Giving bed bugs the boot

Tips for preventing and eliminating bed bugs in residential properties
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
By Alice Sinia, Ph.D.

Hitchhikers, travelers, jet-setters. Whatever you want to call them, bed bugs are not the kind of traveling companion anyone wants to bring home from their next trip. These tiny pests are a nightmare for condo residents, managers, and guests alike and can wreak havoc on your property.

Bed bugs are hitchhikers, and they can find their way into your community on employees or residents. One of the most common ways for a condo resident to pick up bed bugs is from their travels. A survey conducted by Orkin and The Bantam Group found that 90% of hotels have treated for bed bugs in their lifetime, and 40% treated for a bed bug incident in just the past month. Because bed bugs reproduce quickly, it won’t take long for a couple of bed bugs brought home from a vacation to turn into a multi-unit infestation. A healthy, blood-fed female bed bug can produce 200 to 500 healthy eggs during a lifetime and may lay 2 to 5 eggs each day.

With these statistics in mind, it is possible that a bed bug infestation could take up residence in your condo. That is, unless an effective, proactive bed bug protection plan is put in place.

A costly appearance
Controlling a bed bug infestation takes time and money. Between the cost of remediation, the loss of soft goods like mattresses and furniture (in the case of severe infestations) and the damage to your condo’s reputation, bed bugs can take a pretty big bite out of your budget. Even still, monetary damage isn’t the only kind of damage a property may face. A bed bug sighting can also cost your property its reputation. And in the age of social media and online reviews, one bad review can have tremendous impact and trigger a wave of negative sentiment toward your community.

Identifying a bed bug issue
With small, flat, oval-shaped bodies, these wingless pests are brown in colour with a reddish appearance after feeding. Full-grown bed bugs can grow to be between 4 to 5mm and, contrary to popular belief, can be seen with the naked eye. While these insects are relatively slow-moving, they can be sneaky and hard to find.

If you cannot see any live bed bugs but suspect there is a bed bug infestation in your building, there are a few signs to keep an eye out for during routine maintenance checks in common areas. You should also share these red flags with your residents so they can spot any infestations in their units early – before they get out of hand.

  • Droppings. Live bed bugs leave clusters of dark brown- or black-coloured spots of dried excrement in areas like bed headboards, mattress seams, and box springs. Rust-coloured bloodstains may also be visible in areas where bed bugs have accidentally been crushed.
  • Cast skins. As bed bugs move from one life stage to another, they shed their exoskeleton and leave the casing behind. These cast skins keep the shape of the bed bug but appear empty and translucent.
  • Bed bugs. If you see eggs or live or dead bed bugs, it is important to take immediate action and contact your pest control specialist.

Common bed bug hiding spots include mattresses, box springs, bed frames, furniture, carpets, and baseboards.

Remedying a bed bug infestation

Bed bugs can multiply quickly and, unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all remedy to get rid of these persistent pests. There are, however, a few options for treating infested units:

  • Heat. Using heat to eradicate a bed bug infestation is not only effective but also environmentally responsible. High-temperature heat treatments get rid of all bed bug life stages – including eggs, nymphs, and adults.
  • Steam. Steam treatments use heat and water to effectively eliminate bed bugs from carpeting and other surfaces where conventional insecticide treatment cannot be used.
  • Conventional. Conventional bed bug treatments use insecticides to target adult bed bugs and their immature stages.

Depending on the severity of a bed bug infestation, some properties may need one – or a few – of the above treatments. Your pest management provider can conduct a thorough inspection to determine the best eradication strategies for your property.

Preventing a bed bug problem

Instead of waiting for a bed bug incident to take over your property, you can take steps to send bed bugs packing before they enter your space. Because anyone can transport bed bugs, you cannot prevent introducing bed bugs onto your property, but you can prevent an infestation from occurring. That is why it is crucial to develop a preventive bed bug plan with the help of your pest control provider.

While it is difficult to monitor occupied units for signs of bed bug activity, you can conduct proactive inspections during unit turnover. Canine inspections are especially useful in this scenario, as the bed bug dogs can sniff out an infestation – before a new resident moves in and you lose visibility into the problem.

Interior design can also play a significant role in the prevention of a bed bug infestation. When designing the interior of your building – and the units themselves, here are the design aspects to keep in mind and steer clear of:

  • Wallpaper. These sneaky pests love small cracks and crevices that provide the perfect hiding places. When choosing a wallpaper, keep away from textured wallpapers that can allow bed bugs to take cover and escape the eye at first glance. Ensure the wallpaper you choose is fixed tightly on the wall with no bubbles, tears or gaps.
  • Wicker Furniture. While wicker furniture may look nice in your lobby, it can also act as a prime bed bug hotspot. With tons of tiny cracks and crevices woven into the furniture’s design, there are plenty of places for these pests to seek shelter without being detected. And yes, a bed bug infestation can take root anywhere – from your building lobby to the local movie theatre.
  • Carpeting. Long, thick carpet provides ample space for pests to take cover. So, stick to shorter carpeting or even hard wood.

Bed bug infestations are not due to sanitation issues; any resident, guest or employee can bring these unwanted guests home with them. That’s why consistent and diligent searches are required to make sure no bed bug is left unnoticed. Early detection is critical to help prevent an even larger infestation from occurring.

For the most effective bed bug control, communicate early and often with your residents about the importance of bed bug prevention, and talk to your pest control provider about establishing a plan for remediating any bed bug problems quickly.

Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is Quality Assurance Manager – Regulatory/Lab Services for Orkin Canada.

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