Our vacation destination was a cottage on a lake located about six hours from our home. It’s a long drive and, as is usually the case, we left late. We also hit traffic. As a result, we arrived after dark. My parents and my brother and his family had already arrived and selected their rooms. Aside from one room with a double bed on the main floor, all that was left was the basement, which smelled musty.
Too musty. I decided that Marshall and my husband should sleep in the room on the main floor, because I was afraid the mustiness would aggravate their allergies. Livia and I stayed in the basement. Before putting our sheets on the bed, we checked the mattresses. All clean.
The basement wasn’t well sealed. There were moths and pill bugs and beetles. When I came back downstairs after settling Marshall in the other room, I found a toad in the middle of the room. There was a door to the outside, so we opened it up and let the toad out. It was fun to watch him hop outside.
I wasn’t thrilled to have so many creepy crawlies around, but I have slept outside before, so I knew I could handle it. But I do not sleep well in strange places, so I decided to read myself to sleep. I was happily reading a cozy mystery when a beetle landed on me. I flicked it off. As I was flicking it, I noticed another bug making a beeline for me. It was reddish.
I caught the bug with a paper towel, killed it, left its carcass on the towel. I checked the seams of the mattress again. They were clean. No crud, no blood smears. But I found another bug.
Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Oh, shit.
I went upstairs. My mother was still awake. “Mom,” I said. “Do you know what bedbugs look like?” She did not know, but she had her tablet, and she looked them up. The bug on the screen looked just like the carcass downstairs.
I went to get my husband, because he had once had to deal with bedbugs as part of his job. He was not asleep, thankfully, so I didn’t even have to wake him up. He went downstairs. He looked at the carcass I had left there. He examined the bed. He immediately found several more bugs. He squished them on the towel. One of them squished red with blood. Oh, shit.
We discussed leaving, but it was so late, and the kids were asleep, and if these really were bedbugs, we’d potentially be spreading them to any place we went. There were two couches on the main floor. We put Livia on one and me on the other. I tried (unsuccessfully) to sleep.
As soon as it was late enough in the morning to make a phone call, my mother called the owner. He was horrified, but came over immediately to deal with the situation. He took a picture of our carcass collection and sent it to a pest control expert. There are, after all, many bugs that can be confused with bedbugs. We might have been freaking out over nothing.
The pest expert responded immediately and definitively.