The tiny pest creeping up in bedrooms across the country that makes you itch and scratch can also do some serious damage to your bank account.
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Ron Harrison, director of technical services at Orkin, said bedbugs can cost between $400 and several thousand dollars to clear out of a home or apartment, depending on the severity of the infestation. In a residential location, Harrison said early intervention is key, so it's important to check the mattress, headboard and box spring every time you change your sheets. If you catch one or two bedbugs early on, it is much easier to treat than an infestation that has been running rampant in your home for months.
"You need to be conscious of travel activity, furniture and visitors," Harrison said, describing the three ways bedbugs make their way into the living area. "If you are in a multi-family house, there is always the risk that you will catch them from adjoining walls and common utility areas. They wander for food."
Certified Entomologist Bob Young, service manager for Terminix, said bedbugs carry over 27 agents of human disease, and although they don't necessarily transmit these diseases, they need to be eliminated as soon as possible.
"They're very small, so you need to look for what they leave behind, which is blood staining," Young said. "When you buy furniture, antiques, or when looking at mattresses or used items, you need to inspect these things before buying them. Also inspect hotels, luggage, purses and briefcases."
Young said to also be aware when traveling in high-traffic areas or close quarters.
"They can definitely crawl up someone's leg. Periodically check yourself from time-to-time," he said.
Young also said the price can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars to treat. Terminix uses freezing and steam techniques to get rid of the pests.
Treatment options at Orkin include heat, liquid and fumigation. For a heat treatment, everything in the room needs to be heated to very high temperatures to kill bugs and eggs in all stages. This method is a good option for those who want to salvage items like mattresses and furniture. After that mattresses, box springs and couches—any furniture with fabric—must be encased in plastic to seal off and kill any remaining bugs.
After bedbugs are cleared out, the next goal is to treat all cracks and crevices with liquid residuals. All voids will be treated with dust, and cracks with liquid.
"It's not like cockroaches and ants where you put bait out, and they eat it and die," Harrison said. "The goal when I leave is to have every bug killed. If they come in contact with the dust or liquid, they die."
A typical room treatment takes three hours with two men, he said.
Consumers can also attempt to go at it alone, by purchasing furniture encasements, Harrison said. A mattress encasement that is bedbug-certified costs between $75 and $100, and one for the box spring costs $50. The products that pest companies use to get rid of the bugs are not available for public purchase, he said.
Whether going at it alone or enlisting a professional, Young said to know what you are looking for.
"Know the signs and what they look like," he said. "Infestation spreads quickly."