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Comparing Exterminator Treatments With DIY Treatments

Over-the-Counter Pesticides

When comparing the treatments that exterminators use to do-it-yourself treatments, over-the-counter pesticide products that are labeled to control these pests are not recommended. Most of these products have not been tested for effectiveness. Professionals use pesticides that have been researched and tested for their effectiveness at controlling bugs and they are trained to safely apply those using thorough applications to control infestations.


Other do-it-yourself methods include vacuuming the bed using a strong suction wand. This method must be done thoroughly to remove the bugs and their eggs. Areas that must be vacuumed include mattresses, box springs, carpets and baseboards. This may require repeating the vacuuming several times to ensure all bugs have successfully been removed. Vacuums should have disposable bags so they can be tossed out after vacuuming. If left in the bag or if using a bag-less vacuum, the bugs can escape and possibly spread the infestation to other areas of the residence.

Portable Steamers

Portable steam machines can also be used to kill them, but must be directly applied to the pests to be effective. This method can be difficult when infestations are severe since finding and directing the steam onto the bugs takes time and thoroughness. Professional exterminators use more advanced steam technology to provide thorough applications, making this method more effective than DIY steam treatments. Clothing and bedding, however, can easily be treated by placing them into a dryer and running it for 10 to 15 minutes.

Ambient Heating Services

There are also licensed and bonded commercial ambient heating services that treat invested rooms. These services heat the room to 140°, which is maintained for a minimum of two hours to kill the bugs and their eggs. Heat treatments consist of fans and a heating device to heat the area to the required temperature and maintain that temperature for the duration of the treatment time. Ambient heat treatments are sometimes used when the area is extremely cluttered and cannot be cleared out. They also are a good alternative treatment for residents who do not want the use of pesticides. Heat treatments are chemical-free and can be effective at eliminating the infestation.

Freezing Using Liquid CO2 Snow

Freezing these insects is also an effective method of killing these pests. Some exterminators are now using a new special machine that sprays liquid CO2 snow, freezing the bugs in all stages of their life. The snow is non-toxic and leaves no messy residue. Using a powerful pressurized CO2 snow, the bugs can be frozen instantly, even in areas that are difficult to reach. Although the snow is -110°F, targeted surface temperatures can reach as low as -20°F, making it a very effective eradication method. This freezing method is a green system that contains no pesticides, health risks or odors. It can be the ideal solution for killing bugs in areas where pesticides cannot be used.

Mattress Encasements

Mattress encasements can be purchased to seal the mattress, suffocating the bugs. These types of encasements are made specifically for this purpose and are particularly useful in facilities that house many beds. This method has not been completely researched and oftentimes it may be wiser to replace the mattress with a new one.

Self-made Products

Do-it-yourself traps can also be made using petroleum jelly to coat the legs of the bed, making it difficult for the bugs to climb up the legs. Do-it-yourself products are available at certain large retail store.

Other Pesticides

Pesticides that come in dust form can be purchased for about $30 and liquid insecticides cost approximately $100 and are in concentrated form, requiring diluting with water. These products are not intended to be used directly on bed linens, but only on mattresses and box springs that have been stripped. They can also be used along baseboards and in cracks and crevices where bugs may be hiding. When using these types of products, read and follow the directions carefully as they can be dangerous to humans and pets if not used correctly. Determining Whether to Hire an Exterminator or Use Other Methods Although professional exterminators can be more expensive than DIY treatments, oftentimes it is more practical to hire an exterminator if the infestation is severe. When determining if a professional exterminator should be hired or if another method may be more practical, there are certain things to consider along with the severity of the infestation.

Doing Your Own Research

Doing some research on how to eliminate these bugs can give you a good idea about if you will be able to safely and effectively treat the infestation yourself. If you are unsure as to what the identity of the bug is, you can take it to your local agricultural extension office. You can also find information about managing these bugs online at UC Pest Notes. This information should help in determining if you can manage the infestation yourself or if it would be safer and more effective to hire an exterminator.

