Did you know that apartments are the second most common place for a pest professional to report finding bed bugs? A 2018 study by the National Pest Management Association found that 89% of pest professionals had encountered bed bugs in apartment complexes or condominiums. Along with single family homes (91%) and hotels/motels (68%), apartment complexes are regularly cited by pest professionals as one of the most likely locations for bed bugs.
Although they are relatively harmless, an infestation of bed bugs in an apartment complex can cause unwanted frustration for tenants and landlords alike.
For renters, the presence of a bed bug may seem like a cause for concern. Although bed bugs rarely cause harm to humans and don’t carry any diseases, the reality is that the vast majority of us would prefer to sleep without these tiny insects.
As a landlord, a bed bug infestation can be a source of frustration. A failure to resolve the infestation quickly and effectively – particularly if the bugs return in the future – can cause tension between yourself and your tenants.
In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about bed bugs in apartments. Whether you own the apartment or are renting one – or even if you’re a pest professional who wants to learn more about bed bugs – we’re going to give you the knowledge to identify and resolve any problems caused by bed bugs.
What is a bed bug?
The first step to dealing with bed bugs is to know whether or not you actually have them in the apartment.
Bed bugs are tiny insects who literally thrive and survive on human blood. Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed. Bed bugs cannot fly or jump, but they are fast crawlers. Typically, their bites are painless and can often go unnoticed – however, occasionally, a human can have an allergic reaction to them.
There are usually three main reasons to suspect that you have a bed bug infestation:
- You see the bug (or bugs) on your bedding;
- You see tiny red spots on your bedding when you wake up;
- You wake up with small, irritating welts on your skin which cause you to itch.
It is a good idea to routinely check for red spots on mattresses, bedding, headboards, furniture and other items, as this can be a telltale sign of the presence of bed bugs.
How do bed bugs get in apartment complexes?
Historically, there is a stigma surrounding the bed bug, as many think that they are a result of poor hygiene or lack of cleanliness. However, this is a misnomer – bed bugs can congregate in even the cleanest of places.
Bed bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide, blood, and warmth. Therefore, it isn’t hard to see that a human is almost the perfect candidate for a bed bug. Every time we breathe out, we are producing carbon dioxide; our bodies are comprised of 7-8% blood; and the heat we emit is usually warmer than the air or objects in our surroundings.
Bed bugs are spread by being carried from place to place (for example, in luggage or on clothing). In apartment complexes where there is a large turnover of tenants, this poses a problem, because your new neighbours may unwittingly bring in bed bugs which may choose to migrate into your unit. It is easier for bed bugs to hide in the cracks and crevices and move from one apartment to the next.
How can a bed bug infestation be identified and treated?
Correctly identifying the infestation of bed bugs is obviously key to being able to treat the issue. An effective way to do this is to use one of the most powerful, trusted and reliable tools available – a dog’s nose.
As you may be aware, a dog’s olfactory system (the structures that contribute to their sense of smell) is far more refined than that of a human being. A dog has up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared with a measly six million in humans.
This powerful tool can be harnessed in a number of ways. For example, dogs can be trained to identify odours which help lead them to missing individuals or identify explosive devices. Crucially, when it comes to bed bug infestations, dogs can be trained to recognise the scent of these tiny insects – creating a foolproof way to find them. After identification, the bed bugs can be eradicated by a pest professional.
At K9 Knose-it, we have specially trained, single purpose bed bug detection dogs. Our bed bug detection K9s are fully certified and have years of successful experience behind them, providing peace of mind to our clients.
What to do if you live in an apartment and suspect bed bugs
If you have a hunch that your apartment may have a bed bug infestation, the first thing to do is to remain calm. Of course, it may appear unpleasant – but you can make sure that this problem gets resolved.
The first thing you should do is contact your property manager or landlord to make them aware of the problem. Depending on local laws, they may put the wheels in motion for the bugs to be identified and removed. Early notification can prevent the problem from multiplying in adjacent units. If your tenancy agreement or local regulations stipulate that it is your responsibility to remove pests, you should contact a pest professional who can talk you through the issue and come out to visit your apartment for an inspection.
You’re probably going to want to do some thorough cleaning of the affected area. Wash all bedding and wipe down surfaces close to where you identified the bed bugs. This process may also help to kill some of the bed bugs and slow their rapid spread.
It might be tempting to sleep in a different room, but this can actually cause the problem to spread throughout your apartment. You can purchase a mattress cover or protector which will prevent bed bugs from infesting your mattress.
Finally, you should notify the residents of the adjoining apartments – to the left and right of your apartment, in addition to those above and below. This may seem embarrassing, but as we outlined earlier, there should be no stigma attached to bed bugs because they can show up in even the cleanest of apartments. Your landlord or property manager may also take steps to notify other tenants; you could request for them not to disclose your identity.
What to do if you are a landlord or own an apartment complex
As a landlord, the extent of your responsibility will depend on the laws in your local jurisdiction. Some areas state that tenants are responsible for removing pests, whilst others give the tenant a right to a bug-free home and stipulate that this must be maintained by the landlord. It is prudent to understand the laws surrounding this should a situation ever arise.
Assuming you have some level of responsibility to remove the problem, when you are first notified of the potential infestation by your tenant, try to reassure them that you will help them to eradicate the bed bugs.
You may already have a pest professional you use for work of this nature. If you don’t (and even if you do, it might be worth taking this step anyway), using a specialist bed bug detection K9 team which is certified and reliable can help you to identify the extent of the infestation. This is a proven way to confirm that bed bugs are present, or if it is mistaken identity on the part of the tenant.
From there, you will need to come up with a plan with the pest professional to remove the bed bugs, which may need to be done over the course of several visits.
In addition, even after the bugs are removed, it can be worth scheduling follow-up visits to ensure that the problem doesn’t reoccur – and the presence of any future bed bugs can be stopped before they have the chance to spread. Again, the bed bug K9 can be a quick and reliable method for these ongoing checks.
A bed bug infestation in an apartment complex can be frustrating for everyone – particularly if the bed bugs have multiplied and shown up in neighboring apartments.
For all parties, the rapid identification and confirmation of bed bugs (such as through the use of a bed bug detection dog) can ensure that action is swiftly taken to remove these nuisances from your apartment.