Bed Bugs Mean Big Headaches
In multifamily buildings, bed bug outbreaks create major challenges and headaches for property managers. First and foremost, treatments can be expensive, require multiple applications, and do not always resolve the issue. This last challenge is particularly troublesome.
Property managers can do everything in their power to eliminate bed bugs, but residents and guests can continue to bring them back to a property. Unfortunately, there is little property managers can do in this situation.
Treating bed bugs also creates major headaches for residents, because they are disruptive. Here are a few examples of disruptions caused by various bed bug treatments:
- Laundering all clothing and bed linens
- Vacating units during certain types of treatment
- Using special mattress protectors
- Elevating beds with bed bug moats
- Impacts residents in neighboring units
- Vacuuming dead bed bugs off carpets
Any effective bed bug treatment, will, unfortunately, involve at least one or more of these challenges for residents. Residents frustrations are usually passed on to the property management office in the form of complaints, negative community Facebook Group posts, and even bad Google My Business reviews. Despite these challenges, property managers have no choice but to treat bed bugs aggressively.
4 Multifamily Bed Bug Treatment Options
Bed Bug Heat Treatments
Heat is one of the most effective multifamily bed bug treatment options. This is because temperatures between 117 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit are lethal for bed bugs and their eggs. Exterminators use commercial heaters and air circulators to raise the indoor air temperature to at least 120 degrees for an extended amount of time. This effectively eliminates all the bed bugs in a specific area.
There are advantages and disadvantages to bed bug heat treatments. They can be done correctly in as little as 6 hours and do not use any potentially harmful chemicals or insecticides. This allows residents to return to their units quickly. Unfortunately, they do not provide any residual effects. Residents and guests can continue bringing bed bugs back to a property even after they are eliminated.
Compared to more extreme options like fumigation, heat treatments are relatively affordable. Home Guide estimates costs at $1 to $3 per square foot. For the average sized U.S. apartment this equates to approximately $900 to $2,700.
Overall, heat treatment is one of the most proven options for eliminating bed bugs. While it has advantages and disadvantages, it is a great starting point for property managers with a bed bug problem.
Bed Bug Fumigation Treatments
Fumigation treatments are extremely effective when done correctly. This is because they kill, with absolutely certainty, every bed bug and egg in a structure. The fumes penetrate into furniture, electrical outlets, baseboards, everywhere, guaranteeing success. This is also done in one single treatment, which, according to the California Pest Control Board, can take anywhere from 6 hours to 7 days.
Unfortunately, fumigation treatments, while effective, are not viable for most multifamily properties. They can be extremely expensive, especially in the North and Midwest, where fumigation is not a common type of pest control. Additionally, they require properties are vacated for an extended period of time. It is not easy, or always legal to displace every resident for an extended period of time. Lastly, they do not guarantee continued success. Residents and guests can continue to bring bed bugs back to a property.
In highly selective situations, bed bug fumigation treatments might work for a specific property. Overall, however, it is a technique that multifamily property managers will rarely use to treat bed bugs.
Bed Bug Pesticide Treatments
Pesticides are chemical compounds used to kill bed bugs. They are applied using a sprayer or fogger to infested areas including mattresses, furniture, carpets, and baseboards. When considering a bed bug insecticide treatment, make sure to choose an EPA approved product. While in-house maintenance staff can spray insecticides, it is usually best to get a bed bug consultation from a licensed pest control contractor.
Unlike other multifamily bed bug treatment options, pesticides can provide residual protection. Harris Bed Bug Killer, for example, continues to kill bed bugs for up to 16 weeks after the initial application. This is one of the best reasons to use a pesticide treatment and a major reason they are often combined with a heat treatment. Pesticide treatments, especially DIY treatments, are also affordable. A spray bottle of Harris Bed Bug Killer costs under $20.
One of the main challenges with pesticide treatments is treating the small and tiny spaces where bed bugs hide and make nests. An effective spray treatment requires spraying into cracks and crevices, behind outlets, and along baseboards. This makes it hard to guarantee total removal in a single application. Bed bugs have also developed resistance to many pesticides. As a result of these factors, a pesticide treatment by itself is usually not the best multifamily bed bug treatment option.
Bed Bug Steam Treatments
Another form of heat treatment, steam treatments also rely on high temperatures to kill bed bugs. A commercial steam machine is equipped with a wand to directly apply steam to infested areas such as mattresses, bed frames, nightstands, and carpets. The direct steam application heats the treated surfaces to kill bed bugs. It is important to note that handheld steamers designed for clothing are typically not powerful enough to effectively kill bed bugs.
Steam treatments offer a few advantages. First, they are environmentally friendly, because they do not use any chemicals. As a result, they can also be applied by in-house maintenance staff that is trained and comfortable using a commercial steam machine. This can offset expensive treatments by pest control companies, especially for properties with recurring issues. Steam treatments also work quickly, so there is little risk of displacing residents long term.
Unfortunately, there are many downsides to bed bug steam treatments. The biggest downside is steam treatments are not 100% effective because they do a poor job penetrating into tiny spaces. Steam treatments also have safety concerns. Since the steam is heated to at least 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it can burn skin and cause serious injuries if it is not applied correctly. The high temperature can also damage certain types of fabrics and materials.
In terms of multifamily bed bug treatment options, steam treatments are rarely used as a standalone treatment. They are often combined with a pesticide treatment due to concerns about their overall effectiveness.
What’s The Best Multifamily Bed Bug Treatment Option?
There is no universal or definitive best multifamily beg bug treatment option. This is because every situation is unique. Just because a heat treatment is the best option for property A does not make it the best option for property B. As a result, multifamily property managers should decide on the bed bug treatment that is best for their specific situation, property, and residents.
Consequently, property managers should contact their pest control company should they discover a bed bug outbreak. Professional pest control companies are trained to assess the situation and recommend the best treatment option.
Find Pest Control Contractors Using BidSource
Property managers can use BidSource to have the Property Manager Insider team locate a qualified pest control contractor to assist with bed bug treatments. Just fill out the form with your project details and a member of our team will be in touch.