For Apartment Living, Bed Bug Control is a Must

If you rent or lease a unit in a multi-family dwelling or apartment building, you will need to consider some unique requirements to help ensure a successful bed bug control program.

You will need to work collaboratively with a well qualified pest control company, the property manager and your neighbors to have the best chance for solving a bed bug problem.

While it may be embarrassing for both tenant and landlord to address a bed bug problem, it is imperative that you work together and with neighbors so that the problem is not spread during the course of treatment from your unit.

It’s important to inspect the surrounding apartment units when treating a bed bug infestation.

I cannot tell you that you shouldn’t be embarrassed. Only you can gauge and control the way in which you emotionally handle the problem. Just know that you aren’t the first and won’t be the last to acquire a bed bug infestation.

The possibility that other apartments have a bed bug problem is fairly high. These tenants and the landlord may be keeping very quiet about their problem, but this is the wrong approach. All units surrounding the infested unit need to be inspected.

In the figure below, you are the apartment dweller in unit 2B. Units 2A, 2C, 1B and 3B must be inspected and should have a preventive treatment. It wouldn’t hurt to extend the search to all nine units.

Landlords and property managers should be aware that not inspecting and treating the surrounding units may be considered a sub-standard treatment.

Unit 3 A
Unit 3 B
Unit 3 CUnit 2 A
Unit 2 B – You
Unit 2 CUnit 1 A
Unit 1 B
Unit 1 C

If there are other units in the building with an infestation, the landlord or property manager should seriously consider treating the entire building room by room or by both a whole structure treatment (such as fumigation or heat), plus a post treatment room by room.

Be aware that rules and regulations are now being promulgated that set treatment standards such as in multi-unit dwellings. See our government section for San Francisco Bed Bug Rules and Regulations, as an example.

While bed bugs can hide in extremely unlikely places, a well trained and hard working pest control technician can solve the problem with the timely coordinated cooperation of all parties.

Each tenant will need to supply the pest control inspector with a clear and full accounting of his or her activities that perhaps led to the infestation.

Apartment complexes with high turnover rates may have more issues with bed bugs being transferred from tenant to tenant.

The technician will want to know:

  • Have you been traveling and do you plan to travel again? If so, what methods of transportation do you use and where do you stay?
  • Have you had visitors, who stopped along the way at a hotel or motel or used public transportation?
  • Do any members of the family live in group settings, such as college dorms or camps?
  • Have any members of your family been in heavily trafficked facilities or public venues?
  • When did the infestation start? What was happening at that time? How long has the infestation continued?
  • Have you been self-treating with non-chemical approaches or with pesticides?
  • Does your family have any special needs or accommodations that would have to be made, particularly for any medical or health problems?
  • Have you switched apartment units within the building?

You will need to review your belongings against a list of items to keep or to dispose of according to set procedures so as not to spread the infestation. Are you willing to follow a very detailed protocol in preparation for the treatment?

The process is much like packing up and moving, but in this case, you will be making the walls and floors accessible and bagging up anything that will be removed.

Items for disposal must be clearly marked as bed bug infested, so that there is no possibility that they will be picked up for second hand use. If you will be disposing of the mattress and box spring, these items must be clearly marked as bed bug infested and not for use. These items will certainly need to be covered and sealed before disposal. It is imperative that they not be removed in a manner that might spread the infestation, such as by dragging.

Clothing will need to be bagged and taken to the laundromat at time of treatment and washed in a hot cycle for an extended period of time. Place you clothing directly in the washer. Do not let your clothing linger on the counter.

The timing of these activities must coincide with that of the pest service and with all other tenants having treatments.

If your apartment or that of your fellow apartment dwellers is not completely prepared for the treatment, it is unlikely that the pest control technician will provide the service. To do so would invite futility.

You should ask and receive a detailed plan of attack by the pest control company.

Landlords and property managers must be equally as honest and forthcoming as tenants when providing background information regarding the infestation.

  • Have there been other pest control companies treating the infestation? If so, complete information must be provided regarding the time of treatments, the extent of the treatment and materials used. You should review why prior treatments failed.
  • Has property management been self-treating? If so, explain?
  • What manual methods have been used? Has bedding been moved from unit to unit. What has been the process for disposal of infested furniture?
  • Be sure to address how common areas are utilized. Have them inspected. Special prevention and treatment procedures will likely be required for common areas, such as laundry rooms.

Landlords and property managers have the arduous task of being sure that all apartment dwellers are properly informed and prepared for treatment.

There is no one right way to do a bed bug treatment, but there certainly are wrong ways. First, the work must be extremely thorough. It is wise for the technician to combine different methods and/or tools to accomplish the job.

