"Whether you live in Arlington, Alexandria or Fairfax County, bed bug problems are seen throughout the area. Luckily, there are many local resources available providing experienced exterminators, advice from government agencies and do it yourself options. Bed bugs have been found in dormitories, homes, apartments, hotels and camps across the State."
Like the rest of the United States, cases of bed bugs are being reported throughout Virginia. If you are a homeowner, the best approach to bed bug treatment is to call in an experienced exterminator (see resources below). This can cost $1000 or more depending on if heat treatment is used. It is possible to treat smaller infestations yourself, with instructions provided below. Given the difficulty of treating for bed bugs, we always recommend calling an exterminator.
For tenants fighting an apartment based infestation, follow this advice including the need to notify your landlord in writing that treatment is required.
Hiring a Pest Control Expert in Virginia
The National Pest Management Association reports that bed bugs are considered by exterminators to be the toughest insects to find and kill. It can take an exterminator an entire day and 2 to 3 treatments to completely remove bed bugs from a home or apartment.
For this reason we always suggest considering a professional exterminator first. The cost can be high, which is why it always pays to get several quotes (treatments in the Virginia area can cost up to $1,000 or more).
We also suggest getting several quotes since experience levels, guarantees (be sure to ask for one) and approaches vary (some use sprays, others use heat). The use of a bed bug sniffing dog to find the insects (not required, but very accurate), can cost several hundred dollars.
When hiring a pest control expert, the good news is that getting quotes is easy from a network such as Home Advisor. Virginia based members of the network are checked to make sure that they are both licensed and insured. Callers will receive up to 3 free quotes, saving time and money.
We also suggest searching our bed bug exterminator listings for Virginia pest control experts. The same page includes questions to ask when interviewing an exterminator.
You can also check consumer reviews for licensed bed bug exterminator experts on Angies List.
Steps for Eliminating Bed Bugs From Your Home, Office or Apartment Independently
Treatment Process Overview
First look for signs of bed bugs and confirm the pest either yourself or through a professional before beginning any treatment. Often times bed bugs and their eggs cannot be seen by people and the naked human eye. Bed bugs can only be effectively removed with the correct combination of products. These can be economically purchased in an organic bed bug kit, or an insecticide based bed bed kit. The type you purchase is a matter of taste. In our opinion, both will work, however, the insecticide based kit will require less work and fewer repeat treatments.
The kits provide all of the products mentioned below and are an economical way to approach the problem. Getting rid of bed bugs is hard work, and having the right products available will help. These products include:
Required Bed Bug Sprays:
Knock down contact spray to kill bed bugs and eggs on contact. Sprays must be marked mattress safe. Both kits mention contain at least one mattress safe spray. We recommend Sterifab (insecticide) or Bed Bug Patrol (organic). Sterifab has been tested to work against all bed bugs, even ones in the Northeast that can be insecticide resistant.
A residual spray provides several weeks of protection and is applied after application of the knock down spray. The contact spray mentioned above reduces the size of the bed bug population, while the residual spray kills any bed bugs you might have missed. Note that in an organic kit, bed bug dust is applied in a thin layer after the first spray is used. Always follow the manufacturer's directions.
Apply Bed Bug Dust:
Even after using a residual spray, a thin layer of bed bug dust (also called fossil dust) is a good natural way to add some extra protection against bed bugs. The dust clings to the bed bug, eventually killing them. In terms of residual sprays we recommend Phantom, as it has also been tested against insecticide resistant bed bugs. Fossil dust can be purchased by clicking the link or from a local garden store (also called diatomaceous earth).
Step by Step Treatment Instructions:
Before starting these steps it is important to inspect your whole house for possible infested areas and any signs of bedbugs. Often times they are close to the bedroom hiding in cracks and crevices, behind pictures, electronics, under the bed, etc. For a complete guide visit our "how to kill bed bugs" page.
Step 1: Clean
Remove and wash any items such as clothing in hot water. Once clean, place in a sealed plastic bag. Vacuum any bed bugs that you can spot and then dispose of the vacuum bag inside another sealed plastic bag.
Be sure to vacuum along baseboards and even inside any furniture that is within 10 feet of the bed. To be thorough, it is always a wise idea to do the entire room.
If you have a good hand steamer, go over the entire bed and box spring. Apply steam for 20 seconds in each area. The heat will kill bed bugs and eggs.
