I was able to go to the Second Greater Boston Bed Bug Conference yesterday, June 13, 2007. The sub-title was “Extermination and Legislation.” There were many people there, maybe 100 or more, from diverse areas such as government, public housing, inspection services, senior services, property managers and exterminators. They even had live bedbugs attending, freshly-caught that morning, in plastic containers of course.

There was much content and these few paragraphs I write here can cover only some things that struck me. This post unfortunately cannot serve as a comprehensive overview of the many topics that were raised or speakers who addressed us, not all of which I could comment on below. It was an excellent program and I’m sorry it wasn’t pod-casted for everyone here to participate and benefit.

The conference gave out a one-page resource guide and our blog was listed 4 times. Not only bedbugger.com, but also three specific URLs for FAQ’s. (think-you-have-bed-bugs, advice-on-getting treatment, how-do-I-protect my bed).

The overall tone was set by the first speaker, a Senior Health Inspector/toxicologist, with the first slides “Got bedbugs? Act immediately. No time for blame.” There were leaders from the Allston Brighton Community Development group that is so pro-active about bedbugs, and someone from Somerville who was also a great community activist. These were caring, sharp people who are out in the municipal trenches!

http://news.bostonherald.com/images/localRegional/bug_ltp06142007.jpg

One presentation at the conference was a live demonstration of a home inspection. They had a mattress and box spring right there on the stage and inspected it. They felt an inspection should take a minimum of an hour and that the inspector should look at the underside of your box spring. Though they felt that with current practices, mattresses could be bagged and furniture treated, but they said that box springs frequently had to be discarded.

There was a lively one-hour question period with a panel of savvy inspectors and local PCOs (which I learned can also be called PMPs now). They knew their stuff. They were very much into people not moving when they had bedbugs. They said they had a case where a unit was so infested the two tenants were moved into a hotel. The tenants moved with only their medications and the clothes they had on. In three days there was evidence these tenants had taken bedbugs with them to the hotel! So they said unless you shower, put new clothes on, and take absolutely **nothing** with you, there is a chance you can take bedbugs with you. (My note: I wonder if bedbugs were transported in shoes or a wallet or the cuff of a pant leg or something?)

The PCOs were fan of using hair dryers when one inspects. Not to kill bedbugs, though they did agree you might be able to kill a bedbug if you a hair dryer up close to it on very high for 5 minutes or more — they used hair dryers as “an inspectional tool” to test to see where bedbugs were when they went into an apartment. They said bedbugs were frequently in clock radios by the bed, and you could aim a hot hair dryer at something like a clock radio and the heat would make the bedbugs come out of the unit.

Though they showed various pesticides, including SteriFab, which they said was 90% alcohol and a contact killer. They said pretty much anything could kill bedbugs on contact, but the problem was you rarely saw bedbugs and you wanted something that would kill the ones you didn’t see.

They were against preventive spraying and said it did nothing. They said preventive inspections were what you should do, and stressed education of everyone, e.g., how hotels had trained housekeeping to look for bedbugs.

In the afternoon there was a panel of three lawyers. The lawyers stressed cooperation and not having an adversarial relationship with the landlord. They said bedbug cases the victims were usually awarded punitive damages of 3 to 7 times the cost incurred, plus legal fees which can be high. They talked of a case where the punitive damages were $26,000 and the legal fees were $25,000, so the landlord had to pay a lot.

In Massachusetts, a landlord who has more than a certain number of tenants (not a small landlord who is living in a 3-family house with the tenants) is considered as running a business and you can go against the landlord as a business using the Consumer Protection Act. They refer to it as 93A, and you have to start with a “93A demand letter.” There were many grey areas, such as who paid if tenants needed to have furniture replaced or if they had to have alternative housing. The panel of lawyers thought the landlord should not only pay for the extermination, repeated ones, but also for the cleaning of the clothes. They said a landlord could not refuse to rent to you if you had bedbugs because it would be discriminatory.

All in all, I really enjoyed the day. There was a lot of other information conveyed that I already knew so I didn’t refer to it here. I realized how I had learned so much from this blog already, but, even so, it was amazing to go to a day-long bedbug conference and learn even more. I particularly liked being surrounded by people who clearly know how serious the bedbug problem is and are educated and committed to addressing it. Great job.

Any errors in my interpretation of what was said at the conference are my own. They were the experts. I was just gratefully taking notes as I learned more at a day at “The College of Bedbug Knowledge.”

PS: There was some discussion of how pets can have bedbugs. They even showed a slide with a parakeet. I know my parakeets were bitten by bedbugs, and it brought a tear to my eye and I was touched, not just because of my screen name here.

