Bed bugs (or Cimex lectularius) are persistent, pervasive, and proficient at escaping human attempts to kill them. While they do not transmit disease and arent dangerous unless their bites become infected, theyre still one of the most reviled insects out there. Once an insect that was rarely discussed, bed bugs are now so common that travelers report on their presence in hotels, movie theaters, and mass transitpretty much anywhere theres fabric to nestle into and people to hitch a ride on. Theres no need to be embarrassed or think that the infestation is a statement about your housekeeping. Its far more likely that the bed bugs are a souvenir from a vacation, your office, or your childs school; they may even have arrived in that great chair you picked up at a yard sale. Bed bugs are patientthey can survive for almost a year without foodand they can fit into the seams of mattresses, chairs, and curtains, but also into the cracks around baseboards. Often by the time you or your family have enough itchy bites to start looking for the source, you have an infestation.
Bed bugs can be treated by a combination of chemicals, heat, physical removal, and even freezing. Still, the removal must be complete to be effective; it doesnt solve your problem if youve killed all the live bugs but not their eggs or larvae because then youll have to start all over again. This is a good time to call in a professional bed bug exterminator who will know how to treat the problem effectively without endangering your family or pets. Its essential to understand the options, costs, and methods before hiring someone or trying to DIY.
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There are several moving parts when adding up the costs of bed bug removal. Some are obviousthe more bugs you have, the more expensive bed bug removal will bebut others are less clear, such as the potential need to remove and replace existing furnishings or carpets.
If youve discovered the infestation quickly and its still relatively small, the cost for removal could be as little as $200 to $300 per room. In contrast, a more extensive infestation (which is probably the case if youve seen the bugs crawling around) can be $300 to $400 or more per room. Large infestations require more product and labor to treat, so costs will go up accordingly.
There are several options for the treatment of bed bugs; the one that will be right for you depends on the space and the location of the infestation. The least expensive option is heat (thermal) treatment, followed by fumigation, steam, and freezing treatments, each of which adds cost. Pesticides and chemicals are usually used in combination with one of these treatments, as they are effective in targeted areas but not as a whole-house solution, and they will add to the cost.
While the type of treatment certainly affects cost, so can the size of the space to be treated. Some bed bug exterminators will charge a flat fee per room or give you a quote for the whole job. But because many elements of treatment are dependent on filling a space with heat or fumigation chemicals, the overall square footage of the room makes a difference. Larger spaces will cost more than small spaces. Be careful about trying to save on costs by cutting down on the number of spaces you treat. If the bed bugs have made their way out of the treated space, youll probably be paying for the larger space treatment and re-treatment of previously treated spaces before long.
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The amount of furniture in a room that requires treatment can also affect the cost, both directly and indirectly. Many exterminators will charge an additional flat fee per piece of furniture in a space that requires inspection and treatment, such as couches, chairs, and cabinets. For example, in a bedroom, the bed, dresser, and nightstands are usually included, but a stuffed chair and vanity will be extra. Each piece of furniture needs to be treated individually, adding to product and labor costs. In addition, its possible that some pieces may not be able to be recovered if the infestation is too severe or if the item will be destroyed by the chemical or heat treatment, in which case youll be paying for disposal and replacement of the item.
Unfortunately, if you live in a city with a high rate of bed bug infestations, youre caught in a financial trap. While there are likely more exterminators with experience in successfully treating bed bug infestations, theyre also in higher demand, which means they can charge more. Nearly all major cities have significant bed bug populations. Still, the highest concentrations are in large cities with travel hubs on the coasts (especially in the northeastern United States) and dotted across the Midwest. Several extermination companies release a list each year of the cities with the most service requests: In those cities, expect to pay as much as three times what youd pay elsewhere.
The immediate costs are related to the size and scope of the infestation and the location in which you live, but other factors play into the overall cost. As you seek out estimates for extermination services, make sure you have considered these components before settling on a total budget.
To compose a treatment plan, an experienced exterminator will conduct an inspection. While the additional $50 to $200 for the inspection may seem excessive, it can save money in the long runyou dont want to treat a problem you dont have. The inspection will provide specific information about where the infestation is so that youll treat only what you need to. Many extermination companies waive the inspection fee if an infestation is discovered and you hire them to exterminate it. The inspection will include a physical examination of furniture, cracks, and crevices with the experienced eye of a professional who knows what to look for.
