Bedbugs & Business 2012: Surveillance and Staff Preparation Are Key

Photo provided by JP Pest Services
Photo provided by JP Pest Services

Officials at Terminix have seen an increase in the prevalence of bedbugs in most states since releasing its first Most Bedbug-Infested Cities ranking in 2010. With the growth in bedbug populations across the U.S., businesses continue to represent 70% of Terminix’s bedbug customers versus 30% for residential customers. Philadelphia won the dubious title of most bedbug-infested U.S. city this year.

“In areas with high levels of active bedbugs, it is not uncommon to see a 300% increase in reported incidences over levels reported just a few years ago,” says Paul Curtis, director of service quality for Terminix. “And in areas where infestation is newly discovered, increases can be as high as 1500% over the previous year.”

While some locations are more susceptible to infestation than others, bedbugs are transferred by people: the more people traffic a location has, the more it is at risk. For office buildings, the high volumes of traffic create a special challenge, as do personal items brought from home. Many areas can harbor bedbugs including cubicles, employee lockers, break rooms, and electronic equipment.

“Discovery of suspected infestations or bedbug activity often comes via complaints from visitors or employees,” adds Curtis. “It’s important for facility managers (fms) to develop an action plan in advance with their staff.”

Here are some suggestions for fms looking to create an action plan.

  • Train and educate all staff members on how to look for signs of infestation and what to do if bedbug activity is found.
  • Conduct regular inspections of vulnerable areas and train employees to self check, since it can be difficult to inspect personal items, the most likely source of infestation. In addition to a bedbug, you may see eggs, fecal spots, or cast skins as signs of infestation.
  • Train staff to handle visitor and employee concerns related to bedbugs sympathetically, professionally, and according to company policy. Legally, employees’ actions and words could be imputed to their employer.
  • It’s most critical to be quick and responsive—if you suspect bedbugs, contact an expert immediately to schedule an inspection.
  • Preserve samples of the suspected evidence to show to the expert during inspection.

“Bedbugs continue to plague many U.S. cities and towns, and they are able to hitchhike on any item and be carried into any home or building,” said Stoy Hedges, an entomologist with Terminix. “While major metropolitan areas are most at risk, it is important to note that bedbugs have been spotted in cities and towns across the country.”

Hedges cautions that bedbug infestations are not something that schools should attempt handle on their own. A recent report in the Journal of Economic Entomology reported that over-the-counter foggers have been proven ineffective and are not recommended for use.


  1. “300% increase in reported incidences”, wow! Until that report, I had no idea that bed bugs were still this large of a problem for businesses.

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