As the plague spreads, the costs rise. How can you avaoid the costly Bed Bug!
Being Pro-Active is the best way to battle these nasty blood suckers. It’s not unusual for the typical afflicted family to spend $5,000 or more on inspections, exterminator fees, cleaning and storage and replacements. Landlords of large apartment buildings have been known to spend as much as $80,000 to get rid of the pests.
The insects, which are about the size of an apple seed and resemble ticks, are hard to detect and even harder to kill. The most successful efforts include a combination of a thorough high heat cleaning or steaming, along with repeated professional applications of pesticides and mattress encasements along with other bed bug treatments.
But the bed bug plague has also attracted fraudulent exterminators peddling money-wasting treatments that do not work. And because even reputable exterminators charge a wide range in prices and offer a variety of services, it can be hard to know what’s worth the money and what’s hype.
Here, then, is some calm advice from experts on what you can expect to spend and what you should — and shouldn’t — pay for.
IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM
Simply determining whether you have bed bugs can cost you money.
Small and nocturnal, the insects are hard to spot. They love to hide in mattresses and especially box springs, of course, but they also burrow in moldings, woodwork, night tables, picture frames, cushions and even behind outlet and light-switch covers. They come out only to feed on sleeping humans and sometimes not for months.
The most common way people discover they have bed bugs is when they wake up with bites. But only about a third of people react to bed bug bites, and many of those who do have reactions mistake them for mosquito bites. You can sometimes detect other evidence like bed bug feces, which look like tiny black specks, or blood stains from a bug that has just had a full meal.
If you suspect bed bugs, you’ll probably need a visual inspection from an exterminator to make sure. Many pest control companies do this free, hoping that if you have the bugs, you’ll hire them to do removal. Other companies may charge $50 to $200 to do a visual inspection.
Some companies use specially trained dogs that can sniff out bed bugs and their eggs. Well-trained dogs can be amazingly accurate, letting you know exactly where the bugs are so you can concentrate your efforts in those problem areas. But the dogs’ services are expensive. You’ll pay $300 to $600 for a home inspection. If you go this route, ask about the dog’s credentials. You want to hear that the animal was trained at a certified facility that prepares dogs for jobs that include bomb and drug sniffing.
FINDING AN EXTERMINATOR
Counterintuitive as it may sound, you probably want to steer clear of pest control companies that emphasize their bed bug expertise. These may be one-person outfits or unqualified shops that have popped up in response to the plague. Find an established company that has been in business at least five years and routinely battles all types of pests, including bed bugs.
Exterminators charge $250 to $1200 a room to get rid of bed bugs, depending on the level of infestation and the types of treatments used. Some companies may charge by the bed if there are multiple people sleeping in the same room. The best exterminators use a combination of pesticides, steam heat and mattress encasements.
Whatever pesticide an exterminator uses, it must directly contact a bed bug to kill it. Pesticides have no residual effect on bed bugs. That’s why you or your exterminator should never use bug bombs or foggers, which are completely ineffective with bed bugs.
Be sure your exterminator makes at least one follow-up visit. It’s virtually impossible to kill all the bugs in a given area with one treatment. Ask if any repeat treatments are included in the price quoted to you.
ENCASE YOUR MATTRESS
All bed bug experts agree that you must encase your mattress and box spring with a durable, bite proof, leak-proof cover that will trap existing bugs inside the bedding and prevent new bugs from entering. Make sure that the zipper has a lock feature to ensure bugs do not enter or escape. (Even if you don’t currently suspect bed bugs, you might want to do this proactively, if you live in a highly infested area.)
The best covers are made from tightly woven cloth and have enclosed zippers and zipper locks to ensure there are no openings anywhere on the covering. A good cover will cost $80 to $150, depending on the size of your bed. Don’t bother with cheaper covers made of vinyl, which is uncomfortable to sleep on and is likely to crack and tear over time.
BEFORE YOU TOSS … Often, the first response to bed bugs is to throw stuff out. But replacing contaminated furniture, clothes and other possessions can be one of the biggest unnecessary bed bug expenses.
Bedding, clothes, stuffed animals, backpacks and anything else you can fit into the clothes dryer can be decontaminated by 20 minutes on the high setting. Carry the items to the dryer in a cloth laundry bag that you can throw into the machine. If you use a plastic bag, discard it immediately; bed bugs or eggs might be hiding. For items that can’t go in the dryer, consider packing them in plastic bins or bags and storing them for a year to make sure any hidden insects die.
For furniture and other large items, you may want to consider a professional fumigation service that will decontaminate the items away from your home and return them within a week or so. This can easily add $1,000 to your bed bug bill. But for antiques, heirlooms and other hard-to-replace items, it may well be worth the cost.
As we battle the Bed Bug Plague, we have found that being proactive and educated are the best weapons against this undesirable. Don’t think that this problem can’t touch you and don’t wait until your a victim…It Will Cost You MORE!