Chicago vs. Bed Bugs

Advocating policy to control the spread of bed bugs in the City of Chicago

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Bed Bug Q & A With Smithereen Pest Management

Posted by Jessica on January 26, 2009

Readers, we recently had the opportunity to talk about our favorite subject (I’m using the word ‘favorite’ very loosely here, for the record) with the professionals at Smithereen Pest Management, a Chicago-based company that specializes in treating bed bug infestations.  We asked them a ton of questions and we got a ton of really good answers in return.  These people know their stuff!

So listen up, Chicagoans.  Here’s what your local experts have to say about bed bug infestations:

On Bed Bugs in General

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: If you could tell the general public one thing about bed bugs, what would it be?

Smithereen: Bed bugs don’t see social status, they see a blood meal. Anybody and everybody is at risk to have bed bugs.

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: Would you like to comment on the stigma associated with bed bugs?

Smithereen: This pest is not associated with cleanliness or social status; it occurs where people occur, all people.  Although there is a stigma associated with bed bugs, we must overcome this perception and realize that anybody and everybody can get bed bugs.

On the Spread of Bed Bugs in the City of Chicago (and elsewhere)

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: Can you estimate the increase in calls to Smithereen from Chicagoans in need of service for bed bugs?  Can you give us a comparison between the number of these calls in 2007 and in 2008?

Smithereen: Bed bug jobs increased 3 fold between 2007 and 2008.  This number has been on a steep rise for the past few years.

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: Author and biologist Bill Schutt recently told MSNBC “Within the next two or three years, bed bugs are going to elbow termites and roaches out of the way to become the No. 1 pest in the United States.”  Do you believe that this statement is valid?

Smithereen: We agree that bed bugs will be one of the biggest pests of our generation because of the complexity and difficulty of elimination.

On Treatment Procedures

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: How long does an inspection for a bed bug infestation by Smithereen technicians typically take? Is this something customers should consider when hiring a pest management company to treat a bed bug infestation?

Smithereen: From 30 minutes to 90 minutes. It depends on how much “stuff” the occupants have. The inspection is integral and is very thorough since a light infestation of bed bugs can be easy to miss. The eggs and nymphs are difficult to see and bed bugs are secretive and hide in difficult to see areas. A pest management company should provide the customer with information and a list of cooperative steps to be taken before the company starts treatment.

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: What happens if Smithereen’s technicians don’t find evidence of a bed bug infestation upon completion of an initial inspection?  I’ve heard landlords and property managers talk about companies that treat “infestations that don’t exist”.  I think this is a common concern among people who are financially responsible for eliminating bed bug infestations– that they’ll pay a lot of money for a problem that might not exist.

Smithereen: If we don’t find any evidence of bed bugs we will not do a treatment. This is a Smithereen policy and is part of our IPM strategy.

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: We believe that integrated pest management (IPM) plans are the best approach to controlling bed bug infestations.  What tools, besides pesticide application, does Smithereen use to treat bed bug infestations?

Smithereen: IPM is integral to any pest issue, bed bugs included.  We rely on variety traditional methods as well as vacuuming, steam cleaning, thorough dust application, as well as customer cooperation.  We use this battery of tactics to aide in the successful elimination of bed bugs from a unit and we are constantly looking for better methods and protocols.  Since bed bugs are increasingly difficult to control, having as many weapons against them is the course of action that all customers should keep in mind when deciding on a pest management company.  Combating bed bugs takes cooperation, patience, and time.

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: Do bed bug infestations typically require more than one treatment?  Does Smithereen automatically return for a follow-up treatment after the initial treatment?

Smithereen: In almost all cases, it will take more than one treatment.  Bed bugs are adapted to be elusive and so it is almost impossible to get them all in the first round. Smithereen automatically does a follow-up inspection with treatment if activity seen. The problem is with the eggs, these can be attached to manner of surfaces and hatch out five days after the original treatment.  If no further activity is recorded Smithereen will not schedule any further treatment.

On “Cloverleafing”

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: Smithereen’s Service Agreement For the Treatment of Bed Bugs mentions “cloverleafing”.  What is cloverleafing and why is it important for controlling bed bug infestations in multi-unit dwellings?

Smithereen: Cloverleafing is a process by which we inspect all units that come into contact with the infested unit: above, below, side to side, and kitty corner.  This is invaluable since bed bugs have the ability to move between apartments, we want to be sure we catch all potential infestations early.

On Customer Cooperation

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: Smithereen’s Service Agreement for the Treatment of Bed Bugs mentions customer obligations, and includes four pages of instructions for customers to follow in order to prepare for bed bug treatment.  Why is customer participation so important for controlling bed bug infestations?

Smithereen: Customer participation and cooperation are vital in the elimination of bed bugs.  Bed bugs are found not only in the bed but can be in a variety of places within a living space.  Since we cannot treat every possession, we ask our customers to wash, dry, and bag many of their personal belongings before we arrive.

On the Cost of Controlling Bed Bug Infestations

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: Can you tell us why bed bug infestations are so expensive to control?  Why does a thorough, comprehensive treatment plan for bed bug infestations cost so much more than treatment for other pests, like roaches or ants?

Smithereen: The price comes with the time and thoroughness required for the process, as well as the expertise necessary.  This is not an easy problem to solve and most likely will take multiple visits.  It is also important to remember that this is not a sanitation or structural related pest, this is a parasite that occurs where humans occur.

On Saving Money in the Long Run

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: We’ve asserted (many times) that landlords and/or property managers could save themselves a lot of money by contracting with a pest management company that specializes in treating bed bug infestations as soon as a bed bug infestation is reported to them.  Do you agree?

