Apartment Managers attend bed bug conference in Cincinnati

by nobugsonme on April 26, 2007 · 10 comments

in bed bug lawsuits, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, bed bugs and real estate, kentucky, legal aspects of bed bugs, ohio, usa

We often hear from Bedbuggers in Cincinnati. Pest Control Technology Online reports of a recent bed bug conference in the region, called “Bed Bug University,” with 200 attendees (50 of them pest control professionals). The attendees were encouraged to hire PCOs to deal with infestations and inspections of other units.

Entomologists including Michael Potter of the University of Kentucky helped those in attendance understand how those with bed bugs feel most violated in the part of their homes they go to to get away from life’s stresses. The lectures also included information on treatment, and what it entails (not just spraying, but also including integrated pest management):

Hickman spoke more in-depth about products used to control bed bugs. Hickman noted that bed bug treatments require a combination of non-chemical solutions (including exclusion, vacuuming, steaming and thermal eradication) as well as chemical solutions. Hickman said that today’s pesticides are not a “silver bullet,” and that each has advantages and disadvantages, which is why he recommended using a variety of pesticides.

Most interesting to me, however, was the talk by lawyer Kevin Brewer, and entomologist Susan Jones, who answered the question for landlords of whether tenants are at fault:

One of the interesting discussions that occurred during his presentation revolved around whether the tenant (to whom the source of the infestation was traced) is really at fault. After all, unlike pests such as cockroaches and ants, bed bugs spread because they are hitchhikers — not because of sanitation issues.

“The previous talks stressed that these pests are hitchhikers — they can occur in busses, in movie theaters and even in this room,” said Susan Jones, Ohio State University Entomology Professor. “All this emphasis on finding the source and this accusatory tone that this person is responsible for the infestation, I take issue with.”

Brewer responded that, “As a landlord you have a piece of property that was not infested and somehow bed bugs were brought there. Why would the landlord have to pay the expenses for eradicating those bed bugs when they did nothing wrong?”

To which Jones responded, “And the person that brought them in did something wrong?”

The inappropriateness of blaming an afflicted tenant is probably the most important thing landlords and apartment managers need to learn about bed bugs. We Bedbuggers know that many people do not appear to react to bed bugs (or perhaps are not bitten even when they have them), and this fact alone means it’s usually impossible to be sure of the source of a bed bug infestation. The person complaining may think they brought them in, and the landlord might think so too. But it often turns out that someone else had them and did not notice or did not say.

But the bottom line, when it comes to the Blame Game, is that if you blame people who report bed bugs, they might not report them–putting up with them, or self-treating–until someone else is afflicted and comes forward, the apparent “cause.” This is a dangerous situation, because in the meantime, bed bugs have spread throughout your building, causing you infinitely more money and taking more time and effort to eradicate. Not smart business, from a landlord’s perspective.

With bed bugs, it’s clear that education is a big part of the battle. Check out the article from PCTOnline.

1 hopelessnomo April 26, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Lawyers. In their reasonable interest in protecting landlords from bedbug lawsuits, why not question whether they should pay for treatment at all? This is stupid overreaching. If you own property and it is infested, and you force the tenants to pay for their own treatment, well, guess what, it’s probably going to remain infested for a long time. It might even eventually become a slum dwelling, as people who can afford to move out will do so and only those who can’t or won’t remain. Two words: property value. Is this not obvious?

Wrong direction to take a conversation about landlord/tenant responsibilities.

2 willow-the-wisp April 26, 2007 at 4:09 pm

bedbuger.com is almost spreading as fasdt as the bugs?
Good hard work deserves attention not less

3 hopelessnomo May 3, 2007 at 7:44 pm

I’ve been thinking about the article about this conference in the middle of my increasing depression and I know why it’s bothering me. Michael Potter, the University of Kentucky urban entomologist–familiar to us from his bedbug interviews and research and also his paper on (link opens PDF) invisible itches–called bedbugs “the perfect storm” and said things like “[o]ur arsenal of effective insecticides to control bed bugs is dangerously depleted.” Strikes me as a fairly heightened tone of concern. Rightly so, I think, and feel reassured that someone like him is on the case.