Health Risks Associated With Bites

You should also be aware that some people might be at risk of developing a severe reaction to the bites. Although these pests are not considered to be disease-carriers, individuals have been known to have allergic reactions, which include hives, asthma and severe allergy attacks requiring immediate medical treatment. Individuals who are highly sensitive to bug bites or have numerous allergies may find that hiring a professional will be a safer choice. Exterminators can provide more effective treatments, reducing the time it can take to eliminate the bugs. When these bugs feed on humans, they generally spend about 10 minutes. Although most people do not know this is occurring, they will awaken with itchy red skin due to the saliva of the bug being injected into the skin. Scratching the bites can also result in infections. Some people experience swelling at the site where they were bitten and these pests have stink glands, which leave behind foul smelling odors. Because managing an infestation is difficult, the harm these pests can have on individuals should be considered carefully when deciding on whether to hire an exterminator or trying to manage the infestation yourself. Availability of Pesticides for Home Use Another thing to consider is the pesticide products that are available if you choose to do-it-yourself. When an infestation is serious, insecticides are usually required to eliminate the bugs. Most over-the-counter insecticides contain active ingredients that are not registered federally for the use of eliminating bugs. On the other hand, exterminators use registered products that have been proven to be more effective at eliminating serious infestations. Additionally, repeat treatments are usually required and for those who may not have the time or the skills to carry out the treatments, they may want to consider hiring a professional exterminator. Undertaking an Inspection of Your Home Performing self-inspections to detect infestations can also be difficult for someone who is not trained to know where these bugs are likely to hide. Because they are nocturnal, finding all their hiding spots can be challenging although most of the bugs will be found in or around the bed. Inspections should include the mattress, box spring, headboards and bed frame. Sheets should also be searched for blood spots, black fecal matter and egg cases. Using a flashlight can help with this process as well as a magnifying glass for finding the eggs. If the area is heavily infested, there may also be a foul smelling odor. Other areas to inspect include furniture, baseboards, carpets, hanging pictures and if wallpaper is installed, inspecting behind areas that have become loose. For homeowners who do choose to exterminate an infestation themselves, they should have perseverance and patience as this can be a persistent problem. Some professional bed bug exterminators use dogs to find infestations. These trained dogs are 97% effective in searching and finding infestations. Exterminators also use double-cupped monitors, which are installed on the bed’s legs to trap the bugs. The Treatment Must Be Thorough to Be Successful Individuals who prefer not to hire a professional exterminator should also realize that using only an insecticide will not be effective. These products must be used along with cleaning beds, removing bedding, clearing sites that harbor the bugs, daily vacuuming, weekly linen changes and performing regular inspections to ensure the treatment was successful. Know Your Insecticides Professional exterminators use commercial pesticides and applicators that are more effective for applying the pesticide. They also are trained in detection and isolation of infestations. Professional insecticides come in dusts and liquids, which can be applied to bed frames, cracks and crevices, along baseboards and other areas bugs are found. However, they are not used on bedding or mattresses due to possible risks to humans. Insecticides may contain pyrethrum or synthetic phyrethroid to quickly kill off some of the bug population although they will not provide long-term control. Products that are more recent contain chlorfenapyr, also known as Phantom, combined with the growth regulator Gentrol to cause sterilization in adult bugs. These products do take several days to work, but are effective. Dust insecticides work by sticking to the bug’s cuticles causing their protective wax coating to wear away and kill the bug. The bugs are also poisoned during grooming. Dust insecticides may contain boric acid, fumed silica, diatomaceous earth or phyrethroid formulations and can be effective for long-term control when placed in dry areas that are undisturbed. Consider an IPM Professional Hiring a professional exterminator who practices IPM methods can provide the safest and most up-to-date technology to effectively treat infestations. When toxic chemicals are part of a treatment plan, it is usually safer for occupants to have them applied by a trained professional. Exterminators also have access to pesticides that are more effective as well as sophisticated technology that consumers cannot obtain. These factors should all be carefully considered before deciding on how to safely and effectively rid the infestation. Hiring a Canine Inspection Team Canines that are specifically trained in sniffing out the scent of these bloodsucking insects are considered one of the most effective ways of detecting these pests. Under certain