Over the past few years, bedbugs have crept and crawled their way into the public spotlight, affecting a wide variety of properties from apartments and hotels to hospitals and offices.
The pest has resurged in numbers not seen for decades: Fully 99 percent of U.S. pest control companies reported encountering bedbug infestations in 2011, compared to 11 percent before 2000.
However, as facilities managers scramble to solve the problem, some may be doing more harm than good.
In November 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) issued a health advisory alerting the public to the dangers of misusing pesticides to treat bedbug infestations.
According to the advisory, 169 calls made to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) hotline between January 2006 and December 2010 were from individuals who had improperly applied pesticides, used pesticides not intended for indoor use or applied pesticides that are legally banned from use.
As the advisory warns, without the proper training and knowledge about the appropriate inspection and treatment options, a bedbug infestation can quickly go from bad to worse.
The most important tool for avoiding impacts to people and the environment is working with a pest management professional to make a proper diagnosis and create a customized treatment plan specific to the unique needs of your property.
The following contains a few suggestions for successfully implementing a bedbug control program and eradicating these unwelcome guests.
Understand Your Battleground
Once only associated with hotels, bedbugs are now in every commercial space, particularly those with a lot of foot traffic.
An analysis of the U.S. pest control industry reveals some of the hardest hit businesses: About 39 percent of bedbug treatments in 2010 occurred in apartments, while 12 percent occurred in hotels and motels.
Besides these places, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) reports increasing numbers of bedbug treatments in college dormitories, nursing homes, office buildings, schools, hospitals, public transportation facilities and even movie theaters in the last year.
By understanding the threat bedbugs pose and educating yourself and your staffs about the behavior, detection and treatment of bedbugs, you can better equip your facility for the possibility of an infestation.
Seek Expert Help
Treating bedbugs is no easy task, and tackling it on your own can be ineffective, even dangerous.
The CDC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend hiring a pest management professional and implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to help control bedbugs with a minimum risk to people, property and the environment.
Because they can “hitchhike” a ride inside your facility at any time, it is impossible to completely prevent bedbugs.
However, a pest management professional can work with you to implement a proactive monitoring program and train your staffs to identify signs of bedbugs so you can respond quickly to an infestation.
Signs that bedbugs may be present in your facility include:
- Live bedbugs
- Cast skins
- Small rust-colored spots on bedding, mattresses or box springs
- Cream-colored eggs approximately 1/32-inch to 1/8-inch in size.
Should an infestation occur, a pest management professional can work with you to appropriately treat the areas in question.
A few different tactics that your pest management professional may suggest for monitoring and treating a bedbug infestation include:
- Visual inspection
- Inspection with deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing
- Canine inspection
- Heat treatment
- Encasements for beds and furniture
- If necessary, residual treatments including chemicals or fumigation.
A successful IPM program requires partnership, knowledge and experience.
As a result, when hiring a pest management provider, it’s important to ask the right questions to determine whether the provider is credible, trustworthy, knowledgeable and up-to-date on the latest best practices and technologies.
Some questions to consider when interviewing pest management providers are:
- How long has the provider been in business?
- Is the provider a member of national and state pest control associations?
- Are the provider’s technicians licensed and/or certified by appropriate agencies?
- What documentation is provided with the service and how soon is it available?
- What kind of training programs do technicians receive and how are they conducted?
- What is the average response time to a pest-related emergency and is there an extra charge for emergency responses?
As bedbugs continue to threaten commercial properties, the collaboration between facilities managers and pest management professionals will remain an important factor of a successful IPM program.
Through a strong pest management partnership and the right tools for the job, you can help get pests out of the picture and turn your problem into a solution.