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Bed bug problems are becoming more common in apartment communities. More than ever, its important for tenants and landlords to understand these insects and what it takes to eliminate them from apartments.
Bed bugs are tiny insects that live by feeding on human blood, usually at night. They are secretive, hiding in cracks and crevices during the day, and coming out at night to feed. The bite of the bed bug is painless and may or may not leave a red mark or itchiness.
Bed bugs are small, and come out mostly at night.
Because of their small size and painless bite, bed bugs may initially go unnoticed. If you notice that you are waking up with itchy welts, see tiny red spots on bedding, or think you have seen the bugs, you may have a problem. Bed bugs do not have nests, but will congregate in choice hiding places. These areas may be marked by tiny dark spots and stains, and may have a sweetish odor.
Fortunately bed bugs are not known to carry any diseases to humans, although some people may experience irritation or allergic reactions to bed bug bites. Mostly bed bugs are considered disgusting and can be a source of stress and concern for people living in infested apartments.
Bed bug in textured ceiling with droppings (upper right, lower right and lower left) around harborage between popcorn texture.
Bed bugs are no longer an unusual pestin apartments. Since approximately 2000, bed bugs have reemerged as an important pest in the United States. Bed bugs are occasionally introduced into an apartment via luggage that has become infested from a hotel or hostel. In apartment complexes, it is probably more common for bed bugs to enter a home from a nearby infested apartment, during moving, or through picking up used or recycled furniture or mattresses. Once introduced into an apartment building, bed bugs can readily spread from one infested unit to another.
If you think you see a bed bug, capture it if possible. Place in a leak-proof container, preferably with a little rubbing alcohol, and show it to your apartment manager to confirm its identity. Even if you cannot capture one of the insects, you should inform your building manager if you suspect you have a bed bug problem.
When beg bugs are found in one apartment unit, it is considered standard practice in the pest control industry to inspect all apartments surrounding the infested apartment. If no bed bugs are found, surrounding apartments do not necessarily need to be treated. But if an adjacent apartment is found infested, it should be treated and all adjacent apartments should also be inspected (see next question).
If you live in an apartment or condominium, its best to alert the property manager right away (preferably by phone and in writing). In multi-family housing a manager-coordinated bed bug control effort using a pest control company is generally needed. Bed bugs readily move from apartment to apartment, with many people unaware that they have a problem, so chances are that you will not eliminate a bed bug problem by yourself. If one apartment is infested, adjoining units (left side, right side, above and below) should be assumed to be infested unless shown otherwise through inspection or monitoring. Simply asking tenants whether they have bed bugs is not enough. In one study only half of residents in a large apartment with bed bugs knew (or admitted) they had a bed bug problem.
Bed bug treatment consists of a thorough inspection followed by vacuuming and treatment of all detected bug hiding spots. Treatment is labor intensive and may take several hours per apartment. It will also probably require several visits and treatments to permanently get rid of a bed bug problem.
In Texas, multifamily housing, hotels, orany business providing lodging must be treated for pests by a licensed pesticide applicator. So unless the apartment employee who entersyour home to control bed bugsislicensed by the Texas Pest Control Service, this would be illegal. Illegal activity by an unlicensed person includes theuse of over-the-counter pesticides, heat treatment or any other non-chemical control methodsanything intended to control pests like bed bugs, cockroaches, mice, etc.
Apartment with clothing and personal items bagged and ready for pest control.
As a tenant, your first responsibility is to report any suspected bed bug problem immediately. Once an appointment is made for your treatment, it will be your duty to prepare your apartment. The following tips will help your pest control service and YOU to get rid of bed bugs quickly.
Its essential to cooperate with management and with your pest control professionals to get complete bed bug control. Once established, bed bugs can be difficult to control, especially without the help of tenants like you.
For more information about bed bugs, including their biology and how to recognize them, see publication L-1742 Bed Bugs as well as the EPA website on bed bugs. If you live in a situation where professional pest control is not available or not being provided by management, see our publication on Do-it-yourself bed bug control (ENT-3012) for tips on controlling bed bugs. The fact sheet on How to Select a Bed Bug Control Provider (ENT-033) has special information to assist apartment managers in working with pest control contractors.
Michael Merchant, Ph.D., Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Dallas.
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