Bed bug infestations in the home

Get rid of bed bugs, and keep them away.

People who live in rental housing may have particular challenges in getting rid of bed bugs, especially if they live in an apartment or other multi-family housing.

Once a bed bug infestation has been identified, it takes a lot of work to get rid of it, no matter what kind of housing you’re in. In rental or multi-family units, effective treatment requires the cooperation of three parties working together: The resident, the landlord and the Pest Management Professional (PMP). Without the participation of all three it will be nearly impossible to eliminate an infestation.

There should be no shame associated with having bed bugs in an apartment. It is not an issue of cleanliness. Although clutter makes it more difficult to eradicate bed bugs, cleanliness cannot prevent the problem from occurring. Once an infestation has been identified, the most important thing is to be proactive about treating it.

A resident’s primary responsibility is to cooperate with the PMP and property manager in treating a bed bug infestation. This means reporting any suspected infestations to property management, preparing the unit for inspection and treatment, following any instructions given by the PMP and taking measures to prevent re-infestation.

Residents need to understand that if they fail to cooperate with treatment, they can be found legally liable and possibly even evicted from their apartment. Residents should not attempt to eradicate bed bugs on their own; doing so may spread bed bugs to other units or be more dangerous than the bed bug problem itself.

Preparing an apartment for bed bug treatment is a time and labor-intensive process. Residents should follow the instructions given to them by the PMP. For residents with special needs, it may be wise to enlist a family member, friend or staff member to assist with the treatment steps and preparation. The Michigan State University Extension article, “Preparing Your Home for Bed Bug Treatment” may be useful as well.

Immediately following treatment all clothing, bedding, towels and other soft goods should be laundered in a washing machine with hot water and/or dried on high heat for at least 30 minutes. This step may be part of the pre-treatment protocol, depending on the PMP. If the resident is using common laundry facilities, the items should be sealed in plastic bags for transport directly to the washing machine.

To avoid releasing bed bugs in the laundry facility, infested laundry should be transferred directly from bags/containers to the machines or dissolvable bags can be used. The washed belongings need to be folded and sealed in new plastic bags or plastic containers with tight fitting lids before being transported back to the resident’s home.

It may take multiple treatments to completely eliminate a bed bug infestation. Residents should speak to their property manager and/or PMP about any concerns they have regarding treatment. Once the infestation has been eliminated, residents should take steps to avoid re-infestation. The “Prevention” section of the Michigan Manual for the Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs contains many useful tips for preventing bed bug infestations.

MSU Extension has partnered with the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) to address the bed bug issue. For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit the MDCH website at www.michigan.gov/bedbugs.