Bed bugs have made a big comeback over the past decade. After being nearly eradicated from American society by the early 1960s, this nighttime stalker has resurfaced and found its way into a wide range of residential and commercial properties from apartments and hotels to offices and nursing homes. Staying on guard against bed bugs requires diligence and a well-conceived action plan. While there are a number of effective solutions for detecting and eliminating this pest, recent findings show that many BSCs may actually be making a bad situation worse by trying to treat the problem on their own.
In November 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) issued a health advisory against the misuse of pesticides to treat bed bug infestations. According to the alert, the National Pesticide Information Center (NIPC) received 169 calls between January 2006 and December 2010 from individuals who had used pesticides that were not intended for indoor use, improperly applied or legally banned.
Even without factoring in the costs to repair the damage from improperly or carelessly applied pesticides, bed bugs present a serious risk for property and facility managers when it comes to both reputation and remediation expenses. In order to avoid impacting people and the environment, it is important to consult with a professional before considering treatment. In fact, the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend hiring a pest management professional and implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to help control bed bugs and other pests. By partnering with a pest management professional, you can find a treatment plan that fits your facility’s needs and won’t result in harm to your residents, employees, or guests.
Bed bugs are small, flat and can hide practically anywhere. And because they can “hitch” a ride into your building at any time, preventing an infestation is virtually impossible. With the help of a pest management professional, however, you can work to implement an efficient and effective system for eradicating any unwelcome guests. Use the following tips to successfully implement a bed bug strategy and establish safeguards against a full-blown infestation:
Types of Inspections
When working with a pest management professional, the first step he or she will take is to perform an inspection of your facility. There are several advanced techniques available that he or she can use to examine the area and determine whether bed bugs are present, including:
• Visual Inspections: During a visual inspection, a trained specialist will regularly examine key areas of your facility to identify signs of bed bugs.
• Canine Inspection: Properly trained dog and handler teams can detect the presence of bed bugs quickly and accurately. Canines sniff out live bed bugs and their eggs within minutes, which can be a huge advantage in early detection.
• DNA Testing: Your pest management professional may also recommend DNA testing, a procedure which can help pinpoint with 99-percent accuracy whether bed bugs have been within the tested area.
In addition to these advanced tactics, a pest management professional can also help you train your staff to identify signs of bed bugs so you can respond quickly to an infestation. For example, live bed bugs, cast-off skins, rust-colored spots on bedding, and tiny cream-colored eggs are some potential signs that your facility may be infested with bed bugs.
Additionally, be sure to use the following inspection schedule to consistently monitor for bed bug activity within your facility:
• Weekly: Monitor for bed bug evidence when changing sheets. Check mattress covers and the edges of mattresses.
• Monthly: Inspect box springs.
• Quarterly: Conduct a thorough inspection of potential harborage locations, such as behind hanging pictures and headboards and in furniture, sofas, or plush chairs.
• Semi-annually: Talk to your tenants and guests about bed bug warning signs, and be sure to document these awareness training sessions.
If an infestation should occur, work with your pest management professional to determine the proper solution for eliminating your bed bug problem as safely and effectively as possible. While there are a variety of different treatments available, it is important to determine which approach is the best suited for your facility. These treatment options may include:
• Conventional Treatment: Steam and other non-toxic treatments can be used to kill bed bugs and their eggs in places with likely human contact. Then, residual treatments on box springs, hard furniture, and in wall voids provide the final touch to ensure long-term pest control.
• Heat Treatment: Heat treatment is an approach that uses propane or electric heaters to create high temperatures that can eliminate bed bugs.
• Encasements: Mattresses, box springs, and pillows can be fitted with custom encasements that trap any bed bugs currently on the item and prevent future bed bugs from re-infesting that item.
In addition to thorough inspections, one of the most important aspects of bed bug prevention is thorough documentation. Work with your pest management professional to develop an IPM program that includes proactive bed bug strategies. Document all bed bug monitoring and treatment, and be sure that your files contain the following information:
• Invoices, receipts, and inspection forms from your pest control provider for initial and follow-up visits
• Community personnel and staff inspection checklists
• Incidents of any bed bug bites, as well as steps that were taken to resolve the situation
By properly recording all of your pest management program action steps, you can help avoid litigation and track the progress of your overall pest strategy. Bed bug infestations can be a difficult task to overcome, but there are effective treatments out there. Remember, monitoring for these resilient pests is the most important step in preventing an infestation. Be sure to establish a prevention and treatment strategy with your pest management professional that can help you keep watch for bed bugs and maintain the reputation of your facility.