Bed Bug Exterminators – Everything you need to know

Bed Bug Exterminators – Everything you need to know

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Over the past 10 to 15 years bed bugs have made a tremendous comeback.   Bed bug infestations are now a common occurrence, all over the world, and especially in heavily populated cities.  As a result, bed bug exterminators are seeing record numbers of calls, and are reporting increasing amounts of confirmed infestations each and every year.    

Bed bugs are nearly an epidemic.

No one is really sure exactly why there has been such a sudden resurgence in bed bugs, but for nearly 100 years, bed bugs were almost non-existent.  Many experts blame the ban of DDT, a dangerous, but highly effective chemical that killed bed bugs dead, and killed residual bed bugs as well.  Others just blame population growth, and more people moving to larger cities.  

Others feel like bed bugs evolved, and became more resistant.   There is some truth to this, as even today we're seeing what experts call "super bed bugs" that are immune to many common treatment methods, including chemical insecticides.

The real reason has not been determined, and probably never will.  Honestly, it doesn't matter ...

Bed bugs are back, and with a vengeance.


What are Bed Bugs?

Adult Bed Bug

You can read far more about bed bugs in our What Are Bed Bugs Guide, but in a nutshell, bed bugs are small insects, about the size of an apple seed.   They are brownish red in color and live in areas occupied by humans.  

The photo above is of an adult bed bug.  Be aware though, they do look different, during the different phases of their lifecycle.

They generally hide during the day and come out at night to feed on people, while they are asleep in their beds.  They are excellent at hiding, and often very difficult to see and locate.

Bed bugs use a needle-like appendage to pierce your skin, and inject a saliva, that not only thins your blood but numbs your skin as well, so you don't feel the "bite".

When not feeding, they are generally reproducing, and multiply quickly.

Bed Bug Bites

The aftermath of being bitten varies from individual to individual, but generally results in red-swollen marks on your skin, that itch intensely and for up to a week.   Even longer, if you're highly allergic.

how to find bed bugs

Bed Bug Bites look very similar to other bug bites, but they have a signature pattern, often called Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.

Bed Bugs generally feed three times before they're full, and they generally walk in a straight line when feeding.  The three bites in a line, are referred to as Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.   

If you're waking up in the morning with multiple groups of three bites in a straight line, you might just have beds.

How Do You Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

Unfortunately, this is no an easy answer.  Bed bugs are very resilient, difficult to find, difficult to get to, and even more difficult to kill.  They also reproduce rapidly, so if you don't kill them all, they just re-appear a few weeks later.

Photographer: Dr. Harold Harlan

But there is hope!   Treatment of bed bugs is generally done in two ways:

  • By a professional exterminator
  • By yourself, doing "do it yourself" bed bug treatment methods.

Both can be highly effective, however, using a professional is our recommended option.  The downside is that it is more expensive, and for many, due to the cost, is just not a feasible option.

This article focuses on using a professional exterminator.  We'll discuss what they do, how much they generally cost, and tips on how to find the right exterminator for your needs.  The later is very important - Choosing the right exterminator is critical to your success at getting rid of bed bugs in your home.

If you prefer to treat your bed bug problem yourself, please see our Bed Bug Treatment Guide, where we walk you through the process and offer a number of very effective treatment methods.

What are Bed Bug Exterminators?

Bed Bug Exterminators are generally local extermination companies, with specific staff, trained and licensed to treat bed bugs.   There are national companies as well, that provide similar services, and also extermination companies that treat only bed bugs.  Specialized bed bug extermination companies are  generally only found in larger cities that commonly have bed bug issues.

Extermination companies are licensed and authorized to use special chemical pesticides and grades of chemical pesticides that the average consumer is not allowed to purchase or use.   They also have the advantage of having experience treating multiple bed bug infestations.

All of this adds up to a higher success ratio at treating and eliminating your bed bug problem.

What do Bed Bug Exterminators Do?

