Bed bugs were a popular topic at NAA this year and the conversations were lead by Greg Baumann, Director of Technical Services for Orkin Pest Control. With over 30 years of pest control experience, Greg was the perfect person to ask to contribute to our Ask the Expert blog series. Below is his post on avoiding, controlling and eliminating bed bugs in multifamily housing. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to http://www.orkincommercial.com/ and make sure to comment below with questions.
Around the world, bed bugs are becoming part of daily life for many. In the past 10 years, they have resurged to the point where they can potentially be found in any place that humans inhabit, especially in multifamily housing. In fact Orkin, a popular pest control company, conducted a survey just over a year ago which showed that of the 8,500 bed-bug-infested customers evaluated, 44% were multifamily housing customers, surpassing hospitality. Another Orkin survey of the National Apartment Association (NAA) members found that 66% of the respondents have encountered bed bugs at their properties, with a large explosion in numbers since 2007. The good news is most infestations were limited to less than five units per property. However, an alarming trend is litigation is increasing, with 6% of the properties having been involved in a bed-bug-related case.
Basics of the Bed Bug
Bed bugs are typically flat and small, with the adult being just about 3/16” in length. They can live a year without a meal, although, this is not typical for all starved adult bed bugs. A female can lay 400 hard-to-see eggs in her lifetime.
Bed bugs do not discriminate. The old tale that bed bugs prefer poor quality, unsanitary housing is simply not true. Sanitation is irrelevant since, unlike cockroaches, they don’t eat our food. They can be found in the nicest, cleanest apartments just as readily as the less-than-clean apartments. One point to consider, though, is bed bugs like to hide. So, if there is an abundance of clutter, inspection and control are more difficult and finding the insects will be more difficult.
Inspection requires the most time of any task in bed bug management. Generally, control can be accomplished using traditional pest management products in liquid or dust form and placed where bed bugs are typically found. This is a surgical strike to get to where the bed bugs are.
Heat is a control measure for specific cases and is not offered in all cities. Chambers are sometimes used where there is infested furniture and belongings. Freezing the surfaces of infested furniture and materials is used by some companies but the cold does not penetrate beyond the surface.
To develop a bed bug plan, it is vital to include the following tasks:
- Train your staff to understand bed bugs and customer relations
- Have a plan for changeover; consider a professional inspection prior to move in
- Communicate with residents, especially when they are moving in
- Partner with your service provider so bed bug prevention and control is a team effort; establish a proactive approach
- Understand any local laws regarding removal of bed bug infested materials
- Consider mandatory mediation in rental agreements; understand your insurance coverage as to whether bed bug control and public relations are covered
Bed bugs can be controlled, but it does require a partnership with the property management and a service provider, as well as the residents. Taking a proactive approach will reduce chances of serious infestation and will maintain excellent customer relations.