Bedbugs are a fact of life. If you have bedbugs, it doesn't mean you have a dirty home or office, or that you've done something wrong. It just means that these resilient little parasitic insects have hopped a ride into your life somehow — usually via luggage, backpacks, secondhand furniture and clothing, or a visitor — and made themselves at home. The minute you notice signs of a bedbug infestation is the time to call a professional bedbug exterminator. Bedbugs proliferate quickly — and don't disappear on their own — so the sooner you eliminate bedbugs and their eggs, the sooner you'll have relief from their bites.
Fortunately, bedbugs are not known to transmit infectious disease, but they do cause itching and scratching, bite marks, and allergic reactions — and can spread easily. In the past two decades, bedbug infestations have been on the rise due in part to increased travel, lack of public knowledge about bedbug prevention, bedbugs' increasing resistance to existing pesticides, and ineffective pest control practices, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The higher the traffic in your home and the greater exposure you have to travel and outside elements, the greater the opportunity you have for bedbugs.
Nationally, the average cost for bedbug extermination ranges between $320 and $400. Pricing will vary based on your geographic location, the severity of the bedbug infestation, the number of rooms affected, and what type of treatment is required to eliminate the little pests. In general, bedbug infestations get worse, never better, if left untreated. It's wise to deal with the problem early on, to prevent the infestation from spreading to other parts of your home or office, and also to prevent passing the bedbugs on to visitors who will then carry them to other locations.
When you're ready to hire a bedbug exterminator, pest control professionals are available to offer a thorough inspection and then treat your homes, offices, multiunit properties and commercial spaces. Bedbug infestations can affect one bed in one room or an entire home or property. Pest control pros may charge for bedbug treatment by the square footage of the property to be treated, at a flat fee per room, or by the hour of labor. Professional exterminators can perform inspections to determine whether you have a problem, provide one-time removal or termination, provide recurring bedbug control services, and also provide recommendations for pest prevention measures. Bedbug treatment can take place whether a space is occupied or vacant, so there's no need to pack up and leave your home just to receive treatment. Several factors can affect the average professional bed bug extermination cost.
Number of rooms
As a rule of thumb, the more rooms that need treatment, the higher the overall average bedbug extermination cost. Most pest control professionals do a walk-through before providing a quote so they can assess the circumstances and recommend a course of treatment. Pest control professionals may charge a set rate per room, based on their knowledge of how long a standard size room like a living room will take to treat, plus the approximate cost of materials. They may charge a higher rate for the same size room if the bedbug infestation is heavy or the room contains a great deal of clutter and furniture.
For example, Alamo Pest Management in Fort Worth, Texas, generally charges an average of $250 per 10-foot by 15-foot bedroom with standard furniture for a light to moderate infestation. Standard furniture in a bedroom could include a bed, night tables and a dresser. Technicians have to inspect and treat all the furniture in each infested room; more furniture means more work and more product, which could result in a higher room rate. Excessive clutter can also add to flat room rates, because clutter creates many opportunities for bedbugs to hide and requires more time and product to treat.
The more rampant the bedbug infestation in a given area, the higher the cost per room or flat rate that you'll pay. An infestation can be spread out all over one room, or may be concentrated in one part of the room. In any case, the pest control professional will inspect the entire area, looking for telltale signs of bedbug infestation such as exoskeletons and fecal matter. In rooms with a heavier infestation, the higher cost accounts for the greater amount of product needed as well as additional employee time on the job. For example, Alamo Pest Management charges an average of $300-$400 per bedroom with a standard amount of furniture and a heavy bedbug infestation, which is $50-$150 more than services for a standard room with a light to moderate bedbug infestation. The company also provides "peace of mind" preventive treatment for roughly $200 per room where there is little to no bedbug activity.
Treating a problem quickly is truly important because bedbugs proliferate so rapidly. According to the Centers for Disease Control, adult female bedbugs lay approximately five eggs per day for their lifespan, which can range anywhere from 6 to 12 months. This means in the course of her lifetime, one female bedbug can bring between 915 and 1,825 new bedbug eggs into your home. The female offspring will continue the cycle when they reach maturity and begin laying their own eggs. An integrated pest management solution will not only treat those bedbugs that are currently alive, but also exterminate any unhatched bedbug eggs.
