Looking to hire a bed bug exterminator? That's a good move if you've chosen the right one. Just make sure you know what you should expect from them before you sign on the dotted line.
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If you are going about hiring bed bug pest control specialist right way, you'll be calling a number of pest control companies in your area to find the right one.
Frankly, you may have to weed quite a few out before you find a good one. Here are two basic expectations any exterminator should meet before you even entertain the prospect of letting them walk through your front door.
Bed bugs are different than other household pests. Treatments that are effective for many other insects just don't work when it comes to a bed bug infestation.
Sadly, far too many pest control professionals are not that well-versed in bed bug extermination protocols. Part of this is because the resurgence of bed bugs in the US is a relatively new phenonmenon.
The good news is that each year, more and more pest management professionals are getting the necessary training and field experience to effectively deal exterminate bed bugs. The bad news is that even some of the well-respected and established exterminating companies are not really bed bug experts.
So how can you tell if an exterminator's knowledge of bed bugs is up to snuff?
In short, you have to ask them. And then you need to ask follow-up questions to try to gauge their level of expertise. You can get a rundown of the the questions you should ask any bed bug exterminator you might be considering here.
Once you're satisfied by their answers, you should check at least one of their references that had a bed bug infestation to verify how successful their treatments really are.
You're going to be asking a lot of questions to determine how well-qualified they are when it comes to bed bugs.
As with any professional you consider hiring (especially one you'll be letting into your home), you should expect them to be courteous and caring.
They should be patient, attentive, and answer all of your questions in a knowledgeable and friendly manner. If they are "too busy" to be bothered or brush off your questions as unimportant - move on to someone else.
A good bed bug exterminator will be consultative in their approach. Not only should they be answering all of your questions...they should be asking you some too. Some good ones include:
Obviously, they may not ask all of these questions. But, they should ask at least a few.
A good bed bug exterminator will clearly communicate what you can expect from their initial visit and what you should and should not do before they come.
Pre-inspection protocols vary widely, so there is no right or wrong answer on this one. Some will want you to strip the bed, launder and bag up clothing, and pull the furniture away from the walls. Others won't want anything touched so that bed bug harborages (hiding places) are not disturbed.
The point is they should tell you how to prepare. If they don't offer instructions, ask. Then make sure you understand and follow their instructions completely.
Found an exterminator that makes you feel comfortable and confident in their bed bug expertise? Great! You're definitely on the right track. Go ahead and make an appointment for them to come out and do an inspection. But remember, hiring them to exterminate bed bugs in your home isn't a done deal, not just yet. There are six more things you should expect from them before you agree to hire them for treatment and fork over your hard-earned cash.
The first rule of bed bug pest control is to accurately diagnose the problem. That will require a careful and comprehensive inspection of your home to detect the signs of a bed bug infestation and determine the extent of the problem.
If the exterminator you bring in wants to do any kind of treatment without inspecting first - show them the door right away!
Seriously! Don't waste any time with them - they're simply not a bed bug pro. Even if you've already found evidence of bed bugs, they still must do an inspection to identify harborages (bed bug hideouts) and determine the severity and extent of the infestation.
The inspection should be thorough and not just include your bedroom or wherever you've found bed bugs.
Think about it. How else can they know which areas they need to treat? If they are done with the inspection in five minutes - they're done. Period. Send them packing and ask for a refund of any inspection fees you may have paid up front.
If exterminator determines you do indeed have bed bugs, expect them to show you proof. This is an ABSOLUTE MUST - no exceptions!
Getting treatment without confirmed evidence of a bed bug infestation a waste of your money and there is no reason to be exposed to potentially harmful chemicals unnecessarily. Plus, it is illegal to treat without proof in a number of countries and US states, including New York.
There are a number of types of evidence of bed bug activity, but not all of them prove a current problem. It is important to understand the difference.
Signs of activity, but not proof of a current bed bug presence:
If these are the only things they find, they should not begin any treatment at this point. The next step is to set up a monitoring system to detect signs of an active presence.
Signs of a current bed bug infestation:
Successful bed bug extermination requires an Integrated Pest Management approach. That means using a number of methods and tools together to get the job done as efficiently as possible and in a way that poses the least risk to your health, the environment, and your bank account.
Any exterminator that really knows how to address a bed bug problem with take an IPM approach.
They should supplement the primary method with at least one other technique, preferably something that has residual effectiveness.
The sad truth is that almost nothing can get rid of bed bugs all by itself. Even structural heat treatment is not 100% effective. If their plan only includes one tool or technique...turn them down politely and look for another, more qualified pro.
Suggesting the use of a fogger a huge red flag that they don't know what they're doing. More importantly, fogging the one thing guaranteed to make your bed bug infestation worse. Any pest control operator that even mentions this as an option should be avoided at all cost.
Keep in mind that killing bed bugs is only one part of a comprehensive pest control plan.
A good bed bug exterminator will have a list of things that you'll need to do to as part of the overall plan. Here's a quick break down of how an IPM plan works. They should also explain how to monitor treatment success and prevent future infestations.
A good bed bug exterminator should tell you what treatment options are available and then recommend a specific plan based on your particular situation. Expect them to communicate exactly what they are planning to do and why. Preferably, they should also explain how it works and make sure you understand any special considerations.
They should estimate how many treatments they think will be necessary and how far apart they will be spaced.
It is not unusual to need a follow-up treatment, or two. (More than that is a red flag). They should also explain what you should expect to see happen after the initial treatment and how you can monitor the effectiveness.
They should give you the names of any chemicals they are planning to use. You should ask for the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for any and all products they will use. If they don't have the MSDS handy (they should), you can search for it using the product name on the National Pesticide Information Center website.
Before you agree to treatment, your exterminator should be 100% honest and up front about the cost of treatment. They should explain exactly what is covered, how many treatments are expected, and anything else that could cost extra. And they should put it in writing.
The service contract should specify:
Make sure it is crystal clear whether the price in the quote covers just the initial treatment or includes follow-up treatments. If follow up treatments are included, how many? It's important to understand that total eradication of a bed bug infestation usually takes more than one treatment, but rarely more than three. (If it takes more than three, that's a sign that they're doing something wrong.) Don't accept a quote that claims only one treatment is necessary - unless they have an iron-clad warranty to back it up!
If they do offer a warranty, it should specify a timeframe and the number of additional treatments that are included at no additional cost. Ideally, it will also lay out the requirements to qualify for re-treatment, as well as any circumstances or actions that could void the warranty.
Don't let them sell you any kind of "preventative maintenance" plan.
As I noted above, treatment should only occur in the presence of an active bed bug infestation. The only maintenance plan you need is to learn simple bed bug prevention techniques to limit your risk and have good monitoring protocol in place as a safeguard in case you do get exposed to them again.
Honestly, if they try to sell you this type of plan, I would walk away from the deal. Either they really don't know what they're doing when it comes to bed bugs - or they're trying to rip you off!
If you've gotten this far, and the exterminator you've chosen has met the expectations above, congratulations!
You're in a really good position to resolve your bed bug issue as quickly and effectively as possible. But, just how quickly and effectively depends a lot on you.
As I mentioned earlier, killing bed bugs is only one part of an Integrated Pest Management plan. You'll still have to do your part too.
They should clearly communicate their expectations. But, it's your responsibility to make sure your understand and follow their instructions to the letter. Keep in mind that any warranties (if offered) could be voided if you fail to comply with their requirements. Learn more about how to work with your bed bug exterminator for optimal results.
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