swearing a lot and suggests that I throw in a couple of F-bombs!

While we stayed at Casa Azul we did everything we could to decrease the population of the pests.  We ordered Diatomaceous Earth ( DE ) online which sounded very promising.  It is a naturally occurring sedimentary rock that is ground to a powder.  It is actually fossilized remains of a type of hard shelled algae that acts as a non-toxic insecticide that can be put on mattresses and around the bed.  It is deadly to the bugs because it dehydrates their exoskeletons.  The fine powder absorbs lipids (fats) from the waxy layer of the insects’ exoskeletons causing them to dehydrate. The arthropods die as a result of water pressure deficiency.  Unfortunately, the DE never came and by the time we contacted them to find out why, we already had a new place and a plan to move.  I may still try to get some DE for any trips to hotels to sprinkle around our stuff like garlic to ward off vampires!  We bought alcohol and a spray bottle as alcohol is supposed to kill the bugs on contact.  We sprayed dilute alcohol in every crack. We took the beds apart and completely doused the mattresses and bed frames with alcohol.  We sprayed the beds with permethrin (flea, lice, arthropod insecticide) that we bought from the veterinarian.  We put all of the bed legs in little bowls of baby oil as recommended on the internet. We also bought double-sided sticky tape and put it around the legs of the beds to catch any bug that might make it past the oil.  I became obsessed with inspecting the seams of the mattresses and studying the sticky tape.  We had a jeweler’s loop that my brother Russell had given to Sky and Savvy so we used that to study any bug dead or alive that we encountered.  We did catch quite a few little bugs but none that looked exactly like a bed bug. Very disturbing as we continued to get new bites until we moved.

The Casa Azul came with a washing machine but no dryer.  When we first arrived I was happy to carry the clothes up 4 flights of stairs to the roof to hang them in the sun.  However, as part of our exit strategy, we needed to assure ourselves that we didn’t bring bugs with us.  A dryer on high heat for 30 minutes will kill bed bugs at all stages of the life-cycle including the egg.  So, we drove to Granada and bought a clothes dryer to do battle with our tiny invaders.

Despite the rough start we wanted to stay in Alhama mainly because the school is really nice and this has been hard enough for the girls without having to change schools again.  We looked at many places in our search for a new home.  We looked at everything in town that was available.  In the end we traded interesting with a view for just plain clean.  Our new apartment is just down the street from the old place and it really is quite lovely.

Apartamentos Salmerones

Apartamentos Salmerones

Our new place is an old family home that was converted into 3 apartments.  We are on the middle floor. We have 3 clean bedrooms and unlike the Casa Azul, the ceilings and walls are all finished.

Entryway

Entryway

Living room

Living room

Sky and Savvy's room

Sky and Savvy’s room

On our first day in the new apartment Sky and Savannah spent hours in their new bedroom playing on their bunk beds, making forts and just relaxing.  It is really nice to see the girls playing on their beds without fear.

It was a lot of work but we wiped or sprayed everything that we moved to the new house with alcohol and dried everything in the dryer on high heat for at least 30 minutes.  We have been in Los Apartamentos Salmerones for a week.  Most of our bites are either gone or are scabbed over. I still wake up some nights worried that I feel something crawling on me but for the most part we are all feeling much more relaxed.  I no longer have the urge to bleach everything in sight but I do keep my spray bottle of alcohol just in case!

27 responses »

  1. Um… Wow. You’ve just described (one of my) worst nightmare!!! I’m with Mike, in that, this post should have included at least a few f-bombs lol! So glad you took care of the problem and were able to find a clean place to live 🙂 I now know much more about bed bugs than I want to, however, if I ever encounter the little shits I’ll be able to treat them and even prevent/identify them thanks to this post! Ick. Ick. And more ick.

  2. That was so educational! I had read that bed bugs were becoming a problem in many hotels even fancy ones. Good to know how to identify and what to do. An excellent reference for intrepid travellers.

  3. Wow! That really is a nightmare! I’m glad all is well in the end! I hope the next adventure I hear about is fantastic.

  4. I wish I would have known sooner. Mike is rather a local expert on the topic. Unfortunately no area is safe from them. They are also rather predominate in the US but can be found everywhere and they do not discriminate . They can affect both clean and dirty areas equally. Not what you wanted to hear I am sure. There Is something called a bat bug that looks just like a bed bug but reside on and can be dropped from bats (especially common if you have an old home with an attic. I am glad you like your new place and are getting settled in again. Mike is returning to us from Istanbul tomorrow. You never know what is going to come home in that suitcase!

    • Hi Tracy! We would be happy to hear Mike’s insights about the bed bugs! I haven’t seen many bats here but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were lurking about. I would love to hear about Mike’s new job. If he is flying all around maybe he could visit us or Mike could meet him somewhere in Europe! I know my Mike would just love that! You can answer me on this or send me an e-mail at lkezmoh@gmail.com
      Can you send us Mike’s e-mail as well?
      I hope that nothing bad comes home in the suitcase! You might meet him at the door with a spray bottle of alcohol to spray his suitcase then put everything in the wash/dryer before it comes into the house. 🙂 Leslie

  5. Holy moly! Certainly an adventure….not the kind you anticipated! Our friends in Colorado had bed bugs in the place they rented while they were moving from one place to another in town. And as with you, the landlord blamed them. Bed bugs is always someone else’s problem. Your new place reminds me of my cousin’s orange grove farm in Greece where we stay! The bunkbeds look tremendous and I am glad that you have endured this adventure. We are still going to visit in April….no worries. We looked for a suitcase for Athena yesterday! She wants her own.

