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spreading in multi-unit dwelling

(11 posts)
  1. diapensia

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Wed Jul 23 2008 13:59:00
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    Hi all,

    I live in a 3-story house with 3 units. I learned 2 days ago from the landlord that the tenants on the 2nd floor complained of bedbugs and that an exterminator was going in. The landlord knew about this for 2-2.5 weeks before telling me, and there have been bedbugs on the 2nd floor for at least 5 weeks or so. There apparently has been physical evidence of bugs in their apartment. The exterminator was in yesterday and "did what needed to be done". I have a call in to the exterminator, but I've not talked with him yet. A couple questions:

    How likely is it that the bugs will have spread from the 2nd to the 1st and/or 3rd floor during the past several weeks?

    Is it possible to get bedbugs from using the laundry facilities used to wash potentially infested items? In particular, I've used the washer/dryer over the last several weeks, even removing their (slightly damp) bedding from the dryer, before I knew there was an infestation and to beware of their bedding. I have stopped using the laundry facilities.

    Since learning of the presence of bugs on the 2nd floor, I have vacuumed my entire apartment and put packing tape around the radiator pipes. I have read a bunch of information on bedbugs, and a number of threads here. I have not seen any bugs in my apartment, but I'm obviously very concerned. I'm also very concerned because the 2nd floor tenants don't seem to be too aware of (or don't care about) the potential for spreading the bugs to the other residents.

    Thanks for your help.

  2. diapensia

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Mon Jul 28 2008 22:27:14
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    I have since talked w/ the pest control person. I will relate what I learned from him, in case someone happens across this w/ similar questions.

    There should be no problem using a washer/dryer that have previously been used to wash infested materials properly. However, there would be concern if dirty bedding or clothing was being left in the laundry area (as is the case in my building).

    As to spreading, the PCO "hoped" the situation would be isolated to the 2nd floor apartment and be quickly resolved (2 treatments of a handful of chemicals have occurred). I do not think I have bugs in my apartment now. Thus, I am being vigilant, and only time will tell whether the bugs will spread or not. I hope they won't.

    Cheers.

  3. paulaw0919

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Tue Jul 29 2008 7:14:11
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    It's so good that you are aware and looking into precautions. If you were to ever get these nasty critters, you will now most likely catch it much earlier than most. That is a very good thing. Multi units are a bit complex and I don't know much but will try and give you what I know based on experience.

    A family member of mine had bed bugs in her condo. She had 4 treatments, no other units were inspected or treated. (Scary in my eyes) But her infestation was last summer and so far so good. Her last inspection was in May and she was clear then. Her building is of newer construction. All her pipes and electrical outlets of are her own, not shared with others so I think that helps a lot.

    My grandmother, to our knowledge never got these nasty bugs yet. She owns a 2 family house and rents the upstairs apartment. All the electricity and piping is shared through the walls.
    If you are sharing piping and wires throughout the building what I suggest is to purchase so food grade, natural DE and a good bellows tool. (the thing to puff the DE out) I would puff the DE behind all openings in the wall where the pipes come out and then seal those openings with "Great Stuff" sealant. (under sinks)I would lightly puff DE under all baseboards and then seal them with caulk. Caulk all moldings on floors, windows, doors, and outlets after a light puff of DE. Caulk around vents if you have them, but no DE as this would blow around) This will help much in sealing your unit as so if their infestation is not isolated, will help them from getting into your unit. It's a lot of work, but very worth while.
    After my mothers infestation she paid a very knowledgeable PCO to caulk her condo for her, for she couldn't do it alone. This is to protect her from further infestations from other units in the future. The PCO did an excellent job caulking for her because he was caulking with the purpose of keeping the bugs out, not just for decor.

    Well, I wish you luck in not getting bed bugs and hope you take precautions. But if by chance you do, you are aware and can be vigilant, so that is a very good thing. Best.

  4. parakeets

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Tue Jul 29 2008 9:03:00
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    If the infestation on the second floor is not large, and the bedbugs are regularly getting well-fed by their blood meals in that unit, they are more likely (though not guaranteed) to stay close to their host on the second floor and not move around the building to look for a meal. Bedbugs are lazy like that. However, if the tenants on the second floor go away for a vacation or move out, I would say it is then extremely likely that their bedbugs would immediately move elsewhere in the building looking for dinner. And all this changes once the infestation gets larger. At that point the bedbugs will be looking for hosts and will readily travel around the building.

