If you live in an apartment building, you may be no stranger to the idea of a pest infestation -- think roaches, mice, and the like. But a bedbug infestation could turn into an utter nightmare, so if you suspect you have bed bugs, it's important to act quickly.
What are the signs of a bedbug infestation?
Though bed bugs themselves can be tricky to spot, bedbug bites are generally very noticeable. Bedbug bites are typically red, itchy marks or blotches that appear in clusters on your body. Bed bugs often bite in straight-line patterns, and you may experience mild irritation or extreme itching once they attack you. Bedbugs are most likely to bite exposed skin that you leave uncovered while sleeping, like your arms and legs (if you wear shorts to bed). But you may find bed bugs on your torso or other covered areas of your body, too.
Once your bedbug problem gets bad, there's a good chance you'll notice physical signs of an infestation in your apartment. Specifically, you may find small blood stains that look like tiny rust spots on your mattresses and box springs -- specifically, near the corners of beds. Bedbugs can also shed skin, so you may spot oval brown casings in and around your bed, including the crevices of your mattress. You may also find those spots in other parts of your apartment, including couches and upholstered chairs.
An infested apartment can also start to smell over time, so if you start to experience a musty odor, especially around your mattress, bedbugs could be to blame.
How are bedbug infestations diagnosed and treated?
Once you suspect a bedbug problem in your apartment, your next move is to call a pest control company to come in and assess the situation. Sometimes, people experience allergic reactions that can resemble bed bug bites, so it's important to call in a pest management professional to see what you're dealing with.
Once a pest control company sends an exterminator to your apartment, he or she will examine your living space for signs of bed bugs. A trained professional will know which common hiding places to scope out and will thoroughly examine each mattress in your home, as well as your bed frames and furniture, to see whether you have a bed bug problem on your hands.
Some pest management services even employ the assistance of dogs to detect bedbugs. These specially trained dogs have a unique sense of smell that can pick up a problem that may not be as easily visible to the naked eye.
Once a bedbug problem is identified, the exterminator you work with will suggest the most effective bed bug treatment for your home. One option is a high-powered steam treatment that can kill bedbugs due to the extremely high temperatures involved. Because this bed bug treatment contains no chemicals, it's considered safe. A newer bedbug treatment option is a freezing application, which is also nontoxic.
At the same time, the exterminator you use for bedbug control will generally give you advice on how to handle your belongings that may be infested. Generally, you'll need to vacuum each mattress in your home, as well as your carpets, furniture, and any other place bed bugs could creep into. You'll also need to wash your sheets, towels, and clothing on the hottest setting in your washing machine, and then set your dryer to its hottest setting to complete the decontamination process.
If you have items you can't safely wash and dry, or you can't wash and dry right away, you can place them in sealed plastic bags until you're able to run them through a cycle. Items that can't be washed at all need to stay sealed for at least a month.
Whose responsibility is it to pay for bedbug treatment?
When you rent an apartment, your landlord is responsible for making repairs when things in your unit break. Your landlord is also responsible for providing you with a safe, habitable home. But will your landlord pay for an exterminator to deal with your bedbug problem?
Bed bugs are generally the responsibility of whoever brought them home. If you traveled recently, it's possible that you picked up bedbugs in your suitcase, which caused the infestation within your apartment. Or, it could be that you went to an infected movie theater and brought bedbugs home on your clothing.
If you're the only person in your building with a bedbug problem, then there's a good chance the cost of treating it will be on you (and unfortunately, renters insurance generally doesn't cover bedbug treatment). However, if multiple tenants in your building experience a bed ug infestation, then the financial burden of treating the problem may fall on your landlord.
Unfortunately, bedbugs can easily slide through cracks and crevices to access multiple apartments within the same building. As such, it's possible for one tenant to bring them home and for an entire building to become impacted.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the cost of bedbug treatment can be quite reasonable if you're not dealing with such a large space. Addressing a modest problem for a single apartment could cost as little as $300, and while that's a sum you may not be thrilled to shell out, it's also not necessarily catastrophic.
How can I prevent bedbugs?
One of the best ways to prevent bedbugs in your home is to be vigilant when traveling. When staying at hotels, place your suitcase on the rack that's usually provided rather than on a bed or carpeted floor. And also, check your hotel room for signs of bedbugs -- you can pull the covers off each bed and check around each mattress for signs of bloodstains.
Another helpful move is to put bedbug-proof encasements on your mattresses. These are tight-fitting covers that don't allow those pests to get in. If you have box springs, you'll need encasements for them as well. You can also help prevent bedbugs by vacuuming your apartment frequently and reducing clutter.
Bedbugs are a problem no one deserves. If you suspect an infestation in your apartment, call for help. Though it's possible to treat bedbugs on your own, it's often best to call in a professional exterminator. Bedbug issues can mimic those caused by other pests, and knowing what you're dealing with is the first step to eliminating the issue at hand.