Smithereen: The key to stopping the problem from grabbing hold of any building is to correctly respond to the first outbreak.  Quick competent action will stop the insect from spreading.  It would be wise to hire a company that is experienced in dealing with bed bugs infestations.

On Public Education and Policy

Chicago vs. Bed Bugs: A new bed bug bill was recently introduced by New York’s City Council.  The bill, if passed, would require the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to establish a training program for pest control technicians who treat bed bug infestations.  Do you think the City of Chicago as a whole would benefit from a similar program?

Smithereen: What we think is most beneficial is to have companies that perform bed bug jobs to be the best trained and experienced for the job. We believe any industry training should come predominantly from within the pest control industry, since they have the most practical experience in dealing with the problem. Health Department officials can play a vital part in training the general public how to recognize signs of bed bug infestation and how to correctly respond once the problem has been diagnosed.

And there you have it, folks.  Good information from a pest management company that’s known for getting the job done, and getting it done right.

We thank the experts at Smithereen Pest Management, especially Sara Kantarovich, for their graciousness, their willingness to help us disseminate good information to the public, and for answering every last one of our many, many, many questions.  We really appreciate it!

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13 Responses to “Bed Bug Q & A With Smithereen Pest Management”

  1. […] of Chicago vs Bed Bugs has a very nice and wide-ranging interview with a Chicago pest management firm—Smithereen, who not only have a great name but have been […]

  2. Great job, Jessica, and thanks to the folks at Smithereen for doing this.

    And, haha, as you can imagine, we’re just gonna have to extend the conversation on the training question! But that’s exactly why this is great, thanks so much.

  3. Jessica said

    Thank YOU, Renee, for linking to our Smithereen Q & A, for commenting here on the website, and for sharing your words of encouragement.

    Yes, we’re just gonna HAVE to extend the conversation on the training question– in New York, first, apparently!

    Speaking of, you’re making some progress over there in NYC, aren’t you? Expect a post about that shortly…

    🙂

  4. […] An excellent interview with a Chicago pest control firm about their bed bug work, and the rapid spre… […]

  5. nobugs said

    Excellent work, Jessica! It is great that Smithereen took the time to have this conversation. You and Renee are inspiring me to undertake some interviews of pest firms.

  6. Wonderful interview! I totally heart Smithereen. I recommend them to anyone and everyone! In Chai-town it is my contention that these are the best for these little monsters.
    I’m so glad they are helping to get the word out. 🙂

  7. Jessica said

    Thanks Nobugs! Good to see you here.

    Yes, it was wonderful of Smithereen to take the time to answer our questions so thoroughly, wasn’t it?

    I hope you do interview some pest firms and post the interviews on Bedbugger. It’s a great way to share good, credible information with the public.

  8. Ramona said

    Thanks so much for this candid interview. I would be interested in seeing their 4 page checklist that they hand out to clients before they spray. I am sure it is on the FAQ but it would be nice to see what they require from their clients.

  9. Jessica said

    Polly, welcome. Your blog is awesome! I haven’t gotten through all of it yet, but from what I can tell, it’s honest and straightforward and just such a good illustration of what people who experience bed bug infestations go through. Believe me, I know!

    I’m so glad you wrote about it publicly. It’s difficult for people who’ve never been through it– or known someone who’s been through it– to understand just how stressful and maddening (and financially draining!) bed bug infestations can be.

    Are you in Chicago?

    I’m happy you stopped by, and I hope you do so again. You’re a trooper!

    🙂

  10. Jessica said

    Ramona, it’s so good to hear from you again! I hope that all is well in your son’s apartment.

    I don’t know if Smithereen’s instructions are posted publicly anywhere– did you check their website? The version of the instructions I saw was in their customer contract.

    Smithereen’s customer instructions were very, very detailed. I think they were similar to many of the instructions in New York State IPM’s Best Management Practices for Controlling Bed Bugs, which you can read if you follow the link. They’re not identical, mind you, but close.

    Take care, and let us know how it’s going, okay?

  11. nobugs said

    Smithereen were very generous with their time, Jessica!

    Both WindyCityMike and S (from Bedbugger) both used this firm, as I recall.

  12. Jessica:

    Thanks for the compliment on my blog. It’s totally Polly’s decent into madness. Even being only a few weeks recovered (totally how I feel), I find it emberassing to read those words. I’m usually a pretty mellow gal – I can’t believe I got so angry.

    I’m Chicago(ish). I was living in DuPage county when my home was infested, I ran away to Will county (which appears to have a worse problem, I see mattress curbside along every street pretty much daily – scary!) I’m working on starting an informative campaing in town. A local PCO there said they get like 20 calls a day (and that’s a small, relatively unknown company). I’ll definitely be spending some time here even though I’m not living in the city.

    You guys are doing awesome work! Whatever help you need from us almost in the styx types – you’ve got!

  13. Jessica said

    Hey Polly!

    I completely understand the descent into madness. 🙂

    I’m not surprised you got so angry. It’s really, really taxing to have to deal with all the crap that comes along with bed bugs, you know? As if HAVING bed bugs isn’t enough to drive you nuts, right?

    I’m glad you’re working on starting an informative campaign and I will do anything I can to help you. Please feel free to ask for anything you need, okay? I really admire you for turning a negative experience into a positive outlet. Helping others– by working to inform them so that they can protect themselves– is such an awesome thing for you to do.

    Thanks for the words of encouragement, and remember, you’ve got whatever help you need from us city types, too!

    🙂

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