circumstances, visual inspections can be very difficult in determining if an infestation has occurred and how severe it may be. When this occurs, canines can offer a valuable service. They also are very useful when large buildings require comprehensive inspections such as schools, theaters and large office buildings. When hiring a canine inspection team, they should be certified. This certification demonstrates and confirms the canine’s competency in the ability to locate bugs and their eggs. The handler of the canine should be educated in the biology, identification, behavior and proper inspection methods. This inspection team should also hold a current third party, independent certificate that is in accordance with the Minimum Standards for Canine Bed Bug Detection Team certification guidelines. How Long Treatments Take to Rid Infestations Because these bugs multiply rapidly, with females laying up to 300 eggs at one time, infestations can occur quickly. This can cause the elimination of an infestation to be a long, drawn-out process for residents who choose to treat the infestation themselves. The process does require vigilance in finding the bugs and treating all the areas. This can involve vacuuming and steam cleaning mattresses and carpets repeatedly as well as sealing all cracks and crevices where bugs may be hiding. Hiring a Professional Ensures Effective Treatment If choosing to hire a professional exterminator, they can provide an effective treatment that can be completed within a few hours. Trained professionals are keen on where these bugs hide and also use professional strength pesticides as well as advanced technology to destroy the pests immediately. They also will know if the mattress should be treated or discarded, depending on the level of infestation and the condition of the mattress. Mattresses that have tears in them are often untreatable and will need to be replaced. A Follow-up Inspection is Crucial Trained professionals will also do a follow-up visit to re-inspect the area and repeat the treatment if necessary. Adjoining rooms will also need to be inspected and treated if bugs are found. When this is the case, it often is better to hire a professional exterminator who can take the proper actions to quickly and effectively treat the rooms. These bugs can also live up to a year or more without feeding while remaining in their hiding places. Without a professional inspection and treatment, the resident may find that their treatments were ineffective after a few months, having to perform the treatments again. Preventing the Recurrence of Bed Bug Infestations They usually find their way into people’s homes by way of clothes that are placed in luggage after staying at a hotel or a dwelling that is infested. To prevent reoccurring infestations, when traveling, inspect mattresses and linens in hotel rooms and inspect luggage when leaving. Once home, all clothes that were packed should be washed immediately. Another way they enter homes is when people buy second-hand furniture. When doing so, these items should be inspected carefully before bringing into the home. Replacing Infested Mattresses When replacing a mattress that has become infested, the mattress should be taken to a dump immediately and not left near the home. If a re-infestation is suspected, actions should be taken at once to prevent a serious infestation. When infestations are small, they are much easier to control and keeping the room free of clutter can make less hiding places for these bugs. Cracks, crevices and potential areas where they can hide should be sealed. Mattress Encasements Experts all agree that using a mattress encasement can be effective at preventing a recurrence of infestations. Encasements that are made with tightly woven material and contain zippers with locks are considered the most effective as these types have no openings allowing insects to enter or leave the mattress. Depending on the size of the bed, encasements can range in price from $70 up to $150. Encasements that are made of vinyl should be avoided as they can crack or tear. Dryable Items Bedding, clothing and anything else that will fit in a dryer should be washed and dried using the highest setting for about 15 to 20 minutes. This will effectively kill any bugs that may still be alive. When transporting these items to the laundry room, be sure to place them into a plastic bag, which should be discarded immediately. Non-Dryable Items Items that cannot be placed into a dryer can be packed in plastic bags or bins, but should remain there for up to a year to ensure bugs are dead. Expensive items or heirlooms may need to be professionally fumigated, which may require the items be taken out of the home and returned after being decontaminated. This service generally costs about $1,000. Tips and Precautions for Hiring an Exterminator 1. When choosing to hire an exterminator, it is best to find a company that is well established and has at least five years of experience in dealing specifically with pests. 2. Because one treatment may not be sufficient in killing all the bugs, the exterminating company should include follow-up treatments, which should be quoted in the price. 3. Exterminating companies should be licensed, registered and certified in the state you reside. California pest control companies must have a California State Structural Pest Control Board issued license to operate in the state. To verify an exterminating company’s license, check online or call 800-737-8188. 