I want you to know right up front I’m not a professional exterminator or an entomologist, but I can share with you what NOT TO DO when trying to get rid of an infestation!
I live in Brooklyn New York (Bensonhurst) and after a very long and emotional battle, have successfully killed every bed bug in my apartment. I’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way that caused more harm than good, mistakes in treatment that turned this into a living nightmare!
Getting rid of bed bugs doesn’t have to be a money trap! I’m going to show you how to find and kill bed bugs the right way using all natural products, by yourself, and without the cost of an exterminator. I’m also going to show you what will happen if you rush the treatment process and try to cut corners. It’s my goal to save you from the pain I went through!
My story begins on a sunny morning at a popular hotel while away on a business trip. I woke to a number of itchy bites that sent me on the hunt for a bed bug, and sure enough, I found one. Being from New York, I’m familiar with them but this was the first time I had seen one up close.
Bed Bug Bites on My Chest, Arms and Face
I placed the bed bug in a glass cup and brought it to hotel management who was extremely apologetic; not only did they write off the cost of the room, they also gave me a free stay at any of their other hotels. The manager explained they have an exterminator who treats rooms for bed bugs on a regular basis, but that on rare occasions, a customer unknowing brings along a bug, and that this is likely what bit me. If you are bitten like I was, make sure you take pictures of your bed bug bites and the infestation for documentation!
Looking back, I should have looked for signs of bed bugs before I ever unpacked my luggage – that right there was my first big mistake. By the way, I checked a bed bug registry for that hotel and there were no complaints which drives home the point that anyone can bring a bed bug to a hotel and there is no substitute for manually checking the room yourself!
When you’re bitten like I was, the last thing you should do is bring your cloths home with you! My luggage was next to my bed, and at some point a bed bug or two made their way into my cloths. Had I washed everything at the hotel, placed everything in a plastic bag, I would have prevented the infestation!
Fast forward to a few months later, and my apartment is now crawling with bed bugs. I’ve waken many times to bites but the odd thing is, my wife never gets bit. I’ve found out that even though two people sleep in the same bed, only one person can end up being bitten. It was also a clue that the infestation was closer to my side of the bed than hers.
How do you get bed bugs? It only takes one!
If you’ve ever seen a bed bug, they are small, especially baby bed bugs. Their eggs look like rice and are very sticky, if your cloths brush up against them, like two sided tape, the eggs will attach to them. They multiply at an incredible rate and it only takes a few months for your home to become infested.
It takes only two weeks for a bed bug egg to hatch and four weeks after that to reach adulthood, shedding their skin multiple times during the process. The lifespan of a bed bug is about a year and in that time, lay as many as 500 eggs, laying many during the first half of its life and slowing down in the later months.
In only 17 days just one bed bug can lay up to 50 eggs, making the nightmare of 100 hungry blood suckers feeding away on you in the first month very real! The adult, about the size of an appleseed, can fast for up to a year if necessary! (Wow!)
How big are bed bugs? Below is an image of a bed bug from a baby bed bug, to nymph, to a full grown blood sucker!
Credit: University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program on bed bugs by Dong-Hwan Choe.
It only takes them 10 minutes to feed and bite many times usually leaving a row or grouping of marks.
The most popular way of getting bed bugs is traveling, such as the airport, buss, taxi, hotels and even hospitals. Bed bugs can’t fly but they can feed on bats who can fly into your home (bat bugs).
The best thing you can do to prevent an infestation is to learn how to recognize signs of bed bug infestation and what they look like.
How to get rid of bed bugs do’s and dont’s
Mistake number two was purchasing bed bug spray and treating every room my entire apartment. It turned out that the bug spray was a repellant and caused the bugs to seek other areas for shelter. It didn’t get rid of the bed bugs and left a horrible smell that was very embarrassing when entertaining.
I told my landlord about the stay at the hotel, how I found a bed bug, my now infested apartment, my attempt at treatment and quickly discovered how costly it is to hire a bed bug exterminator in NYC! It’s a common problem here and many exterminators think they can charge extra because they were called in by the apartment complex, which simply passes the cost to the tenant.
