Mark Sheperdigian has a new brief — but important — article in Pest Management Professional, about the limits of bed bug inspections.
The author is stating truisms known to those who know bed bugs — not radical new insights. And yet it is crucial for the pest management professional working on bed bug cases both to understand these facts — and to communicate them to their customers.
First, Sheperdigian comments on the difficulty of knowing whether a unit is infested:
We can discover with 100 percent certainty that an account is infested; we cannot discover with 100 percent certainty that it is not.
This is the most frustrating factor for people who think they have bed bugs. Many will spend hundreds of dollars in human and canine scent detection and still have no certainty whether they have bed bugs.
Sometimes people feel they have hired a lousy PCO or dog team; sometimes that is so, but the truth is: bed bugs are stealthy and hard to detect. That’s just how Sneaky Simes rolls. And so, Sheperdigian suggests, the key is for bed bug pros to communicate the difficulty of detection.
And Sheperdigian reminds us that “Most infestations are established before they are discovered,” and
This also means that in a multiple-unit dwelling situation such as apartments and senior housing, the units reporting bed bugs are only a portion of the problem. Therefore, a program that begins by treating only units that have reported bed bugs is treating only a portion of the problem. There are almost always units that have a light infestation unbeknownst to the tenants — and units that have heavier infestations unreported by the tenants.
Perhaps that is the one piece of information I wish all tenants and landlords knew. People tend to complain about bed bugs if they see them, or if they react to bed bug bites — and even then, they will often hesitate while they explore other possible causes (and in some cases, until they hear for the first time that bed bugs exist!)
When tenants or landlords assume that only those who have complained about bed bugs have bed bugs, we can forgive their ignorance of just how bed bugs work.
The problem is that pest management professionals who know bed bugs should know that there are almost always other infested units.
We hear some PCOs insist customers pay for inspection of adjacent units and/or all of a building’s units.
We hear others try to encourage this but are understandably ignored by customers who just don’t get it, or just can’t afford it. Many of the latter will treat the isolated unit anyway. Only later, it may become fully apparent to the homeowner, tenant, or landlord that this was not enough to get rid of bed bugs in the unit.
Frankly, I think Boston is on to the only possible solution for this problem; the Boston Inspectional Services Department requires landlords to treat all horizontally and vertically adjacent units and inspect the entire building.
Few landlords do this voluntarily. And many buildings end up with seriously chronic bed bug problems.
Here, as in his previous articles on bed bugs, I appreciate Mark Sheperdigian’s knowledge and wisdom. All in all, these are important issues that bed bug professionals and customers need to be aware of.
I know you will want to read the full article: “Know Your Limits in Bed Bug Inspection” at Pest Management Professional.
Thanks to Renee for the tip!