Callback Cures: Controlling Bed Bugs that Aren’t There


January 5, 2016

Bed bug callbacks can be time consuming and costly. Because of the emotional impact bed bug infestations can have on clients, pest management professionals (PMPs) are conditioned to respond quickly to customer concerns when bites continue after service has been completed. One rule of structural pest management is to identify the target pest before treatment. But when panicky clients call to describe the sleepless night they’ve endured, it can be tempting to skip the inspection and jump directly to treat mode.

Three words of advice: Don’t do it.

When it comes to biting pests such as bed bugs, there are many explanations for bites that are beyond the list of problems PMPs can resolve. The actual bed bug concern might be alleviated, but the psychological effects of the infestation might remain. Having bed bugs can be traumatic for clients, and the lingering suspicion these bloodthirsty pests are lurking in the shadows can remain well after they’re gone. To ensure a client requires a follow-up treatment beyond the standard protocol, confirm bugs are still present before making an application. If no bugs are present and perceived bites are reported, no pest management treatment will help — the irritation might be caused by other sources, such as chemical irritants, skin infections or even the customer’s home remedies applied in desperation.

All reports of bed bugs should be taken seriously, but if no live bugs are found during an inspection, recommend an ongoing monitoring program. Also, counsel clients about alternative explanations for their concerns. If a client calls back, inspect the premises first. Never make an application for a pest that doesn’t exist.

You can reach Dr. Jim Fredericks, VP of technical and regulatory affairs for the National Pest Management Association, at

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