Bed Bug Monitoring, Prevention and Elimination
Sunday, May 1, 2011
People spend about a third of their life in bed, so it's no
surprise the recent bed bug epidemic has left many scared to slip
between the sheets. It's up to facility managers to help ease that
anxiety by becoming educated on all aspects of a beg bug
infestation so they are prepared to handle, and hopefully prevent,
Here's what you need to know about bed bugs:
What They look like
According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), bed
bugs have a mahogany to rusty brown coloring (unless they've had a
blood meal, which would make them reddish). They have six legs and
are usually just under one-fourth inch long with a flat, broad oval
Where you'll find them
Bed bugs like to be in small crevices near a human environment.
This includes behind baseboards, wallpaper, upholstery, mattresses
and in furniture crevices. It is important to know that bed bugs
are not related to cleanliness. "They're an equal opportunity
pest," says Missy Henriksen, NPMA's vice president of public
affairs. "They can be found in even luxury hotels as well as budget
How to spot an infestation
NPMA says that typically the first sign of a bed bug infestation
is often the appearance of small brownish or reddish dots on bed
linens. These are fecal spots or dropping from the bugs. Anyone who
has been bitten by a bed bug will likely notice swelling around the
bite, sometimes in the form of red, itchy welts. According to Steve
Free, owner of The Bug Stops Here, a pest control company in New
York, bed bug bites typically occur in clusters or tracts, and they
are usually found not only on your arms and legs but also on your
back and belly.
If a tenant thinks they have an infestation, Free recommends
thoroughly inspecting the beds: strip them down, examine the
bedding, and then place the mattress against a wall and examine it
with a flashlight and magnifying glass. Pay special attention to
the lip of the mattress where it's sewn together because that's the
type of crevice bed bugs prefer. Look for the small
brownish/reddish spots or castings where they shed their skins.
Who to call
If the evidence points to bed bugs, Henriksen highly recommends
calling in a pest control specialist to evaluate the problem
further and diagnose the appropriate treatment. When it comes to
selecting a specialist, Free recommends checking each company's
licensing as well as any online reviews. Bed bug treatment is a
sensitive process, and you'll want a specialist with a stellar
reputation. For similar reasons, Free also recommends choosing a
company that has a long track record so you can avoid the
possibility of dealing with a start-up that is only trying to cash
in on the bed bug epidemic.
Henriksen says treatment for bed bug infestation depends on the
environment, so you'll need a specialist to diagnose the
"For instance, it might not be wise to use a heat treatment in a
wax museum or crayon factory or a candle manufacturer," she says.
"A professional may decide not to use pesticides in a nursery or
intensive care unit of a hospital; though it's important to note
that some products have EPA-registered labels that could allow for
According to the Office of Environmental, Health and Safety
Management with the University of Indiana, the most effective
approach is through Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which might
involve a combination of any of the following methods:
- Steam, heat or cold treatments, which kills all life
- Physically removing the bed bugs and eggs using a vacuum
- Chemical application through pesticides
When discarding any infested bedding or furniture, it should be
wrapped in plastic labeled "infested with bed bugs" or made
unsalvageable so that people don't try to pick them up secondhand
bringing the problem into their homes.
Talking to tenants
When it comes to an infestation, the bed bugs are not your only
problem. You must inform your tenants and ease their concerns as
much as possible. Here is a list of things you should do to prevent
- Free says to immediately inform your tenants that bed bugs
cannot transmit diseases, as that is a popular myth.
- Henriksen says to emphasize that bed bugs are not a result of
poor hygiene or sanitation. This will lessen any feelings of
embarrassment your tenants may have.
- The more education, the better, says Jan Bergthun, New York
chapter member of the International Facility Management Association
(IFMA). You might not want to scare people who don't even have an
infestation, but Bergthun says it's better to address the problem
directly to prevent rumors from flying around. Put up notices in
common areas saying that there was a problem and you've taken care
of it. But also include information that outlines infestation
warning signs and, when possible, include a picture of a bed bug to
help with identification. Bergthun says this should not only calm
tenants but also empower them to feel in control.
- Provide a prevention plan. The most common way bed bugs enter a
home is by hitching a ride from another location.
Henriksen says to provide tenants with the following prevention
- When staying in a hotel, put suitcases in the bathroom and
inspect the beds for any signs of bugs (they are less likely to be
found in the bathroom); upon returning home, inspect the suitcase
and wash all clothes in hot water and dry on hot cycles.
- Use caution when bringing any secondhand furniture into the
building. Inspect each piece for bugs.
- Do not place purses on dressing room floors or place shopping
bags down in one's home. Remove the contents, discard the bags
Nobody wants a bed bug problem, but sometimes they happen even
when taking precautionary measures. The key is to remain calm and
ease anxiety among tenants, and then take informed, active steps to
solve the problem.