No one is safe. Not a New Yorker. Not an Angeleno. Not a person who has been in a hotel room. Not a soul. While I sit here and freak out about the call I got earlier from my roommate (“I think I found a bed bug”) and the subsequent follow-up call (“Nevermind, it’s a beetle”), let’s figure out what this nightmare costs.
The site Bedbug Pest Control provides tips for dealing with an infestation:
Since bed bugs are very sensitive to heat, a steam cleaner is the best way to safely kill them on contact. A steam cleaner such as a McCulloch Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner is powerful enough to get over 140 degrees Fahrenheit and will kill the bugs without toxins and leaves no residue.
Steam Cleaner list price: $150, or $99 on Amazon.
You’ll want to protect your box spring and mattress with something like the Sleep Defense System ($23.95 on Amazon for the box spring, plus $38 for the waterproof mattress cover). Even then, though, you’ll probably want to bring in a professional, which can run you $100 or more for the inspection and $500-$1000 for treatment.
TOTAL COST: $765-$1,765
Eliminating the infestation was by far the largest expense I have had while living in Los Angeles.
Here’s that breakdown: My landlord is legally responsible to pay for my extermination (a very good landlord will even put you up in a hotel while they fumigate your place, FYI), but he is dodging the $180 bill and I am too tired to fight about it. The cleaning service was another $200. I will be replacing the mattress and box spring I threw away when I am confident they are gone. Until then, I’m crashing on a reasonably priced and fairly comfortable air mattress. Don’t make that face. I’m fine. …
… I’ve also sunk a TimeWarner bill’s worth of cash into hydrocortisone, which I use as a moisturizer when I get out of the shower. …
… Then there are the clothes. I did over twenty loads of laundry in a two-day period. I had to figure out what my belongings meant to me because everything I kept was a liability. …
… Everything I kept had to be packed away in 2-gallon Ziploc bags. That whole process, between the bags and the quarters, totaled another hundred bucks. My time is very valuable, and it cost a lot of that too. …
From the comments of Jasmine Moy’s 2010 Awl article, “How I Fought Bedbugs and Won”
• From the comments of Tara Parker-Pope’s 2009 New York Times post “The High Price of Bed Bugs”
(This last comment is probably bullshit but it makes me feel better, slightly.)
(Also: I’m declaring bed bugs a get-your-credit-card-back-from-Mike-Dang level emergency, should the beetle turn out to be something more terrible.)