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1 Bugalina June 14, 2007 at 1:56 pm

MA…I have been offline for awhile….I needed an emotional break…but I cannot help but say thank you to YOU….You have done a great service to the Blog by attending the conference and passing along the info….I have been saying for some time that boxsprings are a no no….I continue to sleep on air mattress, topped with a memory foam topper, all encased in a zippered bed bug cover. I hope that NYC will follow in the footsteps of Boston by recognizing the need for public awareness…Being that I hold a PHD from the College of Bed Bug Knowledge I feel somewhat qualified to comment !! I too agree that looking for blame is useless….The direction of focus has to be on extermination..asap….Thank you for forcing me out of my self imposed exile …Deb

2 hopelessnomo June 14, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Yay Keets! You make us laugh, you go to conferences and report back, you are amazing, thanks! I hope you got lots of business cards and got new insights and strategies.

I just want to point something out because it’s delicate. Yes, it is extremely easy to move bedbugs with you when you move. And it is critical for anyone considering moving to think and plan very carefully. The best thing someone in that position can do is to just wait out the treatment protocols and only move after the infestation is eradicated, or nearly eradicated, let’s say in the case of a multi-unit building receiving improper treatments where ridding your own apartment of bugs is only a temporary measure. That’s best case scenario. In the real world, things happen. And people get desperate. Or they have to travel. Contingencies and emergencies. Therefore, it is important to point out that there is NO indication that the people mentioned in that hotel vignette were taking even the basic, normal precautions that we learn to take when we go to work, for example. Showering and dressing from clothes sealed in a plastic bag, clothes that were laundered and dried appropriately, protecting our shoes and personal items at all times, etc. Fighting bedbugs is really hard. We have to have our small reassurances that we can take steps to prevent the spread. People should not come away from this thinking that they have bedbugs on them no matter what they do, when they go to work, or even that moving safely is an impossibility. Warning people against moving has to be balanced against the reality that, in fact, some people do succeed in moving safely and not spreading their bugs. (Yes, I am conflicted on this issue because I do think there are circumstances that warrant moving.)

3 hopelessnomo June 14, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Bugalina, just a quick note to say we miss you but I hope you are enjoying your break and getting stronger!

4 wantmyskinback June 14, 2007 at 2:40 pm

Bravo Parakeets! I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from your post. Thank you. Welcome Back BUGALINA. When are we going to attend some conferences here in the big Apple, eh?

5 lieutenantdan June 14, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Thanks you for your report parakeets. Your report made me wish that I could have attended also. A couple of questions please.

Your parakeet was bitten I would like to hear more about that. Could you tell us more? Our dog was bitten too, she was bitten on the stomach many times. It was one thing what the bugs did to my wife and I and our home but my dog being bitten really pissed me off and that probably proved to be the most inspiration in becomming a Warrior.

The other question is.
Was it mentioned that we are in an epidemic situation and how are the professionals speculating on dealing with the rapidly growing bed bug epidemic?

6 parakeets June 14, 2007 at 3:54 pm

I had my parakeets when my apartment was heavily infested and I didn’t know what bedbugs were. I saw one in their cage. Even though they were itching, that could have been from anything. The reason I know they were bitten by the bedbugs was because there was at least one blood spot on the white wall immediately behind their cage, just like there are blood spots on my sheets. They were bitten a weekend I was away. I still am upset about that.

To my memory, the word “epidemic” was not used. However this group seemed absolutely aware of how quickly the problem was growing. This group knew! There was great concern on how the increasing number of bedbug expenses would be paid for out of municipal budgets. One town spent $100,000 out if its small affordable housing budget just for bedbug treatments and the money had to be taken from other important items. One suggestion on financing was to use the de-leading programs as a model for landlords who might need financial assistance in combating bedbugs. There was emphasis on the need for education, mediation, follow-through and enforcement by court order if necessary so that treatment would be effectively done. They said MA already had a law about selling used mattresses, and they talked about the effort in NY. They said people had to be educated about second-hand furniture. They said there needed to be education in the schools about bedbugs just like there is education about head lice.

7 lieutenantdan June 14, 2007 at 6:03 pm

Thanks for your reply parakeets,
I think that I had found one on my dog before I knew what a bed bug was.
Is your infestation under control now? It is weird enough having had to deal with this strange bug thing but what makes it worse is how people who have never had a infestation just don’t get it. Are you birds OK now?

8 u2dan June 14, 2007 at 11:13 pm

Yay!! where in MA was this? If i knew about it i totally would have represented. I want my stupid ex-landlord to pay for the shit that i went throuh the past winter, and the assholes had the f-ing nerve to charge me $1700 becuasse i had to break a lease. THey agreed that it wouldnt be a good idea to rent out the extra room in my apt having just been infested yet i couldnt afford it on my own so i was screwed either way. I hate them!! Sorry fo rmy vulgarity..i love my apartment so much and where i lived and i am so pissed that all of this had to happen. 🙁 Just lke all of us are here.

