Which exterminator do I pick for taking care of bed bugs?
August 26, 2010 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Which exterminator do I pick for taking care of bed bugs?

Nearly two weeks ago, everyone's NYC worst nightmare came true for me: I have bed bugs. I live in a 3 bedroom apt with 2 roommates, and mine is the *only* room where we've found actual bed bugs (I probably found 15 or so on various parts of my mattress, and one or two dead ones on the floor), or experienced getting bitten. My room is positioned away from the two other bedrooms, so it seems like the problem may very well be isolated to that room. This is apparently the 3rd time this apt has gotten bed bugs - the last time was shortly before I moved in two years ago, and at that time the problem was also isolated to my room. I suspect they came from the walls of the building.

Our landlady has expressed that she'd prefer to not have to pay more than $500 for the extermination, and since her normal go-to guys were going to charge us more than $800, she left it to us to find one on our own. Using the Internets, I found two places. Both came and did a free inspection of our apt. This is was the breakdown:

bedbugznyc: $699 to treat all 3 rooms, incl. "treatment" (ie, placement of poison) of mattresses & living room furniture, putting some kind of long lasting pesticide into the wall and in cracks and crevices, and spraying the apt. They would do just my room and the living room for $500 or so, but their guys emphasized that we should really do the whole apt b/c "you never know." Includes a 30 day warranty, which means we could call them in again anytime for a month. If we went with these guys, me and my roommates would probably each chip $50 in toward the cost (I know, we shouldn't have to, but it's a cheap apt in a great location, and we don't want to rock the boat.)

Magic Pest Mgmt: $295 ($321 after taxes) to do a treatment of my room, which includes the poison in the walls treatment, crack treatment, steam cleaning of infested mattress, etc., and a spraying of the whole rest of the apt, but no deep treatment in any other room. I asked about the need to do the other rooms and he didn't seem to think it was necessary. One visit, no warranty.

So my question: who's right? Should we treat all the rooms just to be safe, or is it enough to just treat the site of the infestation and spray the rest of the apt? I'm inclined to want to go with the more thorough treatment, but if the $321 version does the trick, it certainly is a much better price. I realize there are no 100% guarantees that either will work, but I was wondering if anyone out their knew more than me about this matter.

(To avoid any libel accusations, let me note that the prices/treatment descriptions are not official statements from either business, just a summary of what I remember from convos with them)
posted by ktpetals to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Bugs spread quite readily. I find it difficult to believe that the infestation is limited to just one room of a connected series of rooms. Consider that fact that a few years ago, bedbugs had been wiped out in North America (by the use of DDT which unfortunately had to be given up due to its toxicity to birds), and they have only recently been reintroduced by refugees, and already they have spread to your room. Don't underestimate them.
posted by grizzled at 11:54 AM on August 26, 2010

These people are excellent. They bring a dog in, who tells them exactly what needs to be treated.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:54 AM on August 26, 2010

It might be a little painful but I would go with bedbugznyc -- before I even clicked on "more inside" I had my answer ready, which is: Whichever one guarantees its work with a warranty.

I would also treat all the other rooms as well. Believe me when I say that a bedbug infestation is nothing to skimp on - the little fuckers are notoriously hard to get rid of.

It may help if you break it down like this: 300 for one room with no warranty, or 700 for three rooms with a warranty. One thing I didn't see - does bedbugznyc offer the mattress steam-clean? If they do then yeah, go with them.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:56 AM on August 26, 2010

Go for the nuclear option, and get in touch with the apartments adjacent to yours to see if they have bugs, too. Treating only one apartment when the whole building's infested is kind of pointless, because then they'll just keep coming back. Landlords being lazy about treating building-wide bed bug infestations is one of the major reasons they've become such an issue.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:57 AM on August 26, 2010

If it's bedbugs, go with the ones with a warranty. I've never once heard of them being swept out in a single go. And the fuckers spread like wildfire, so hitting just your room isn't going to solve the issue. Also, while she'd "prefer" not to pay more than $500, she'd probably also "prefer" not to have her property infested and lose out on tenants. Find out what's happening at the neighbors' and approach her as a group.

The Awl recently had a "I Fought Bedbugs and Won" feature, so take note of what you read in there. Maybe you can even contact the writer for her people, but I'll bet she's being inundated with requests. Couldn't hurt.
posted by griphus at 12:08 PM on August 26, 2010

griphus beat me to the story on The Awl. But, I also wanted to say that you should absolutely make sure you get the warranty. Bedbugs are stubborn, survivalist bastards, and it's not uncommon to require a bunch of touch-up visits to knock them out for good.
posted by Citrus at 12:30 PM on August 26, 2010

Full disclosure, I work for one of the Big Pest Control companies, but not one of the two you mentioned.