Trust us, having trained professionals come into your home is a huge asset and significant step forward towards getting your bed bug problem resolved.  

But what do Bed Bug Exterminators do exactly?

Bed Bug Exterminator

Bed Bug Exterminators generally do the following:  

  • Inspect and Detect - Exterminators will perform an inspection of your home and determine if you have bed bugs.  This involves a fairly complex inspection and detection process, where experience is of key importance.
  • Recommend one or more treatment options - Once the exterminator has identified that you have a bed bug problem, they will go over and recommend treatment options for you, based on their inspection and detection process.
  • Treat your bed bug problem - Once you a agree on a treatment option (or options), your exterminator will come out and perform an initial treatment.  Often, treatment can be done on the same day of your inspection.
  • Clean-up - Most extermination companies will clean-up after completing treatment.  This includes vacuuming, removal of any remaining treatment products, and putting your furniture back in place.
  • Perform repeat treatments, and follow-up - After your initial treatment, exterminators will return to be sure your bed bug infestation is gone, if not, they'll retreat.  Given most infestations require multiple treatments, this is a critical service.
  • Implement Prevention Strategies - Once your bed bug problem is resolved, your exterminator can help you implement prevention strategies to help prevent another infestation, and also provide ongoing inspection and detection services.

Bed Bug Exterminator Inspection

The very first step your exterminator will take is to visit your home and do an inspection.  Depending on the exterminator, this may be free of charge, or they may charge an initial inspection fee.

Bed Bug Exterminator Inspection

Professional exterminators know where to look in your home for bed bugs and they bring the necessary tools with them.  Many will have years of experience finding bed bugs and verifying home infestations.

If it is not very clear that you have bed bugs, they'll generally want to go through some detection measures before beginning treatment (see below).  Detection can take a few days.

In the majority of bed bug infestations, they'll be able to confirm pretty quickly that you indeed have bed bugs, and will generally come prepared to do an initial treatment, after reviewing the recommended treatment options with you, and associated costs.

What do bed bugs look like

Bed Bug Detection by Exterminators

Normally, Professional Bed Bug Exterminators will be able to visually inspect your home and determine that you have a bed bug infestation, sometimes the bed bugs are a bit more difficult to find and require special detection strategies.

Bed Bug Monitor - Nightwatch

Bed Bug Traps and new devices called portable bed bug monitors (shown above) are very useful, not only in detecting bed bugs, but also confirming that a bed bug treatment was successful.   Bed bug exterminators will often use one or both of these when they:

  • Cannot easily detect a bed bug infestation during the inspection.
  • Want to confirm that a treatment was successful.

Bed Bug Dogs are also gaining popularity with exterminators for detecting bed bugs in homes where bed bugs are more difficult to find.

Bed Bug Traps for Detection

Bed bug Trap

Bed bug traps are commonly used by homeowners and exterminators for detection.  They are placed under furniture legs and coated with talcum powder.  Bed bugs crawl up them, get trapped, and cannot get out.

Bed bug traps are highly effective at catchign bed bugs coming up onto your bed, and are inexpensive and easy to install.

Bed Bug Monitors

Newer products on the market, that some exterminators are now using, are electronic bed bug monitors.  

Bed Bug Monitor - Nightwatch

These devices use a combination of CO2 and Heat to simulate a person, drawing the bed bugs out.   Bed bugs crawl through an access hole or slot, and get trapped.  These devices are far more sophisticated, and more expensive than traps, hence why they are less commonly used.

Bed Bug Dogs

Bed Bug Dog

Even dogs are commonly used for bed bug detection these days.   Bed Bug Dogs have a very keen sense of smell, and bed bugs give off a very unique, and unpleasant musty odor.  

This odor can sometimes be detected by humans, but more often than not, it cannot be. But dogs can easily pick up the smell, and alert their owners when they detect it.

Bed bug dogs are specially trained to know where to smell, detect the smell, and let their trainers and owners know.

