Bed bugs 40, humans 33: 185 Smith Street in Winnipeg.

by nobugsonme on February 22, 2007 · 18 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, canada, housing laws, manitoba

I don’t mean to sound alarmist, folks, but the bed bugs are doing pretty well this week. First Caryn meets bed bugs again, after 2.5 years, then the gentleman in Edmonton who moved from one infested building into another. And now this:

Winnipeg Free Press headline claims “Bedbugs Winning War in Downtown Complex.”

Part of me says, “Whoa! Don’t let the bed bugs hear you say that!”

The other part of me says things I can’t repeat in mixed company.

Here’s the deal: in 2004, 73 units of the building at 185 Smith Street were infested with bed bugs. After a lengthy war, 40 still are.

Since 2004, Manitoba Housing has spent nearly $260,000 fumigating suites in the building, which residents say has done little to stop the spread of the mattress-loving mites. Manitoba Housing has never evacuated the entire building for fumigation, saying it’s too difficult a process.

Well, they’re not mites, and I bet you were not fumigating, but carry on.

“I don’t think they’re ever going to solve this,” resident Gary Durack said. “This is not going to stop. They’re throwing away money coming here and spraying.”

John Snezyk, manager of maintenance operations for Manitoba Housing, defended Manitoba Housing’s extermination tactics and said they are still working to correct the outbreak.

; Click here to find out more!

The housing authority devised a plan in 2004 to fumigate infected suites and their immediate neighbours, along with doing two followup sprayings within the following two weeks. Snezyk said they are now working on a pilot project to seal the cracks in the walls of four suites, to see whether it might prevent the bugs from migrating through the building.

“It’s not that it didn’t work, it’s just an ongoing problem,” he said. “We’re working diligently and we take the problem very seriously.”

Yes– the problem with multi-unit dwellings is that the bugs can travel. They clearly did, to get into so many units (though we don’t know the size of the building, 73 and even 40 is a lot of units to be affected). The other problem with large buildings is that many people do not have the inclination or ability to deal with the kinds of preparations the tenants must do for treatment to work. If any are uncompliant, it can really affect the others. We have seen how hard it can be when just one neighbor does not report or participate in treatment; imagine 40 of them.

In a private rental suite, the Residential Tenancies Branch holds a landlord accountable for rodents and other pests. If the landlord does not eradicate the pest problem, the tenant can complain to public health authorities or terminate their rental contract.

Durack said Smith Street residents are entitled to the same kind of health protection, and shouldn’t have to live with constant fumigation and worry about bedbugs.

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority medical officer Dr. Margaret Fast said the tiny bugs don’t spread disease, but scratching the itchy bites can lead to infection. Although there is no way to minimize the risk of being bitten once bedbugs are in the home, Fast said people can avoid getting them in the first place by vacuuming crevices in second-hand furniture.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that people just plain should not take in second-hand furniture. Look, I am not a rich person. I come from New York, where even people with professional jobs take in furniture from the curb (New York is expensive!) For students and people on low incomes, it is really rough, I have been there. But when all is said and done, I don’t know anyone who, having suffered from bed bugs, would not trade sitting on a metal folding chair, never having had bed bugs, to sitting on a lovely upholstered chair, and dealing with bed bugs for months or (in this case) three years.

Snezyk said part of the problem is tenants need to take more responsibility to help stop the outbreak. Often, he said, residents are too embarrassed to report a bedbug sighting in their suite. In other instances, he said tenants have picked up infected furniture thrown out by other residents and taken it to their suite.

Manitoba Housing is posting reminders and holding meetings with tenants to encourage them to report a bedbug sighting immediately and not to pick up any furniture thrown away by other residents.

Clearly, the information provided is not doing enough. People do not get bed bugs. We need old-style “Loose Lips Sink Ships”-type propaganda campaigns to spread the word about bed bugs. We need governments sending out flyers and putting up posters and airing commercials. I know that isn’t going to happen any time soon, but eventually, it probably will.

