How Bed Bug Treatment Can Be Expensive (But Worth It!)

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Bed bugs used to be a pest of the past. In the 1940s and 50s, they all but vanished thanks to improvements in hygiene and the introduction of pesticides. For about 40 years, they seemed to be gone.

Then there was an outbreak at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, a harbinger of things to come. And now, thanks to rising pesticide resistance, global travel, and densely populated urban areas, bed bugs are back and worse than ever.

Of course, when bed bugs infest your home, you’re not worried about global travel or pesticide resistance. You’re worried about the bed bug treatment cost and how to kill the little buggers. The truth is, bed bug treatment can be expensive, but the cost will pay off. Here’s why the price is worth it.

What are Bed Bugs?

To understand why an exterminator is the best option to help deal with bed bugs, it helps to understand what bed bugs are (other than creatures in your worst nightmares).

Bed bugs tend to elicit a strong emotional reaction, the kind given to ticks and leeches–namely, the overwhelming impulse to light everything you own on fire. Considering that they’re tiny, creepy crawly vampires, that’s a fair response.

What They Look Like

Adult bed bugs are about 5 mm in length, roughly the size of an apple seed. They’re oval-shaped, reddish-brown, wingless insects.

They’re often confused with cockroaches in the popular imagination, mostly because they stir up the same instinctive disgust. When you see the bugs, though, you wouldn’t be able to mistake one for the other.

Cockroaches are oval-shaped, flat insects in which they have in common with bed bugs. However, there are two key differences in appearance: size and wings. Cockroaches are much larger than bed bugs, and unlike bed bugs, they have wings.

What They Eat

The other major difference between bed bugs and cockroaches is what they eat, which is another reason why the popular imagination has a lot of incorrect ideas about bed bugs and cockroaches.

Cockroaches are equal-opportunity scavengers who will eat just about anything, but they are not parasites. They don’t tend to bite humans–they’re more interested in the food crumbs on the floor than mammal blood.

Bed bugs, on the other hand, are much fussier about their food source. Unlike cockroaches, bed bugs are parasites, which means they only eat one thing: blood from warm-blooded mammals. That said, they’re much smaller than cockroaches and (unlike cockroaches, the tanks of the bug world) bed bugs are relatively easy to squish.

For this reason, bed bugs prefer to feed when their host is unaware and immobile, since there’s a much lower chance that the host will notice the bug and kill it in the middle of dinner. This is why bed bugs have their name–one of their favorite places to feast is in beds, since humans lay immobile on them for several hours each night.

In short, they’re literally little bloodsucking monsters.

How They Infest An Area

Bed bugs are a formidable pest because they have two inherited talents:

  1. Hitching a ride
  2. Hiding

In fact, the primary way for bed bugs to enter a new location is by hitching a ride. And since they’re small, their possible hiding locations are pretty broad.

When they hitch a ride to infest a new area, they can hide just about anywhere you can think of. If you’re staying in a hotel with bed bugs, for example, they can hide in the seams of your luggage or even your clothes.

They can also catch a ride from one home to another through secondhand items. Used furniture or clothing are primary targets for bed bugs coming in secondhand. Any furniture item where humans spend time is a good target for bed bugs, but they’re not terribly picky about how they get there.

Also, a piece of furniture isn’t safe because it’s made of wood–they’re known to hide in the cracks and crevices of wooden furniture too.

It’s also possible that bed bugs were living in your home before you got there, especially if you live in an apartment building. If one resident brings in bed bugs, they can travel through the walls from one unit to the next. Once they’re in a building, it’s difficult to get rid of them without treating the entire building.

Where They Like to Hide

Bed bugs get their name from their favorite hiding place–beds. Think about it. It’s a place where a warm-blooded host stays immobile on a nightly basis for hours at a time. For a bed bug, it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet.

That said, bed bugs aren’t all that picky about where they hide. They like beds because they don’t have to travel far to eat, but they’ll hide anywhere that’s available, including:

  • Couches
  • Chairs
  • Tables
  • Shelves
  • Clothing
  • Bedding
  • Pillows
  • Bed frames and box springs
  • The meeting point of the carpet and the wall
  • Nail holes in the wall

Don’t ignore a space because it seems too small for a bed bug to hide. They’re quite small and narrow, so they can hide in several places you wouldn’t expect (and they’re willing to travel for their meal if necessary). And unlike cockroaches, which will hide from bright lights (they have night vision) bed bugs are not nocturnal. The daytime won’t deter them from biting.

Signs of an Infestation

So, how do you know if you’ve got bed bugs?

One of the early signs of bed bugs are small, itchy red spots on your skin. These are bed bug bites. Bed bugs inject their host with a minor anesthetic to prevent the host from waking up while they feed, and while bed bugs don’t generally carry diseases, these sites can become irritated or infected.

Unfortunately, this signal isn’t necessarily reliable. Some people are allergic to bed bugs and can get painful swelling or rashes at the bite site, but many people don’t react to bed bug bites at all.

