There are few things more terrifying than hearing the words, “You have bedbugs.” These tiny bloodsuckers live inside bedding, mattresses and other furniture and can reproduce fast, spreading through a home like wildfire. And once they’re in the door, it’s hard to get them to leave.
The bedbug nightmare also costs big bucks to treat. Here are 10 ways in which dealing with bedbugs can devastate your bank account.
1. Treatment for the Bedbug Bite’s Itch
“Don’t let the bedbugs bite” is a common refrain heard in childhood. However, the truth is that real bedbug bites are nothing to joke about. Just ask anyone whose skin has reacted to these bumps.
“The more you get bitten, the more likely it is you will react, or your reaction might escalate based upon a lot of bites,” said Paul Curtis, Terminix’s manager of technical services and a board-certified entomologist.
Those who suffer a reaction to bedbug bites can try over-the-counter remedies, like hydrocortisone cream, to find relief. However, they might also require costly medical care. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, individuals with multiple bites or ones that look infected should not hesitate to see a dermatologist for treatment.
2. The Psychological Impact
The bedbug nightmare can continue to haunt people after the infestation has been eradicated. In fact, individuals might imagine that they feel the bugs crawling on them when in reality nothing is there.
Said Curtis, “People lose sleep worrying something is going to come down and bite them.” He went on to reveal that former bedbug sufferers often seek professional help, including counseling and medication, to combat their feelings of fear.
3. Trying DIY At-Home Treatments
Typically, people try to take care of the bedbug nightmare themselves before hiring professionals. However, according to Curtis, attempting to solve the problem yourself actually drives up overall treatment costs.
“They spend all this money trying different things that they read or hear about or see over the counter, and still don’t get any relief or control,” said Curtis. “Then they still have to pay a professional to come in and assist them.”
According to University of Sydney research published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, bedbugs have developed thicker skin that makes exposure to commonly used sprays ineffective. Because it often takes an array of methods to control bedbugs, individuals are better off seeking professional exterminator services as soon as possible.
4. Falling Victim to Scams
Once upon a time, bedbugs were nearly eradicated in the U.S. However, in recent years, these pests have made a serious resurgence. And it’s not just bedbugs coming out of the woodwork, but also crooks.
“There are people who take advantage of the excitement and the emotionalism around being exposed to bedbugs and the feeling of ‘I would do anything to get rid of this problem,’“ said Curtis, who went on to reveal that many companies push ineffective products and devices for treating the infestation.
To protect your home and your wallet, do your homework before you put money down on any scam service or product for treating bedbugs.
5. Trashing of Furnishings
In some instances, getting rid of bedbug-infested furniture is the best option. Mattresses, in particular, are favorite hideouts for these undesirable pests. There are many layers to mattresses, and it’s hard to know what might be lurking inside. Even more disturbing, bedbugs can linger for up to a year without feeding.
“If you let your guard down, they can come back out,” said Curtis. “So, from an economic standpoint, it’s more economically feasible to just throw [the mattress] away and get that infestation out than it is to treat it or sanitize it. Especially if you have to do it multiple times.”
Although mattresses and box springs are the most common places for bedbugs to nest, the pests are always looking for hiding spots near food sources. So, you might find yourself ditching your entire furniture collection and taking a huge loss.
6. Preparation for Treatment
Adding to the bedbug nightmare is the cost involved in preparing for treatment. If you choose to do it yourself, you’ll have your work cut out for you.
Bedbug companies normally provide a lengthy checklist of tasks to complete before treatment can begin. To start, all fabric items must be washed and dried on the highest heat setting. They must then be sealed in plastic bags or bins until treatment is complete. Get ready for your utility bills to soar.
Unfortunately, cleaning is just one piece of the prep work. You must also break down furniture and empty all drawers and closets. In major cities, there are preparation companies that exist solely to provide this service. They’ll move furniture, clean and steam carpets for bedbug and egg removal and remove electrical outlet covers. Prices vary, but preparing one room for treatment can easily cost you $1,000.
