""It’s a nice sunny day and your staff is on the road with no delays. Just as you start feeling really good about the day, the phone rings.

“We found a live bug crawling on our daughter’s pillow,” the customer says. “You guys just came out and treated our home for bed bugs. If it was such a good method to control the problem, why is it happening again?”

What could have gone wrong?

  • Bed bugs may have lived through the treatment or were not quite dead (“walking dead”). It is possible that during the application the bugs were not exposed to enough chemical or heat, causing the customer to find them 7 to 10 days after the treatment was completed. More times than not, they have received a fatal amount of exposure; it just takes time for the chemical or heat to work. Sometimes this is difficult for a customer to understand, especially when they find them near a sensitive area, like a child’s pillow. While they may be hesitant at first, it is part of the process that the customer needs to have explained to them so they understand.
  • Bed bug was shielded. This can be caused by excessive clutter in the treatment area.
  • Re-introduction. The bed bugs may have hitched a ride on the customer when they left the treatment area and were then re-introduced.
  • Adjacent units of an apartment or condo. Bed bugs can infiltrate the treated area from adjacent, untreated rooms.

Questions to Ask.

What to ask the customer in this situation:

  • Is this the first bug that you have seen since the treatment?
  • How long has it been since your last treatment?
  • Can you please name everything you removed from the area prior to treatment? (This can include, but is not limited to, purses, wallets, backpacks, electronics, books, etc.)
  • Have you visited any hospitals, nursing homes or places that have had a bed bug problem in the past?
  • Have you recently been to a movie theater or traveled via public transit?
  • Since the treatment, have you purchased any second-hand furniture?
  • Was your vehicle treated?

Right now, bed bugs are one of the toughest pests to treat and prevent. Because of this, even though these questions can get to the problem, not every customer will have the answers you need.

Control Advice.

Bed bugs are the hitchhikers of the pest world. They can catch a ride on a child’s backpack or in a piece of luggage. This makes preventing them a difficult task because they can survive treatments and get reintroduced once the treatment has been provided.

The curative treatment of bed bugs is a problem because containing them to a specific area is difficult. If customers are not well educated on the dangers, you are at a high risk of re-introducing the pest after insecticides, heat or fumigation treatments have been administered.

It is impossible to simply point at the source of the bed bug problem. As professionals, we need to provide services to reassure the customer. Visual or bed bug detection canine inspections, which are much more thorough, are highly recommended. Once the inspection is complete, we must take the time to explain the situation to the customer and provide details for future treatment.

Remember, just because the customer has seen activity, it does not necessarily mean the treatment has failed. Ask the customer to collect the bug, in a plastic bag, for later inspection.

Customers are often curious about the warranty associated with the treatment. Some companies may provide a 30-day warranty for a one-time service, or an ongoing warranty for a continued program.

Final Thoughts.

In closing, education is key to preventing your company and staff from running out to a customer’s home every time the phone rings. Bed bugs are infesting more and more areas of our country and are known to be a problem in all parts of our daily lives. Anywhere, including the Laundromat, movie theater or even your place of work, can be a location infested with bed bugs. It is important, as a pest control provider, to understand the potential for re-infestation to both protect your company and educate customers on how to protect themselves.

About the author.

Jason Everitt is technical director for Rottler Pest & Lawn Solutions in St. Louis, Mo. He has been with the firm for 20 years and is a member of the Copesan Technical Committee. He has completed his ACE (Associate Certified Entomologist) certification through ESA. He describes himself as “a school of hard knocks guy” who has enjoyed every moment of working his way up from service technician to sales representative to commercial technician supervisor to branch manager.

Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit www.copesan.com.