My landlord was NOT sympathetic and blamed me for infestations found in apartments next to mine. He said that because I used the wrong spray, the bugs traveled through the electrical outlets to other apartments in the same building. He also explained that I would be responsible for the cost of hiring a bed bug exterminator to treat the entire building!
I was terrified! The cost of hiring a bed bug exterminator in Brooklyn / NYC is very expensive and to do it right, I was told they would have to tent the entire building and in doing that, tenants would have to be temporally moved to another location, at my expense! Wow! How could this be happening to me! If it’s my fault, I have to pay for it, right? We live on a fixed budget and the cost of such a treatment could ruin us!
I decided to check a bed bug registry to see if my apartment complex had complaints of bed bugs and sure enough, they did, and not just one, but many. I also found more bad reviews around the internet and used every one of them to create a document showing a timeline of infestations.
My Bed Bug Infestation, My Fault!?
I began to wonder if bugs traveled to my home from an adjoining apartment rather than me bringing back a bug from the hotel, heck, I may have been the one to bring the bed bug to the hotel in the first place! I decided to take take off the plate covering the electrical outlet and guess what I found? That’s right, bed bugs! Here is a picture of a bed bug on a match stick:
By the way, if you start poking around in electrical outlets looking for bugs, make sure you are not using metal or anything that conducts electricity! First thing I did was seal up the outlet so the bugs couldn’t get through. Note: Later, when I started exterminating, I had to remove the tape, spray in bed bug dust (just dust, no water mixture) and then seal it up again.
Having checked the registry and armed with my stack of bug complaints, I approached the manager and suggested that this may all be his fault, not mine! I have no doubt that those complaints I found prevented me from having to pay for everything and instead, being able to negotiate paying for costs of treating just my unit. Even then, bed bug treatment cost ran me $1,300 for two visits and that was after I had to argue against bringing in a bed bug dog, which would have ran me another $400. Turns out that dogs can be trained to sniff out a bed bug (I’ve heard they can even sniff out cancer!) and are used to find their nesting place. My thinking was that a dog is not necessary since if one room is infested, I might as well treat every room as if it had bugs.
Tip for Tenants!
If you are a tenant and you find a bed bug, you need to notify your landlord ASAP in writing! Send them a letter using certified mail and also an email. If you don’t, you can’t sue the landlord later if you find out they were at fault. These people ended up winning a 2.5 million dollar lawsuit against a landlord that failed to treat bed bugs. Looking back now, I could have used that bed bug lawsuit to make them pay for treatment and saved myself a lot of money!
Bed bugs can carry HIV and Hepatitis B but as of yet, no cases of transmission has been reported. However, a recent study by Penn State shows that they can transmit a parasite that caused Chagas Disease!
The Perelman School of Medicine / University of Pennsylvania Health System has released a study that shows that the bed bug could do as much damage as the kissing bug! Basically, bed bugs that contained a the parasite that causes Chagas disease (which kills about 50,000 people per year) were placed in a cage with mice – 75% of those uninfected mice ended up with the disease after 30 days!
Apartment managers need to take bed bug infestations serious! Not only are studies discovering they there may be a chance of disease, there is mention that they can spread MRSA, and worst of all, these bugs can scar and turn your home into a living nightmare. The latest decision by the court to send a $2.5 million dollar message to landlords is not going unnoticed – all you need to do is write the manager as soon as you discover them. If the manager doesn’t respond in a timely manner, then forward a copy of your complaint to the owner and cc the manager with mention of that successful lawsuit – something tells me you’ll get results 😉
Do I still have bed bugs? Where are they hiding?
Even after the two treatments, I still had bed bugs! The apartment complex never did tent the building and treated individual apartments on an as needed basis. I called another beg bug exterminator from NYC and explained my situation, and to my surprise, was told other places to look for bugs and how to treat for bugs myself using inexpensive products that are all natural. The exterminator (Frank) must have felt sorry for me, because what he told me worked like a charm! Not only did it work, but it cost me less than $100!