7. Professional Treatment for Your Home
You tried and failed to take care of the bedbug nightmare yourself. And now that the prep work is done, it’s time to let the pros get to work.
“They’ll come out and do thorough inspections and confirm that’s what’s going on, and see if they can find evidence of where they are actually hiding out,” said Curtis.
There are several methods of bedbug treatment, including insecticides, heat, steam and freezing of infected items. According to Angie’s List, you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1,500 for bedbug treatment, but the cost varies based on the method and exterminator. There is also typically a consultation fee.
8. Trained Dogs to Sniff Out Bedbugs
Sometimes a canine can be the best detector of bedbugs and their eggs. According to Curtis, there are extermination companies with dogs that have been trained and certified by qualified handlers.
“A dog can be very beneficial, especially if you have a large area to cover,” he said.
According to Bedbugs.org, a dog bedbug detection service can cost $300 to $600 per home, with the size of the property affecting the final price tag. Bedbug dogs are often a good option for large apartment complexes, as they can sniff out problem areas quickly.
9. Fines for Not Following City Ordinances
Cities with the highest rates of bedbug infestation tend to have strict procedures in place for dealing with the problem. In fact, tenants and owners who fail to adhere to these rulings face steep fines.
For instance, in 2013, Chicago enacted an ordinance to combat the city’s serious bedbug issue. The policy levies a fine of $300 to $1,000 per day for each offense committed.
Similarly, New York City levies a $100 fine on those who don’t properly dispose of mattresses and box springs by sealing them in plastic before placing them on curbs. It’s wise to look up your city’s policy on handling bedbugs to avoid additional costs.
10. Replacement of Belongings
If you had to discard your mattress, box spring, bedding or other infiltrated item, you will naturally have to pay to replace it. A good mattress alone can costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And, unfortunately, homeowner’s insurance doesn’t pay for these damages.
According to Esurance, bedbugs are considered a maintenance issue, and the costs associated with eliminating them and replacing items are not covered by renter’s insurance or a homeowner’s policy.
11. Attorney Fees
Bedbugs cause many lawsuits, according to Curtis. These legal actions can be between a landlord and tenant or even a family and a hotel.
In additional to suing for lost belongings, plaintiffs might ask for cash to cover medical bills and emotional distress, according to Bed Bug Legal Group. Over the years, large settlements have been reached between families and apartment complexes and hotels.
12. Paying More for a Nicer Place
Once people have been exposed to bedbugs, they tend to pay more money to stay in nicer apartments and hotels. Unfortunately, pricier places aren’t necessarily immune to the bedbug nightmare.
“They are actually spending more money trying to avoid that encounter again,” said Curtis. However, the truth is that bedbugs can occur in the cleanest and most upscale of places. The moral of the story is that you should save your rent money.
13. Tearing Up Your Living Space
Sadly, finding and treating bedbugs can mean taking apart your home.
Sometimes the carpet needs to be pulled away from the walls and the baseboards lifted to look for the bloodsuckers. These components might need to be removed completely if bedbugs are found.
According to Curtis, people sometimes abandon their bedbug-infested properties entirely just to rid themselves of the problem.
14. Loss of Business Revenue
When a commercial building is the target of bedbugs, the owner can easily face a loss of business — or even be forced to close up shop.
“If someone has a bad experience somewhere [with bedbugs], they can put that on social media, and people can avoid that business for a long period of time,” said Curtis.
Customers sometimes want refunds or replacement of their belongings. All in all, businesses have to invest significant sums to restore their reputations and regain customers’ trust.
15. Social Distancing
If the psychological trauma associated with a bedbug infestation is severe enough, individuals can experience a condition called ”social distancing,” in which they change their shopping habits, drop hobbies and even leave jobs due to their fear of bedbugs.
According to Curtis, people have a tendency to avoid the places where they believe they were exposed. Not only can changing jobs result in financial loss, but visiting different restaurants and shops can mean longer drives and greater gas consumption.
It’s no surprise that people experiencing social distancing and other emotional side effects of a bedbug infestation often seek professional help. If you are suffering through the bedbug nightmare, you might just find yourself footing the bill for therapy, too.