One of the most challenging, if not the most challenging situation for pest management professionals is Bedbug infestations in multi-family dwellings. Whether it is an apartment building, townhouse, condominium or co-op, Bedbug infestations in these environments are not easy to eliminate but it can be done. Through proper communication, resident and management cooperation, patience and an integrated Bedbug elimination strategy, the structure can become Bedbug free. There are many factors at play when facing this situation. These factors include the following:
- Developing an inspection strategy.
- Determining the extent of the infestation through inspection (canine assisted or human) and interviews
- How many units have Bedbug infestations?
- Identifying the severity of each infestation.
- Determining if Bedbugs are present in common areas such as hallways, elevators, lobbies and laundry facilities.
- Determining how the Bedbugs are spreading from unit to unit
- Identifying individuals with health concerns, chemical/pesticide sensitivity
- Which treatment strategy should be employed and where?
- Is a chemical treatment needed (supplemented with the use of steam and HEPA vacuums)?
- Is a thermal (heat) treatment needed for those with health concerns and chemical/pesticide sensitivity (should be supplemented with steam and vacuuming)?
- Is a Cryonite (freezing) treatment needed for electronics, computers, televisions, etc.? Although not a reliable method on its own, Cryonite does have some limited benefits.
- Does the treatment strategy require a combination of those strategies mentioned above for a truly integrated approach?
- Are residents capable and/or willing to prepare the unit for treatment (pre-treatment tasks vary based on the treatment strategy)?
- How will the pre-treatment task lists get distributed?
- Who is responsible for the cost of treatment, building management or individual residents? (this is a very important factor for the pest management professional)
- Will the management company help disseminate information to the residents through the coordination of notifications, bulletins, letters, meetings, etc.
- Are the residents willing to take preventative measures themselves such as
- Installing Bedbug traps/monitors
- Installing mattress/box spring/pillow encasements
- Allowing for periodic inspections
Unfortunately people that live in multi-family dwellings are at the mercy of their neighbors. Some residents may have been quietly battling Bedbug infestations themselves without notifying neighbors and/or building management, while others just haven’t reported it out of fear of the attached stigma. Bedbugs will travel along electrical and plumbing conduits and infest surrounding units. It is a common building practice in these structures for electrical outlets to back-up to each other (if a common wall has an outlet on one side it will usually has it on the other side) from unit to unit, making it extremely easy for Bedbugs to disperse into various units. It is also common for Bedbugs to drop off belongings as they are carried through hallways or placed on the floor. Once in the hallway, Bedbugs will first seek shelter and eventually a food source thus entering the nearest unit. People also move in and out of these structures regularly and you never know what is lurking in their belongings and furniture.
Bedbug infestations in multi-family housing will truly test every pest management professional. The building should not rush directly toward immediate treatment because this creates confusion and doesn’t allow for proper strategy planning. Many units may need to be treated that do not have an infestation in order to “box out” the neighboring unit that is infested. Most professionals employ the “box out” method in order to isolate the infested unit, preventing the spread of Bedbug infestation into surrounding units. Believe it or not, professionals often encounter resistance from residents that feel they shouldn’t be bothered by the problems of their neighbors. Although this feeling is understood, control will never be achieved without the full understanding and cooperation of all residents and this happens through proper communication and education. A good pest management firm should help in any possible way to achieve this daunting task. After all, Bedbug elimination and prevention is now a communal issue.