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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite!

When I was a girl,
my grandmother said a little rhyme to me
each night when she tucked me in.
She said,
Sleep Tight!
Don't let the bedbugs bite!"

When I would ask her "What are bedbugs, Grandma?"
she'd just cackle and say,
"Girl, you are SO lucky that you don't know what they are!"

I guess I WAS lucky.
I had no idea what bedbugs were
or if they even existed,
until I walked the Camino.

If you get grossed out easy, you may not like this blog post.
But if you're planning on walking the Camino any time from spring to fall, you may find this information very helpful.

I began seeing pilgrims with horrid bedbugs bites 
about 4 days into my trek.
In fact, I had a bite on my neck, 
but had no idea what it was.
Just this HUGE painless welt, about the size of a quarter, 
on the side of my neck.
I dressed it, covered it, 
and waited for it to go away.
It took about 2 weeks to completely disappear.

Later, I realized I'd had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bedbug, and being chemically sensitive, realized that most poisonous means of control were not in my repetoire. I took a trip to the local Farmacia and had a chat with the pharmacist. She gave me great instructions and I'm pleased to report that during the rest of my 2006 Camino and through my entire 2009 Camino, although I saw many bedbug bitten people and many bugs, I did not get one single bite.

Bedbug bites range in size according to how allergic the host is. For some people they're no worse than a mosquito bite. Other people can end up in the hospital. More people react than not, in my experience. Here is a sample of what bedbug bites can look like. For more photos, do a Google search on bedbug bites and have a look yourself!

Here  is what the pharmacist taught me.


The first thing I do when I go into a place is look on the wall above and around the bed. If there are bedbugs, you may see tiny dot dot dots, like someone took a black sharpie pen and made dots on the wall. This is their feces.
You should also pull back the sheet and check the mattress. Often, in the rolled seam, if you pull it back, you'll see these dots.
If there are holes in the mattress, sometimes the bugs hide in the holes. They're nocturnal so they hide from the light. Check around holes for sign.

Sometimes you'll see the bugs themselves, hiding in the mattress seams or in the seams of the bedframe.
Dot dot dot feces as well as bugs - are you itching yet?

bedbugs in the rolled seam of mattress

Bedbug sign on the mattress
Pull the mattress up and check the bed frame. On wooden beds, I look in the little recessed holes where the hardware that holds it all together resides. I check around the bed slats and even around the wheels.

If I see ANY signs like these, I ask if they know they've had bedbugs.

If they say, "We sprayed, they're gone" then I go to Step 2.
If I see NO sign, then I also go to Step 2.

2. SPRAY THE BED. When you get to the Camino, stop at a Farmacia and buy a mosquito repellant spray meant to spray on the skin to repel mosquitos. This is a pump spray and isn't expensive, maybe 6 or 7 euro. It allows you to spray a fine mist.

Spray about 12 inches above the bed, 4 or 5 pumps, a fine mist. Mist then entire length of the bed. Then step back and watch for about 5 minutes.

If there are bugs, they will run out to escape the spray and you will see them.

If you see them, I would not stay there, period.

If you do not see them, there's a good chance you won't get bit.

If you can stand to spray yourself, then do it. I am not able to spray myself without getting sick so I never did use the spray on my skin. I was never bitten.

This worked quite well for me.

Some people on the forum were concerned that the spray would make others sick. I suggest you do this early on in the day. The smell dissipates quite quickly.

In the winter, the bedbugs are not as much of a problem. They die off and are dormant until the heat of Spring, when they begin hatching again. Here are photos of the bugs in different stages of their lives.


If you DO get bitten
you must ASSUME your entire backpack is compromised.
You must follow certain rules to be sure
you do not spread these bugs along the Camino
everyplace you stop and sleep.

Method One
1. Take EVERYTHING out of your pack
2. Turn all pockets inside out
3. Lay it all out on the grass or dirt
4. Spray it ALL with insecticide
5. Let the sun bake it a while
6. Wash EVERYTHING (including your backpack) in HOT WATER
7. Dry in a hot dryer

Method Two
1. If it is impossible to wash everything, then you must take everything to a dry cleaners.
2. This includes your backpack!

Method Three
1. If it is summer you can take EVERYTHING out of your pack
2. Turn all pockets inside out.
3. Put everything in a BLACK garbage bag, loosely
4. Tightly close it
5. Leave it in the hot sun for several hours
6. Wash everything in hot water and dry in a dryer if possible.

You will need to examine all the SEAMS of your clothing, including inside pockets.
Examine all the seams of your backpack and of your sleeping bag also.

