The increase in bed bug infestations in the U.S. is a result of increased travel, lack of knowledge about preventing infestations, increased resistance of bed bugs to pesticides, and ineffective pest control practices, explains the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s easy to mistake bed bugs for carpet beetles or similar-looking bugs, so infestations are often not noticed when they first occur. Prevention tips include keeping areas free of clutter, regularly washing sheets and mattress covers in hot water (and don’t forget to wash the laundry bag, too), and vacuuming regularly and safely disposing of the sealed vacuum bag. Not everyone has reactions to bed bug bites, which also may be mistaken for the bites of other pests such as mosquitoes, so timely bed bug extermination depends on identification of bed bug activity. If you notice physical signs of an infestation, contact a bed bug extermination professional as soon as possible to learn about chemical and non-chemical (such as heat) treatment options. An integrated pest management plan may incorporate one or more methods.
The cost of bed bug extermination depends primarily on how widespread the pest infestation is and how many rooms need to be treated. Other factors that can affect bed bug extermination costs are the amount of clutter in the location, additional furniture that needs to be treated, and construction of the home. Pest management professionals often have rates for room treatments, which can vary based on these factors. As an example, a pest management company treating a 10-by-15-foot room with light infestation might charge clients about $250, while the same size room with a heavy infestation and large amounts of clutter might cost the clients $300-$400. Clutter and heavier bed bug populations mean more product and longer labor time for the workers. Rates will vary from company to company, and from region to region, but the national average bed bug extermination cost is $320-$400. Bed bug heat treatments are an alternative way to exterminate these pests. Heat treatments are typically charged per square foot and tend to cost more than chemical or non-chemical spray solutions. Although effective, they are not usually recommended for occupied spaces, as the extreme temperatures can damage televisions, window dressings and other home furnishings.
Bed bugs are visible to the naked eye, but depending on where they are in their life cycle they can be hard to see. Adult bed bugs are the easiest to spot. According to the EPA, they are roughly the size of an apple seed and the height of a credit card. Adults are flat and oval-shaped, have six legs, and are rusty red in color. Bed bug larvae, also referred to as nymphs, are white-yellow or translucent in color and are much harder to spot due to their small size. The nymphs go through five stages of life, shedding an exoskeleton at each stage. Throughout these stages the nymphs grow in size from approximately 1.5 millimeters to approximately 4.5 millimeters. Bed bug eggs can be the most challenging to see as they are roughly 1 millimeter — about the size of a pinhead — and are white or clear. Bed bugs tend to be more active at night, as this is when they feed.
Bed bugs can happen to anybody and there typically more than 200,000 cases in the U.S. per year. They are sneaky little pests that hitchhike into your home in a variety of ways. Getting a bed bug infestation is not a reflection on how clean a home is; bed bugs can infiltrate the cleanest of places — although their presence is easier to detect and eliminate in clutter-free spaces. Here are some tips from the EPA to prevent bed bugs from entering and taking up residence in your home:
- Carefully inspect secondhand furniture, beds, or couches for any signs of bed bug infestation before bringing them home.
- Use a protective cover (encasement) over mattresses and box springs to prevent bed bugs from hiding in them. Select an encasement in a light color to make bed bug spotting easier. Also choose one of a strong material that won’t tear, and check it often for holes.
- Keep your home clutter-free to eliminate bed bug hiding spots.
- Vacuum your home regularly and dispose of sealed vacuum bags carefully.
- Shared laundry facilities can lead to bed bug exposure in both directions. Transport laundry in plastic bags (if you have an active infestation, use a new bag for the journey home). Remove laundry from the dryer directly into the bag and fold it at home. Use high heat to kill any potential bed bugs.
- The EPA suggests that if you live in a multi-family home, isolate your unit by:
- Installing door sweeps on the bottom of doors to discourage movement into hallways.
- Sealing cracks and crevices around baseboards, light sockets, etc., to discourage movement through wall voids.
Bed bug extermination can last forever as long as the treatment killed all the bed bugs (and their eggs) and if new bed bugs are not transported into the location. Factors that can affect the outcome are how severe the infestation is and whether all bed bug sources were properly identified and treated. When working with a pest control professional, the EPA recommends you check and call references; ask if they offer both chemical and non-chemical treatment options, if they recommend both encasements and interceptors, and if they offer two or more service visits and follow-up. Bed bugs are tiny (adults are roughly the size of an apple seed) and can hide anywhere a credit card can slide into. They squeeze into cracks in walls, behind electrical outlet sockets, in bedding, and in other dark places. Learn how to prepare your home for a bed bug treatment for the best outcomes. Michigan State University shares some examples of possible reasons that a bed bug extermination is not 100 percent effective:
- Not all sources (aka hiding places) of the bed bugs were identified during initial inspection.
- Not all sources of bed bugs were treated.
- The insecticides used were not effective or, in the case of heat treatment, there was insufficient contact time.
- Infested items such as bedding or other materials were reintroduced into a cleaned area.