True Bed Bug Stories: The Worst Bed Bug Infestations Ever Recorded

No one who’s ever had bed bugs has good things to say about the experience. But some bed bug stories are more horrifying than others.

So in the spirit of Halloween, here are some absolutely terrifying stories of the worst bed bug infestations to ever happen. And what makes these stories especially terrifying is that they are all 100% true.

The Worst Bed Bug Infestations Ever

When exterminators get together, the conversation often turns to war stories. We all like to compare the worst pest situations we’ve come across as a strange form of bragging. The reality is, there’ll probably never be one specific case of bed bugs that is universally acknowledged as the worst. 

Suffice it to say, anyone who’s been in the pest control industry long enough, especially in an urban environment, will have come across an absolutely horrifying bed bug infestation.

We’re talking about bed bugs everywhere. Not just in the mattress, the bedsheets, and the bed frame. Not just in the baseboards. We’re talking about literally thousands of bugs spread throughout an entire home, occupying every area imaginable.

Stuffed toys, clothes, couches, books, drapes, pictures on the walls – once the infestation gets bad enough, there’s virtually nowhere these bugs won’t hide.

Unfortunately, not everyone tries to deal with their bed bugs. Some people, whether it’s through mental health issues, physical disabilities, or other factors, don’t take any steps to control the bed bug population.

As a result, it keeps on growing. Thousands of bed bugs can live in a single one-bedroom apartment, colonizing every bit of space. Anyone who’s been in the business long enough has seen it for themselves.

Image via NBC

But since a picture tells a thousand words, and a video is like 50 billion pictures, here’s an example of a truly out-of-control bed bug infestation.

As disgusting as this video is, you know what’s truly horrifying? That infestations like this are not even all that rare.

Kill Bed Bugs with Fire

Fire sure has a way of making problems go away, doesn’t it? After watching videos like the one above, investing in a flamethrower may not seem like such a bad idea.

But while harnessing fire to heat our homes and cook our quinoa has lifted humans to the top of the food chain, fire isn’t always our friend. And when you consider that bed bugs feed on us, maybe we’re not as high on the food chain as we like to think.

Anyway, don’t be like this man in Detroit. He was so sick of having bed bugs in his apartment that he covered himself with rubbing alcohol to keep the bugs off his body.

Then, he tried to set bed bugs on fire. Given that alcohol is highly flammable, the results of this DIY pest control attempt were sadly predictable. The man set himself on fire and was badly burned.

Read: What NOT to do if you have bed bugs

Surprisingly – or maybe not so surprisingly, depending on how much faith you have in our species – this man is not alone in his attempts to solve his bed bug problems by burning them away.

Entire apartment buildings and hotels have been destroyed by people bringing fire to a bed bug fight.

A Tragic End to a Bed Bug Treatment

There are many different ways to kill bed bugs. In the decades since these creatures re-emerged from near extinction, a variety of different treatment methods have been developed.

One of the most effective is heat. By heating an entire building above the 122°F temperature needed to kill bed bugs, even severe infestations can be eliminated.

But these heat treatments shouldn’t be attempted by just anyone. They require special equipment to safely raise the temperature to the necessary level, and they also need properly trained and experienced staff to perform them correctly.

This is why these treatments can cost thousands of dollars. Because when a heat treatment goes wrong, it can go very badly wrong indeed.

How wrong? A bed bug heat treatment once killed an elderly woman. All people and pets need to leave a building that is receiving a heat treatment, but it’s possible this woman simply returned to her home too soon, before the building had a chance to cool off.

In any case, her sad story serves as a warning about the dangers of improperly performed pest control treatments

Bed Bug Anemia

There’s very little about bed bugs that’s good. But given how widespread these creatures are, we’re fortunate that they don’t generally spread disease.

Unlike other bloodsuckers such as mosquitoes, bed bugs have never been found to spread any blood-borne diseases in the wild. However, that’s not to say that they can’t harm you.

Bed bug bites are extremely itchy, and in some people, they can cause large and painful welts.

Image via Caribbean360

But bed bugs are tiny. The amount of blood each bug consumes is minuscule, and so becoming anemic through blood loss to bed bugs is extremely rare. Rare, but not impossible.

Back in 2009, doctors were initially baffled by the case of a 60-year-old man suffering from anemia without any obvious signs of hemorrhage or other injuries.

It was only through talking to the man that they came to understand that his apartment was infested with bed bugs. The man had some substance abuse problems and was unable to prepare his apartment properly for bed bug treatment. As a result, the population kept growing, sucking more and more blood from the man while he slept.

Remember that it’s estimated to take approximately 100,000 bedbugs to cause an adult to become anemic, and that will give you some idea of how out of control this man’s bed bug problem must’ve been.

If that doesn’t cause a shiver up your spine, we don’t know what will.

Bed Bugs on Wheels

When police in Long Island responded to a call of a car fire, they had no idea that bed bugs would turn out to be the culprit.

Bed bugs will go anywhere people go, and that includes our vehicles. While a car doesn’t make an ideal bed bug habitat, since most people don’t sleep in their cars, it does provide them with temporary shelter.

Now, imagine you found bed bugs in a rental car. Imagine somebody told you the bugs can be killed by alcohol, which is as true for them as it is for your high school gym teacher.

Alcohol and vehicles don’t generally mix well, but you can’t blame a guy for trying, can you? However, as noted in the previous fire-related story, alcohol is highly flammable. So when the man decided to congratulate himself on his bed bug killing success with a celebratory cigarette,  things took an unfortunate turn.

The wannabe bed bug killer managed to escape with some burns. But his rental car and two cars nearby were critically damaged by the resulting fire.

Even Heroes get Bed Bugs

Bed bugs aren’t picky about who they attack. If you have blood, you’re a potential target. In that way, they’re very egalitarian. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a good or bad person. Bed bugs will feast on you without discriminating.

And as this story shows, bed bugs can even happen to firefighters. As though it’s not enough that these people risk their lives for the sake of others, they also risk catching bed bugs while out on a call.

After reading the fire-related stories above, it kind of makes sense. Still, it seems very unfair. But no one ever said that bed bugs had a sense of honor.

Bed Bug Juice

Although it sometimes seems like it, bed bugs aren’t a modern pest. Sure, they disappeared for a few decades toward the end of the 20th century. But before that, bed bugs were a well-known pest for all of humanity’s existence.

Some of the earliest examples of our species’ long relationship with bed bugs come from Egypt. Fossilized bugs have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back before 1000 BC.

But Pharaoh’s subjects didn’t take bed bugs lying down. In fact, they believed that bed bugs could cure snakebites. And how did they take advantage of this fictional property of bugs? By mashing them up and drinking them, of course.

Bed Bugs as Revenge

Finally, there’s this heartwarming story of a man in Maine who had a bed bug problem. Concerned that he might be evicted and end up on the streets, he went to the City Hall in Augusta to ask for aid.

When his request was turned down, he produced a jar of live bed bugs and released them into the building.

Given the distress that bed bugs can cause, and the way that humans sometimes treat each other, we shouldn’t be too surprised that someone has tried to use them as a form of biological warfare.

But if you find yourself dealing with a bed bug infestation, no matter how crazy it makes you, don’t start flinging them at municipal workers. It’s just not cool.

Feeling properly freaked out by the bed bug stories you just read about? Make sure you don’t become the next cautionary tale other people read about for a little bit of Halloween fun. Find out exactly how to prevent bed bugs from ever entering your life.

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