Bed bugs in Ventura County (Thousand Oaks, California)

by nobugsonme on November 28, 2007 · 9 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, california, how to get rid of bed bugs, pyrethroid resistance, usa

Hungry bedbugs a rising problem in some areas : Ventura County Star

Rene Laraine of Thousand Oaks, California, has bed bugs.

Laraine said that after nine treatments performed by two pest control companies, the bedbugs are still there.

A representative for Essex Properties, the company that manages the complex, said the company is doing what it can to try to treat the problem in Laraine’s apartment.


No. I am sorry.

If you have had nine treatments and still have bed bugs, I would seriously question whether someone–landlord, pest control operator, tenant, or neighboring tenant– is not doing what they should to eliminate those bed bugs.

Let’s just go through some things that might be going wrong:

  1. The landlord has not had a qualified and knowledgeable pest control operator inspect every adjacent unit (top, bottom, and all sides) and treat them properly if necessary.
  2. Treatment is not being repeated by the PCO at appropriate intervals (hint: PCOs who know bed bugs tell us they treat every 10-14 days; at least one in Denver treats at 3-week intervals instead, due to low humidity). Treatment must continue without a gap, until all bed bugs and signs of bed bugs are completely gone.
  3. The residents in every infested unit are not getting the same treatment, at the same times.
  4. The residents in every infested unit are not cooperating 100% with treatment, and following preparations as instructed by a PCO (who has such guidelines)– these often include washing and drying all clothes and linens on hot, and keeping them in sealed bags, and encasing the mattress. They may be much more extensive.
  5. Tenants or building employees are unknowingly re-infesting the unit. (This can happen if you got bed bugs from somewhere and you are getting them again, and again.)

Some of these things can happen due to simple ignorance about how bed bugs operate. For example, a landlord might ask neighbors if they had itchy bites or saw bed bugs. If they say no, it might be assumed they are not being bitten. (Not necessarily true!) PCOs may have treated bed bugs a number of times and may still not understand that fact.

Likewise, PCOs might have difficulty finding visual evidence, or may only count actual bed bugs as visual evidence. (But not seeing these, or not seeing them easily, does not mean a tenant is bed bug-free.)

Landlords may suspect or know neighbors are infested but may be allowing them to refuse treatment (based on anything from religious to medical objections to pesticides). While people may be concerned about the actions of pesticides on children, people with illnesses, and pets, bed bugs must nevertheless be remedied somehow. Neighbors who refuse traditional pesticides must be treated somehow. There are other options.

PCOs may refuse to treat infested units that are not properly prepped. Or may treat un-prepped units without success.  Landlords might simply ignore those tenants’ units. This is a big mistake. Even if Rene is prepped, if his neighbor isn’t, the bed bugs can keep coming.

Other issues may be happening to make bed bugs hard to eradicate: pesticide resistance is real. However, good PCOs are aware of it and have options in their arsenal like dusts which have a mechanical action, and steam: neither of these can be resisted if the bed bug is in contact with them. Combined with pesticides, PCOs should be able to eliminate even pyrethroid-resistant strains of bed bugs, which do exist.

Some of these factors may be the tenant’s fault, make no mistake. Or they may be another tenant’s fault. Many of these factors mean landlords are mismanaging treatment, or hiring PCOs who mismanage treatment. I would put my money on adjacent units being infested and either overlooked or not treated properly.

Whatever the cause, landlords and tenants should be trying to avoid the above situations.

And if you have bed bugs after even four treatments, let alone nine, something is terribly wrong.

