Every single day when the phone at Spectrum Pest Control starts ringing, I can guarantee I will be taking a call that will be plagued with a multitude frantic homeowner right here in Pittsburgh, all of which are asking the same question: “How do I get rid of bed bugs?!” and every single time this question is asked, I have the (sometimes) unfortunate responsibility of answering it honestly. The answer to that question is: Without professional help, the odds of doing your own bedbug treatment is incredibly slim.
Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that this problem is impossible to tackle on your own. In fact, there are a plethora of options available to any typical homeowner in terms of getting rid of bedbugs. The biggest issue almost every single homeowner is going to run into is their lack of knowledge with the problem and when you don’t know what you are dealing with, it becomes a problem that you simply cannot control on your own. That is where I come in – I am here to try to educate you on bedbugs, what you can do, what you should not do, and ultimately why you should consider calling a professional like Spectrum Pest Control to help your Pittsburgh or surrounding areas home before it starts getting way out of hand.
So, let’s get started, here is what you should do when you find yourself asking someone like Spectrum Pest Control how to get rid of bedbugs:
1. Identify the Bed Bug Problem
The first step in this process is identifying the problem, and yes, I know you are already thinking to yourself that this would be an obvious first step. While it may seem obvious to you, what is not so obvious is just because you have found yourself with insect bites does not necessarily mean you have a bedbug problem. The amount of times someone has called into my office with a bed bug problem and it ends up being an issue with fleas, spiders, and even carpet beetles are uncountable.
So now we have some people thinking they are dealing with one problem, and actually treating for a whole different issue. Had I not sent a member of my bed bug team out to inspect for the problem, the homeowner would have had an unfathomable amount of time put into treating a problem that was not even there with the wrong methods and products. This leads to a lot of wasted money as well, as I’m sure you can imagine, because the over the counter pest methods add up rather quickly. When you are treating for bedbugs, you have to know the insect. If you know how the insect behaves, you know where they are likely to be hiding, when they are most active, what to look for, etc. All of this knowledge leads to a much easier identification for you which can save a boatload of time and money.
2. Figure Out How the Bed Bugs Got Into Your Home
The second step and almost all the time the most difficult step is figuring out what happened. Where did they come from? People ask me this every single day, and I do not have an answer for you. The number of answers to this question are almost infinite. Simply walking past a person in a public area and brushing up against them is unfortunately all it will take to end up with these things in your house, and while that might be a little less common than some other areas of concern I bring this up because I want to emphasize how easy it is to end up taking something like bedbugs home with you. Public transportation, hospitals, daycare, school, work, your boyfriend/girlfriends house, moving into an already infested apartment or home, possibly your neighboring apartment, relatives/friends staying over on occasion or during the holidays just to name a few off of the top of my head are all extremely common areas of concern that you need to be paying attention to.
What can end up happening is you’re getting ahead of the problem and reintroducing it on a regular basis. This is a problem even for professionals because at the end of the day we can take care of a bedbug problem, but we can not prevent them. If you are consistently reintroducing the problem back into the home, the possibility of you ever getting rid of bed bugs is eliminated. This is hands down the most important part of the whole “how to get rid of bed bugs” process and is almost always overlooked.
3. Prepare for Treatment
The third step in this now that you have identified the problem and hopefully the source of the problem is preparing for the actual treatment. This is where things start getting a little rough for certain folks. The preparation work is almost always worse than doing the actual bed bug treatments.
3a. Linens should be stripped off of all bedding in the house and laundered immediately. If you do not have a washer/dryer readily available in your home or apartment you should find the closest laundromat, put the linens directly from the bed to a plastic garbage bag and launder as immediately as possible. Take caution in transporting these to a laundromat as they can very easily start nesting in your vehicle, and you want to be as careful as possible in the laundromat as well because you don’t want to be passing them to other folks using these machines.
3b. If you are disposing of the mattress, box spring, or bed frame (unless the problem is SIGNIFICANT, this is usually unnecessary and will only add to the cost of the problem as you will have to replace everything you have thrown away) you should wrap them in plastic to try to trap them inside so you are not spreading them everywhere you end up dragging your stuff. If you’re keeping everything lift the mattress and box spring out of the bed frame and sit them up against the wall, use caution so you are not knocking everything in the room over. If the bedframe has slats running across, they should be unsecured, so you have access to as much of the frame as possible.