The more furniture you have in an infested room, the higher the cost you can expect to pay to treat that room. For example, most pest control companies charge an average of $50 per piece of additional furniture in a bedroom beyond the standard bed, two nightstands and the dresser. Extra bedroom furniture might include a futon or a second dresser. Each additional piece of furniture can add 30-60 minutes to the time it takes to treat a room and also requires more product. If you have three extra pieces of furniture in your bedroom, that's an extra 90-180 minutes of time the pest control professional might be on location, resulting in higher rates.
Cleanliness and clutter
Dirt doesn't really affect whether bedbugs hang around your house, but clutter does. Bedbugs love nooks and crannies to hide and lay eggs in. Clutter also makes it harder for you to spot bedbugs in their early stages. Keeping your closet in order and reducing messes under the bed can mean faster detection if bedbugs do come into your house. Faster detection typically means a lower cost for bedbug extermination because there are fewer live bugs around and it's less time-consuming to remove them.
If a home is messy or has a lot of clutter, the rate per room will be higher. According to Alamo Pest Management, clutter creates more work in two ways: Employees must sort through and clear the clutter to prepare the area for treatment; and employees must spray more product to treat all of the excess clutter. Alamo Pest Management charges $450 per bedroom with a standard bedroom set, heavy infestation, and large amount of clutter or obstacles.
Construction of home
If an entire home is infested, it may be necessary to spray under the house, which would increase the overall cost of services. Homes with pier-and-beam construction can harbor bedbugs underneath, and pros can dry-dust the area to terminate colonies there. Slab homes (homes without any space between the home and the foundation) probably don't need this treatment. Alamo Pest Management charges an average of $50 minimum to dry-dust under a pier-and-beam home. Depending on the construction of your home, or how heavily infested it is, the pest control pro may recommend fumigation. This is a more extreme solution as it involves completely sealing your home (often with a massive tarp) and pumping in a pesticidal gas. You and your family must vacate for one to several days, and costs may range on average anywhere from $3 to $8 per square foot — which can add up quickly if you have a large home. The good news is fumigation will eradicate all signs of bedbugs.
Bedbug extermination companies may charge an hourly fee rather than a per-room rate. The hourly rate may reflect the type of pest control services the pro will employ, and the cost of travel to your location, materials and employee time. The hourly rate will also take into account business overhead costs such as insurance, licensing and equipment. For example, Pest Solutions in Wappingers Falls, New York, charges an average base rate of $75 for 45 minutes of bedbug control services. A pest control management company that offers an hourly rate will typically do an onsite assessment and then provide a quote with work to be done and estimated hours and cost.
Bedbugs are tiny, smaller than a lentil or an apple seed, and are no thicker than a credit card — unless engorged with blood. They have six legs and short antennae that point forward; if you see a bug of the same shape and color but with eight legs, it may be a mite or a tick. Bedbugs will often crowd together into cozy cracks and crevices together, but are also prone to going off alone, especially the females. If you find one grouping of them, that does not mean you have discovered them all, and treating just that area may not control the whole infestation. Bedbugs don't have wings and cannot fly, but you may see the adults run across a bed, molding or piece of furniture.
Adult bedbugs are rust or mahogany in color. If they have just fed (on blood) they are more rounded in shape and have a richer, red color. Bedbugs mainly feed on human blood, but some strains also have adapted to other mammals, such as your pets. Adult females lay white or clear eggs that are no bigger than a pinhead — approximately 1 millimeter in size. The eggs hatch within 4-12 days, according to the EPA, and move through a series of five nymphal growth stages. As they advance through these stages, the nymphs grow from approximately 1.5 millimeters to approximately 4.5 millimeters. Nymphs are white-yellow or clear, unless they have recently fed. These pre-adult larvae must feed on blood to progress to their next nymphal stage. Each time they progress to the next stage, they shed their current exoskeleton, so flaky bedbugs skins are a strong indicator of bedbugs in your midst. Bedbugs are primarily nocturnal; most nymphs and adults feed on sleeping or resting humans in the darkness, although they will come out in the daylight if they're hungry enough. They take advantage of exposed skin, so your neck, arms or legs are often easy targets while you sleep. Bedbug bites are not the easiest way to identify a bedbug problem, as not everyone has a reaction to bedbug bites and the bites can also be confused for mosquito bites or other insect bites.