The most reliable way to check for bed bugs is to look at your furniture and bedding. If you notice any unexplainable rusty red spots or stains (these can be as small as the point of a pen) these could be bed bug excrement or the remains of dead bugs (if you rolled over and crushed the bug in your sleep).

There’s also the visual test, i.e. seeing bed bugs in your home. Unfortunately, by the time you see bed bugs trucking around your house, the infestation may be pretty bad.

Why Call an Exterminator?

So, why should you call a bed bug exterminator? Other than sending the bugs to their death with extreme prejudice, of course.

Nominally, bed bugs aren’t that difficult to kill. Unlike cockroaches, which seem to be indestructible, bed bugs aren’t that hardy. They can easily be crushed, they’re sensitive to temperature, and they can sometimes be poisoned (unless the bugs happen to be pesticide-resistant).

However, as previously stated, bed bugs are excellent at hiding. The issue with bed bugs isn’t killing them, per se, but rather finding and killing all of them.

Compared to other bugs, they’re slow to reproduce (each female lays one egg per day and bugs take weeks to reach maturity) but it only takes one male-female pair to jump-start an infestation. And since they’re great at hiding, you may not notice an infestation until there are dozens of adult bed bugs in your house, reproducing everyday.

This is why it’s essential to call an exterminator. Unless you kill all of the bugs in one fell swoop, you’re going to have an infestation again and again.

The Issue with DIY Bed Bug Treatment

There are certain DIY tips you can use to check for bed bugs and avoid an infestation, but if you’re dealing with an already existing infestation, you’re better off getting professional treatment than trying to DIY it.

Again, the problem with bed bugs isn’t killing them, but killing all of them. You might be able to kill some of them with DIY methods, but there are certain areas that you can’t reach or wouldn’t think to try, and you don’t want to ruin your belongings with haphazard DIY.

Plus, many DIY methods suggested on the Internet won’t necessarily kill bed bugs. For example, you can try to freeze bed bugs by putting items in the freezer, but most consumer freezers don’t get cold enough to kill bed bugs, and the temperature isn’t consistent enough to guarantee that the bugs will die.

The same issue applies to putting infested furniture outside in the cold. Outdoor temperatures won’t stay consistently cold enough for long enough to kill the bed bugs. Plus, you run the risk of unintentionally spreading bed bugs to your neighbors.

A professional exterminator knows everywhere that bed bugs hide, and they have the tools needed to kill bed bugs in even the most far flung hiding places. That way, you can rest assured that the infestation is completely wiped out.

What Affects Bed Bug Treatment Cost?

That said, we understand the temptation to DIY your bed bug treatment to save on costs. The bed bug treatment cost can be high. Bed bug exterminator costs also vary widely between exterminators and houses because, unfortunately, not all infestations are created equal.

Here are a few factors that will influence the cost of your bed bug treatment. Keep in mind, however, that in the case of bed bugs, it pays to be thorough rather than cheap.

Inspection

The first factor affecting your treatment cost is the precursor to treatment–the bed bug inspection.

There are several forms of inspection. The most common of them is a visual inspection, looking for physical indications of bed bugs, such as:

  • Bed bug excrement
  • Bed bug eggs and eggshells
  • Shed bed bug exoskeletons
  • Rusty red stains
  • Live bugs

A more thorough inspection available by some exterminators is a canine inspection, in which an inspector uses a trained bug-sniffing dog to figure out areas that have been infested with bed bugs. This allows greater precision in the extermination process and lets the exterminators know the extent of the infestation.

Size of the Space

Exterminators charge several different ways–by room, by square footage, or with a flat fee. They can also charge for individual visits or for a package of visits.

Regardless of the fee structure, you will pay more if the infested space is larger. The more widespread the infestation is, the more work exterminators have to do to wipe it out.

That said, you may pay more for a small, heavily infested space than a large, moderately infested space. Most exterminators have a fixed rate per room or square footage and will add additional fees onto the fixed rate as other factors–like the severity of the infestation and the clutter that needs to be treated–come into play.

Extent of Infestation

Unfortunately, the denser the infestation, the more you’ll have to pay to get rid of it, since the exterminators will have to put in more labor and use more materials to wipe out the bugs.

This is one of the biggest reasons to call an exterminator sooner rather than later.

To determine the severity of the infestation, the inspector will examine a room for telltale signs of infestation, like exoskeletons and stains. They’ll look at how widespread these red flags are–whether they affect a concentrated area, a whole room, or your whole living space–and how concentrated they are in a given area.

The tricky thing is that bed bug populations can grow fast, so you have to wipe them out quickly and completely. It’s worth spending more to wipe out the whole infestation, even if the cost is a little higher.

Location

Unfortunately, the area you live in can impact what you pay for your extermination services.

Like many other services, exterminator services are shaped by supply and demand. The more demand there is for extermination services in an area, the more exterminators can charge for their services.

