What kills bed bugs?
What kills bed bugs? In a study provided by Rutgers University; the Wang lab in conjunction with the Jersey City Housing Authority funded in part by the US EPA, Protect-A-Bed ,Susan McKnight Incorporated and BASF chemical Manufacturing and as reported by Rick Cooper at the Northeaster National Pest Management Conference in Tarrytown NY in January; bedbugs are a lot more active, in a lot more areas than previously thought and much harder to detect.
In this study they found that bed bug traps that were made of the interceptor type were the most effective in determining bedbug activity within an apartment. The number of interceptors per unit ranged from 12 initially to 48 once infestation was discovered The study was provided on a 300 unit low income housing senior facility. The effective rate of the interceptors were over 90%. Previously our classical version of bedbug infested areas was about 90% plus in the bedrooms and other lounging furniture and about 7% in other areas. Actual results prior to treatments found two thirds of bed bugs in other areas ; 63% in hallways, bathrooms, kitchens and 37% in the bedrooms. After treatment 17% were found at the sleeping and resting areas while 83% in areas other than the bedroom. Unfortunately there are those that still insist on treating rooms instead of units.
At this building there was a visual inspection done of five units where only one unit was found to be infested with bedbugs. After interceptors were placed all units were found to be active so the lesson from this is that visual inspection alone does not make a proper determination in most cases. Of 64 units in this study that were being monitored activity was detected in 41 or 64% of units the medium number of insects found were 4 showing low levels of activity. Note that 54% of these insects were captured away from the sleeping areas. Using the interceptors insects were not discovered during each 14 day inspection interval- there were skips in the discovery. So the number of visits needed to ensure elimination within 90% certainty or competence level was 3 visits at 14 days apart (so 45 days). Visual inspection alone was found to be unreliable. In addition study shows you have to place the interceptors away from the sleeping areas.
In any IPM program the goal is to reduce the rate of infestation, reduce chemical usage and create a program that is sustainable. Unfortunately at this point it is becoming realized that most pest control programs are not financially sustainable.
The program that was started developed the following procedures:
1) Education of staff and tenants
2) A baseline survey of all units within the building
3) Development of a low impact treatment protocol (reduced chemical usage)
4) New resident moving in went through a survey and physical follow-up inspection using two technicians within two weeks of arrival.
Prior to the survey management knew of 16 units that were infested. After the survey 39 additional units were found to be infested- 71% of these not being reported. 95% of this activity was identified by the use of interceptors alone. Of the 39 new cases 37 claimed they did not know or where unaware that they had a bed bug infestation. Over the next 12 months and additional 16 units were found through communitywide inspections. Of the units that were found to be infested 44 units had less than 20 bed bugs present, 18 units had 21 to 100 bed bugs present, seven units had 100 to 1000 bed bugs present and two had over 1000 bugs present. 14 of the 16 new units were discovered had 10 insects or less 12 of the 14 had less than five. The study showed periodic inspections were key to finding early infestations. With early infestations they were usually remediated with one to two visits. Over the 12 month period beginning levels started with 55 units infested, at the six-month mark they had 19 units infested and at the 12 month mark they had two units. Note that eight new were found. Any new people coming in were given the bedbug policy, given literature, were assured that it would be no negative repercussions if bed bugs were reported and two weeks after moving in got the visual inspection by two techs. Interceptors were placed under furniture legs and of the beds. The treatment program utilized Phantom, DE, and Transport. Note that chemical usage went from 8000 g on 53 units to less than 100 g. This is a huge reduction in pesticide usage.
This property was spending $50,000 to $60,000 per year yet there were very little results over the long-term. In the first year this program costs the building $64,000 but the price will be 12K to 16K per year. To maintain the current results would only two inspections per year and this is based on communitywide inspections and based on historical results. The initial, six months and 12 month inspections cost $34,000 while the treatments were $29,000 on 66 units. The overall results show that the majority of bedbug infestations are not being reported. It also shows that a baseline survey must be done. It also proves that monitors are key in identifying locations as well as units that are infested. Along with that periodic monitoring is essential. It also shows that elimination is possible with limited chemical use.
What I took away from this year-long study was several items. One is the importance of monitoring. Without monitoring and ongoing monitoring it is very easy for infestations to get away from us. Once levels increase it has been shown that bedbugs spread out just as part of their nature so all surrounding units are at risk. In many cases with monitoring we find that there is activity even though a physical inspection as well as reporting from the tenants would previously indicate that there were no bed bugs present. Education plays a key role. Education will foster communication as well as cooperation. Without the cooperation of the building as a whole we find that success is usually very limited. Bed bugs can be eliminated with minimal chemical use as long as it is applied properly and thoroughly and ongoing monitoring occurs to ensure that the original infestation is eradicated. And one of the major takeaways is that buildings can reduce their overall costs while providing superior results as long as management, tenants and the treatment company work together.