If you do not do this, 
not only will you spread bedbugs along the Camino,
you take the chance of carrying them home to 

This will not endear you to your family...
 By the way, bedbugs are not only on the Camino.
A quick Google search on Bedbugs along I-5
will give you a list of the California hotels
that are housing the little buggers.

They're everywhere!
Much like VAMPIRES!
Sleep tight!

Why Bedbugs and Vampires Are Exactly Alike 
(Thank you Rants from Mommyland)
  • They are both totally real.
  • They both come out at night.
  • They both suck your blood.
  • You should not invite them into your house (already established).
  • They CANNOT be killed by silver bullets, that's werewolves, as you damn well know unless you are illiterate or don't have cable.
  • Once they get in your house, it takes an act of God or possibly Fairies to get them out. Also, fire.
  • If either bedbugs or vampires start coming in your house you should probably just move far, far away.
  • They hide under the bed and some of them are telepathic. 
  • You can tell the telepathic ones by their artfully tousled hair.
  • You can catch them in hotels, so don’t go to hotels.  Especially in Cincinnati.  
  • They climb in bed with you while you’re sleeping and do unspeakable things.  
  • If you let them bite you on purpose, you might want to get a check up from the neck up.
  • Parents disapprove if you try to date one.
  • They have Kings and Queens and a rigid hierarchy with swift and final justice for wrong-doing.
  • The Health Department should be called immediately if you suspect an infestation though the Health Department may be slightly less effective with an infestation of vampires.
* * *

Back to the Camino.
Don't let this information on bedbugs ruin your trek.
Just pay attention
and you'll be fine.

Sleep tight!


Since walking the Camino in 2011, 
I have returned many times, 
and over the years, the bedbug problem
has gotten worse, 
not better.

I now suggest you spray the OUTSIDE of
both your backpack
and your sleeping bag
with Permethrin Spray before leaving for your trip.
The brand most used in the USA is SAWYERS
and it can be found at REI.
I have also found permethrin spray 
at farm supply stores and vet supply stores.
Simply hang up the item on a line,
spray it well,
and let it dry.
It is pretty much odorless.


Upon returning to the USA,
whether or not you saw one single bedbug,
Even if you have not had one bedbug bite,

Have whomever is picking you up from the airport 
bring a large garbage sack with them.
Do not put your backpack into their car trunk
until you tie your pack up tightly in the sack.

When you get home, 
Leave it in the plastic bag,
outside or in the garage.

Go inside, 
undress and immediately take your Camino clothes
and put them in the plastic bag as well.

When you have time,
next morning, hopefully,
open the sack,
dump the contents into the plastic bag
and spray both the contents and your backpack
with insecticide,
then tie everything up for a few more days
inside the plastic bag.

When you have the time,
take out your clothing and wash EVERY piece of clothing in HOT water.
Dry in a  HOT dryer.

Inspect every single item,
including books/journals
page by page.
The bugs hide in dark places.
Inspect every seam of every piece of clothing.

If you can afford it, 
have your backpack dry=cleaned.

Only now is it safe to bring items into your house.

If you don't think you have time to do this,
then I invite you to Google 
bedbug infestation 
and read stories of the thousands of $$$
it costs to rid yourself of this pest
if it gets into your home.

This is easily avoided

by taking the above-mentioned steps.

Pilgrims, lavender oil will NOT kill bedbugs.

You may know someone who used it.

They may not have been bitten,

But the majority of pilgrims are NOT bitten!

They were just LUCKY.

All of those posts on the web about lavender oil killing bedbugs have been copied, and recopied, and recopied. There is No science showing lavender oil kills (or even repels) bedbugs and there IS science showing it does not.

However, lavender people insist it helps.

They say the oil does repel bedbugs, and perhaps it does.

If it makes you fell better, go for it.

But please DO NOT smear your lavender oil on the headboards,

as suggested in these posts.

Pilgrims using that bed the next night might have allergies.

I don't like pesticides either.

I have MCS.

However, it is the ONLY way to be SURE you will not get bitten.

So either spray your pack and bag with permethrin

(if you do it correctly it WILL work)

or slather on a mosquito repellant each night.

And if you carry even one bedbug into your house,

you could be in for nightmare

that will feel undending.


Just be responsible up front.

Spray your gear!

Buen Camino!

* * *

If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe


  1. Hi Annie,
    Great info. When I got home I wanted 'to be sure to be sure' that I wasn't bringing any unwanted guests into the house. So I put all my stuff including my pack into a commercial 'walk in' Freezer for a couple of weeks (it helps to have a friend that works in the food industry!) This does for the little buggers at all life stages.