Frank explained that bed bugs can live inside your ceiling, especially in corners where drywall might not be sealed correctly. Sure enough, what looked like dirt and part of the plaster, was actually part of the infestation. You can tell from the picture where the bed bugs crawl in and out of. This was above my bed in the corner where they had easy access to bite my face, chest and rest of my body.
Trap a bed bug using bean leafs!
I should point our right now that if you think you have bed bugs but have not been able to find any, spread Bean Leaves around your bed. The Kidney Bean Leaf is Mother Nature’s way of sticking it to the bed bug! For centuries this little known trick for trapping the bed bug has been used to help eliminate infestations. H.H. Lamb wrote in his article “Climate, History and the Modern World” that an English philosopher John Locke, after traveling in France during the 1670s recommended:
putting leaves of kidney beans under your pillow, or in other convenient places about your bed, to concentrate the bed bugs and save yourself from being bitten.
This generational tip has been passed down from the ages to those in Balkan countries and still remains a secret to most. The tiny fishhook like trichomes in the leaf pierce the cuticle of a bug, trapping it in place as shown in the image below (the trichomes are the green hooks you see in the image below).
And below is a close up of those hook like trichomes in action. Notice how they hook around and into the leg of the bed bug?
The bed bugs will stand out against the leaf so that when you wake the following morning, you’ll see the bugs stuck to the leaf and proving that you have bed bugs – if you’re lucky, the bug caught will not be a bed bug at all!
See Dr. Ken Haynes for details about Entrapment of Bed Bugs by Leaf Trichomes Inspires Microfabrication of Biomimetic Surfaces.
Using dry ice to trap the bed bug:
If you want to take it a step further, you can purchase some dry ice, place it in a bowl surrounded by bean leaves. The bed bug uses the carbon dioxide we exhale as a beacon to locate its next meal (you), and dry ice is really solid carbon dioxide. Not being able to resist a good meal, the bug heads toward the dry ice and becomes trapped within the bean leaves.
If however, the bed bug has recently fed, it may go days before it feeds again, so make sure to try this method every few days over a couple of weeks just to be sure. If they are in your mattress, they’ll come out to feed. In the video below, you can watch a bed bug extreminator in action as he checks a mattress for sings of an infestation:
Skip the Trap, use a bed bug dog!
If you want to find out right away and avoid the wait, then consider a bed bug dog. There are dogs, such a Roscoe, a beagle trained to locate the bed bug by a Fairfield, New Jersey exterminator, that can give you a head start on where to focus your treatment efforts on.
These dogs are not cheap and can usually run $450 to search your home. If you use one, make sure you check their documentation such as training, certifications, etc. Check out this video of Roscoe in action!
Once you find your first bed bug, you should do a few things right away – buy a special mattress cover, purchase bed bug dust and make sure you already have a good supply of bean leaves on hand.
How to kill bed bugs naturally
Bed bug dust (also known as mother earth flour) is really “Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)” which can be found at your local feed and supply store. At $8.00 for a 2lb bag, it’s inexpensive enough that anyone can afford it. Warning: make sure to get the “Food Grade” and NOT the swimming pool product!
When a bed bug comes in contact with DE dust, it becomes dehydrated and eventually dies. You can use a plastic ketchup bottle for dusting hard to reach spots making sure NOT to breathe in the dust. Many people prefer to mix two heaping tablespoons of DE with 32oz water in a spray bottle and apply it to everything except areas such as electronics and outlets, and using a duster with just power to hit areas around electrical outlets. The mixture of water and bed bug dust will not kill bugs until it dries whereas the dust will start working on contact.
The mattress cover will seal in any bed bugs, BUT, it has to completely seal the mattress. The weakest point on many of these covers is the zipper, and if it’s not a tight fit, the bugs will find their way out.
A little secret I found is that mattress encasements made for dust mites with work great for bed bugs. Many people mistakenly believe they have to have a cover specifically made for a bed bug, but being that a dust mite is a lot smaller than any bed bug, a dust mite encasement works just as good AND is a lot less expensive!
The bean leaves can be spread around the base of the bed (legs, nightstand, etc) to help collect bugs which can then be placed into a sealed bag and disposed of.