Longtime resident John, who didn’t wanted his last name used, said he’s become so paranoid about bugs crawling on him he sometimes gets up in the middle of the night and checks his mattress, which is already double-wrapped in plastic, until he’s satisfied it’s bug-free.

When Canadian MPs, US Senators, Hotel CEOs, and TV news anchors are kept up at night, then maybe we’ll see some action.

1 Bugalina February 22, 2007 at 11:29 pm

Well put..its apparent that the pesticides that are being used are not effective enough to stop the spread of bed bugs…at the risk of being “unpopular”..( who cares ) …I say bring back the pesticide that eradicated them back in the fifties…life is short, and we live in the civilized world.???..maybe…so please give us a pesticide that will allow us to go back to worrying about things other than bed bugs…one dose of something that works is better than continuous doses of crap that doesn’t….

2 parakeets February 23, 2007 at 10:23 am

The challenge is multi-unit housing. The chances of bringing bedbugs in are multiplied by the number of tenants, and buildings with 10, 20, 30 or more units, have 10, 20 and 30 times the chances of getting bedbugs–multi-unit buildings get bedbugs the normal way we all get bedbugs, but just so magnified because there are so many more people.

If bedbugs come into a multi-unit housing, some of the problems are….

1) some tenants are not affected by bedbug bites so they don’t even know they have bedbugs (estimates say perhaps up to 70% of people don’t react to the bites) and the presence of bedbugs goes undetected

2) tenants whose body reacts to the bites but don’t know it’s bedbugs (not even my dermatology practice knew my skin condition was caused by bedbug bites, so you can’t blame people for not knowing).

3) tenants who might know it’s bedbugs but are afraid to tell the landlord due to other reasons. This is common with illegal alients, for example, or people on rent control, or pack rats, or people who have too many persons or pets in the unit

4) tenants afraid to report they have bedbugs because they don’t trust the landlord and are afraid they will be evicted just because they have bedbugs, or that they will be blamed–or even charged–for all the bedbugs in the building

5) a landlord who may ignore complaints of bedbugs or, who, to save money, self-treats or only treats one unit, not neighboring units; a landlord who only treats once; a landlord who stalls and writes letters to tenants rather than treat.

6) tenants who may not cooperate fully when the building is treated and bedbugs will not be eradicated unless every single tenant is fully cooperative.

7) tenants may reinfect the building in the way they infected it in the first place (dumpster diving, getting bedbugs from a used mattress or furniture, staying at a hotel with bedbugs, visiting a friend with bedbugs, etc.)

On the Yahoo board, when I polled to see where people with bedbugs lived, most lived in multi-unit housing. If a multi-unit building gets bedbugs, it is more difficult to treat, and tenants move in and out of multi-unit housing on a frequent basis so bedbugs spread.

Yes, anyone can get bedbugs, but bedbugs in multi-family housing is a major issue that cannot possibly be addressed at the individual or pest control company level. Bedbugs will get worse before they get better. We haven’t seen anything yet since there is still a conspiracy of silence. There was a time that women who got breast cancer didn’t speak about it, and then some very courageous women in the public eye spoke up and shared their stories. We need this to happen now. There is too much of a “It won’t happen to me” attitude, and a “we/them” attidude (those who live in private homes so don’t know anyone who claims to have bedbugs and feel people are “over-reacting” or “over-reporting” the bedbug issue).

3 nobugsonme February 23, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Parakeets, you’re absolutely right.
In this case, it looks like only #5-7 apply, since people were told they had bed bugs. We might add #8: landlord who treats all units, but PCO does not do a good job, or methods spread bed bugs further. Looking into caulking now, after the bed bugs have entered every apartment, may be too little too late IMHO. Why not caulk when you first see the problem? Easy for me to say, but it might have helped earlier on.

