Kansas City pest control companies see surge in bedbug calls to businesses, homes
Kansas City Business Journal
Monday, June 6, 2011
Bedbugs once again are showing up in hotels, homes and
businesses in the Kansas City metro area - and that means big
business for pest control companies.
Darryl Franke, owner of Kansas City-based SOS Pest Control, said
he has seen an "amazing increase" in bedbug calls.
"We've done as much business in May as we did all of last year,"
Franke gets 15 to 20 phone calls about bedbugs a week - as many
bedbug calls as he received in all of 2007.
Franke projected that he will make $500,000 to $750,000 this
year from bedbug work alone. Four years ago, bedbug work brought in
According to the National Pest Management Association, 95 percent of
pest control companies have encountered bedbugs during the past
year. Before the turn of the millennium, 25 percent of companies
reported encounters with the pests.
"Before 2000, pest control companies probably didn't know what
to look for," said Leo Williams, sales manager for Kansas City
Bedbugs were reintroduced to the United States in recent years,
Compared with last year, Terminix has seen a 100 percent
increase in the number of calls concerning bedbug extermination,
Through May 31 this year, Terminix received 242 calls about
bedbugs in residential and commercial locations. During the same
period in 2010, the company recorded 104 bedbug calls.
Revenue rose 114 percent during the period, Williams said,
though he didn't provide an exact figure.
Bedbug calls have been a "pretty steady mix" of homes and
businesses, he said, adding that any place with a high turnover of
people is likely to be at risk, including hotels, apartments,
nursing homes, homeless shelters and others.
Part of the increase is due to a decreasing stigma about
bedbugs, Williams said. Three to five years ago, he said, people
were embarrassed to admit they had bedbugs. Now, they just want to
get rid of them and have it over with.
But "bedbugs are some of the best hitchhikers in the world," he
said, which means they could be eradicated yet show up again a year
If infestations happen six or seven months apart, it's probably
a new infestation, Williams said.
Franke said peak bedbug season isn't until August.
Traditionally, pest control companies make two-thirds of their
bedbug calls between August and October.
And there's no prevention method.
"For now, it's 100 percent reactive," Williams said. "We can't
treat them unless we know they're there."
Exterminating bedbugs isn't cheap, but different approaches vary in
Multifaceted approaches such as Terminix uses typically cost $500
to $700 a room for a commercial building, said Leo Williams, sales
manager for Terminix Kansas City. It involves pesticides,
vacuuming, steaming and education. The cost can add up depending on
the size of the infestation.
An approach used by SOS Pest Control involves using technology to
heat a structure to 130 degrees. Owner Darryl Franke said a bedbug
dies in one minute in temperatures of 122 degrees. Franke said the
average cost of heating a 1,500-square-foot infested location is
about $1,200. The price can increase or decrease based on the size
of the infested area and how crammed it is with furniture.
But no matter the approach, both agreed that education is
important. The consumer should know where the bedbugs came from and
how to prevent a new infestation, they said.
"You don't want to treat it until you know the cause," Franke