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This Web Exclusive article has been provided by Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs at the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).
Although bed bugs have in the past been typically associated with residential environments, these hard to control pests become even more challenging when they infest commercial facilities. Due in part to the large size of most facilities, as well as the numerous hiding places such structures offer bed bugs, management of this pest can be extremely difficult.
“Bugs Without Borders,” a 2013 survey of U.S. pest professionals conducted by the NPMA and the University of Kentucky, found that nearly all pest professionals had treated for bed bugs in calendar year 2012, with a large number of respondents reporting treating bed bug infestations in a number of commercial settings, such as college dorms, hotels, nursing homes, offices, schools and daycare centers, and hospitals.
Specifically, 36% of pest professionals treated bed bugs in office buildings; 41% in schools and day care centers; 47% in college dorms; 33% in hospitals; 12% in libraries and a slew of other environments such as laundry facilities, movie theaters, and retail stores. Additionally, more respondents reported treating infestations in college dorms, hospitals, libraries, and schools and daycare centers than the year prior. Simply put, bed bugs are found anywhere and everywhere there are humans for them to feed on and they are not confined to the bed or a bedroom.
Bed Bug Detection, Prevention and the Role of Facility Mangers
Commercial facilities pose specific challenges when it comes to bed bug elimination, and due to a much larger space compared to an apartment or a single-family home, early detection is rare. Visual detection is difficult because commercial facilities may not always offer traditional bed bug harborage sites such as mattresses, box springs, and furniture. Rather, they spread out and easily disperse to other floors — and even other buildings in the facility — making the reintroduction of bed bugs a constant threat, especially when it can be difficult to determine from where the problem originated. When it comes to actual treatments, not all items in a commercial facility may be able to be treated or may have to be treated off-site, increasing the cost of service. And finally, bed bugs in work environments can also pose a number of problems related to human resources, including employee complaints, legal issues, and the like.
Although working with a pest management company on a regular basis is the norm for most facility managers, when it comes to bed bugs, it is especially important that managers and their employees learn basic bed bug prevention and detection tips to help reduce the risk of bringing bed bugs into a facility and to communicate the signs and pinpoint suspected locations of bed bugs with their pest management partner. Understanding the ease with which the pest can be moved from one place to another, their basic biology and habits, how to recognize the bugs themselves, signs of an infestation, detecting bites and the immediate actions to take if an infestation is suspected, can go a long way in helping to reduce the risk.
Treatment and Control
According to more than 75% of the “Bugs Without Borders” survey respondents, bed bugs are the most difficult pest to control. Not only do they breed rapidly and produce a large number of offspring, they are a hardy pest that can live approximately six months without food and withstand a wide range of temperatures, from near freezing temperatures to 122°F.
Due to the bug’s biology, there are a number of methods pest management professionals may choose to employ to treat an infestation and can depend on several factors (the type of facility, the scope of the infestation, and certain protocols that may be in place in the facility).
The treatment methods are divided into mechanical controls and insecticide treatments. Mechanical control tactics include vacumming, encasement of mattresses as appropriate, discarding of infested items, as well as thermal treatments with dry heat, steam, or cold. Whereas insecticide treatments involve professional applications of various products in spray or dust form.
However, it is important to note that the course of treatment will almost always consist of a cycle of services and inspections over a period of many months and will involve a combination of mechanical control methods and insecticides in order to ensure the infestation is fully cleared. Additionally, pest professionals will work with facility managers to improve practices which may have led to the infestation and offer suggestions on prevention. To help prepare for bed bug remediation, the NPMA has comprehensive guidelines on best management practices and commercial protocols available at this website: AllThingsBedBugs.org.