  6. Not sure what the silver lining in this story is, but it does make your adventure more (f’ing) epic, and makes us a little less envious. Good luck in your upcoming 55km.

  7. Ouch…laura would have lost her mind (like she did when aunt lice came to visit our house). you can at least tell mike that notre dame won!

    • Hi Andy, Don’t worry, by the time you come to visit we will be certain that we don’t have any bugs! Our apartment has a mate downstairs so there is a perfect place for your family to stay! I made your veggie burgers for the second time tonight. They turned out better this time. I’m using the recipe as a guide as I don’t really have all of the ingredients. I used real garlic as I didn’t have garlic salt or chinese 5 spice. I added a few almonds and some shredded zucchini as that is plentiful here. I do think that your version was still better but I am getting there! We are enjoy lots of really good inexpensive wine with whatever we eat! Tonight we drank a tempranillo that we got at the gas station for 2.5 Euros (~4$). It is made locally and was delicious! Hugs to you and Laura! Leslie

  8. Hi Leslie,

    Lana wants to know if Savannah’s finger has completely healed yet. Nia says she hopes Sky’s bites are healed and don’t itch anymore! I agree with Mike, I’d be spouting a lot of four letter words just to vent my disgust and frustration. The landlord sounds like a defensive idiot who doesn’t want to be bothered. Glad you moved!

    Goyo, Nia & Lana

    • Hi Greg, Nia and Lana! Thank you so much for the comment!
      It has been a month and Savvy’s finger is so much better. It is still tender but most of the time she is going without a bandage. At school she still keeps it covered. She is able to go to gymnastics without any trouble now! Sky’s bites are pretty much gone. Her face is perfectly clear again. Children heal really fast! We hope all is well with you. How is school for Nia and Lana? We would love to see all of you if you want to make a trip! Even if you could come alone Greg it would be amazing! We would even send you a ticket if you give us dates that would work for you! It would be a gift for Mike to have you here! Please consider it! It would be like old times! Miss you all, Leslie

      • Leslie,

        It’d be a dream to run with you and Mike in Spain! Unfortunately our plate is very full here and I’m needed at home right now. Katrina has been at her new job working for a dentist in San Clemente now for almost four months, and she’s struggling to adjust to her new schedule of working full time while still being super Mom. Bottom line, we’re both short on sleep during the week, and I wouldn’t feel right leaving her to try and cope alone for a week or two. But thanks for your generous offer! If anything changes I’ll let you know.

        Nia & Lana are doing well in school, are now purple belts in Karate, and started doing gymnastics on Saturdays a couple of months ago. They’re thriving!

        Since March, I’ve been getting up at 4:15 AM during the week to put in an hour of jogging or weight lifting combined with some stretching at the gym. They’re short workouts but the consistency is beginning to pay off. I try to do one longer run on the weekends when there’s more time. Last Sunday I managed to stumble through a six mile jog, it hurt, but it was a good hurt! Note: I jog very slowly but steadily, hence the use of the work jog instead of run.

        Say hi to Mike for me.

        Love,

        Goyo

      • Hey Goyo, So glad to hear that things are going well with the kids. We are really impressed that you are getting up to run and workout so early! Mike says he is totally scrawny with all the running he is having trouble getting enough calories. He wants to start lifting weights but he went to the gym today and it was too crowded for him.
        Please let Nia and Lana know that Savvy’s finger is much much better. She no longer needs to wear a bandaid. The nail still will fall off but it no longer really hurts. Please also congratulate them on the purple belts! They will make great gymnasts too, they are tiny and mighty, a good combination!
        We are sorry to hear that you can’t get away to visit us. We would love to see all of you!
        Congratulations to Katrina on the new job!
        Keep up the jogging/running!
        Love you!Les, Mike, Sky and Savvy

  9. Hi Leslie,
    What the F%@#!!! (that was for Mike only)
    So sorry to hear about the bed bugs! I am familiar with those. Your new place looks very nice. I can imagine the girls really like their beautiful bunkbeds. Did Savannah’s finger heal ok? How are the girls adjusting to school? And how are you loving life in Spain? Take care! Katrijn

    • Hi! Thanks, hopefully the bugs are behind us now! The girls are doing great in school! Sky had her first “language” test. So that is Spanish. She got a 10/10 on one part and 9/10 on the other. I’m so proud of her! Savvy is struggling a bit more but spoke less Spanish when we arrived. She is passing, however. She got a 7/10 on her first test so we are delighted with that. We are settling in. Mike and Savannah are missing California the most. Nothing is as easy of course. I am loving it. Running a lot. Drinking lots of wine!
      Hope everything is going well for you. How is latch.com?
      Hi to your family!
      Hugs,
      Leslie

  10. Hi Mike, Leslie, Sky and Savannah,

    I was gone for a week to visit my sister Alice. Your bedbug story is very disturbing. I wouild like your new address so I could send you some mail. Please let me know.

    Love Mimi (Mom) Dad sent you a comment also, but it is in the draft section. I will send it soon.

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