Symptoms of bedbugs
If you're worried you may have bedbugs, there are some warning signs to watch for. The easiest indicator that your home or office has been infested is when you actually see bedbugs. They feed on human blood (and on your pets, too, if you're not around) and tend to be nocturnal, feeding when humans are asleep. This is why bedbug activity is often discovered on or around mattresses and bed frames — they like to stay close to their meals. You may also find bedbug exoskeletons. The larvae, called nymphs, grow through five stages, molting and shedding their skins each time. The more of these flaky skins you see gathered, the bigger your bedbug infestation has become. Another indicator is their fecal droppings — rusty in color, thanks to blood — found on bedding and furniture. If you have amazing vision, or you've come across a large cluster, you may be able to spot their eggs, which are clear or yellowish and about the size of a pinhead. Smell can be another symptom. Bedbug infestations tend to create a sweet, musty odor, so pay attention if you smell something out of the ordinary.
If you spot any of these symptoms and aren't too squeamish, you can also do a preliminary search to discover their hiding places — but be very careful, as disturbing them may lead to wider dissemination throughout your house. As their name implies, they are often found in mattress seams, in bedding, and tucked into dark crevices of bed frames. Beyond the bed, bedbugs can fit almost anywhere and seek out dark, tight hiding places. Scan curtains and furniture seams; behind picture frames and mirrors, inside cracks in the wall or around window and door frames; in tightly cluttered spaces like closets; in luggage, briefcases and backpacks; and even inside electronics. Since they're as thin as a credit card and as small as an apple seed, they can pack into all kinds of tight spaces.
Types of treatment
There are a variety of techniques available to treat bedbugs. According to Indiana University, heat, steam, freezing and pesticides are all viable techniques for eliminating bedbugs when performed properly by a professional exterminator. During heat treatments, hot air is pumped into infested areas until ambient room temperatures have reached between 130 and 150 degrees; bedbugs begin to die at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Thermometers are used to verify that all areas of an infested room have reached the proper temperatures. Insecticide is used as a follow-up treatment to the heat method to eliminate any possible survivors. During steam treatment, your exterminator will use a professional low vapor or dry steam machine with variable output rates. Steam is applied directly to infested areas and kills bedbug adults, larvae and eggs. The one drawback to steam, according to Indiana University, is that steam is only effective as far as it can reach — meaning you must hit each infested area directly with steam to ensure complete extermination. Freezing is also effective, but the best results are achieved with a professional treatment such as the Cryonite freezing technology, according to Indiana University. The technique uses carbon dioxide snow to kill bedbugs, leaving no pesticide residue. If you try freezing infested items such as clothing in your own freezer, the bedbugs may actually survive and thaw, returning to haunt you again once they've come out of the freezer.
Pesticides are another effective treatment for fighting bedbugs. It's important to hire a pest control professional to apply pesticides as misuse can be harmful to your health and that of your kids and pets. Misuse can also cause bedbug infestations to spread to other areas of your home or office, and even contribute to bedbug resistance to pesticides. According to Indiana University, the categories of pesticides used to exterminate bedbugs include liquids, aerosols, dusts and fumigants. Liquid insecticides are used to exterminate bedbugs residing in cracks and crevices, and along moldings or carpet edges. Aerosol insecticides work well for furniture, cracks and crevices, and the treatment of bed frames and box springs. Insecticidal dusts can be safely used inside walls and behind electrical outlet covers and switch plates. Gases, called fumigants, are used to handle large-scale bedbug infestations. The pest control management company will completely seal your home or office and then fill it with an insecticidal gas that should kill all bedbugs inside. Indiana University explains that standard foggers (also known as bug bombs) are not an effective tool for bedbug extermination.
