By Jennifer Brumfield, Training and Technical Specialist, Western Pest Services
Bed bugs are prevalent across the United States, and the issue shows no sign of abating. In fact, instances of bed bugs have been increasing over the past ten years. Because they can live for months without feeding and are known for moving from place to place with ease, bed bugs will likely continue to be a problem for years to come. In 2015, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) conducted a survey of pest management professionals and found that nearly all (99.6%) had treated for bed bugs in the past year.
This is a startling fact when you consider that they were practically a non-issue 30 years ago. Bed bugs feed almost exclusively on human blood. This means they can be found wherever humans are, from movie theatres to public transportation, but they’re encountered most frequently in apartments, condominiums, single-family homes, and hotels/motels.
While they are not known to transmit disease, bed bugs do bite. In many cases, these bites leave behind red marks or welts, but the effects of a bite can range from no reaction to (in rare cases) anaphylaxis. Either way, bed bugs won’t be a pleasant experience for residents, and they can be a detriment to your property’s reputation.
Because bed bugs can enter a building at any time on personal belongings, it’s impossible to completely prevent them; however, there are measures you and your residents can take to mitigate the risk of an infestation.
First you’ll need to get your residents on board. Establish a bed bug policy and issue it to all new residents. This policy should indicate what each resident’s responsibility is when it comes to preventing, reporting, and treating bed bugs. Next, consider hosting a training session to help residents get familiar with the threat of bed bugs, how they can help prevent an infestation and the signs of bed bugs. Most pest management professionals are willing to conduct training sessions and answer any questions residents may have. This one-on-one time can be invaluable.
Another way to keep residents in the loop on important bed bug information is circulating tips and reminders in community newsletters or posted bulletins. You could even distribute a tip sheet to residents breaking down important bed bug information. Ask your pest management professional if they have educational resources that you can share.
Getting resident cooperation is key, but there are also a few things the property management team can do to help minimize the risk of an infestation. When residents move out, work with your pest management professionals to conduct a full inspection of vacant units before leasing to new residents. Also inspect for bed bug hot spots (places where bed bugs may hide), including buckling carpet or wall paper, and report these issues to maintenance to be fixed immediately.
Adult bed bugs are flat, brownish in color and about the size of an apple seed. After a feeding they can appear swollen and red in color. Bed bugs can be hard to spot though because they are most active from 3 to 6 a.m. when most people are sleeping. Luckily they often leave behind other signs that residents can be on the lookout for.
Here are some key bed bug detection tips to share with residents:
If you suspect a bed bug problem in your building, contact a pest management professional immediately. Bed bugs are able to breed and reproduce quickly: if left undetected for a year, an infestation could turn into more than 10,000 bed bugs.
A professional can help properly identify the problem and work with you to determine the best treatment plan for your needs. There are new detection and treatment methods on the horizon, but here are a few of the options available currently:
Bed Bugs can be tricky for multifamily properties and their prevalence continues to reach new levels. But the good news is there are established detection and treatment methods to help control bed bugs, and by extension, help keep residents happy. The key is to understand the challenges bed bugs pose, educate residents, and work with a pest management professional to manage any issues that arise.
Jennifer Brumfield is a Training and Technical Specialist and Board Certified Entomologist for Western Pest Services, a New Jersey-based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets.