Kill them. Kill them with fire. But which fire and how much?
June 13, 2013 2:12 PM   Subscribe

[NYC-filter] We definitely have bedbugs - no question - and know that we need an exterminator. We will need to pay for it ourselves. What are some good, discreet, effective (preferably inexpensive) NYC exterminators? And how much do they cost, especially for the size of our infestation? Are there any better steps we can take in the meantime to prepare, minimize the infestation size, and lower our costs?

We have what we believe to be a small infestation - bugs have only been sighted in the bed area, in a few wall cracks. Diatomaceous earth has already been laid down. Our apartment is big but uncluttered and we think most of it is safe.

We've checked Bedbug Forums but there are so many professionals there that I think it's hard to get unbiased advice, thus the turning to AskMe.

Throwaway email is

Answers appreciated in advance.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have no recommendations, but are you the homeowners? If you are renters, your landlord should be paying for it.
posted by greta simone at 2:14 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

You seriously, of all things, do not want to go cheap on bed bugs. Get a guy with the dog. Chances are if you hire someone "cheap", the bed bugs are going to come back.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:15 PM on June 13, 2013

If you're renting and in a mult-unit building they may be in other units too. Getting rid of them from your unit only may mean they come back from somewhere else later. It would be better to get your landlord involved and get the whole building treated if that's the case.
posted by goggie at 2:23 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you are renting, your landlords should pay. Ours did in Los Angeles. They hired shitty exterminators the first and second times, and a better one the third time. Better to start with the competent one - preparing for an exterminator is a huge hassle, especially if you don't have a washer/dryer.

Also, only seeing a few bugs does not mean a small infestation. We never saw a single bug, ever, and I was covered in bites for months.

I suggest doing the extermination as well as you can the first time so that (one hopes!) you only need to do it once.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:25 PM on June 13, 2013

I love my exterminator. Barry at 21st Century Pest Control -- I think he has a dog for bedbugs (we haven't had them - he's taken care of everything else for us, though, and I mean *everything*).
posted by DMelanogaster at 2:36 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't start sleeping elsewhere--on the couch, a cot, etc. You'll just bring the bedbugs with you. They're interested only in human blood, not the furniture that it sleeps or lays on.

Amelioration is a huge, huge pain in the ass. Best to get started now. I pretty much had to put every single thing I owned that was made out of fiber through the dryer--I was informed by my pest control company that washing things could actually make things worse because eggs can get caught in the washing machine and the water doesn't get hot enough to kill them. So dryer first, then washing if needed, then dryer. Anything I didn't need immediately sat in garbage bags in the frozen winter for 6 months.

Everything else I owned had to be placed in plastic tubs in the center of each room in my apartment, open for inspection by pest control. All of the furniture had to be moved from the walls.

Basically you're moving but not going anywhere. It's super fun.

And, as others have said, if you are in a multi-unit building of any kind you must inform the owner of the building as well as everyone else in it. The source of my infection lived two floors up and several apartments over--half of the units in my building were infected by the time he stopped playing with bug bombs and told the landlord.
posted by xyzzy at 3:43 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you are seeing bugs, and they are in wall cracks, you do not have a small infestation.

Honestly, I would move, and not take any furniture from the bedroom with me.
posted by amaire at 4:21 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

We will need to pay for it ourselves.

Why? i've never heard of a place in the US that this wasn't the landlords issue and cost to take on if you were renting. It's up there with broken plumbing or in some places a broken stove/fridge/etc and generally heat.

Are you afraid of dealing with a slumlord or something? because they should be the ones calling an exterminator, and they should definitely be the ones paying for it.

And i don't just mean like, morally here. I'm talking legally in landlord/tenant law.
posted by emptythought at 5:07 PM on June 13, 2013

If they are in the walls then they are next door, or will go next door once you chase them there. Then they will come back. So, maybe there's a legitimate reason why you can't involve your landlord. But you should certainly speak to your neighbors.
posted by acidic at 5:21 PM on June 13, 2013

On the clothes fromt:

Buy 2 dozen giant ziploc bags. They come in a few sizes so buy a good assortment. Dry all of your clothes and linens on the hottest temperature. Your clothes shouldn't shrink they're not wet. When they come out of the dryer, seal them in the giant ziploc bags. They're great because they're transparent and if you end up keeping your clothes or linens in there for awhile, you can open to retrieve an item or two if necessary.

If possible, do the dryer loads in an organized fashion: your hanging shirts, your jeans, your gym stuff, your tshirts, your socks and underwear, etc. Then the same for your partner. When your clothes come out of the dryer, label the Giant Ziploc with the contents: e.g. dresser drawer 3: underwear. It'll make retrieving and ultimately putting them back so much easier.

Your mattress and box spring will need to be encased properly. I wouldn't do this until you work with an exterminator but you can have one on hand.

Do not set off any kind of Raid bomb or other random fumigation techniques. It just drives them further away from the hot zone.

So sorry :-(
posted by barnone at 6:49 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

My mother had bedbugs, but she was able to save her mattresses by getting special bedbug proof covers. She put the covers on - the bedbugs inside eventually died, and no other could get in. If they made a nest on the outside of the mattress, she could see it and kill them all. The covers could also be run through a washing machine and drier.

This didn't stop the overall infestation, but saved her a lot of heartache. Before she had the covers, she was stuck sleeping on an airmattress.
posted by jb at 6:54 PM on June 13, 2013

We've *just* gone through this, and here's what we've done. The pest control people wouldn't even call our case an infestation, as there was only one adult bug that was found. Nevertheless, we went through all of the following steps:

1. Buy encasements for the mattresses AND boxsprings. Protect-A-Bed is highly recommended by both pest control professionals and the internet. Both mattresses and boxsprings must remain encased for at least one year.

2. Everything with fiber needs to be hit with heat. This includes curtains, blankets, backpacks, etc. All of it. We took a lot of our stuff to the laundromat in the extra-large ziploc bags. After they were done, those ziploc bags were destroyed and new ones were used to bring the "clean" stuff home. You can also take things to the dry cleaners, but it is best protocol to call your dry cleaner first to find out whether or not they can do your things separately.

3. Yes, you'll need lots of ziploc bags. We are a family of 3 and we used 10 boxes of XXL and 6 boxes of XL.

4. Create a "clean zone" that is away from the infestation. Keep all of your dirty things in the room with the infestation.

5. Do not move out during cleaning. You need the bugs there so that they can be killed. If you leave, they too will start to scatter, making the process that much more drawn out.

6. Buy some rubbing alcohol to spray on hard surfaces or those that cannot be hit with heat. The rubbing alcohol will kill live bugs or eggs. We did a wipe down of all hard surfaces and sprayed inside of shoes and backpacks.

7. Steam is your friend. If you can't dry clean your curtains, take a steamer to it. The high heat will kill. It is rumored that bed bugs are getting harder and harder to kill with pesticides, but they will always succumb to heat.

8. My partner needed to remind me that it's likely to take multiple treatments to get rid of them. If they are in your walls, that is probably true. You'll need to keep up the rigorous treatments and "clean" stations for at least 4 weeks after treatment.

Finally, I am so sorry. Having bed bugs sucks. And I don't wish it on anyone. Best of luck to you!
posted by frizz at 8:12 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

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