For the average person, this means that living in certain areas can raise your costs simply by virtue of geography. Large, densely populated cities that double as major travel hubs are more prone to infestations than others, such as:

  • New York
  • Seattle
  • Salt Lake City
  • Portland
  • Washington, DC
  • Chicago
  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Philadelphia
  • Las Vegas
  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Phoenix

As a rule, if you live in a populous city, you can generally expect to pay a little more for exterminator services than friends and family who live in the suburbs or out in the country.

Home Type

You might not think your home itself would impact your fees, but the construction of your home itself can offer more hiding places to bed bugs, which makes it harder for an exterminator to eradicate the infestation.

For example, if your entire home is infested, it may be necessary to spray or treat underneath the house. Slab houses (homes without a gap between the foundation and the home) don’t offer extra space for bugs to hide and thus won’t require this treatment. But homes with a pier-and-beam construction offer an extra hideaway under the house.

Also, keep in mind that the larger your house is, the more you’ll have to pay to exterminate bugs, since the exterminator has to account for the additional treatment per square footage.

Furniture

We mentioned earlier that bed bugs will hide in just about any available place. This means that exterminators have to treat your furniture when they treat your house so that bugs can’t flee into the furniture and continue to reproduce.

Many exterminators offer a room package that covers certain standard furniture pieces, like a bed, dresser, and two nightstands in a bedroom. Each additional piece of furniture will cost extra, since exterminators have to treat every piece of furniture in the room, which means the process will take longer and require more materials and labor from the exterminator.

However, if the exterminator offers heat treatment for bed bugs, the cost of treating furniture is included in the cost already. The heat will penetrate all cracks and crevices, so treatment for each individual piece is unnecessary.

Cleanliness

Last but not least is the level of cleanliness and clutter in your home.

Bed bugs are not cockroaches–they’re not attracted to a home based on its relative cleanliness or dirtiness. All they care about is blood. However, cluttered homes make it far easier for bed bugs to hide and lay eggs.

This means that the exterminator will have to spend more time treating additional items in case bugs are hiding in them. You can clear clutter prior to treatment, as this will make it easier for your exterminator to work in your home and saves time for the exterminator, since they won’t have to waste time clearing clutter for you.

However, you shouldn’t take items that might be infested out of the house–if you reintroduce infested items, you can get a bed bug infestation all over again.

In simple terms, if a room is messy or has a lot of clutter, it will be more expensive to treat it.

The Value of a Whole-House Inspection and Treatment

Unfortunately, if you have to treat your entire house, it will be far more expensive than treating isolated areas. But if your goal is to eradicate bed bugs from your home for good, a whole-house inspection and treatment is vital.

Bed bugs can be easy to kill but often difficult to find. And since populations can replenish relatively quickly, you can’t afford to miss a few bugs–you have to get all of them.

The problem with a partial treatment is that there’s too much room for bed bugs to escape. You might kill all the bed bugs in a given area, but if bed bugs happen to be hiding elsewhere (or the bugs in the treated area flee to another room) you still have an infestation issue on your hands.

Bed bugs are a stressful experience as it is, and the process of exterminating them isn’t cheap. It’s always better to be overly cautious, pay extra, and get a greater assurance that all of the bugs are dead than go through the whole process again in a month or two.

Preparing for Treatment

With that in mind, if you’re getting a bed bug treatment in the near future, it pays to plan ahead and be prepared to ensure that the extermination process goes as smoothly as possible.

Prior to Our Arrival

Prior to a heat treatment, you should remove all of these items from your home:

  • Pets (dogs, cats, lizards, fish, birds, etc.)
  • Plants
  • Wax products (lipstick, crayons, candles, etc.)
  • Pressurized cans (hairspray, soda cans, cleaners, etc.)
  • Guns and ammunition
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Vinyl records
  • Photographs
  • VHS cassettes
  • Film negatives

Depending on the type of heat service you are receiving you may need to plan to take all of your portable electronics (i.e. laptops, phones, tablets, charging cables, headphones, etc.) out of the house with you on treatment day. All other electronics (but not appliances) should be unplugged.

If you have any medicines or vitamins, place them in the refrigerator. All perishable food (including wine and liquor) should also go in the refrigerator. Paintings and frames should be taken off the walls and placed on the floor. If you have valuable artwork, speak with your exterminator and remove it from the house prior to treatment to avoid potential damage.

All personal items should remain in the house during treatment, including:

  • Clothing
  • Purses (remove your wallet)
  • Backpacks
  • Diaper bags
  • Computer bags
  • Wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility devices (get rentals for the day)

If there are items you absolutely need for the day, get a new shopping bag to carry them. To avoid carrying bugs out of the house with you, wear clothes that have been freshly laundered.

Clutter has to be addressed prior to the treatment. Loose papers must be secured, as high-powered fans will be used during treatment.

The Bed Bug Experts You Need to Protect Your Home

We understand that the bed bug treatment cost for your home can be high, both in terms of money and time. But at the end of the day, it’s a worthwhile investment for the health and wellbeing of your family.

If you have questions about bed bugs, concerns about an infestation, or need an inspection, we’re here to help, bringing years of expertise and the best treatment tools in the industry. Get in touch today to find out more about how we can help protect your home and loved ones.

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