    I met a woman who managed a senior complex. She had observed the spread of bedbugs in her complex as they learned to deal with them and as they treated them. She orginially thought the bedbugs would travel from a neighboring apartment to the next, or to an apartment one floor above or below. Instead, she found the bedbugs followed a social pattern, so if a tenant on the 8th floor with bedbugs regularly visited a tenant on the first floor, the bedbugs would spread from that 8th floor unit to the first floor unit, not from the 8th floor apartment to the one below on the 7th floor.

    Since she observed that, I would be concerned if you have workers who come into the second floor apartment and then come into yours. You don't want any bedbugs spread that way to your unit.

  5. lieutenantdan

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Tue Jul 29 2008 9:40:43
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    I have found that anything is possible with bed bugs.
    Can they crawl from a wash machine? I believe yes.
    Can they travel from one floor to the next? Yes.
    The stay close to the host theory, especially if infestation is small is understandable but also understand the fact that bugs will hitch a ride from an infested apartment on the cuff of a pant and may decide to abandon ship right in front of your door or people moving item, throwing out garbage etc... will spread these creatures. Also 5% of an infestation once it hits a certain population density travel away from the host site for speculated reasons but not exactly known.
    I would and do take preventative precautions and continue to steam and clean and occasionally crack and crevice treat with Bedlam. I still have my bed legs sitting in dishes with DE and use Murphy's orange and inspect and Bedlam etc... the best I can and not at the same intensity as was at the peaks of my war. I believe that many more people will inherit bed bugs in the future, it is a growing problem.

  6. diapensia

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Tue Jul 29 2008 13:47:11
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    Thank you to everyone who has responded thus far; your comments are very appreciated.

    I am in the 3rd floor unit. I'm pretty sure that my electrical wiring is shared w/ the 2nd floor, the radiator piping is shared or at least goes through the 2nd floor via the walls. It is an old house from the 1930s.

    I pass every day through the front stairwell, which gives access to both 2nd and 3rd floor apartments. The back stairwell is the one they use to take dirty laundry to the basement, where they leave it for days in shared space. The back stairs are my access to the basement as well. I have been concerned about passing through these areas for fear of tracking something into my apt that way, but I have no choice but to go through them. I have hoped that the infestation was mild enough that the bugs would not be lurking in the stairs.

    The landlord says the 2nd floor tenants have not had any new bites since the last treatment (~ 1 week ago). However, I am still very concerned because the 2nd floor tenants are not neat, they leave dirty laundry piled in the basement, and they do not appear to understand and/or care that they may be spreading the infestation to others.

    The fact that there have been bedbugs on the 2nd floor for at least 6 weeks makes me worried about where they might have traveled to in that time, esp since I did not know to be vigilant for the previous weeks. Thus, I'm worried that they may have gotten to somewhere that was not subsequently treated. I have not seen any bedbugs in my apartment, and my mattress and bedding looked clean on Sunday when I changed sheets. I can only hope that this means the bugs are not in my apt now.

    However, it sounds to me like I really should push my landlord to get the PCO to inspect and treat my apartment. The application of DE in the baseboards, and caulking, in light of everyone's experiences, sounds highly warranted. Perhaps it would be reasonable to have him treat the common stairwells also. If nothing else, it would be peace of mind for me that I've tried to isolate my space from the 2nd floor and taken steps now to prevent the spread of bugs in the future (should the problem not be over or should it return). When I talked w/ the PCO on the phone, he did not think it was necessary to treat my apt or the basement, but he may not have understood the extent of the 2nd-floor tenants' carelessness.

    Finally, reading everyone's posts, it sounds like I may not be over-reacting.

    Regarding 2nd floor tenants on vacation, is a weekend away long enough to make the bugs try to find a new meal?

  7. paulaw0919

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Tue Jul 29 2008 15:12:17
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    Having bed bugs in your building is obviously a concern, but don't panic, okay? I would definitely either talk to the landlord and/or PCO to have the laundry room and common areas treated. I would also have the landlord take a STERN talking to about those tenents leaving dirty laundry in that room, floors or whatever. Not only for the bed bug issue, but it's a gross and dirty habit. You, especially now, with bed bugs in the building should not have to deal with that. If their laundry is there openly laid out like that, personally I would talk to the landlord to make sure it's corrected and maybe even use a public laundry mat until it's resolved. I would also, used plastic bags bringing my laundry to and from the laundry mat..and especially if you decide to continue to use that shared laundry room.

