The Top Seven Bed Bug Mistakes

Bed bug infestations in Philadelphia only continue to rise. Here, the common reactions that make an awful problem worse

What’s the first thing people do when they think they have bed bugs? They panic. A natural reaction, considering they’ve been the nighttime dish on a blood-sucking buffet. “The moment you discover bed bugs in your home, it is normal to feel violated, disgusted, and a sense of urgency to get rid of everything you own and get out of your house,” says Jeff Klein, owner of A3 Superior Pest Control in Milford, who’s seen his bed bug clients in the Philadelphia area nearly double in the last six months. “Unfortunately, these steps only worsen the infestation and prolong the length of the bed bug treatment process.”

Here, the common mistakes people make when they discover their home has been infiltrated by the bedtime beasts—and why it only makes the shudder-inducing problem worse.

Mistake No. 1: They stop sleeping in the bug-infested bed. “As difficult as it is, it’s imperative that you continue sleeping in your bed once you discover bed bugs,” says Klein. “Many victims decide to begin sleeping on the couch, and this is not a solution. Bed bugs are fast movers, and can travel up to 30 feet in six minutes. Bed bugs are also attracted to the carbon dioxide that we emit when we exhale—and will come to you wherever you are sleeping.” Which means sleeping on your couch will do nothing but spread the infestation to your couch.  “Confined bed bug infestations are the easiest to treat—do not worsen the problem,” stresses Klein.

Mistake No. 2: They don’t buy mattress covers. “If you are infested with bed bugs, most likely the infestation is based in your mattress and box spring,” says Klein, noting that it may take up to three days for a pest control professional to come to your home. In the meantime, purchase bed bug covers for both your mattress and box spring. “This will not end your infestation,” says Klein. “However, this will prevent live bed bugs from coming out, prevent other bed bugs from getting in and significantly reduce the amount of bed bugs that are free to feed on you during the night.”

While Klein regularly recommends Protect-a-Bed mattress covers to clients, there are lower-priced options available at stores like Target. “The most important thing to remember when using other brands is that it’s imperative to make sure the zippers are sealed,” says Klein. “Cover the zipper with masking tape to make sure bugs cannot get in or out. A bed bug can get through any opening where that a single sheet of paper can fit.”

Mistake No. 3: They sleep at a friend’s or relative’s house. “You do not want to be the one to give bed bugs to someone you care about,” says Klein. “Take comfort in knowing that bed bugs do not spread disease, and that thousands of others have successfully eradicated the same problem.”

Mistake No. 4: They hide it from their landlord. “It is crucial that you notify your landlord immediately once you discover bed bugs,” says Klein. “Because it is difficult to track the source of bed bugs, they may have come into your apartment from a neighbor. In this case, surrounding units—or the entire building—may need to be treated. “ Also, depending on your lease agreement, your landlord may handle the cost of bed bug treatment.

Mistake No. 5: They try to treat the problem themselves. While professional treatments aren’t cheap—A3 charges $1-$3 per square foot—it’s the best way eradict the problem. Do-it-yourself treatments tend to spreads bed bugs within the home and, if you live in an apartment building, among neighbors. “Chemicals like sprays and bombs that can be purchased in hardware stores are not strong enough to kill bed bugs, but bed bugs are averse to the chemicals and will scatter into other areas of your home or through the walls to your neighbors,”  warns Klein. When choosing an exterminator, make sure to ask for references from customers and that the company will guarantee its work. “Typically, a guarantee is for 30 or 60 days following treatment,” says Klein. “If they do not offer a guarantee, go elsewhere.”

Mistake No. 6: They don’t insist on an inspection. “When the pest control operator arrives, he or she should ask questions about what you have seen and the symptoms you’ve experienced,” says Klein. “They should also do an inspection of your home, especially in the bedroom. If they do not inspect the bedroom before they begin discussing treatment options, go elsewhere. Honest professionals will want to make sure you truly have bed bugs before they begin treatment.”

Mistake No. 7: They don’t ask for a K9. “Due to their exceptional sense of smell, dogs are 95-percent more accurate in detecting bed bugs than trained technicians,” says Klein, who currently uses two K9s that have been certified with the National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association (NESDCA). “It’s important to make sure bed bug dogs are NESDCA-certified,” says Klein. “These dogs follow a code of ethics, are re-certified annually, and are trained only to find live insects and their eggs.”