Bed bugs have a distinct scentif there are enough present, the human nose can smell something like rotten raspberries. Trained dogs can alert an inspector to the presence of even a small number of bed bugs. This can make the $300 to $600 in additional inspection costs well worth itthe dogs will help locate all points of infestation to ensure treatment is specific and complete. Hotels often use sniffing dogs, as careful and close physical inspection is time-consuming and not as accurate as a canine nose.
As a resident of a potentially infested home, any evidence that you have bed bugs will feel like an emergency. And most extermination companies will want to start treatment as soon as possible to prevent the infestation from spreading. However, suppose you can evacuate and isolate the room with the suspected infestation for a day or two until an appointment is available. In that case, you can save the additional $200 to $500 an emergency call will cost. Sudden discovery of a widespread infestation that requires you to leave home, or bugs found in an apartment or multifamily home will constitute an emergency and will likely incur this extra cost.
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If youve had a large infestation or own a multifamily dwelling, the extermination company will likely recommend follow-up inspections (which may be included in the cost of the initial treatment) and further treatment (which will be a separate cost). Most companies offer a contract for these services to be performed on a regular basis; the contract will be priced out based on how frequent the inspections need to be, usually monthly, semimonthly, or quarterly, and the costs can be spread across the year. A once-yearly inspection and treatment on average will cost between $750 and $950, while semimonthly inspections and treatments can cost between $5,500 and $8,350 per year.
While bed bugs dont have any preference for dirty houses, they do like to hide. More clutter in your space gives the bugs more opportunity to tuck themselves out of sight. This means that contractors working on your space will have to sort through clutter and inspect it to complete the treatment of the room. If theres lots of debris on the floor or piled on surfaces, it can make the exterminators job more difficult. While you dont want to move materials around your home before the inspection and treatment, removing trash and unneeded items in sealed bags outside your home will streamline the process and could save you some money. Clearing shelves and decor items to an outside holding space can be helpful, but check with your exterminator about their policies before moving those items.
Is your home built on a slab foundation, basement, or piers and beams? Pier-and-beam constructed homes must be treated underneath the house to eradicate potential infestations there, and homes with high open ceilings and exposed beams may also require additional treatment. These treatments will add to the cost of your extermination.
While killing the live bugs may be your immediate goal, its vital to look toward the future. Many treatments that kill live bed bugs will also kill those in the larval and egg stages, but not alland there may be eggs and larvae in areas you dont choose to treat because theres no evidence of infestation. Youll want to choose an exterminator who has a plan to manage the next stage of extermination, either through additional methods during the initial treatment or repeated inspections and follow-up treatments.
Temperature manipulation and chemicals are the only ways to eradicate bed bugs, larvae, and eggs. Some DIY solutions suggest barrier products, such as baking soda; those will deter the bugs from walking into a hiding spot but wont kill them. Other DIY suggestions include rubbing alcohol and tea tree oil, which must be applied directly to the bugs. These help kill the bugs you can see but wont address the larger problem of infestation. Truly effective removal methods will kill bed bugs in all stages of life.
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After sealing off the space to be treated, an exterminator will pump in superheated air to bring the temperature over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Bed bugs cant tolerate high heat, so they will die off. This method is effective and has the benefit of not filling your home with chemicals, which is ideal for sensitive individuals or homes with small children. However, thermal treatments do not include any preventative measures: Because there are no chemicals, there is nothing left behind to catch any stragglers who may have survived. Therefore, many exterminators pair heat treatment with strategically placed chemicals to deter future infestations. Thermal treatments run between $1 and $3 per square foot, averaging between $2,000 and $4,000 for a whole-house treatment.
Probably the most effective treatment overall, fumigation involves tenting and sealing off your home and filling the entire space with a gas that will kill the bed bugsand anything else living. Then the house will be flushed with clean air to remove any residual traces of the gas. Youll need to be out of your home for several days (and if staying at a hotel, youll need to include that cost in your budget). There are benefits to fumigation: It will also kill off any termites that you dont know are in the home, and it will perform a complete treatment of the entire structure at once, including any bugs in the foundation or walls. Fumigation costs between $4 and $7.50 per square foot, so depending on the size of your home, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000.