Bed Bug Exterminator Treatment

The majority of Bed But Exterminators practice what is commonly referred to in the industry, as Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  IPM involves using multiple treatment strategies, each chosen based on the individual infestation you have.

Bed Bug Exterminator Treatment

For example, for some, a combination of steam and chemical pesticides might be the preferred option.  For others, natural pesticides combined with heat treatment may be used.   It all depends on your own personal needs and the needs of your particular infestation.  

Using IPM, the bed bug exterminator will recommend a set of treatments, based on the inspection process they went through, and based on information you have provided them.  

Bed bug exterminators generally come prepared to do treatments that day.  The only exception may be in the event whole house heat treatment is recommended.  

Whole house heat treatment generally involves a good amount of preparation by the homeowner and scheduling of the treatment due to the specialized equipment that is required.

Assuming the treatment is done that same day, they will generally go over a few things with you:

  1. How to handle clutter, and other items in the room, and may also treat those as well.
  2. How to handle linens to kill bed bugs, and to avoid further spread of the infestation.  In some cases, they will handle them for you.
  3. They may go ahead and ask that you put some prevention measures in place as well, like Mattress Covers, and bed bug traps.

Once the treatment is complete, they will schedule a follow-up time within a week or two, to return and do another inspection to be sure the bed bugs are gone.  

If not, they'll want to do further treatments.  Unfortunately, this is where things can get a bit pricey, as bed bugs are difficult to kill, and multiple treatments are frequently required.

How much does a Bed Bug Exterminator Cost?

How much does a bed bug exterminator cost

There are many different variables that factor into determining how much a bed bug exterminator costs.   Mainly, the following:

  • How bad the infestation is, and its size (one room, multiple rooms, whole house)
  • The type of treatment method needed and used.
  • Exterminator experience can play in here as well, as more seasoned and experienced bed bug exterminators can cost more.

The following table will provide a high-level overview of what you can expect to pay for a bed bug exterminator:

Type

Infestation Size

Cost

Pesticides

Small

$200 - $500 / room

Fumigation

Large

$4 - $8 / square foot

Heat Treatment

Large

$2000.00+ per home

On average, bed bug treatment cost for an entire home runs $500 - $1500, but as you can see from the table, this can vary, and quickly becomes very costly for larger homes and bad infesations.  This is why early detection and treatment is so important.

Average cost per room for a home generally runs $250 - $800.

How Long do Bed Bug Treatments by a Professional Exterminator Take?

Once you bring an exterminator into your home, and they are able to determine you have a bed bug infestation, exterminators will often begin bed bug treatment immediately.   Bed bugs multiply rapidly, and the longer you wait to begin treatment, the more severe your infestation will become.  Professionals know and understand this well.

Bed Bug Treatment generally only takes a few hours.   But here is where things can get a bit more complex - The first treatment may not be enough.  See, bed bugs are incredibly resilient, and they are really really good at hiding, in often very difficult areas to reach.

Because of this, the first treatment may kill off many of the bed bugs in your home, but not all of them.   Because they can multiply so rapidly, by the time your exterminator comes back in a week or two for a follow-up inspection, you may have more bed bugs again.

This situation is not uncommon at all, and treating a large and complex bed bug infestation often requires multiple treatments.  So full treatment, and resolution of your bed problem by a professional bed bug exterminator can often take weeks, if not months.

Should I use a Professional Bed Bug Exterminator?

Bed Bug Exterminator

The decision on whether or not to hire a professional bed bug exterminator, or treat your bed bug infestation yourself, is not always an easy answer.   Additionally, the factors that drive this decision will be very unique to your own personal situation.

