How to Find A Bed Bug Exterminator - Costs & Tips
I've received a lot of questions over the years about bed bugs, and rightly so. They are a persistent and frightening pest that resist efforts to eradicate them. A bed bug exterminator is an effective way to get rid of them, but a lot of people are unsure if the cost warrants it.
People read all over the internet options for self-treatment, and it is an attractive way to save a few bucks. However, no two bed bug infestations are the same and what may appear to be an easy fix may come back and haunt you. There are a lot of ways you can misread a bed bug infestation, so let's take an in-depth look at what they are and your options for solving this unpleasant problem.
How to Find Out You Have a Bed Bug Infestation
The first thing you need to do is determine if there is a problem at all. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds, and people sometimes live in denial out of fear for the worst. The problem is, there are a lot of possible alternatives that give people fuel for their theories of different culprits.
The first thing you will likely notice is the bites. As tiny parasites, you won't see bed bugs during your day to day; they are just too small to notice. What you will notice are the bites they leave behind on you and your family. Most bed bug bites do not leave a mark and are mostly harmless. They also do not transmit any diseases that we know of. That's the good news.
The bad news is, bed bugs are often present in the form of large colonies. Hundreds to thousands of bed bugs biting in the same area can cause raised red bumps and marks on the skin from irritation and swelling. They also probe the skin, searching for a suitable feeding spot which leads them to bite several times in a row. Around 20 percent of people will also have an allergic reaction to these bites, causing more pain, irritation and discomfort.
These bites are sometimes mistaken for other bug bites or reactions to chemicals like detergents. Therefore, it is vital that you check likely hiding spots for bed bugs if you suspect you have been bitten.
Bed bugs are nocturnal. They bite you while you sleep and hide during the day. They prefer out of the way spaces that are closed off and tightly packed. This shelter slightly raises the ambient temperature and humidity which increases bed bug activity and fertility. Bed bugs are known to travel several yards to find a host, so you may need to search all over a room.
Some likely spots for bed bug nests include:
- Box Springs, Mattresses and Bed Frames: These are the most common places. Check in the seams, around buttons, underneath and between sheets and layers.
- Furniture: Bed bugs can live on chairs and desks, nestled in cracks and closed off spaces. Again, check seams, buttons and stitching, as well as in drawers.
- Walls: You can find bed bugs behind wallpaper and even in small warm spaces like clocks on your walls.
- Portable Hiding Spots: Bed bugs can also hide in luggage and backpacks; at the bottom of the bags, in zipper folds and pockets. Always be careful where you set luggage down when you travel. Airports, hotels and hostels are havens for these little pests.
- Floors: If you have thick carpet or loose floorboards, bed bugs can live inside them in cracks and underneath carpet.
If you spot dried blood smears on your sheets or around your bed, they are likely a sign of bed bugs. You may also see hatched eggshells around, but they are white and tiny (around a millimeter). Bed bugs will molt as they grow, so it is possible you may find some empty skin casings. There is also a distinct, detectable smell that bed bugs give off. It is comparable to rotting raspberries. Finally, bed bug poop can be frequently seen around bed frames and on mattresses.
When Should You Decide to Call A Bed Bug Exterminator?
If you are seeing bites appear on the skin of you or your family, an infestation has likely already occurred. This will lead you to seek out and find the outbreak. Or, perhaps the colony will elude you. In either case, it is prudent to call an exterminator. At the very least, they can confirm for you the existence of an infestation, so that you can determine what to do from there.
If you see only one or a relatively small number of bed bugs before experiencing any bites, you have discovered them before the problem gets out of hand. In the case of finding bed bugs on luggage or something else portable, it may also be a simple matter of sanitizing or discarding the item. Early detection is extremely fortunate, but also rare.
