When PCT surveyed pest management professionals in 2017, 71 percent were offering bed bug services. As of 2022, that number has risen a sizable 15 percent, as a significant majority of PMPs — 86 percent — now consider bed bug work to be meaningful enough to make it part of their businesses.
“When bed bugs first became a widespread issue, it was disastrous; nobody wanted to treat them,” said Greg Stephens of Ultra Pest Control in Huntington, W.Va. “In part, that was because we didn’t have the chemistries we have today. The difference in the quality of the products we used five or 10 years ago versus what’s available now is remarkable. We also didn’t have the knowledge or training we needed to eliminate bed bugs. Since then, we’ve had access to seminars, books, online classes and trial and error — all of which have helped us learn how to manage them successfully.”
John Young of Speed Exterminating Company in Cleveland, Ohio, remembers those early days, too. “In apartment buildings, we would find that we were just repelling the bed bugs with the pyrethroids we were using. They would scatter and infest other units. That’s why so many companies started turning to heat treatments,” he said. “We looked at it a different way. I knew my great- grandfather had solved this problem without expensive heat equipment back in his day, and I was determined to find the way that would work for us generations later. When dual-action chemistries came along, we knew we had hit on something; we’ve kept them in play ever since.”
Education on the consumer side has made a positive difference in the bed bug game as well, said Stephens. The stigma of having bed bugs has waned, and people are more likely to call while their infestation is manageable. “When I started treating bed bugs seven years ago, customers would ask whether we had bed bug images on our truck. They didn’t want their neighbors knowing why we were there,” he said. “That doesn’t happen much anymore. Consumers are much more educated today, plus everybody seems to know somebody who has had bed bugs. They know that person doesn’t live in filth, and that helps them understand that anyone can get bed bugs.”
Stephens, who said bed bug work accounts for more than a third of his business, has a lot of success with his “Don’t let the bed bugs bite” yard sign awareness campaign, which not only advertises but normalizes bed bug control services. “Bringing the topic out into the open makes people feel more comfortable about their own circumstances,” he said. “They know they’re calling a friendly, nonjudgmental company who really wants to help them solve their bed bug issue.”