If you do not receive a preparation work sheet, you are contracting with the wrong company.

Often more than one service is required and you should be prepared for this likelihood. There are skilled technicians who, though not always, are able to have success in one treatment. A follow up service is highly advisable, if only to monitor the results.

Techniques used may involve both chemical and non-chemical treatment methods.

Vacuums have been used successfully to remove bed bugs and bed bug egg casings manually.

Steamers and more recently freezing devices (Cryonite) have been used effectively to kill bed bugs and bed bug egg casings manually.

The difficulty with vacuums, steamers and freezing devices is that direct contact or very close contact is required. That is simply not always possible. Often the bed bug casings adhere so tightly to a surface that vacuums will not remove them or they may be so recessed in a location as to be concealed and inaccessible to treatment. Bed bug treatments tend to utilize large quantities of pesticides, so these non-chemical methods can go a long way to resolving the problem and if not eliminating pesticides, certainly reducing the need. These manual methods are similar to non-residual chemical pyrethroids in that they have no lasting impact against any surviving bedbugs.

Among chemical methods, there are a limited number of products labeled for use with bed bugs or for the sites where bed bugs reside. Currently recommended products include Suspend or Cykick for general spray treatment, Gentrol as an insect growth regulator to stop the maturation and reproductive cycle of the insect and PB-300 or PB Fogger to act as a chemical mist that can penetrate the deepest cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide. Dust treatments are excellent around electrical outlets and wall voids. New products with lower toxicities such as Phantom (non-repellent) are becoming available. Some of the older products used for bed bug treatments are gradually going out of use due to increased pesticide resistance. The combination of chemical products can be a very effective one-two-three , You’re Out for bed bugs:

  1. non-residual pervasive immediate kill application, combined with
  2. the insect growth regulator, and
  3. long lasting residual topical spray,

with both latter products having extended capability to eliminate those insects that survive the initial treatment.

Whole structure treatments such as fumigation or heat are very effective if the correct amount of gas or heat is applied for the correct length of time, provided that there are also localized and manual methods within the plan to ensure that the infestation does not return. The best bed bug killing fumigation will be pointless if tenants re-infest the building with improperly treated or untreated possessions.

A mattress and box spring cover may be recommended. Many authorities in the field feel that encasements should consistently be used. If fitted, zipped properly and undamaged, it will keep bed bugs from escaping and biting. But there are issues with the use of bed bug encasements:

  1. they are not needed if the bed bugs are dead,
  2. it may allow the technician to take a lazy approach, assuming the encasement will do the job, rather than doing a more thorough treatment,
  3. it provides a false sense of security that one cannot be bitten.

In fact, the bed bugs may reside somewhere other than the bed. It could make the problem worse, if the bed bugs need to move further away from the bed, into other less detectable hiding places. Encasements are a wise choice in situations where beds are shared, moved around, or in apartment situations, where mattresses and box springs are transported through common areas.

There may be implications for property managers to consider regarding the supply of furnished vs. unfurnished apartments that impact liability and propensity for transferring infestations. If management supplies furnished apartments, including mattresses and box-springs, they should be encased for protection against bed bugs, though this is not a guarantee against them.

There are many contradictions, oddities and much creativity that goes into providing a bed bug service. Normally, when you contract for a service, you would go with a company that provides the longest warranty. This may not be recommended. Companies that offer long bed bug warranties may actually be the least educated and the least trained companies for this type of service.

Companies that have been working with bed bugs for a long time know how easy it is for living spaces to be re-infested through no fault of their own. If they offer any warranty at all, the terms of the warranty will be very tightly constructed and will require precise participation by the client to achieve good results.

Preventative maintenance services for bed bugs are emerging. While these services cannot or should not warranty that there will never be bed bugs, it is possible to pro-actively monitor or treat buildings susceptible to infestations. This could greatly reduce the expense and frequency of remedial treatments for bed bugs.

The old adage that you get what you pay for is very true in bed bug service. While the volume of bed bug services and efficiencies rendered may allow for somewhat lower prices, generally speaking, you would be advised to contract with a higher price service, with the proviso that they disclose their protocol for treatment. Low priced services simply will shortcut the treatment, leaving you frustrated by a bill that did not accomplish the task.

Do be patient with your contracting pest control service. Do your part. Work together for the best results.

There are many professional resources available on the web from reputable organizations. Become informed. Be an educated consumer.

Call today at 1-800-986-1006 for help with a bed bug infestation. You’re also welcome to complete the form below and a caring Hearts Pest Management representative will contact you shortly.

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