Last week, one of the housing authorities we visited and trained in 2011 contacted me to chat a bit about bed bugs. Like many housing authorities during yard sale season, they were seeing a rise in bed bug reports. Despite community-wide efforts to educate residents on how to inspect used furniture, a few bugs slipped through the cracks—or I suppose I should say, “hitchhiked in the cracks.” Now the PHA is forging ahead with an IPM-based attack on bed bugs, but is proceeding carefully to conserve funds for their future pest control needs.
The PHA and I talked through the IPM steps for bed bugs:
1. Inspection: A bed bug sniffing dog swept the entire development and every unit where the dog alerted and live bugs could not be found, a second dog was brought in. The PHA has purchased and is installing insect interceptors under every bed to monitor the ongoing success of their efforts. They decided that having the dogs come again was redundant where monitors were in place.
3. Scaling the response to the level of infestation: This is what the majority of our conversation focused on. A heavy bed bug infestation usually takes months to build. At first, the infestation is often limited to the sleeping areas. The scale and type of treatment will vary with each home and infestation.
They had done their homework and were familiar with the control options that are recommended as best practices for bed bugs. To read-up on the topic for yourself, including our sample IPM Plan for Bed Bugs, check out the resources at http://www.stoppests.org/pest-solutions/bed-bugs/.
I encouraged the housing authority to question their pest management professional (PMP) about the requirement to always have the resident prepare. Doing all the laundry (including widow drapes) before treatment occurs may be overkill. The industry is moving toward a do-not-disturb/minimal prep approach. Of course, the professional needs to be able to move around the home and work in a safe environment, but turning the home inside out may spread the bugs around and is a burden on residents (and staff members, friends, or family if the resident cannot prep for himself). In some cases, prep will be necessary. For example, if there will be a heat treatment, there will be considerable preparation involved. But I encourage you to at least ask your PMP about options.
When word gets out that a bed bug treatment is going to require a lot of time to prepare, residents don’t report right away and try to take care of it on their own. And as we know from our trainer Susan Jones’ latest research, that total-release-foggers don’t work for bed bugs!
Rutgers just released a video on bed bug control for the pest management professional. The experts there partnered with BedBug Central (the folks who manage the BedBug FREE network and host the Bed Bug University North American Summit). It’s worth a watch if you are looking to hire a professional and want to know what to expect for options. Watch the video for professionals here: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/bedbug/default.asp?videos
4. Treatment: The PHA hasn’t reached this step yet, but will soon be killing some bed bugs using multiple control methods—IPM.
5. Evaluation of effectiveness: Having the interceptor monitors in place and PHA staff members who are trained to check them will help check the effectiveness of each unit’s treatment. If the bugs show up again, they’ll be ready.
Despite the need to treat the pests, the PHA is still allocating time towards educating residents. The development with the current infestations houses elderly residents. If you want to get information into these homes, I suggest you work with the home visiting health professionals. University of Minnesota has great resources on this topic at their newly-revamped bed bug website: http://www.bedbugs.umn.edu/home-visitors/
I love that the other IPM trainers and I can be here for housing providers who are faced with making pest management decisions. I encourage you to evaluate your options and have an informed conversation with their contractor. Local expertise is always a bonus, so it’s worth checking with your local cooperative extension to see if they have a structural pest control expert on staff.
On a somewhat unrelated note, I’m heading out of the office for the month of September. But I love pest control so much, I’ll be going to two conferences during my month off. Although I probably won’t have time to blog, I’ll be tweeting tidbits from these conferences on Twitter @taiseybug.