4 hopelessnomo' February 23, 2007 at 6:12 pm

Three years… If tenants in a building fighting bedbugs for 3 whole unbelievably depressing years are picking up “infected furniture” and bringing it back in, this points to a different problem altogether, not indifference or carelessness really but plain poverty, or the mindset that persistent poverty creates that is more repulsed by the waste of seemingly perfectly good things than by bugs. A much, way, way more difficult problem. Sadly, and I have observed this from close distance, bugs are not a big deal for some people. Not sure how I feel about that.

5 nobugsonme February 23, 2007 at 6:22 pm

Hey Nomo! Good to see you. We had another hopeless in your absence (I think). It’s good to see you again. Hope the move went well?

Anyway, poverty is a huge problem, you’re right. I think a public education campaign could help because I do think lots of people just don’t get it, even if their landlord gave them a flier, and that maybe they would agree the furniture just is not worth it.

But you’re right–some people don’t care. (Or as others have said, don’t notice the problem even when they “have” it.) I’m not sure what to do about that.

Altruism and a sense of community is perhaps not enough, sadly.

6 hopelessnomo' February 23, 2007 at 6:41 pm

Hey nobugs! Thanks, yes, move went well insofar as no more bugs (what more do I want, right?) but of course not really healed yet and starting to get obsessed again…

There’s dire bedbug ignorance out there. But don’t you think our small community can help though, simply by growing? Everyone needs to get the bedbug basics! I close my eyes and I can just see the subway posters… I’m positive you can too nobugs!

7 nobugsonme February 23, 2007 at 8:14 pm

I do, ‘Nomo. I am an optimist. People are starting to learn, and this site alone is getting around 13,000 site visits a month, so word is getting out.

8 jessinchicago February 23, 2007 at 9:52 pm

Hopelessnomo’!!!!! I have been thinking about you. It’s so good to hear from you! Glad the move went well.

I can see the flyers and posters, too. And commercials: “This… Is your brain. THIS is your brain on bedbugs.”


9 buggedinbrooklyn February 25, 2007 at 8:24 am


glad the move went well, and nice to have you back with us again.


10 NeverSleep November 6, 2007 at 5:19 am

ugh, im from winnipeg too. unfortunately i am renting a house and i dont think my landlord is going to foot the bill for an extermination, and as a student i certainly cant.

im covered in bites. cant sleep. can’t move out. can’t find the time to go to a laundrymat (student blaarrgh)

i just want to die already!

11 nobugsonme November 6, 2007 at 5:26 am

Check the FAQS for landlord-tenant information.
And come to the forums if you have questions. (Links above.)

12 loretta March 19, 2008 at 9:20 am

how do i get raid of bedbugs what kind of spary do i get can you let me know so i can buy the stuff my son is getting bitten up i wash every thing i put all stuff toys in a black bag and now i dont know what eles to do ..

13 hopelessnomo March 19, 2008 at 11:05 am

Loretta, please read the FAQs. It is not in your best interest to self-treat as you might spread the bedbugs and make them harder to kill. Please consult a qualified pest control professional. In most areas, your landlord is required to eradicate pests from your home. You can ask further questions in the forums (click the blue ‘forums’ bug above right).

14 Jake March 5, 2009 at 1:11 am

I’ve been living at 185 Smith for about 3yrs (FYI, it’s a 400 suite complex). The 1st year was hell–lots of bites and no guidance on how to keep the bloodsuckers at bay meant a lot of trial and error. Save yourself some grief and note these tips:
-any kind of fabric, including slippers, are potential breeding grounds and hiding places for bedbugs. I suggest you get rid of them. If you enjoy lying on the floor, the bedbugs will get you. They find you by sight and smell. Keep things off the floor whenever possible. I had bird feed on the ground in an open bag and they got to my budgies. That was the day I declared war on bedbugs and took back my apartment.
-any furniture with legs should have silicone or WD-40 smeared around the legs where they contact the floor. The bugs can’t go vertical on walls, but they can climb sloped or rough surfaces (I’m on the 20th floor).
-Get your mattress and any upholstery wrapped with heavy gauge plastic and ensure it is airtight–the boxspring is optional if you have greased the legs of the bed before moving in.
-If your bedding touches the ground, even for a second, it must be washed in hot water immediately and dried on high heat for 1 hour or thrown in the bathtub so the bugs can’t escape. All soiled clothing should be handled in the same manner until you have the situation under control.
-keep sweeping the floors and vacuum the crevices if you can. Boric acid powder, available at some drug stores, will slowly kill off bedbugs and cockroaches. I dust the perimeter of my appt. Cockroaches are a natural predator of bedbugs, so if you don’t mind cockroaches… KIDDING!!!