Chemical and pesticide treatments are available in liquid and powder forms and are great for spot treatments. They are usually used in combination with other forms of treatment because spot treatment alone is not widespread enough to eradicate an infestation. These will cost between $100 and $500 per room.
The high temperature of steam has a similar effect to thermal treatment with one significant benefit: Steam can be forced through fabrics and soft furnishings effectively. Therefore, it can be used to permeate mattresses and upholstered furniture without ruining them. The steams high temperature, especially with some force, will kill bed bugs in all stages of life. Costing between $250 and $1,000 per room, steam isnt inexpensive, but its efficient.
Freezing is a relatively new, chemical-free process to treat bed bugs. The insects cant withstand cold temperatures, so an exterminator will close off a space and pump in freezing air at high pressure (resulting in a snow-like powder that kills the bugs immediately). Clean and safe, this method works well in areas that cant tolerate high heat and is quite effective on visible bugs. However, since it cant get through soft furniture such as mattresses or upholstered chairs, it may not kill all stages of bed bug development. It costs between $3 and $6 per square foot or $500 to $750 per room.
How will you know if you have bed bugs? Especially in the warmer months, it can be initially difficult to tell. People travel more and are exposed to sun and chemicals that can cause unusual rashes. Mosquitoes, gnats, chiggers, and other outdoor insects can cause itchy bites. But there are some telltale signs to look for if you have unexplained bites.
Adult bed bugs are approximately 5 millimeters long and dark brown, about the size and shape of an apple seed. Theyre generally flat, but they will puff up into a rounder shape and turn redder after feeding. Earlier in life, bed bugs are smaller, lighter in color, and harder to see. Check the headboard, bedside tables, joints of walls and ceilings, behind wallpaper, crevices, and along the seams of mattresses and box springs. Look during the daytime: Unlike cockroaches, they wont scatter in the light, so theres no need to hunt in the darkness with a flashlight.
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Unfortunately, bed bug bites masquerade as other types of bites and rashes. They can look like eczema, inflamed mosquito bites, or hives. Even worse, some people do not develop reactions to bed bug bites at all, so an absence of bites doesnt mean youre in the clear. The bed bug injects a small amount of anesthetic into your skin to cover up the sensation of having something stuck on your skin while it feeds. Some people respond to this anesthetic as it absorbs after the feeding is complete. Look for clusters or straight paths of raised welts that intensely itch or burn, sometimes forming a rash spread out between them. Also, check your sheets and pajamas: If the bites occurred while sleeping, there might be specks of blood from the bites on the fabric. If theres no other likely explanation, check with a doctor or start looking for other clues that you have an infestation.
Bed bugs are not solitary insects; they prefer to congregate. The combination of the bugs themselves, molted shells, and eggs create a kind of sweet, musty smell, sometimes described as the smell of rotten raspberries. If youre poking around to see if you might have bed bugs and smell that particular scent, youll want to call in an exterminator promptly. If you can smell them, the infestation is probably large enough that youll want some help.
Bed bug eggs are tinyabout 1 millimeter in size. They are white or clear and usually laid in clusters, so if you have a good eye, you might spot them embedded in fabric or small cracks or crevices.
Bed bugs grow larger as they get oldersometimes after one good meal. When they grow, they shed their shells, or exoskeletons, and grow a new one to protect their larger size. These shells are left behind. In a large infestation, youll see piles of what look like translucent bed bugs. These will be light, dry, and differently sized. Shells will accumulate in places where the bugs congregate in corners of bed frames and headboards and along baseboards.
Bed bugs ingest the blood of their hosts, digest it, and then excrete it as liquid waste. The stains left behind by the waste will not be red, like blood, but rather dark brown or black. They will appear as pinprick-size dots along the seams of mattresses, on wood slats under the bed, and along baseboards.