Free quotes are fairly standard practice for larger extermination projects. Because the factors involved in determining treatment are so complex, most bedbug extermination companies provide free, on-site quotes to give an accurate cost estimate and treatment plan. Before calling a pest control management company to come to your location and give you a quote, verify they are are in good standing in their field. (For more, check out our tips for smart hiring). Once you schedule a quote, the professional will come to your home or office, ask you to point out your areas of concern, and also perform a complete visual inspection to assess treatment need. Reputable pest management companies will recommend an integrated pest management approach.
Integrated pest management
Integrated pest management isn't a fancy marketing term exterminators made up to sell you products. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that integrated pest management programs "use information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with people and the environment. This information, combined with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment." When researching which pest company to hire, look for those companies that champion an integrated approach. This will net you the best results (no more bedbugs!) in the long run. Although the EPA recommends the least possible damage to the environment, they are not opposed to the use of pesticides when properly applied. In fact, the EPA states, "although bedbugs may sometimes be controlled by non-chemical means alone, this approach is often very difficult, potentially less effective, and usually more resource intensive." This is why it's important to work with a trained pest control professional, as misuse of pesticides can be harmful to you and your family, as well as exacerbating your bedbug problem.
The best way to get rid of bedbugs, and save money on pest control, is to prevent them from moving into your home or office in the first place. Although bedbugs frequently are transported via travel and hotel rooms, they are also in schools, daycare centers, public transportation such as subways, trains, and buses, college dorms, and more. Anyplace is susceptible to bedbugs. Bedbugs don't discriminate, and they aren't a sign of a dirty home or dirty life. Follow these tips from the EPA for preventing a bedbug infestation in your home:
- Carefully inspect secondhand furniture, beds or couches for any signs of bedbug infestation before bringing them home.
- Check clothing purchased from vintage or thrift shops for any signs of bedbugs.
- Use a protective cover (called an encasement in the pest control industry) over mattresses and box springs to prevent bedbugs from hiding out. Select an encasement in a light color to make bedbug spotting easier. Also choose one made of a strong material that won't tear — check often for holes.
- Eliminate as much clutter as possible in your home to cut down on possible bedbug hiding spots.
- Vacuum your home regularly and dispose of sealed vacuum bags carefully.
- Shared laundry facilities can lead to bedbug exposure. Transport laundry in plastic bags (if you have an active infestation, use a new bag for the journey home). Remove clothing from the dryer directly into the bag and fold your items at home. Use high heat to kill any potential bedbugs.
- The EPA suggests that if you live in a multi-family home, you can 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.
Traveling and bedbugs
Traveling is an easy way to pick up unwanted visitors. When you're staying in a hotel, hostel, Airbnb, or someone's home, there are some simple precautions you can take to prevent bedbugs from coming home with you. When you set down your luggage, look for an elevated location such as a luggage rack or shelf. Remember that bedbugs can't fly, so keeping your suitcase or pack up and off the ground can help prevent infestation. Be aware of nearby cracks, picture frames, or electronics that could house bedbugs. Always check your mattress for signs of bedbugs. You can lift the sheets and check the mattress seams for signs of exoskeletons, fecal droppings, or bedbugs themselves. Also lift up the mattress and look underneath, then run your hands down and around the mattress frame. Simple preventive measures can make your life much easier. If you have clothing or items you think have been exposed, store them in a sealed plastic bag until you have access to a dryer; place the items directly into the dryer and heat them on high for at least 30 minutes.
- Some pest control professionals offer a 100 percent guarantee, which may be good to look for if you have a bad infestation. For example, Steam Kill Bed Bugs in Little Falls, New Jersey, promises that their treatment will rid you of bedbugs, or they'll return to do additional treatment for free.
- Ask for a signed contract that outlines the treatment plan, cost, and any follow-up or warranty that will be provided.
- Always research your pest control pro and make sure they have the appropriate licensing, insurance and certifications as required by your region — as well as good customer reviews. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.