3c. All furniture should be pulled at least a foot away from the wall. I understand in smaller rooms things get cramped up rather quickly, but you need to be able to access all baseboards and all sides of the furniture with ease. Closets filled with clothes should be washed and dried on the highest possible heat with soapy water, and dried for AT LEAST 30 minutes, the longer the better. Dressers should be cleaned out, placing items in a plastic bag or thrown away if necessary.
3d. All clutter in the house needs to be picked up if you have a pile of clothes that hasn’t moved in a while or a pile of toys that are collecting dust, now is a good chance to get them either cleaned up, thrown away, or donated. I cannot stress enough how important it is to reduce the available harborage for these insects. The smaller amount of areas they have available to them to hide the larger chance you have at finding them and taking care of them. If you do decide to donate your clothes, please wash and dry them before dropping them off to eliminate any chances of contaminating someone else’s home with your bedbugs. Once again, I cannot stress the importance of cleaning up any excess clutter, minimizing the bedbug harborage is a huge priority in a successful treatment.
4. Complete the Bed Bug Treatment
Step 4 will be attempting the actual treatment. Items needed for this will vary from case to case, and unfortunately the pesticides we use commercially, and the pesticides you guys have available to you over the counter are completely different, whereas we have access to industry-specific pesticides and your over the counter products are limited to what is made available to you as a consumer. This step here is the biggest reason you should consider hiring a professional to treat your home, because the problem you’re going to run into is while everything available to you says something along the lines of “kills bedbugs” “kills on contact” etc, it makes the products sound great. What those manufacturers are NOT telling you is that kills on contact means exactly that, you have to locate these bedbugs and spray them directly.
If you are just spraying around with no rhyme or reason in your method, you might as well be spraying with water. There is unfortunately little to no residual effect with any of the stuff you can purchase at your local hardware store and therein lies the problem. If you’re treating in all the right places but there is no residual effect, what this means is after the treatment you’ve used has dried there is nothing left killing them. So, you just wasted your 5th $30 dollar jug of insecticide, and you still have the problem. Yeah it slows them down there’s no denying that it will slow them down but that’s not the result we’re after here. We want them gone. There’s also the issue with the “bed bug bombs”. I get the hype here, in everyone’s head you’re thinking this will release a cloud of insecticide in each room that’s going to just cover everything, there’s no way anything could survive this. Unfortunately, bedbugs are excellent at accessing areas that these bug bombs will not be able to.
Other Treatment Methods
There are other methods out there too, I have heard thousands of people telling me they have been using rubbing alcohol all around their homes to kill and prevent the bed bug problem. Here lies another unfortunate victim of not knowing what they are doing, because they are unfortunately not educated enough. The rubbing alcohol absolutely will kill bedbugs, it will NOT kill bedbugs if (once again) you are not hitting them directly with the product. The reason rubbing alcohol works is because you end up drying the insect out, but lets say you put it all over your carpet because you heard “bedbugs will live in carpet” and you didn’t end up hitting a single bedbug and all that rubbing alcohol dries up, now you might as well have not done anything and now you have a carpet that is saturated with wasted product.
There is another product called diatomaceous earth, it’s a powdered substance that to your eye will look like a nice powder but under a microscope is a totally different thing. You’ll see that it’s basically made up of super tiny sharp shards that will essentially cut the insect and dry them out much as the rubbing alcohol does. The problem here is it is extremely messy, and most applications are applied improperly, leading to a large unnecessary mess that is not very effective at taking care of the problem. You’ll end up frustrated because now not only do you have a huge powdery mess, you will likely still be waking up with bite marks all over you.
Then there’s the folks that insist on using peppermint oil, or other “essential oils” a list that will include tea tree oil, cinnamon oil, clove oil, lemongrass oil, eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, thyme oil the list will continue forever. These are a gigantic waste of time, please do not attempt any bedbug control with these methods.
Now once again, don’t get me wrong here the methods above WILL KILL bed bugs, but there is a gigantic difference between killing an insect and controlling an insect. When your number one priority is finding the answer to how to get rid of bed bugs, the above methods are not going to do that.