And yet, after 6 months of bedbugs, I’ve finally started to really read the university fact sheets and advice that is out there. Yes, I’ve read a lot of it before, but not with such exhausted impatience. Advice from the experts obviously and yet, surprisingly, a lot of it is not pretty. (Yes, I know, hopefully they’re all working and too busy to rethink them.) What I find most confusing is the way they present the idea of IPM.

We are incessantly told that IPM is the answer to bedbug infestations. Integrated Pest Management, I looked it up to be sure, appears to be an ecologically-aware approach to pest control that uses a variety of methods of treatment with the aim to reduce the use and reliance on pesticides. What does that mean exactly, for your average bedbug infestation? Well, according to this Cornell document (PDF) aptly titled “Bed bugs are back! An IPM answer” it means vacuuming, cleaning, making the bed “an island” and sealing crevices. OK, so far so good, I think. Effort and thoroughness plus time:

Whatever techniques you use to manage the infestation, give them time. It’s extremely difficult to penetrate all of the bed bugs’ hiding places, so even if your IPM approach is working, you may see a few living bed bugs for a week to ten days. After two weeks, if you still see many bed bugs, restart your IPM efforts.

Wait a minute! A lot of impolite responses come to mind. ‘What, are you kidding me?’ perhaps the most prominent. If I still see bugs after two weeks, restart my IPM efforts? Really, tell me more. What about the dreaded P word? Indeed! The document has a small section, almost an afterthought, that is titled “What about pesticides?” Uh huh, what about pesticides?

Pesticides are another option for killing bed bugs, but as early as 1948 there were reports of bed bugs that were resistant […]; such resistance complicates efforts to manage populations using pesticides. Luckily, several types of less toxic products for killing bed bugs are now available, and because some of these products work in different ways, bed bugs also won’t be able to develop resistance to them as easily.

Maybe it’s unfair to pick on this one fact sheet from Cornell which was written in 2003, and I don’t even want to touch the DDT question which I omitted from the quote. But really, pesticides are another option? And luckily less toxic products are now available? Less toxic and also less effective, surely, no? If you have any idea of what having bedbugs is like and what trying to kill them is really like, do you not think just maybe this document is piling on insult upon injury upon insult? What is it that I don’t understand about IPM and bedbugs? Why do I have this throat-constricting feeling that this document thoroughly fails ordinary people like me, the bedbug suffering public, as we look for answers to our bedbug nightmares?

At least the University of Kentucky has a mildly more compelling view on pesticides:

While the former measures are helpful, insecticides are important for bed bug elimination.


Rant over.

4 hopelessnomo May 3, 2007 at 7:52 pm

Uh oh. I think I did something wrong here. I wrote a comment that is not showing up. Too long quite probably, but also had links maybe? Spamming bedbugger! So sorry!

5 willow-the-wisp May 3, 2007 at 7:56 pm

this sort of a thing happens nemo… now you’ve got peoples attention whats on your mind nemo LOL (try to post it again and change the “.” to “dot” and then see what happens.

6 hopelessnomo May 3, 2007 at 8:09 pm

I think I’ll defer to Jess and see what she thinks. Thanks…

7 jessinchicago May 3, 2007 at 8:21 pm

Hey Willow and Nomo-

The comment went to moderation because of the links. It wanted me to check for spam, I guess. It now appears where you originally posted, Nomo, just above your “Uh oh.”

Loved the rant, by the way. I’ll comment further later, once I gather my thoughts.

8 willow-the-wisp May 3, 2007 at 9:16 pm

Great to see this nomo.. Please drop me a note sometime soon and keep me up to speed on your current bed bug situation.

9 nobugsonme May 6, 2007 at 5:04 am

Hey Nomo,
Thanks for your thoughts! Sorry about the spam filtering glitch. We check the filter all the time and so when something disappears, we’ll get it up asap. Jess is doing it now (obviously) and S on the forums.
Don’t let it put you off of writing lengthy comments or using links–both of which are very welcome!

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