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Controlling Bed Bugs
Controlling Bed Bugs
Tenant/Resident Fact Sheet

Controlling bed bugs is difficult and can be a time and money consuming activity.  However, bed bugs can be eliminated with a coordinated effort that includes cooperation of the tenants and landlord or property management.  There is no single tool or activity that will eliminate bed bugs, including pesticides.  Multiple techniques are always required because bed bugs are small, good at hiding and live without feeding for up to a year.  In some cases, bed bugs are resistant to the pesticides used against them, meaning that many will survive treatment.  The reduction of household clutter is absolutely necessary for fighting bed bugs.

Bed Bug Precautions

Responsibilities of Landlord
  • Encourage tenants to report bed bugs (unreported and uncontrolled bed bugs will spread quickly).
  • Keep records of bed bug (or other pest) complaints on site in a log book.
  • Respond quickly to complaints with an inspection and corrective action.
  • Develop a bed bug control protocol with elimination as the goal.
  • Raise tenant awareness about bed bugs.
  • Units should always be cleaned before new tenants move in.
Responsibilities of Tenant
  • Read and follow all guidelines given by building management for reporting signs of bed bugs, and for cleaning and room preparation.
  • Cooperate with staff and management in preventing and controlling bed bugs whether your individual living space is infested or not.
  • Know the signs of bed bugs and check constantly for signs of them in your living space.
  • Encourage other tenants to follow guidelines and cooperate with management.

Dealing With an Infestation
Room Preparation
Preparation of a room for bed bug treatment is essential to the successful management of
these pests.  Most pest control workers prefer to conduct an inspection before any cleaning or rearranging has occurred.  This gives the pest control worker an idea how serious the problem is and prevents the spread of bed bugs before treatment.  Once bed bugs are located and the size of the problem has been estimated, room preparation must be done by the tenant.  Suggested room preparation steps include organizing belongings and placing them in bags, laundering all clothing and bedding, moving furniture away from the walls and emptying furniture of items for better inspection.  Some tenants may need assistance.

Treatment of a living area for bed bugs should focus on containment of the infestation.
Do everything possible to avoid spreading bed bugs to new locations.

A combination of the following steps will be needed for bed bug control:
  • Clean and organize the bed, bedroom, other living areas, furniture and belongings, including elimination of clutter (see next page)
  • Physical removal of bed bugs and eggs using a vacuum
  • Barriers, such as mattress encasements and sticky barriers
  • Sticky traps may be useful for monitoring but will not help control bed bugs
  • Steam cleaning to kill all life stages
  • Eliminate bed bug hiding spots (cracks around trim should be sealed)
  • Chemical applications – do not apply to children’s cribs or beds
  • Low risk pesticides
  • Professional use pesticides
  • Professional fumigation
  • Prevention of re-infestation by closely monitoring unit for signs bed bugs are returning.  Taking care to check items for bed bugs prior to bringing then into apartment.
Strategies that DO NOT WORK
  • Abandoning rooms or even a whole facility is not a guarantee that bed bugs will die off. Adult bed bugs can live without a blood meal for over a year and will wander to find a new host when one is unavailable.
  • The use of “bug bombs” or total release foggers is not advised.  These devices release insecticide in small droplets that land on exposed surfaces and do not penetrate the cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide.  This results in increased pesticide exposure to the resident and poor control of these pests.  This has been linked to pesticide resistance and suspected repellency to bed bugs, causing them to spread.
  • Discarding beds and bedding alone will not eliminate bed bugs.  Bed bugs will spread quickly to walls, molding, ceilings, light fixtures, electronics, TV remote controls, alarm clocks, and spaces within and along floor boards, and the edges of carpets.

Cleaning and organizing a room or home
Cleaning and organizing a room or home for bed bug management is an extremely important first step to control bed bugs, because bed bugs will thrive in a cluttered living area.  Vacuuming and cleaning should be done before a pesticide application.
Cleaning should be carried out in an organized way, beginning with removing items from the infested room or home.  Soap or detergent will aid in the clean up of bed bug debris and allergens, making the environment healthier and more acceptable for residents.  Essential oil soaps (pine, orange or lemon), enzyme soaps, and sudsy detergents are good choices.