Bed bugs are notoriously hardy and relatively long-lived. That's why, unless you have managed to find an infestation early and in small numbers, it is best to call an exterminator as soon as you determine that a colony is present in your home or work area. You may think that you can tackle the problem yourself, but any missed bug can regrow a colony and spread the infestation. It just isn't worth the risk.
Is Getting an Exterminator Always Better Than Self-Treatment?
I'm not one to shy away from DIY projects; if you have got the skills, knowledge and resources, you can take on many home issues by yourself. Though, bed bugs are in a league of their own. It's one of those problems that get much worse and much more expensive if it isn't dealt with correctly the first time. Self-treatment is far less reliable than professional help, and doing it wrong like trying to use home insecticide remedies or specialized bed bug sprays can be harmful to your health.
A single impregnated female bed bug can start a colony of thousands. She can mate with her own male offspring, as bed bugs suffer minimal complications from inbreeding. As they are so adaptable, if you miss even one pregnant female bed bug, you will have another infestation on your hands a few weeks down the line, when you think that you are safe.
Self-treatment is possible for small and contained infestations, but those are rare. Like I mentioned above, if it's something portable and you can afford just to throw it out, then that is an option. Prevention is also an excellent step to take on your own to reduce the possibility of getting an infestation in the first place, if you live in an area that is prone to bed bugs or travel to one frequently.
It’s difficult to determine if an infestation is contained without advanced techniques and technology. Attacking bed bugs by yourself can slow the infestation down and prevent their spread, but to completely eradicate them, you will need professional help. I don’t like having to admit I need help sometimes either, but it’s best not to let pride get in the way of this one.
What Should You Look for In a Bed Bug Exterminator?
Now that you know that bed bugs are a serious problem, you have to find an exterminator that takes bed bugs as seriously as you do. The fact of the matter is, not every pest management professional is experienced or credentialed in fighting bed bugs. It's a complex and, in some places, rare problem, so not everyone has the expertise to get it done right.
The only way to find out if an exterminator is right for you, is to do your homework. Look at the credentials and experience of the pest control company to make sure they have what it takes. Check multiple professionals or businesses and compare them to each other. As a bare minimum, they should possess accreditation by a local, state or national pest management association. You can get help finding one here.
Once you have an exterminator in mind, start asking questions. Ask about their techniques, philosophies and bed bugs in general. Not only are you learning more about your problem, but you are determining if they really know their stuff. You want a knowledgeable professional that will keep you informed of the critical facts throughout the extermination process.
Also, don’t be afraid to judge a book by its cover in this case. Does the company or licensed professional wear a uniform and keep clean premises, vehicles and tools? Do they have an abundance of positive reviews on service rating websites? Do they respond promptly to inquiries and questions? If any of those answers are "no," you should consider looking elsewhere.
Common Bed Bug Exterminator Treatment Methods
The ways in which pest management professionals will attack the bed bug problem are many and varied. There are multiple options that they can use to detect, eliminate and prevent bed bug colonies.
Pest management professionals will usually inspect your home by hand first. They will check the likely hiding spots and collect samples if necessary. It may be required to take apart furniture to get to the hard to reach places that bed bugs like to hide in. The exterminator may also utilize vacuums to gather samples from hard to reach areas.
Some exterminators also use dogs as a way to find well-hidden bed bug colonies. These sniffer dogs are trained to detect that sweet and musty "rotten raspberry" smell I mentioned earlier. These dogs are incredibly adept at rooting out infestations.
One of the easiest and less damaging methods of eradicating bed bug colonies is heat treatment. Bed bugs cannot survive extreme temperatures, and it is much easier to raise the temperature in your home as opposed to bringing it below freezing. This method is useful at killing both live bugs and eggs.
Pest management professionals will advise you of their plan, so that you can remove anything that is sensitive to high heat from your home, like pets or objects that can melt. They will then place thermometers around your home to monitor the temperature, and use portable heaters to get the mercury rising. It takes around 90 minutes of temperatures over 120˚ F to kill bed bugs and their eggs.
