In case you don't watch the news - Bed Bugs are a huge problem in the US right now (and particularly in NYC). We currently went through a few weeks of hell on the issue (a lot of which was self-imposed hell) and thought I'd share it with others to learn from ...
While I'm not allowed to write about why I called a company to come and check our apartment out for bed bugs, trust that it was a good reason. Also trust that the reason I called the specific exterminator was of sound thinking...
This said - here's what went down ... I called an exterminator to come to our apartment with a dog to come sniff for bed bugs. Before (and after) they came - we had looked and there were absolutely no signs of them - but again - I had good reason to call. The dog "alerted" at our bed. Not anywhere else in the apartment but in our living room. When I asked the guy who came with the dog a question or two - his response was literally "Dude - I don't know - I'm just a dog trainer. Call the company for a quote and plan of attack." Suffice it to say that both Amy and I were freaking out ... When I called the company - they said they gave me a ~$2,000 quote to treat our apartment and basically sent over a one page document of how to prep for treatment. Because we have a little baby - we obviously wanted the issue treated as soon as possible - and we somehow got them to find an opening for the end of that same week (4 days later). Before hearing about what needed to get done - I honestly thought it may take a day or two to prep and definitely never could have imagined the amount of work that needed to be done ... So ... that's what Amy and I did. We spent the next 72 hours putting all of our clothes in the dryer - folding them - putting them in bags closing them and putting them in our living room or bedroom. All of our daughters stuff. All of the stuff in our closets. EVERYTHING CLEANED AND PUT IN BAGS.
Amy then called a friend who went through this bed bug hell a few weeks earlier and told her what happened. Being more educated on the topic she said that the story sounded a little off and recommended that Amy call the exterminator she used for a "second opinion." They were scheduled to come a day before we had planned for treatment from the other company. When the other company came - the same thing happened - where the dog "alerted" at our bed but no where else. The difference was that the people with the dog looked to verify - and couldn't find anything. They said that we DEFINITELY went overboard with prepping our apt. and had we called them instead of the original sketchy exterminator - we would have saved ourselves hours of stress and work. It's fair to say that neither Amy nor I slept very well for those 2 weeks...
Because we had already prepped our apartment and the dog had alerted - it just made sense to do the treatment. We decided to not treat the whole apartment (avoiding chemicals with a baby in the house seems like smart parenting to me) but rather our bedroom only. This obviously was at a much lower cost - but more importantly - gave us much better piece of mind with what was going on. We got the treatment - and then gradually put all of our stuff back to where it belonged. It sounds minimal but trust that it's a huge time-suck.
Fast forward to earlier this week - and we are 100% bed bug free. They came out 2 weeks ago and pretty much said the same thing - but we needed earlier this week to be 100% sure. I can speak for myself by saying how relieved I was. The scary part is that apparently over 10% of NYC is infected with the epidemic - and so you have to be very careful everywhere: In cabs, public transportation, putting your bags down on the floor (at work for example) especially overnight, etc.
Based upon my experience above - here are my Top 5 Bed Bug related tips:
1) Before you assume you have bed bugs - look for the signs:
a) Blood spots on your sheets
b) Black marks (like a felt pen marking) on your mattress, etc
c) Bites - which usually come in a linear line in 3's - but can be single ones as well.
- If you don't show any signs - there probably isn't a huge rush to have someone come out. Dogs coming to your apartment can range from $100 - $350 - so it's definitely not cheap - but for me, personally, it was worth the piece of mind for the dogs to come.
2) Get a reference from exterminators and don't be scared to get a second opinion.
This business is like .com boom of 1999. Everyone (especially these companies) are trying to make money and they know that many people in NYC will pay whatever they need to in order to get rid of the problem. They have more business than they know what to do with - but - that doesn't mean that companies can treat people like crap. Make sure you feel comfortable with the company you are using to treat the problem and if you are someone who needs to be hand-held - make sure you find a company who can accommodate that.
3) If you rent - talk to your landlord about treating for bed bugs before making the treatment plans yourself.
4) Try not to let your mind think of the worst. (I should have listened to my own advice - but didn't)
Bed bugs are ENORMOUSLY mental. I can't tell you how many nights/days I wake up still feeling like something is crawling on me -- and -- nothing is or has! The truth is that while bed bugs are a huge pain in the ass - outside of the pain of the bites - they are not harmful. They don't carry disease. So - yes - the worst case scenarios are that you are inconvenienced - and while that is still mentally daunting - you have to try and put it all in perspective. This said - I recognize how horrific this issue is - and definitely stressed out majorly while it was going on. While I still freak out once in a while - I'm really trying to beat it mentally. I don't want this experience to change the way I live or think in my own home.
5) Learn how to limit your risk
Bed bugs are a problem and while there is nothing you can do to guarantee you'll never get them - there are some things you can do. For example, if you're staying at a hotel - leave your bag by the door as soon as you enter - and check out the mattress. If there are black dots on it - BOUNCE. When you travel, use a bag that can be put in the dryer. When you get home (outside your door), put all your clothes from the bag in a plastic bag then immediately put the bag in the dryer (Heat of 120 degrees+ for 20 minutes+ kills them). Then put the clothes from the bag in the dryer after. Buy mattress and box spring covers - they're expensive - but they limit places that the bed bugs can hide.
Again - just some thoughts for those that were interested. A horrible experience for sure - but definitely could have been worse and I'm so glad it's behind us.