Select a safe area away from the treatment room where you can place treated items such as the mattress.
Step 2: Spray
Using a safe spray, get in between cracks and along seams in mattresses. After the mattress dries, buy a zippered casing to trap any remaining bugs (available from the same company). Move the mattress to a "safe" area out of the treatment area.
If you have night tables, remove contents on top of remaining box spring. Wash what you can, and dispose of all items that are not needed. Items that cannot be washed can be placed in a freezer for 5 days to make sure that they are bed bug free.
Treat the box spring next. Be sure to treat behind any plastic corner guards and labels. Turn over and peel back any fabric and treat inside the box spring. After treatment (spray followed by steam), move the box spring into a "safe" area so that you can treat the bed frame and nearby furniture.
After treating and allowing the box spring and mattress to dry, place zippered covers over the mattress and box spring covers. These covers will trap and kill any bed bugs and eggs that you might have missed. It is not necessary to throw out your mattress, we would either cover or dispose of pillows as these are cheaper items.
Step 3: Use Bed Bug Dust
Spread fossil dust around the room in a thin layer using a dust applicator and dust mask if you have them (always a good idea in general). If any bugs are left or if any eggs haven't hatched, the dust will attach to the bed bugs shell and kill them.
See our guide for detailed instructions on eliminating bed bugs.
It can take 2 to 3 treatments. If an infestation is large and has deeply entered the walls, be sure to call an exterminator such as those registered with Home Advisor or call (866) 214-8380. In this case professional grade bed bug pesticides or the use of heat (an exterminator will seal a room or home and use heat units to bring the air temperature to 120F, the level needed to kill bed bugs). Other exterminators use freezing carbon dioxide spray, also an effective method.
To make sure that bed bugs are gone, or to determine the relative size of an infestation, low cost traps can help. For example, climbup bed bug traps are placed under each bed leg. If the traps stay clear for 2 to 3 weeks, then the infestation is gone.
Virginia Landlord Tenant Bed Bug Related Rights
The first step in any bed bugs Virginia resident tenant request, regardless of cause, is to request a bed bug inspection and treatment in writing. Be sure to date the request. Indicate in the letter that you expect that the treatment/inspection will not "exceed thirty days."
Unfortunately, bed bugs are not specifically defined in the Virginia Landlord and Tenant handbook (PDF). While landlords must "Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition", it is also the obligation of tenants to "Keep that part of the dwelling unit and the part of the premises that he occupies free from insects and pests, as those terms are defined in Â§ 3.2-3900, and to promptly notify the landlord of the existence of any insects or pests."
When bed bugs are found, all adjacent units must be inspected, since it is possible that your bed bug problem came from a next door apartment, or an apartment that is above or below yours. Because bed bugs can spread through the walls, multiple apartments may need to be treated. See our guide to bed bug apartment issues and treatment.
The difficulty is reinforced by an old NBC report regarding Fairfax Bed Bugs that features a quote from a Fairfax County Health Department official that states that "while they can't force landlords to take action, they will follow up on the two residents who have complained." In this case, they were referring to a bed bug infestation at the Circle Towers, which was treated after tenant complaints were received.
Because of this dual obligation when dealing with bed bugs in Virginia or anywhere, it pays to consult with the legal resources below to determine who pays for bed bug related treatment.
Bed Bugs Virginia legal Resources:
If you need an attorney to represent you in a landlord tenant dispute related to bed bugs and you cannot afford a lawyer, you can call the Virginia Legal Aid Society at 1.-866-534-5243 (1.434.528.4722 alternative number).
Other offices that can provide advice include:
Virginia Fair Housing Office (1.888.551.3247 or 1.804.367.8530).
Fairfax County Tenant Landlord Commission (1.703.222.8435).
For an attorney referral contact the Virginia State Bar Lawyer Referral Service (1.800.552.7977 or 1.804.775.0808).
Bed Bug Related Government Resources in Virginia
For bed bug complaints call the Community Health and Safety Division of the Fairfax County Health Department: 703-246-2300
Arlington Human Services - Bed Bugs Information. You can also download this guide to Getting Rid of Bed Bugs. (PDF download)
Fairfax county has also developing a pamphlet on how to identify and control bed bugs (PDF download). Residents can contact the Fairfax department of health at 703-246-2300.
Virginia Department of Health Office of Epidemiology and Office of Environmental Health offers advice on how to deal with bed bug problems in Virginia.
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