FAMOUS MONSTER is right, you want to go with a company that offers some type of a guarantee or warranty. The longer, the better. Bed bugs can live for quite a long time without food. If the apartment becomes uninhabitable, they'll just hang out in the walls until they're able to get back in. I've heard they can live up to a year in a vacant building. If the company doesn't do a good job the first time, they're very likely to come back.

And yes, if the whole building has them then there is no sense in continuing to treat single apartments individually. Does your landlord own the building or just your unit? If you're on good terms with the neighbors, ask them if they've had the same issues. If the apartment has had bed bugs THREE TIMES, this is probably not limited to your room or even your apartment. If your landlord owns the building, she is going to end up spending a lot more money forking out these $500 individual treatments over and over indefinitely than she would getting a reputable company out to do the whole thing (same goes if it's limited to your apartment: better to get all rooms done than just one).

Basically, my stance is to go with the most thorough treatment that offers the longest warranty, and don't go with a company that doesn't offer any warranty at all.

Funny story to let you know how scared I am of the bastards: I kept my boyfriend up until 2 a.m. last night turning over our mattresses, vacuuming, laundering sheets, and inspecting on my hands and knees for bed bugs. We've been getting bitten by mosquitoes more than usual lately and when I pulled back the sheets I found a critter and was convinced it was a bed bug nymph. I told him, "I know you think I'm crazy right now, honey, but I can't tell you how difficult and expensive it is to get rid of them." Turns out what I saw was probably not a bed bug, but when you hear horror stories every day about them you start to get a little paranoid. They do not play around.
posted by a.steele at 12:32 PM on August 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice! I was leaning towards the more expensive option; I just needed validation.

My landlady only owns the unit, and she mentioned that she was going to call the president of the building about it - I assume she did. I told my neighbors on my floor about it, and no one else expressed they'd noticed bed bugs. I totally think they should treat the whole building, and I'll emphasize that to my landlady, but sadly, it is not in my hands.
posted by ktpetals at 1:01 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

You should also invest in a few bottles of this stuff. Keep on in your bag/purse, one in your desk at work, one on the nightstand, etc. The lady and I had bird mites a while ago and it is a lifesaver, especially considering I'd have mild panic attacks every time the itching got to me. You might itch a little more when you just apply it, but grit your teeth and give it a few minutes and no itch.
posted by griphus at 1:34 PM on August 26, 2010

I actually came in to recommend Action Pest Control also. I went the bed bug dog route, they sniffed out the fuckers, and did major treatment where the dogs found them, and then some other, lesser stuff, in other parts of my apartment to keep them from hiding out there if they ran away from my room. It wasn't quite a full-apartment treatment, but it absolutely got the job done.
posted by inmediasres at 2:55 PM on August 26, 2010

Go for the complete apt. I used Metro Pest for my studio apt in Queens. Not too expensive and they got the job done. Their preparation checklist alone was worth the call. Oh, that checklist! I followed it like a mofo. I give that list the credit for having no re-occurrence and not transferring the bugs to another residence when my husband-at-the-time moved out during the whole saga. It saved my sanity, too: when under bed bug attack, I did so much better with a concrete game plan.

At first we couldn't find the actual bugs. Just lots and lots of bites. Everyone we called said they needed evidence of the bugs before they would start treatment (some dead bugs, blood stains on the mattress, etc.). We had none of that.

Metro sent someone for the initial inspection. He flipped over my boxspring and, with my permission, removed the fabric covering the bottom. (Our cats had already shredded it, so we didn't care.) That's where the little fuckers were hiding -- under the folded fabric where it's stapled to the wooden frame. After the extermination, there were carcasses all along the baseboard trim. They were nesting up inside the trim.

BTW, you mention your landlady and that there's a president of the building. Are you a tenant renting from a shareholder in a coop? I ask this because I'm a shareholder in a coop. At the time of my apt's infestation, the super let it slip to me that he thought the laundry room was infested and that the bugs were spreading to several apts from there. I pressed the issue with our coop's management company and the coop ended up paying the bill. If yours is a recurring issue coming from inside the walls, and your landlady is a shareholder, the coop may be liable for the bill. TINLA, IANAL.
posted by Majorita at 10:22 PM on August 26, 2010

There are several things you can do yourself to eliminate bed bugs. First vacuum everything in you place thoroughly. Then if you have a steamer or even a steam iron run all over your mattress and surrounding area. The heat of the steam will kill them. Then vacuum again.
posted by pompanodave at 1:50 PM on November 20, 2010

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