Here are a few things you should consider:

  • The Severity of your Infestation - More severe infestations often require a professional exterminator and are extremely difficult to treat on your own.  If you have a severe or large infestation, you would be better served by allowing a professional to address it.
  • Your Budget - The amount of money you can afford to spend is often the most critical element of choosing whether or not to use a professional bed bug exterminator.   Average costs for a professional treatment runs $250 - $800 per room, and that is often far outside of the budget of many homeowners.  If you cannot afford a professional, treating your bed bug problem yourself is generally your only option.
  • Your reaction to bed bug bites - If you have bed bugs, you're going to be bitten, and most likely often.  If you have a severe reaction to bed bug bites, a professional will be your best option.  Professionals are generally able to resolve bed bug problems faster than the average homeowner.  Of course, getting rid of bed bugs will get rid of your bites, and your reaction.
  • Availability of Pesticides - While many people are not in favor of using Pesticides, the reality is that for a heavy infestation, pesticides are almost always needed to eliminate the bed bugs.  Bed Bug Exterminators have access to and are trained and licensed to use more potent and effective pesticides than the average consumer can obtain.   Again, this makes using an exterminator, far more effective.  There are a number of highly effective bed bug sprays available to consumers as well though.
  • Your available time -  Treating bed bugs effectively, and ridding your home of all of them, so they cannot reproduce can be a very lengthy process.  If you work a full-time job and have other personal obligations finding the time to properly treat your bed bug infestation can be a big problem.  Exterminators don't have this issue, as they are full-time, and paid to be at home your treating bed bugs.

Tips for hiring a Bed Bug Exterminator

Bed Bug Exterminator Tips

If you've decided to hire a bed bug exterminator, here are some tips to help you find a professional, reliable, experienced, and trustworthy bed bug exterminator for your home:

  • Hire a company that has been in business, treating bed bug problems in your areas for at least a 3-5 years.  The long they have been around, and the more experience they have, the better off you will be.
  • Talk to friends and family in your area to see who they would recommend.  Leveraging the prior experience of others that you know and trust is always a good thing!
  • Getting rid of bed bugs often requires multiple treatments, be sure the exterminator explains this in their quote and contract.  You should understand all of the costs up front.
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    Any exterminator you use should be licensed, registered, and certified to operate in your state and town.  Ask for proof of this, and if they cannot show it, don't use them.
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    When talking to a potential exterminator, ask them about the treatment methods they use.   Convey information to them about your home, such as children, pets, elderly, asthma or other respiratory conditions, etc.  Be sure they are knowledgeable about the impact various pesticides can have in these situations.   Feel comfortable that you and your family will be safe.  Remember, professional exterminators generally use Integrated Pest Managment (IPM).  If they don't mention this, consider not using them.
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    Ask for references, and call them.   References should be customers that were successfully treated, with similar bed bug infestations as your own.  
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    When calling to get an inspection, understand the costs.  Some companies don't charge for initial inspections, while others do.  When they do an inspection, be sure they show you proof that you have bed bugs.  Do not take their word for it.
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    When recommending a treatment process (after the inspection), the exterminator should provide a treatment plan, that details what will be used, when, how often, and how much it will cost.
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    If pesticides are used, the exterminator should provide a "Material Safety Data Sheet" that details the chemicals being used, their safety, any risks, health warnings, and precautions you need to be aware of.  You will want to read over and fully understand this, before allowing treatment to begin.
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    Review the contract (yes one should be provided).  The contract should include the exterminator's name, the treatment plan they discussed with you, the number of expected treatments, the total cost, and a summary of their guarantee if they provide one.  It should also include liability and worker's compensation insurance information (if they don't have either, don't use them).   Be sure you fully understand the contract cancellation policy before signing.
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    Understand YOUR responsibilities including any work that is required prior to the exterminator arriving, and any items you are responsible for after they leave.

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Wrapping Up

As you can see, the decision on whether or not to use a Bed Bug Exterminator can be a complex one, and then once you decide to use one, finding the right one for you,can often be even more difficult.

While it does seem a bit overwhelming, it's still far more easy than treating bed bugs yourself, and quicker too.

If you can afford it, using a Professional Bed Bug Exterminator is the single best way to get rid of bed bugs in your home.

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