Tips From a Pest Control Expert

Tips From a Pest Control Expert


Cameron Bawden works in pest control in Arizona.
Ben Christensen

  • Bedbug infestations have been highly publicized this fall.
  • But a pest exterminator said they can strike at any time of year.
  • He described exterminating the insects as expensive and time-consuming.

When Cameron Bawden gets a call from someone who suspects they have bedbugs, he asks them one question: Have they traveled recently?

“They’ve usually been away,” said Bawden, the founder of Green Mango, an extermination company in Phoenix.

Paris recently dealt with an infestation

The critters — which often hide in soft furnishings like beds and sofas — have been making headlines since a politician described a “scourge” in Paris in September.

They’d been spotted in the European capital in places such as movie theaters, trains, and airports. People on social media posted images of bedbugs and angry red swelling caused by their bite.

Emmanuel Grégoire, the deputy mayor of Paris, called on the French prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, to tackle the “public health problem” before it got worse.

Bawden told Business Insider he hadn’t asked his bedbug clients whether they’d vacationed in Paris specifically. But he said tourist hubs are prime spots for infestations.

“It could be a nice place or a dumpy one,” he said. “But a lot of times people set their luggage on the floor of their hotel room, and the bedbugs climb in.” Before you know it, he said, they’ve taken up residency in the “cracks and crevices of your suitcase.”

“People bring them home, and after a week or so they’ve multiplied and become a huge problem,” Bawden said, adding that bedbugs don’t have a “particular season of the year.”

He said that if you think you have bedbugs in your house, you probably do. “People go on the internet the moment they see the bites,” he said.

Because they are in clusters, he says you can trace where they’ve crawled — and stopped for a snack — across your skin. “When we do our inspection, we’ll find them pretty easy,” he said.

Bedbugs found in the seam of a mattress.
Stephanie Lecocq/Reuters

Bawden, whose company deals with bedbugs regularly, said the first place to look is the seams of your mattress. “They hang out where it’s sewn together,” he said, adding, “It’s a tight space and a good breeding ground.”

They also love linen and clothing. “It’s why they’re so transferable from one person to another,” he said. They can also hide inside items such as books. “People are surprised when we find them buried between leaves of paper,” Bawden said.

He said the worst mistake is to assume the bloodsuckers will go away on their own. “You’ve got no choice but to call in the experts,” he said.

He described how the process shakes out.

Start with an inspection

Bawden said technicians can usually confirm customers’ fears with a flashlight, revealing pin-size black dots.

He said some companies deploy sniffer dogs — especially beagles, known for their keen sense of smell — to establish whether the bedbugs have spread to other rooms.

Move out if you can

It’s a good idea to stay at a hotel or with relatives while the exterminators tackle the issue. “Some people will stay home in a room that doesn’t have bedbugs in it, but it’s not always possible,” Bawden said.

He said his technicians spray a combination of three liquid or aerosol pesticides on household belongings such as mattresses and couches. “We use a contact-kill product, a growth regulator so the bedbugs can’t continue to multiply, and a residual product,” he said, adding that his staff wears breathing regulators for their safety.

The process is repeated about two weeks later. “It’s very invasive and time-consuming,” said Bawden, who charges $400 to $750 per room.

Clear your closets

Bawden said linens and clothes must be heat-treated to kill the bedbugs.

He said that if you live in a hot climate such as Arizona, you may be able to save money on professional cleaning. “You can put everything in black garbage bags and leave them out in the sun,” he said. Bedbugs will die at a temperature of about 120 degrees. “If the heat stays consistent, you only have to leave out the bags for 20 minutes,” he said.

But many people have to get everything dry-cleaned. “Professional cleaners have special machines that can dry at a high enough temperature,” he said.

Bawden said an infestation can take a physical, psychological, and financial toll on families. “It’s a very tricky situation for everyone involved,” he said.





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