    1. I work in the housing rental industry and have battled bed bugs. Cold does NOT kill bugs. The cold will put them to sleep until they warm up. Heat is the best method to fight them. Put all your items in a dryer for 20 minutes. If they are wet when you put them in the dryer you need to dry them completely and than for an additional 20 minutes.

    2. My understanding is that cold does NOT kill the bugs, merely puts them into suspended animation, much like the goldfish experiment we did in high school biology. I'd use HEAT, which is the ONLY way I know of to kill them absolutely.

  2. i got bitten very badly by bedbugs in the albergue at ledigos last year 2011 in october

  3. I'm so sorry this happen to you. I don't like chemicals but if you are not sensitive, there are bedbug sheets you can carry along, and even if you are staying in hotels, it's not a bad idea, especially in the Fall. Your other option is to cream or spray yourself with insect repellant each night before bed. :(

  4. On second thought maybe Laurie & I will trek the local mall instead. :)

  5. Hahah! If you are careful and keep an eye out, there's nothing to worry about! And bedbugs are everywhere again. You can do a google search on bedbugs I-5 California and see reports all up and down the I-5 corridor! lol

  6. So when you find bedbugs in your stuff you spray with insect repellant first and then wash everything? Is it then necessary to reapply a permetherin treatment to my sleeping bag and silk liner after washing, to prevent future infestations? Also, my pack has an internal frame. I don't think it can go in a washer or dryer. I suppose maybe it could be dry cleaned, but I'm not even sure about that.

  7. Thanks for the useful information and pictures. I now feel more prepared for my camino.

  8. If you scratch a bite from the bed bugs will the bite get bigger? And will it have your skin burning?

  9. It could - every person is different. I've seen bites that are huge, bigger than a quarter around and bites that are just like a mosquito bite. If you scratch, they could get infected. If you go to any farmacia, they will give you an antihistamine for the itching.

  10. Sally, I'm so sorry I'm just now answering. I just saw your post. I imagine you're home by now. Dry cleaning is a good idea before you bring your pack into the house. Heat also works well - in the summer, you can spray it all, then put it in black garbage bags and leave it in the sun for a few hours.

  11. Hello your blog is sharing great information. Diatomaceous bed bug providing best Prevent Bed Bugs
    in USA. Thanks for share this blog.

    1. Hi David. It helps but the BEST preventative steps are not to bring the bugs into your house to begin with. ::scratching and laughing:::

  12. Hi Annie. Great article. I hope you're happy for me to put a link to this post on my camino resources page -
    Buen camino, Maggie

    1. Sorry I didn't see this Maggie, but I hope you put the link up!

  13. People, if you are worried about using insecticide, please be aware that ALL the responsible albergues totally fumigate their places regularly. They spray the beds, the mattresses, the walls, in an attempt to stop the bedbug invasion. The permethrin you use for your gear can be easily controlled by you. Once it is dry it is odorless, and even I, who am chemically sensitive and can smell the UPS man coming from 3 miles away (literally) cannot detect the permethrin. Remember, you spray the OUTSIDE of your sleeping bag. And the bugs, if persistent can still bite you by climbing from your head down into your bag, so the best thing is to know how to look for the bedbugs ahead of time and avoid them. There are certain albergues who don't seem to care, in my opinion. One is St. Javier in Astorga. The other is the Hornillos municipal. I would not stay at either for a million dollars as EVERY time I've passed, I've found bugs at those 2 albergues! The hospitalero at St. Javier just shrugged when I told him I'd found bugs, and gave me my money back. And it is ok to demand your money back if you see bugs!

    1. And please spray the outside of your backpack and NEVER put it on the floor! Take a bungie or hook and find a place to hang it. Or take a plastic garbage bag and tie it up at night if you're forced to put it on the floor. Also, remember if you take a bus, your bag will be next to other people's bags, and those suckers can WALK!

  14. I have dealt with bed bugs and am not wanting a repeat there... Ever! I have since invested in a large container that I place my luggage in which safely bakes the content and kills and potential bedbugs at any stage of their life. My sister has the luggage itself that heats up and does the same thing. These have works wonders for myself and her family so I'd like to pass along the knowledge to hopefully spare others the pain. For those of you interested: . Thanks and happy safe traveling!

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. Did you buy permethrin in Spain? I was not able to find any where I live (Asia) and I'm now in Spain. I've been to 2 outdoors stores and El corte ingl├ęs and they don't know about it...

  17. I've just been put off walking the Camino.....


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