1 parakeets November 29, 2007 at 10:24 am

Is there a way people can complain to a professional pest association about repeated ineffective bedbug treatments? There must be a place–other than small claims court–to voice complaints when repeated (nine!) PCO treatments that don’t work. This can make the whole industry look bad. To cover themselves, I’m sure these pest control operators can say that all the tenants didn’t follow the guidelines for preparation, or that some tenants didn’t remove clutter or something … but at least a complaint will have been registered and someone can look into why these treatments are so egregiously not working if they were done following protocols, which of course they might not have. (Is this even possibly a highly-resistant new strain? Can they study it in a lab, for example?) I’m in a buildng that is being treated over and over, more than 9 times over years, but the problem in my building is that they have never told tenants it is bedbugs, have done no education of tenants, most times do not treat adjacent units, and do not monitor and enforce tenant behavior (for example, tenants did not prepare for treatment, and a tenant dragged a possibly infested new mattress that was discarded in our dumpster back into the common areas of our building and the management company, when notified, did not address the problem. The mattress stayed there for weeks). I love the list of possibilities Nobugs spelled out here, but I also hope there is a place to compalin–besides this board–when treatments are not working.

2 hopelessnomo November 29, 2007 at 11:18 am

The PCO will just say that the tenant is “introducing” them.

Also, most PCOs don’t use steam, or even vacuum cleaners, they just use pesticides.

This is thoroughly depressing.

3 nobugsonme November 29, 2007 at 12:34 pm

In your case, Parakeets, the PCO is not doing a proper job. The landlord may not be choosing a PCO who knows how to or wants to treat as aggressively as they need to (correct intervals, etc.) and it may be so far gone as to need very aggressive treatment. If tenants are not cooperating (surely in every building this is an issue with at least some tenants), that needs to be dealt with.

In Laraine’s and Brown’s cases, I really would put my money on the landlord not having all infested units inspected or treated. Often the good PCOs won’t even treat if such inspections of adjacent units are not included. Which means landlords trying to avoid treating all who need it will also go for less scrupulous PCOs, and so the chances of success are even lower.

At the end of the day, I blame the landlord–because landlords not only have to sanction and pay for inspecting and treating all adjacent units, but also need to choose a PCO who knows their stuff and lets them _do_ it.

4 parakeets November 29, 2007 at 1:38 pm

You’re right, Nobugs. It is the landlord’s problem. But when I’ve heard panels about lawyers discussing landlords and bedbugs, the lawyers say the landlords just have to “address” the problem. Apparently if a landlord hires a lic. pest control company, follows their protocol, has tenants cooperate, and treats on the schedule suggested–if the bedbugs don’t go away, then the landlord at least has shown he has “addressed” the problem, which is his only responsibility–and that is enough in housing court. (Of course the landlord has to keep “addressing” the problem if it doesn’t go away–in this case, nine times so far). Same in hotels–if hotel management has protocols and plans in place such as education of houskeeping staff and a PCO on retainer and follows their advice, it makes it harder for guests to sue. It is starting to remind me of malpractice suits in medicine. The doctor doesn’t guarantee surgical results, and you can’t sue regarding surgical results but only on whether the doctor has followed standard protocols correctly or not. I know of no PCOs who can guarantee that you won’t have bedbugs, no matter how many treatments they do. It is so terribly frustrating. Also, though this case might not be a good landlord or good PCO, there are some cases where bedbugs resist treatment, even with appropriate behavior on the part of tenants, PCOs, and landlords.

5 The Bugman December 4, 2007 at 10:05 pm

It would appear that the landlord, PCO and the tenants are not working together to solve the problem. But assuming that the other will take care of it and not realizing that they themselves maybe part of the ongoing problem.

6 Thee #1 Bug Man January 6, 2009 at 11:46 am

We use themal heat to kill bedbugs with great success a one time treatment after we have a consultation with customer and occupants.

7 nobugsonme January 6, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Thee #1,

While our terms and conditions of use forbid (ab)using the comments or forums for advertising purposes in specific ways, it would be okay and even a good idea for you to (just this once) tell us the name of your company and where you are. You can even link to your website in the URL area provided in the comment box.

People considering thermal treatment might also wish to read some of these forum threads on the issues which can arise. While thermal can have excellent results, it is not 100% effective every time (and all providers are not equally skilled and experienced).

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