While effective, this method is not always a 100 percent guarantee. Therefore, exterminators often use insecticides in conjunction with heat treatment. Not only will this likely kill any bugs that survived the heat, but it will also prevent re-infestation. The last thing you want is heat resistant bugs coming back to bite you again. Insecticides can be dangerous to humans. This is why we should leave it to the professionals and never try to use home insecticide remedies available over the counter.
Aside from these conventional methods, exterminators may also remove items from your home to sanitize them individually. They may use such techniques as freezing, vacuuming, steaming or a combination of methods. There is also a powder called diatomaceous earth, which is a natural pesticide that is much safer than chemical treatments. However, it (like all treatment methods), is not 100 percent guaranteed to kill all of the bed bugs.
The important thing is to make sure that your exterminator uses a combination of the methods mentioned above. Using every technique available is the best way to get rid of these bugs and make sure they come don't back.
Monitoring and Prevention
Once the initial treatment is over, a pest management professional will likely set a schedule for checkups and inspections, to ensure the problem is solved. They may do it, or give you detailed instructions on how to conduct investigations yourself. They may also provide or recommend prevention methods, like traps to keep the bugs from re-infesting.
How Many Treatments Will Be Required?
Depending on the severity of your infestation, more than one treatment may be necessary. As I mentioned, bed bugs are notoriously tenacious, and some experts have theorized that they are growing resistant to pesticides. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and give your home another once over if recommended by a professional.
Follow up treatments will also be necessary if a re-infestation occurs. Re-infestations are unfortunately common, due to bed bugs’ ability to survive and inbreed successfully. It isn’t a guarantee that you will need more than one treatment, but you should be prepared for the eventuality.
How Much Will A Bed Bug Exterminator Cost?
The cost of professional bed bug extermination can be quite high, but it is dependent upon a lot of factors. Based on these factors, your prices might be quite low or uncomfortably high. The good news is that with advanced technology and growing understanding, the cost of bed bug treatments has been on a decline in recent decades. Still, make sure that you shop around and don't just go with the cheapest option.
Some factors that may affect your costs include:
- Types of treatment required
- Number of procedures needed
- Size of infestation
- Your location
- The reputation and effectiveness of the company
Bed bug extermination services won't be cheap, and they shouldn't be, either. It is a complicated process requiring specialized equipment and expertise designed to solve a serious problem.
Will I Need To Leave The House During Bed Bug Extermination?
Whether or not you have to leave your home depends greatly on the methods your pest management professional employs, as well as the scope of your infestation. If it is small and confined to one room, the exterminator may work while you wait in another part of your home.
If your infestation is severe and extensive, however, you may be required to leave your home for a short period of time. Thankfully, treating bed bugs is not a fumigation or a “bug bomb” procedure, so you will likely not have to leave your home for days on end as it clears out. In fact, vacating your home may be a bad idea, because the bugs will go dormant if a host is not around, making them more difficult to deal with.
Is An Exterminator Guaranteed To Get Rid Of All Bed Bugs?
Unfortunately, with bed bugs, there are no guarantees. Even with extensive professional treatment, it is not outside the realm of possibility that they survive or somehow get reintroduced. Like we talked about, just one surviving pregnant female can start the whole process over again.
That being said, an exterminator is still your best bet at getting a permanent solution. You likely will not even get close to wiping them out if you tackle the problem alone. The bugs are highly evolved to evade you and they probably will.
The good news is that most reputable pest management professionals offer a guarantee; they'll come back and attack the problem again and again until your home is clear at no extra cost to you. Just remember to do your shopping around.
Bed bug exterminators are not all created equal. A capable professional is accredited and uses a variety of techniques to ensure that bed bugs get out and stay out. You may have to do some searching to find the right bed bug exterminator for you, but one thing is sure: once you have discovered a bed bug infestation of considerable size, don't try and take them out yourself.
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