4. When searching for an exterminator, speak to friends and family members about exterminators they may have used, which can often be helpful in finding a good exterminator who treats bed bug problems. 5. Before hiring an exterminator, call and discuss what methods they use and if toxic pesticides will be used. Discuss what the effects of the pesticides have on pets, the elderly, infants or individuals who are hypersensitive to chemicals. Find out how and where the pesticides will be applied. Good exterminators generally use Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This type of management program uses several methods of treatments, which could include less toxic pesticides, offering a safer, yet thorough approach. If the exterminating company only plans on using one form of treatment to eliminate the bugs, they most likely will be unsuccessful. Single-treatment approaches can be evidence that the company is not very experienced. Also, avoid exterminating companies that want to spray chemicals around the outside perimeter of the dwelling, as this method is costly and ineffective. 6. Discuss inspections with them and if they charge a fee for this service. Many companies waive inspection fees if hired to exterminate the pests. Inspections should include a written diagnosis of the pest and the problem as well as an explanation as to where the pests are located and how the exterminating company will manage treatment. Inspection reports should include what pesticides will be used, if needed, how often treatments will be applied and an estimated cost of providing the treatment plan. Information regarding the safety and protection of children and pests should also be included in the inspection report. 7. Discuss any legal requirements that may require certain precautions after treatment. Most exterminating companies will provide a copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet that explains any chemicals being used as well as their hazards and precautions that are necessary. 8. Discuss their experience with exterminating these specific pests and see if they can provide references demonstrating their experience with this specific pest. 9. Before signing a contract with an exterminating company, review the contract to make sure the name of the company is on it, the treatment plan has been listed, a certain number of treatments are included, if there is a guarantee, although most exterminating companies will not guarantee complete elimination. Also, check with the company about their liability insurance, worker’s compensation insurance and any possible exclusion related to canceling the contract. Will you be penalized if you cancel the contract? The contract should also include the preparations that the resident will be responsible for as well as preparations they will provide. 10. Once an exterminating company has been hired, stay in close contact with them until the infestation treatment has been accomplished. Check to make sure the company is performing the pest management treatments as agreed upon in the contract and be sure to do your part in any preparation work that may be required. This is important in helping ensure that treatments are successful. Occupant’s Responsibilities in Treatment Preparations Extermination often requires both the professionals as well as the occupants to work together for successful elimination. When hiring an exterminator, residents should cooperate with the exterminator in regards to their instructions in preparations and allow access to infested rooms and adjoining rooms. Depending on the exterminating company, some do require the owner or occupant to prep the infested room by removing all the bedding from the bed, emptying nightstands and dressers, clearing out closets, washing clothing and bedding, removing clutter and vacuuming. When this is the case, the exterminator should provide careful instructions on how to avoid spreading them to other locations. Preparation instructions should be provided to the resident before the first scheduled treatment. Some exterminators do prefer to handle the preparation work themselves to prevent relocating the bugs before treatment. The exterminator may also require the homeowner or resident to correct structural problems that may be contributing to the infestation. This could include removing wallpaper or re-gluing peeling wallpaper, fixing loose moldings and sealing cracks and crevices. Exterminator’s Safety Concerns for Occupants Because bed bug exterminators often use insecticides as part of their treatment, keeping occupants safe is an important part of their job. Good exterminators will speak with occupants about any health risks they may have that could be a concern from the use of pesticides. If the occupant does have health risks, the exterminator will recommend that they speak with their physician before any treatments are applied. Treatments will then be applied in accordance with what is advised by the physician. To ensure the safety of residents, the exterminator will also advise the occupants as to when they can reenter a treated room as well as special precautions they should take and the exact locations of where treatments were applied. In addition to keeping residents safe, they also are concerned with pets’ safety. Exterminators will instruct occupants on when pets can reenter the treated room based on the pesticide’s labeling directions.

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