Happy Hunting!!!

15 M.A. March 19, 2009 at 12:09 pm

I live in Winnipeg in a old character home in Wolsley. Up until a month ago I thought bed bugs were a myth. No longer! Found them in my daughter’s room. Have had two treatments already, am not seeing any bugs nor is anyone being bitten but I am paranoid they will come back. We are throwing out everything we possibly can, treating all wooden surfaces such as hardwood floors and dresser drawers with a mixture of neem oil and tea tree oil, spreading diamatheous earth into all cracks and crevasse, around all baseboard etc. Wrapping our mattresses and boxsprings. I really feel there needs to be a concerted effort on behalf of the powers that be to get the info out about bed bugs and how to prevent their spread – i.e. no dumpster diving for sure! With spring just on the horizon I think we are in for a huge surprise in the Wolsley area as they begin to spread from apartment to apartment and house to house. I work in health care in the city and many of our lower income housing complexes are innundated with these pests.

16 wpgbugguy March 19, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Hi M.A.

I am sorry to read about your personal plight in dealing with bed bugs in your home.

I agree with your assessment regarding the need to enhance awareness and education about bed bugs; however I must remind the public that the incidence of bed bugs is not limited to lower income housing complexes, nor did the Winnipeg problem originate in these complexes.

The complex bed bug issue simply became known as occuring in these public housing stocks.

Lately, further attention appears to be focused on public housing in Winnipeg. Rest assured the problem is unfortunately more widespread than this; terrible scenarios such as yours have been occuring for years in our city.

Believe me, you are certainly not alone living with bed bugs in a more “affluent” neighbourhood.

The problem, as you suggest, is that the subject is still not talked about – it is apparently still taboo to have bed bugs.

While I appreciate and respect your proactive desire to discuss the issue in public, I think we must escape the temptation to focus the blame or responsibility on lower income housing occupants or the landlord(s), when the reality is that these pests are everywhere: mansions, older character homes; newer suburb developments, hotels, dorms, and all manner of public places.

I have met individuals in all social and income brackets with these pests.

A sad trend is the Winnipegger bringing the bugs back in their luggage after taking a winter vacation (hotels)!

These insects are concerned with two main survical instincts: safe harbourage and finding a regular food supply (us).

They don’t care about our social status. They don’t care about how we live. They are unconcerned about cleanliness, although this is part of a good human lifestyle choice.

While “dumpster diving” is a method of spreading bed bugs and may appear to the casual observer to be intentional, the desperation that drives some individuals to dig in the gargage is only one issue that needs attention as part of the big picture toward eradicating these pests.

In my experience, buying or renting second-hand furniture and beds affected with bed bugs is an equally or more common method of spreading the bugs.

The vicious circle is continued when these infested pieces end up abandoned by the curb, seemingly safe and intact and are picked up by regular folks looking for “a step up from what I have now” (see posts regarding bed bugs and abandoned stuff).

The war on bed bugs has always been and will continue to be EVERYONE’S problem to solve.

It will take more than “the powers that be” to effect the greatest impact, although I agree they must lead in solution development.

But I think it starts with open dialogue like yours and a desire to change the way we live to offset the bed bugs complete adaptation to our current, often cluttered lifestyles (as you know, clutter makes eradiction more difficult due to more hiding places).

Good luck and I truly hope they are gone for your home, and from everyone’s as soon as possible.

17 nobugsonme March 19, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Eloquently put, wpgbugguy.

18 JP March 31, 2009 at 1:34 am

Have you EVER had bed bugs wpgbugguy?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: