Got a Bedbug Bonanza?
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Your Pest Control Operator, Your Ideally Trustworthy Friend

Posted: October 16th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

So you think you have bedbugs, and your first instinct is KIIIIIILLLLLLL.

Sailor at the Naval Air Base wears the new type protective clothing and gas mask designed for use in chemical warfare, Corpus Christi, Texas. These uniforms are lighter than the old type (LOC)

Sailor at the Naval Air Base, 1942, Corpus Christi, Texas. Via Library of Congress.

Now, you definitely identified, the pest, right? If not, do not pass Go, do not spend $200+. OK, you really have bedbugs. Not lingering house guests, not termites.  Well, that sucks, we agree.

Your landlord may already have someone on speed dial, so you may not have a choice as to who you use.  Or you may be going it alone.  You may find references to an exterminator as a pest control operator, or PCO, so do not be confused by the terminology as you search for the best.

If a landlord is involved, make sure you know in advance who will be footing the bill! Sure, bring on the bedbug sniffing elephants and panthers, you might say, until you find out you are on the hook.

Obviously there are large, national services like Orkin. We suggest asking friends and family for referrals to pest control services that they may have used and liked. You could crowdsource and ask the Facebook, although this definitely potentially outs you to a wider audience, so consider this is a solid maybe. Do not choose this method without filtering it down to your most trusted list of friends.

Review sites like Angie’s List may cover your area. There is a small fee for Angie’s List, but we’ve used it successfully and feel it may be a good trade-off.  Often businesses will be reviewed on sites like Yelp or Citysearch as well, but take into account that you are likely to hear the loudest complaints from people with a bone to pick. Don’t be put off by one bad review if the company sounds otherwise solid.

The three interview/estimate rule is a good one for the ages, so stick with that. Research and call at least three places for screening.  Take customer service into account: are you on hold forever, or is the person answering the call rude? Click. You may find yourself in a lengthy relationship with your PCO, depending on the scope of your problem, and you want someone reliable and courteous.

Here is a synopsis of some great tips from UC Davis:

  • Evaluate the types of services the company offers. For example, do they provide monthly spray contracts or do they offer an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that includes nonchemical methods?
  • Find out if least-toxic alternatives are available to control the pest. Ask the company if these least-toxic pesticides or baits are used when appropriate.  How important is using nonchemical methods to you? Make this clear up front if it is.
  • Make sure the company has the required licenses, registration, certificates, and insurance [within your state – your state’s Secretary of State or general portal website should have links to looking up license standing].
  • Ask the company to inspect the site. There may be a small fee, but you will get to meet a company rep, and you should receive confirmation of your infestation and a written estimate and treatment plan, including how long it will take and how many visits may be required. You’ll also want them to tell you safety info in case you have pets or children in your home.

Once you have your three estimates, you’ll want to focus on the services suggested. Some people give a big advantage to a service that has sniffer dogs for maintenance/follow-up. There are other basic questions to consider.  UC Davis suggests:

  • Ask how any pesticides will be applied and where. Chemicals sprayed around the home perimeter may be washed away by irrigation or rain, especially if concrete walkways or other water-repelling materials surround the home. Avoid this type of spraying as it is considered ineffective, costly, and may cause contamination of our waterways or drinking water.
  • Avoid companies that offer only calendar chemical treatments featuring automatic monthly or quarterly perimeter sprays. This may or may not be necessary, as the pest may or may not be present at the time of application, and it is not an integrated or long-term pest management approach.

Any reputable establishment should provide a written contract once you decide to proceed. You should have access to the company’s name, contact information, treatment plan, length of service, total cost and dates when installments are due, and any guarantees about service.

On price: your costs will vary based on where you live and what type of service is being offered. Services like sniffer dogs are significantly higher, but some people swear they are the most thorough option. Ideally, you will end up with three estimates or more, and you will find the prices are all in the same ballpark. A really low estimate can be a red flag, as can a really high one. Be prepared to ask the operator to break down the costs in detail if you feel they are unreasonable. You may feel desperate, but you can keep your cool and stand up for yourself and potentially even negotiate. Be polite!