The key here is to find areas of infestation and make sure to spray them with DE. Once you have covered everything, you then need to stay on top of it! Repeat this process every two weeks until there are not more signs of bed bugs.
Once you’ve treated the entire home, you’ll need to wash all your clothes and bedding in hot water. Wash the bedding first then dry it. Once it’s dry, then you’ll dry it again on high heat for 30 minutes (this added measure will help make sure sure you kill egg and bed bug). Do the same thing for your cloths. Make sure to get everything and do this often over the treatment period. If you stick with this method, you should be able to kill bed bugs yourself, naturally, without the need to hire a bed bug exterminator. However, there are those that would rather pay to have it done rather than spend a couple months doing it themselves.
Bed Bug Exterminator in Brooklyn / NYC
I said that my exterminator didn’t kill all the bed bugs and I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this is typical of the pest control companies in New York City and surrounding areas. In my case, I later found that the company I used had poor reviews and cut corners.
What does a professional exterminator cost? It’s not cheap, especially here in Brooklyn New York! Treatment can range from $700 to $10,000 depending on your situation. Types of extermination services include:
- Heat Treatment (thermal pest treatment) – typical home in Bensonhurst can run $3,000
- Your entire home is sealed up and subjected to intense heat. It is not discreet and your neighbors will see the exterminator’s equipment outside. Heat treatment also requires a TON of prep work on your part and is by far the most expensive bed bug treatment.
- Hepa Vacuum Treatment – $500
- Not as effective as other methods and used to clean bed bug debris such as feces, some eggs and cast skins (shells).
- Steam Treatment – $150 per room.
- Chemical free and discreet but not effective in cluttered rooms.
- Vacuum rooms and areas bugs may hide, but hard to reach spots can be missed and may not exterminate sticky eggs.
- Cryonite@ Applications (Freezing the bed bug) – $300 per room. This method uses CO2 snow to freeze the bugs and can treat hard to reach spots.
- Chemical Treatment – $250 per room. It’s usually not an all-natural chemical and you’ll have to remove family and pets. May not be an option if family members have allergies, asthma or reactions to chemicals
If you are going to hire an exterminator rather than doing it yourself, then you need to consider the following:
- Look at a 90 day guarantee AFTER it’s been confirmed that extermination was successful.
- Look for a company that uses Diatomaceous Earth (bed bug dust) or Silica Gel Dust as part of their treatment plan.
- Removes outlet covers, switch plates, takes apart bed frames, pull carpeting when possible and other important areas.
- Two week revisit to ensure successful extermination
- What do they think about doing it yourself? If they say it can’t be done, then find another company.
- Are they discreet of are they going to pull up in a van covered with pictures of bed bugs that your neighbors are sure to see?
- Is the exterminator licensed with the state?
- How much will it cost to treat the bed bugs? Final price, no tricks
- How long will it take to kill the bed bugs? How many applications?
- Are they going to treat the entire arpartment / home or just rooms
- Ask if you should toss your furniture and if they say yes, look for another company!
- If living in an apartment, will they inspect the apartment next door?
- Have they treated a unit in your complex before?
In big areas, such as Brooklyn NY, company should provide you with at least one reference in your area they have successfully treated. Most big exterminators will ask you if they can use you as a reference and in return, provide you with a free inspection or treatment. Even though many people are embarrassed, a few will be so impressed that they won’t have a problem with the referral as long as it’s to another person in the same situation.
Best bed bug exterminator in Brooklyn NYC?
This page is about my bed bug nightmare and I’m not affiliated with any pest control company and don’t accept advertising, so to hold true to that, I’m not going to name a company, rather, I’m going to tell you what to look for other than the services I mentioned above.
Many national pest exterminators can afford to write off a customer if they do a poor job, but the local, family owned companies can’t! My preference is to use someone local, be it in the Queens, Chicago or Wisconsin. Most of these local companies are going to do everything to make you happy and prevent a bad review.
Have a nightmare of your own? Share your story with me by sending it to Ron.A.Creston@gmail.com
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