It’s all over the news: Bed bugs have reached epidemic levels in lots of big cities around the country. And, according to research entomologist and bed bug expert Jeff White, “This bug isn’t going away any time soon.” So, we asked him, how much does it cost to get rid of bed bugs once you’ve got them? The answer can vary widely, but we estimate it around $1,200. That’s a lot of money, but the good news is that the best way to reduce that cost is free: Detect the problem early on, and it’ll be cheaper to treat.
Although New York City has most often been in the news for this problem, he says, “You can take what’s going on in New York City right now as a barometer for what is going to happen to the rest of the country. New York is just ahead of the curve.” But, he says, the media hype has turned the issue into a hysterical problem. There’s no need to freak out; the most important weapon in the war against bed bugs is education. Especially if you’re going away, we’re here to make sure you don’t bring these pests back home with you.
Here’s the math:
Average cost of pest control professionals: $800 - $1,200 (Will vary by location and severity of infestation. Some companies will provide encasements and devices; some won’t.
Encasement to protect mattress: $80 - $120
Encasement to protect box spring: $30 - $50
Doing a full load of laundry on all of your clothes: $50 - $75
Insect interceptors to help with existing problems and prevent future ones: $20
Total: $1,000 - $1,500
Here’s what you need to know.
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Inspect Your Hotel Room
While none of us have any desire to touch a hotel mattress, doing a basic inspection of your new hotel room is far better than getting bed bugs. When you first arrive, actually take the time to inspect the mattress, box spring, and visible parts of the headboard, especially around the edges. Start looking at the bottom of the box spring. Pull back the sheets and look along the ribbing and corners of the mattress, and around the headboard. You’re looking for bugs themselves or for little brown spots that are a sign they’ve been around. If you wake up with mysterious bites on you, tell hotel management immediately.
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Don’t Bring Bed Bugs Home With You
If you experience bed bugs, unpack your whole suitcase outside your home (like in a garage or on the fire escape). Pull out clothes and put them through a hot wash or dry cycle—if you have delicate items, know that even a low dry cycle will kill bugs. Disinfect your suitcase with no-pest strips that you can drop into a garbage bag along with your emptied suitcase. Seal up the garbage bag and store it for two or more weeks. The pesticide will fumigate the area in the bag and kill any remaining bed bugs. Way cheaper—and less traumatic—than bringing a whole bed bug incident into your home.
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Bed Bug Bites or Mosquito Bites?
The first and biggest warning signs are bites. These look like mosquito bites, but usually come in clusters of at least three. They especially tend to affect exposed areas while you sleep, like arms, neck, face, and shoulders, and they tend to come in rows along the line of the comforter or sheet. If you find suspicious bites, conduct a basic inspection the way you would at a hotel.
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When to Call a Pro
If, after your inspection, you think you might really have bed bugs, contact a pro. Many random people claim to cure bed bugs, so check for research verifying that this exterminator’s methods truly are effective. Don’t try to treat the whole problem on your own, since over-the-counter pesticides can make the problem worse, as all the bugs it doesn’t get can now sense the chemicals and will run away. This can cause them to spread to other areas of the home, making the problem worse. While you wait for the exterminator, a few at-home stop gaps include using a steamer on the bed. (Don’t do this unless you’ve really identified a problem.) Vacuum the mattress in the meantime, but still call a professional because the vacuum often won’t pick up all the eggs stuck in the mattress. Remember to empty the vacuum immediately, outside of your home. If you’re worried that clothes are infected, running them through the dryer will kill bugs at all stages of development.
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There Are a Few Things to do to Minimize Risk
You can buy encasements for your bed and box spring—this won’t prevent bed bugs from entering your home, but it will make the problem way easier to fix if they do. Jeff told us that the two most reputable brands are Protect-A-Bed and Mattress Safe. You can also buy the ClimbUp Monitor, which prevents bugs from climbing into your bed from the floor. Just note that the interceptor is kind of ugly, so you might want to hide it beneath a bed skirt (just don’t let it touch the floor).
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Know That Your Situation is Probably Not That Bad
Although some companies may tell you to get rid of all your furniture and clean all your clothes entirely, Jeff told us that this is only necessary in severe cases, which he estimates as about 10 percent of all he sees. (More often than not, those highly severe cases occur around senior citizens, where eyesight and mental faculty is an issue, or in areas of true, unsafe overcrowding.) As long as you live a relatively clean life and are on top of the issue, you’re probably okay. As a rule of thumb, figure that your case isn’t too severe unless you’re actually seeing the bugs walking around your apartment.
We hope that you never encounter bed bugs—but, at the minimum, you’ll be prepared.