Customers often mistake carpet beetles (right) for bed bugs.

Most customers are not entomologists, nor do they have the knowledge base or experience of a PMP. So when someone calls to report bed bugs, it’s important to make sure that’s truly the pest they’re dealing with. They might mistake any number of pests — carpet beetles, spider beetles, booklice or even fleas — for bed bugs. That’s why Terminator Pest Control invites its website visitors and social media audience to share photos of the pest they believe to be a bed bug.

“The ID is critical, and we want to make it as easy as possible for people to know whether or not the insects they’re seeing in their home are bed bugs,” says Terminator’s Kyle Stiemsma. “They often send us photos, although they’re not usually of the highest quality. In those cases, we ask if they’re ever in the area of our office to drop off a sample or if they’d like us to stop and pick up a sample. Sometimes what they show us are bat bugs, which are tough to differentiate from bed bugs without a microscope. When they have bat bugs, we recommend a different course of action, beginning with an inspection of their attic and other potential roosting places.”

As for misunderstanding bed bugs, although some progress has been made in educating the public about them, the notion continues that bed bugs are related to filth. “You need to be sympathetic and help them overcome this misconception,” says Joe Smith of Kingfish Pest Control. “People always ask me, ‘How did we get these?’ I explain that bed bugs are hitchhikers — that they can be transported by you, another household member or a friend who comes for a visit. I ask if they’ve been to a hotel or a movie theater, or even on a bus. Once they realize that you can pick up bed bugs anywhere — in a bus station or a five-star hotel — they begin to understand that it’s not a stigma.”