I’ll paint a scenario for you that most wouldn’t think of, let’s just say that every single bedbug you have in your house was magically right in front of you, you sprayed every one of them directly with any of the above methods, congratulations you just killed every single bedbug in your house. What you did not do was take care of the eggs they’ve left behind. So, a week or two goes by, you’re “bedbug free” and suddenly there it is… You or someone else in your house has bites again and the problem has started all over. Once again, you’re not asking how to kill bedbugs, you’re asking how to get rid of bedbugs.
5. Vacuuming & Steaming the Infected Area
This is the next step in treatment and something that is always overlooked. You will need a vacuum, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND purchasing a handheld HEPA vacuum for ease of use & convenience… but you could use any old vacuum available to you, the biggest thing here would be removing anything you’ve sucked up with the vacuum from the house as soon as possible. As far as the steaming goes, you’ll need to purchase a steamer that can reach temperatures at least 130 degrees or higher, this temperature will kill not only the bedbugs you find but also the eggs if you contact them directly. As mentioned before, the key to getting rid of bed bugs is stopping their reproduction cycle, this is where killing and removing eggs comes into play. You should be vacuuming and steaming in any areas of known or suspected bedbug activity along with areas that bedbugs are known to hide (bed seams, bed frames, carpeted edges, baseboards, etc.) obviously you’re going to want to stay far away from any electronics and outlets when dealing with steaming to avoid any damage or harm to yourself or your stuff.
6. The Final Step – Be Persistent
The final step, which isn’t really a step, is persistence. This NEEDS to be on your mind at all times. If you’re not doing a treatment at least once every couple weeks you’re allowing everything that you’ve taken care of up to this point to start their reproduction cycle again. If you’re giving them the time to start laying eggs and feeding regularly then you might as well have done nothing in the first place. They reproduce faster than you can imagine, each female bedbug comes armed with the ability to lay upwards of 500 eggs within one lifetime (bear in mind here that each day the female has the ability to lay between 1 & 5 eggs). 7 to 10 days after eggs have been laid, they will begin to emerge seeking their first meal.
As the bedbugs begin their feeding, they will start their growth cycle, they will molt 5 times before reaching their full-grown adult stages. You can think of “molting” as them growing up from a small child to adulthood. As they molt, they will leave behind exoskeletons (think of a snake shedding its skin). Assuming perfect conditions, the whole process from undeveloped eggs to full grown reproducing adults in just over a month. Let that sink in here for a moment folks, that’s one single female, laying 1-5 eggs per day, now imagine a colony filled with these little guys breeding and laying eggs all over the place… If you’re not as diligent as possible about maintaining control here, you’re in it for the long haul and unfortunately, there is a good chance that it will spiral out of control.
To sum all of this up, there is a ton of work involved with sometimes a less than desirable outcome. Spectrum Pest Control offers Pittsburgh and other western Pennsylvania homeowners the peace of mind knowing that you hired the correct professional to get rid of your bedbugs at a fair price with unsurpassed treatment options. We will provide our 4-stage program that will include the deep extraction of bedbugs using our industrial grade vacuums that will remove any visible signs of bed bugs, bedbug exoskeletons, eggs, and everything in between. After we vacuum, we will come in with our industrial strength steaming units that will kill any bedbug or bedbug egg it comes in contact with. Following the steaming, we will apply the insecticide that leaves the residual designed to kill bed bugs quickly. Finally, we use the growth regulator, which does exactly what it sounds like it does… It stunts their growth cycle. If you interrupt an insect’s ability to mature into adulthood and lay eggs, you end up ahead of the problem and finally eliminating it. Each bedbug job sold comes with 3 full treatments, each subsequent treatment will be provided 2 to 3 weeks after the previous treatment. All 3 treatments are provided to you assuming your house is riddled with them each time, you’re looking at a two to four-hour treatment each time we’re out. If you’re one of the unfortunate folks who continue to have an issue first set of three treatments, we offer additional treatments at a reduced rate, please don’t be afraid to ask when you call in. There are no warranty programs available for bedbug services due to the nature of how they’re passed along.
Here is a short video with our lead bed bug tech, covering the top five bed bug myths.