Its really really scary that 95% of people really don’t know what bedbugs are, they still think they are a fairytale thing. Its sickening. Allston and Brighton are really bad areas on the bedbug map due to the volume of students traveling and moving about.

9 nobugsonme June 15, 2007 at 12:28 am

Parakeets,

Thanks for the wonderful report on the bed bug conference. I am so glad that you could attend and share what you learned!

Hi u2dan,

The conference was mentioned as part of a news round up on this blog last Thursday. Sorry you did not catch that–the more of us that can go to these things, the better!

10 parakeets June 15, 2007 at 9:25 am

lieutentdan — my infestation cycles up and down. My landlord is treating but original ineffective treatments drove the bedbugs into the wall voids and they haven’t been able to completely eradicate them. Sadly, my birds died. After the building was fogged, all the parakeets in the building died, even though we brought them back after the recommended number of hours had passed. Parakeets can die if you cook with old Teflon cookware. They are sensitive to fumes.

u2dan — It was in Bunker Hill Community College. You would have especially liked the legal panel’s discussion. However, all the lawyers agreed that witholding rent or moving out and breaking the lease were not the first steps a tenant should take, and these were lawyers representing very differing sides–the tenant, legal aid, and landlord sides of the issue.

11 hopelessnomo June 15, 2007 at 10:07 am

Hi Parakeets,
So what is your current thinking on your building’s situation, after this conference? Have you reviewed your options? It seems to me that you have options. They’re not perfect but they exist. I think we would all like to help. There is always something that can be done. Did the landlord hire a better PCO firm? I wonder sometimes about your neighbors, I mean your immediate neighbors on your floor. Have you spoken to them? Could you possibly hire a PCO on your own and have the landlord pay? Can we have a conversation about this? I mean, I want to help and I’m sure everyone else here will have good ideas that have not occurred to you. Please say yes.

12 nobugsonme June 15, 2007 at 11:03 am

Hopelessnomo took the words out of my mouth. Parakeets, I think if you’ve had your landlord’s PCO treating you for 18 months, and you still have bed bugs, then there are other options. More than one option comes to my mind.

Sometimes I think hanging around the battle-weary on Bedbugger discourages folks from thinking bed bugs can be gotten rid of. But they can. At least long enough to escape.

Other routes involve forcing the landlord to take better measures.

But getting them at bay and getting out discretely might appeal to you more. Why should you have to live with them indefinitely when others don’t?

I hope you’ll forgive the intrusion, but you have a lot of fans here and I am sure, as Nomo says, we’d all like to help.

13 nobugsonme June 15, 2007 at 11:50 am
14 June 15, 2007 at 4:34 pm

oh argh! i ahvent been around much lately. Oh well next time.

15 nobugsonme June 15, 2007 at 11:20 pm

Special for all my “Anonymous” kids–u2dan, Jammin, and the other one (don’t know who you are but I know you’re on the forums):

Listen, your login from the forums will work here. I don’t know why it does not recognize you. Here’s what to do: go to the top right corner of this page: Do you see the word “Login”? If so, click it, and login with your forum login.

If you instead see the word “Logout,” click that! Logout! Then you will see Login, and you can click it and login.

Sorry the blog is not recognizing you, maybe it’s because you do not allow cookies.

As I said to Jammin, anonymous comments are always allowed, but it’s fun when we can all greet you by name. And give u2dan a kick up the you-know-what for not reading the blog enough 😉 (I know, you were busy in Long Island City!)

16 parakeets June 18, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Here’s another link about the bedbug conference with coverage of things I did not include in my writeup, and some great quotes.

http://www.townonline.com/homepage/x1564168703

17 Vectorguard March 30, 2008 at 8:52 am

Thank you for the articles on the lawsuits and the conferences, I am very interested
in how this turns out. I own a bed bug dog business, there is a study going on at Florida State University about the detection rate of a bed bug dog. The results are coming out in May at the conference there in Florida . There has been a past study on termite sniffing dogs thier detection rate is 95% with a 3% false alert rate. I am not here to advertise my business but to say that bed bug dogs can be a great tool in finding these intrusive pests. I have seen young kids bitten and sores all over thier body. I have been in pest control for 12 years and this problem is growing very
quickly. It cannot be ignored any longer and the only way to keep this under control is with constant inspections becasue you don’t know you have them until you have been bitten. Constant inspection is the answer for this problem.

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