Steps to follow include:
  • Scan the room for items on the floor.  Make a plan for each item, and how it will be separated (closed into a plastic bag, for example), inspected, sanitized of bed bugs, and stored until further notice.
  • Place clothes, shoes, plush toys, pillows, and bedding into large clear plastic bags and seal them tightly to be laundered.  Wash sheets and clothing in hot water and dry in a hot dryer cycle for 30 minutes or more.
  • Alternatively, plastic tote bins that have an airtight seal can be used for items that cannot be laundered, such as hard toys, electronics, books, breakable items, etc.  Be prepared to store these items for a period of time until they can be thoroughly inspected or enough time has passed that bed bugs are dead – at least a year.
  • Once the affected areas have been “stripped” of all personal belongings, begin vacuuming any beds, paying special attention to the mattress seams.
  • Use a crevice tool and a scraping motion.
  • Remove the mattress and box spring from the bed frame and inspect and vacuum all surfaces, removing all loose debris and visible bed bugs.
  • Flip the bed frame over and vacuum and crevices where bed bugs may hide.  This is especially important for wooden bed frames and captain’s beds.
  • Vacuum inside and under drawers of night stands, dressers, and other furniture in the affected area.
  • Turn over each piece of furniture and vacuum the under sides of each.Pay attention to screw and nail holes, using a crevice tool.
  • Vacuum along the bottoms of all walls and the moldings.  If molding or wallpaper is loose lift or remove and vacuum beneath.
  • Make sure to vacuum around heating units.
  • Vacuum along carpet edges.
  • Vacuum plush furniture with a carpet beater attachment or by patting the furniture while vacuuming to flush out bed bugs.
  • If a vacuum brush attachment is used it is possible some live bugs or eggs could be caught in the brush bristles.  Wash the vacuum brush with hot water and detergent if this is a concern.

Washing Surfaces and Furniture:
  • Wash all furniture (non-plush) and hard surfaces in the room using an orange, lemon, or pine based soap or detergent cleanser.  Pay attention to crevices and spaces in the frame. Bleach and ammonia do not kill bed bugs and should not be used to combat them.  Their vapors can also be harmful.
  • After removing the mattress and box spring from the bed frame, wash the bed frame liberally with soap and water.
  • Wash cribs and children’s bed frames rather than using pesticides.
  • Wash the floors, moldings, window sills, and walls generously.
  • Steam or hot water heating units can be washed as well.  Do not wash electrical heating units.
Rugs and carpeting
  • Many small rugs can be placed into the dryer on a hot setting for 30 minutes.
  • If the room has a large area rug, the rug can be steam cleaned within the same time frame that other bed bug control measures are taking place, although steaming should be done before pesticide applications are made.  Rugs can be sent out for professional cleaning, as well.  Wrap in plastic for transport and warn the cleaning company.
  • Wall to wall carpeting can harbor bed bugs and may be:
  • Steam cleaned, paying very close attention to the edges.  Previous inspection will help determine where to concentrate steaming efforts.
  • Carpeting may also be treated with a labeled pesticide.
  • Removed, especially in a heavy infestation.  This must be coordinated with the landlord.  The carpet tack strip should also be removed because bed bugs can hide underneath.
Handling a bed bug vacuum:
A vacuum used for bed bugs can have live bed bugs inside and it will be important to avoid transferring bed bugs to new locations.
  • After each use, remove the vacuum bag and dispose of it in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Clean the brush attachment with hot water and detergent.
  • Stuff a paper towel in the hose end to prevent bed bugs caught in the hose from escaping.
  • Store the vacuum in a large plastic garbage bag that is closed tightly.
  • Inspect the vacuum before each use to be sure no live bed bugs are on the outside.

Adapted from:
Guidelines for Prevention and Management of Bed Bugs in Shelters and Group Living Facilities;
J.L. Gangloff-Kaufmann and C. Pichler, New York State IPM Program, Cornell University 2008

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