    Oh, and as for the weekend getaway...I wouldn't worry too much about that. They feed every 3-5 days so I hear. Just stay focused that they are in the building and try to keep them out of your place. Inspect not the the seams of the mattress, but also the box and the cracks in the bed frame. Personally I would inspect about 2-3 times a month until you know that you are clear. Caulking and getting a barrier in you place is a great safety measure if you can do it. After going through an infestation, I don't think I'll ever move. I don't ever want to caulk to the extent that we did back then ever again...which is what we would most likely have to do if we ever moved. I feel much safer now, in that I think I would spot a bug a bit easier if we ever got them again. (knock on wood)

  8. diapensia

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Tue Jul 29 2008 15:34:12
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    Yeah ok. Thanks. It's hard to know whether I'm over-reacting or not. I would be much less concerned if the other tenants weren't so messy.

    I have complained repeatedly to the landlord about the dirty laundry. He has talked with them, but apparently not firmly enough. The landlord does not want to bring the PCO back into the building at this point, because of the cost. The landlord sponged all common stairs and the occasional floor mats off w/ bleach over the weekend. Is that likely to be sufficient at this point?

  9. paulaw0919

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Tue Jul 29 2008 16:28:08
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    I wish I could answer your question about the bleach in the common areas, but I cannot. I would think nothing is better than a good residual pesticide like Phantom or something. If you are on good relations with your landlord, maybe it be best to stay up tonight, print out what you can from this site, other links on infestations in apartments, how important it is to treat it properly and fully eradicate them fully as to not toss LOTS more $$$ at it later when it's spread. It's so important to get them all or you run high risk of constantly getting reinfested. It's NOT uncommon to need 2, 3 even 4 treatments to full rid them from a home, even when infestation isn't heavy. (and with full co-operation from the tenants) All of this takes into account. Try to give him/her factual documents from articles etc.. Also Cooperpest has a good site on info with multiple housing. I would make it as if he/she would be looking out for their own best interest on their property and value etc...since he/she owns the building. It would really suck to continuously do half ass treatments over and over and over ($$, $$$, $$$$) and then eventually have to vikane fumigate the structure to fully rid the bugs(which is even more $$$$$$) In short, maybe you can show him through factual docs that spending a bit more now on proper treatments will save a fortune later. Plus if some one new moves into that apartment down the road and if it's still infested, I think the landlord is liable. It's in their best interest to rid the problem as fully and take action best as possible. Good Luck. It's good that he/she IS taking action though, is aware, and that it's not a huge multi unit building. There's much on you and his side on this which is good

  10. fightorflight

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Tue Jul 29 2008 19:36:22
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    > She orginially thought the bedbugs would travel from a neighboring apartment to the next, or to an apartment one floor above or below. Instead, she found the bedbugs followed a social pattern

    Parakeets - This is a rather fascinating first-hand observation.

    Alas, my own personal experience confirms that the bugs will also travel one unit above or below. I speculate that this is associated with the notorious and fiendishly cunning laziness of the bugs. The infrastructure of my (former) 100-year old building, with its original fir floor and joists, crumbling brick and plaster, and radiator riser pipes coming through big holes in the floor, was so porous that I could hear my neighbors below me like they were in bed next to me. That building offers a veritable interstate highway system for bedbugs. And circumstances were ripe: The neighbors did go away for a while, and also, their PCO may not have been thorough and detail-oriented enough, causing some bugs to scatter to my place. There is some speculation that they like to travel up.

  11. diapensia

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Wed Jul 30 2008 7:58:58
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    It does tend to get warmer as you go upstairs in a building. Perhaps that is a factor in the bedbugs' roving.

    Once I find some food-grade DE, hopefully today, I hope to start the border/barrier treatment paulaw0919 suggested, though I expect it will take a while to accomplish.

    It seems like bedbugs might be most likely to spread up/down from the place of infestation (bedroom), assuming they haven't spread to the entire apartment yet. So, does it make sense to start barrier-control above the 2nd floor bedroom? Or to start with my bedroom since that is where the bugs would be happiest were they in my apartment?


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