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Bed Bug Supplement - Bed Bug Supplement

Vacant units can create bed bug challenges. Here’s how to resolve unreported infestations.

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June 15, 2022

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Editor’s note: The following article originally ran in PCT’s Targeting Bed Bugs e-newsletter, which was sponsored by MGK.

While an empty apartment may seem easy to treat for bed bugs, it’s still difficult at times to find the root cause of the issue, some PMPs say. In addition, vacant units that are not empty make it twice as difficult.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has guidelines through its “Collaborative Strategy on Bed Bugs” document from the Federal Bed Bug Workshop, which contains control strategies for bed bugs. With regard to vacant units, the strategy document states the following: “If a unit is vacant, bed bugs may behave differently (for example, by becoming inactive or more active during the day) while waiting for a new host to arrive.”

So, not only do technicians need to know how to treat properly for bed bugs, they also need to understand as much as possible about the insect’s behavior to know these differences when examining vacant units.

The “Mallis Handbook of Pest Control” chapter on bed bugs states that active monitoring devices are one of several preventive measures that PMPs can take when inspecting vacant units. According to Mallis, the preventive use of monitors includes the following:

• Active monitors employ one or more lures, such as carbon dioxide, heat and chemical attractants, to attract bed bugs (typically host-seeking bugs). These devices may prove especially useful for detection of bed bugs in unoccupied hotel guest rooms, vacant apartment units or units that share a common wall with a known infestation.

Other preventive measures offered by Mallis include using encasements, active mattress liners, interception devices, daily routine inspections, and periodic intensive and specialized inspections.

Jeffrey King is president of Pennsylvania-based The Pest Rangers, which has four locations throughout the state and performs steady bed bug work as one of its core services. According to King, vacant units provide challenges to the pest control community.

“Vacant unit inspections always pose a risk, in our opinion,” King said. “If the unit is empty, it does not leave a lot to inspect. You could look for signs if they had a sizeable infestation, but a small-to-moderate infestation can go undetected in a vacant unit. We would be using K-9 dogs to sweep vacant units instead of sending technicians in to inspect.”

Ashley Roden is technical manager for Tacoma, Wash.-based Sprague Pest Control, and works with mostly commercial customers.

“They have us go through every unit, a lot are based on complaints from the tenant, and then if they complain we check the surrounding units,” Roden said. “Anytime we do inspections, we check surrounding units and place traps so we can monitor, and so that if we did a treatment we can see if it works. We do a lot of chemical treatments and some heat treatments, as well.

“We have been seeing a huge surge in bed bug service requests in apartments. Some, the tenant is there and waited through COVID-19, and others they were evicted [prior] and left behind [the issue].”

Roden said that with apartments, it’s not the tenant requesting services, it’s the property manager. On the West Coast, things were really locked down during COVID-19, she said.

David Poplin, A.C.E., is CEO and president of CDS Services. He works with all types of commercial customers and understands the issues that vacant rental spaces can cause.

“Having an action plan to inspect all newly vacant units can help identify bed bug activity before it spreads to a new tenant,” said Poplin. “It also could be beneficial to have a random inspection for occupied units, especially those with long-term tenants.”