A quick online search will reveal a multitude of DIY remedies for bed bug treatment in your home. These are a mixture of fact, fiction, and well-intended misinterpretation. Most of these remedies will just convince the bugs to find another hiding place and way to access their dinner. There are a few methods that do help. You can very thoroughly vacuum your entire home. Pull up the mattress and vacuum it, the frame around it, and every crack and crevice. Do the same with nightstands and wall seams. Vacuuming removes live bugs as well as shells, larvae, and eggs. It is critical that you empty the vacuum bin into outside trash immediately and then wash out the dust cup (if using a bagless vacuum) with very hot, soapy water. You can place bedding in the wash with hot water and then dry in a very hot dryer; much like the thermal treatment, this will kill bed bugs at all stages of life. Similarly, you can place pillows or blankets into a plastic bag and place in the freezer.
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None of these will address the larger problem entirely, though. A professional will know what signs to look for and the most effective treatment given your home and the size of the infestation. They will be able to carry it out and follow up in such a way that makes the entire experience as quick and efficient as possible. Its also worth noting that letting someone else see and remove the evidence of a large infestation will be less traumatic for the home residents and may allow you to move back in more confidently. Even if youre not squeamish, seeing lots of insects near where you and your family sleep could be more to handle than you might think. If you think you have bed bugs, one of the first things you should think about is, Where can I find a bed bug exterminator near me?
Bed bug extermination presents financial challenges; it can seem never-ending, and its not something that most people plan and save for. If you live in an area where there arent many exterminators, there may not be a lot you can do to lessen the costs, but there are several things to consider.
Any time you hire a professional, there are certain questions you know you should ask: Are you licensed? Insured? How much experience do you have? Will you itemize your services in my contract? When youre calling a professional to investigate a bed bug infestation, it will be tempting to skim over some of these questions to speed up the process. Dont. Effective bed bug treatment needs to be thorough and will involve some of the most personal spaces in your home when youre not present. Its crucial that you take the time to make sure youre comfortable with the person youre hiring, even if it means taking a little extra time to investigate. Consider asking the following questions:
Nobody wants to endure the inconvenience, expense, and skin-crawling discomfort of knowing bed bugs have been in your house. But with careful, effective treatment and follow-up, your home can be refreshed and brought back to its original state. A few questions that many people have, along with their answers, are below to help you focus as you begin to plan.
The average cost to treat a studio or 1-bedroom apartment is between $300 and $900. It will be a good idea to notify the building manager immediately (before you treat) if youve found bed bugs in your apartment, however. Its possible the bugs traveled to your apartment from someone elses and that theres a larger problem in the building, in which case you can treat your own space but still have a problem.
In general, youll kill bed bugs in leather, cotton, and foam the same way youd kill them anywhere else: with heat, freezing, or chemicals. Chemicals can be trickier on these materials, as it is unsafe to use chemicals in your bedding, and the chemicals may damage leather products. For foam and leather, heat treatment or steam is the best approach. With any of these materials, its best to hire an experienced exterminator. These materials can be effectively treated, but it may take a bit more time.
The best defense is a good offense. Do everything you can to prevent bed bugs from entering your home. First, if youve completed extermination treatment, make sure you pay attention to all of the exterminators recommendations for follow-up treatment and inspection. Then youll need to take some precautions. Check any secondhand furniture pieceseven hard-side piecesfor any signs of infestation before bringing them in. Some experts recommend encasing them in plastic and leaving them in the sun for a day, effectively heat-treating them, and then vacuuming thoroughly. When traveling, check the seams of the mattress and headboard for signs of bed bugs before you bring your suitcases into the room. Leave your clothes in your suitcase and keep the case zippered. Check the luggage rack for signs of bed bugs, or keep your cases in the bathtub. When you get home, consider placing the suitcases into black plastic bags and leaving them in the sun for a day or two, or remove the clothes and immediately wash them and dry them (even if theyre clean!) before putting them away, leaving the suitcases outside to heat. You can reduce the clutter in your home to offer fewer hiding spaces, vacuum frequently to catch any bugs that have made it inside, and consider purchasing a protective mattress cover that will offer bed bugs fewer places to hide.
Sources: HomeAdvisor, HomeGuide, Thumbtack, Fixr
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