Bed Bug Battle is Not for Freelancers
Monday, June 11, 2012

When Dawn Willis moved into her new home in Buckingham she didn't realize bedbugs had moved in, too.

"I didn't know about the bedbug population; I'd never seen one in my entire life," Willis said.

When Willis told co-workers there were bugs in her home, they recommended "some guy named Chuck," who was a pest control man, Willis said.

Willis contacted Chuck, who told her he worked for a pest control company and did jobs on the side, at a cheaper price.

Chuck diagnosed the bedbug problem and said he could handle it for $300 cash, which Willis paid him.

Willis said Chuck spread some kind of powder around the house and said that would do the trick.

It didn't. The bedbugs kept up the attack. So Willis consulted another pest control guy, Joe Russello, owner of J.V. Bugs, who advised she throw out carpets and mattresses where the bugs were living and then get the home treated with a pesticide.

"In today's market there are lots of materials that are really very safe and get quick results," Russello said.

Chuck had spread around a product called diatomaceous earth, which people like because it is safe. But it also is ineffective, Russello said.

Diatomaceous earth costs about $15 for 4 pounds when ordered over the Internet. Ten pounds is all that's needed for a standard 1,800-square-foot house.

So Russello called Chuck to tell him he needed to return Willis her money.

He left a message for Chuck telling him, "You're bad for the whole industry. You need to call me back."

I called Chuck, too, but he didn't answer my call either. I'm thinking "News-Press" on the Caller ID scared him off.

Coincidentally, or maybe not, Michael Page, chief of the Bureau of Entomology for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told me people in the pest control industry call these moonlighters, "Chuck in a truck."

The Chucks have pest control ID cards but not licenses, Page said.

"They can't do any work on their own, they can only do it for a licensed pest control company," Page said.

Unfortunately, they can and do work on their own, but it's not legal. And they are unlikely to do a good job, Page said.

"A bedbug is a very difficult pest to treat," he said, and can hitchhike from a hotel room, moving truck or even your kids' school, by taking a ride on furniture, a book bag or even the cuff of your pants.

Once your home is infested with bedbugs, it's difficult to eradicate them, Page said.

The best way to avoid a bedbug infestation is to not get them into your home in the first place.

Although bedbugs aren't associated with the lack of cleanliness, they thrive in clutter, so get rid of it.

Be careful buying or bringing in used furniture.

If you travel, make sure the room is bedbug-free by checking the headboard and mattress for brown spots - a telltale sign.

After travel, put your clothes in a hot clothes dryer for 20 minutes.

Vacuum out your luggage used in your travels, seal it in a plastic bag and throw out the vacuum cleaner bag.

If you suspect you have bedbugs or want to know if they are in a place you are staying, get a bedbug monitor that will trap the insects. It won't get them all, but it will tell you if they are there and how big of a problem you have.

If you have bedbugs, you need to hire a company specialized in treating bedbugs, you don't need a Chuck-in-a-truck.

And here's a final point I'd like to make on using people like Chuck.

If a guy tells you he can do the job for you cheaper than his boss, you need to call his boss and tell him about the offer. This guy is a liar and a cheat. And if he's ripping off the people he works for, it's just a matter of time before he rips you off too.