You should also verify that they hold current general liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance so that you are not liable for anyone being injured in your home. Some condo associations require written proof of these details before you’ll be allowed to begin service.

Once you’ve selected a service, then it’s up to you to follow their instructions to the letter. If anything seems strange or you don’t understand an instruction, ask!

Get a second opinion if you become uncomfortable at any time in the process. Bedbug extermination in particular requires many home precautions, and if you’re going to all the trouble, you want to do it right the first time.
If you make or notice changes in your home environment between treatments, call right away
and let your rep know so the next visit can be productive.

How to Prepare for Extermination

Posted: September 30th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

1.  Confirm that you have bedbugs. The f@#$ers are biting.  Have an exterminator come to inspect before you do any crazy cleaning or vacuuming, to make it easier for them to find evidence of your problem.  After all, it could be fleas or mites, or a raging case of paranoia that has you scratching.  In the case of bedbugs, you will be tempted to flee to your sweetheart/friend/parent’s basement, but keep in mind that you run the risk of taking your unwanted guests with you.  And no one wants that.  Gird your loins to stand your ground and fight the good fight in your own insect flophouse.  Once you have been inspected by an exterminator, and even your fortune cookie reads “sorry, you have bedbugs”, then you can prepare your apartment for the treatment.  The exterminator should provide you with very specific instructions. At this point you should begin treating your clothes and bedding.

2. Treating the bedding. Remove all bedding from mattresses, gather all linens, and clothing from your living area. This includes all textile materials that are machine washable – pillows, mattress covers, anything – and those that must be dry cleaned. Even fabric that is in storage should be collected. Wash bedding and any clothing/fabrics that may have come in contact with bedbugs in hot water, and dry in the dryer if possible. Wash all other linens and fabrics as directed.  After washing, place items in storage bins or bags, such as Ziploc Big Bags (Large, XL, XXL) or clear contractor bags. Seal to prevent bugs from entering and hiding in the clean fabrics.  Maintain your belongings in their sealed compartments until you feel it is safe to unpack them, wait at least a month until after there have been no signs of bedbugs.  Take out very little at a time to prevent having to repeat the whole process, if you need further treatment.  Do not start bagging up all of your stuff, without washing and drying first, unless you plan on storing them, sealed, for more than 18 months, as that is how long it will take to kill any bedbugs sealed inside. Empty out any plague areas closets in rooms where bugs have been found, or closets in which fabrics, linens, towels, etc. have been stored, so that the exterminator can get to these areas.  If you live in New York City, this will not be a problem, since you don’t have any closets.

3. Clear the area. Vacuum floors and carpets, in particular hard to reach areas where bedbugs are likely to hide. Steam cleaning rugs and couch cushions is also a good idea. Reposition your furniture and other belongings away from the walls and toward the center of the room so that the exterminator can treat the perimeters, and you can vacuum these areas as well.

4.  My stuff, my precious stuff. Bedbugs love wood almost as much as they love beds.  Empty wooden bookshelves, desks, dressers, etc., and remove the drawers. You may find them between the boards of your furniture, and even smaller items like picture frames.  Your exterminator can consult with you on whether items need to be disposed of or not.  Throwing away all of your furniture is a drastic and expensive step that may not prevent a recurrence.  It might be better to attempt to treat what you have. You can buy an encasement for your mattress that will trap bedbugs inside and prevent any re-infestation after treatment.  Put the encasement on the mattress after the exterminator is finished so that they may treat the mattress as well.  Anything that you do dispose of should have a scarlet B painted across it to prevent anyone else from taking it.

As an alternative to bagging and sealing items that can’t be washed, such as books and shoes and your collection of creepy doll heads, you might want to consider one of the new fangled devices on the market that comprise a container you can put non-washable belongings into, that will heat them over 120 degrees for a few hours.