Whether you’ve dealt with bed bugs before or not, it should be pretty clear why the problem should be addressed with some urgency. Just like most other bug infestations, bed bugs proliferate quickly – and can make your life miserable in the process. What if you only suspect bed bugs, though? Spotting early signs of bed bugs is the key to nipping the problem in the bud, and there are several ways to do that. One option is to perform a visual inspection of your home; you could do this yourself, or you could call in a professional. Another option is to use bed bug dogs from a service like Doctor Sniffs; these highly trained canines can detect bed bugs, droppings, and viable eggs quickly and efficiently.

Let’s start from the beginning, though: you suspect that you may have a bed bug infestation, and you want to know what to do about it.

Step #1: Detect the infestation

There are several different ways to figure out whether you have bed bugs or not. If they’re already an established presence in your house, this should unfortunately be easy. Bed bugs are brown, oval, and fairly flat, and they can reach a size of up to a quarter-inch in length. You may also be able to spot their droppings or skin castings, especially if they’ve been active in your house for a while already.

One thing to keep in mind: if you find bed bugs in one spot, they’re probably in other places as well. This entails a thorough search of the entire apartment, house, office space, or wherever else the infestation happens to be.

People often hire professionals to perform a complete visual inspection, rather than doing it themselves – and potentially missing a few spots. This can take several hours, and it usually isn’t cheap. Another option is to use bed bug dogs, who can sniff out infestations in a matter of minutes. They’re much more efficient, and don’t require everything in the house to be turned inside out in the search for bed bugs.

One last option is to use bed bug traps to detect the insects. The advantage of these traps is that they’ll give you a sure answer: if you catch a bed bug, you have an infestation on your hands. The disadvantage is that they don’t really work for early detection. Since bed bugs only come out to feed every five to 10 days, they could have a chance to breed a whole new generation before you confirm that they’re even there.

Step #2: Eradication

This is something you definitely don’t want to do yourself, no matter how great your neighbor claims their homemade bug spray works. A bed bug infestation can spread quite quickly, so if you know that they’ve taken up residence in your home, it’s essential to get rid of them before they have a chance to spread.

Essentially, your best option is to call an exterminator (or have your landlord call one). You should have many choices of exterminator; you just have to make sure to choose the right one. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid companies that offer a flat rate without looking at the property; this is a red flag for a team that won’t really put much effort into the job.
  • Don’t hire a company that offers both detection and extermination services. If they have a vested interest in finding bed bugs, they’re more likely to come up with a false positive.
  • Look for a company that will come out and look at your property for free, then formulate a plan and a quote. This is standard practice, so you should expect it from whoever you’ll be using to exterminate the bed bugs.
  • Choose a company that will complete the treatment over two or more visits, and will follow up with an inspection to ensure that the job was done right.

Speaking of follow-up inspections, this is another opportunity for bed bug dogs to come in handy. Sometimes, extermination attempts will eradicate the bed bugs, but miss some of their eggs. Viable bed bug eggs tend to get buried deep in cracks and crevices, which can help them survive even the most thorough extermination treatments. However, bed bug dogs can be trained specifically to detect viable eggs, which could save you from a re-infestation.

Step #3: Prevention

Bed bugs are very good at doing what they do, but there are a few common-sense tips that could reduce your chances of becoming their new meal ticket. For one thing, keep an eye out for the signs of an infestation: waking up to random bug bites, dark-colored bug feces in your sheets or elsewhere, or actual bugs in the house. For another, pay attention to how you may accidentally bring them home with you. Say no to the free furniture that’s left on the sidewalk, and wash everything you get from the thrift store as soon as possible.

How much does it cost to get rid of bed bugs?

The cost will depend on the number of treatments you get, what kind of treatment you choose, and how much area needs to be covered. Here are a few prices to give you the general idea:

  • Liquid fogging treatment uses machines to disperse the pesticide in each affected room. It takes up to six hours to complete, and costs between $100 and $180 per room.
  • Steam treatment uses heat to kill the insects instead of chemicals, but the steam can damage some objects. This costs between $1,200 and $2,400 for a normal-sized house.
  • Heat treatment uses industrial-size heaters to raise the temperature above that which the bed bugs can survive. It takes up to four hours to complete, and costs between $1,000 and $3,500 per house.

The takeaway

Dealing with a bed bug infestation can be a nightmare, but there are tried-and-true ways to deal with the inconvenient insects and get your life back to normal. With the right professionals on your side, your living space could be bug-free before you know it.