How to Get Rid of Bedbugs
By Kimberly Rau, MassLandlords Writer
Bedbugs, once practically eradicated in the United States, have been making a creepy crawly comeback in the 21st century. The United States started seeing a resurgence of bedbugs in 2000, and keeping the problem at bay has been a challenge ever since.
The chemical DDT was once considered effective at beating bedbugs, but the use of DDT in the United States has been banned since 1972. Furthermore, studies have shown that bed bugs have grown resistant to DDT and pyrethroid chemicals.
This article will give you a primer on what bed bugs are, how an infestation starts, and what you can do to try and keep the problem off your property.
What is A Bedbug?
According to Pest World, bedbugs, formally known as Cimex lectularius, are likely called such because of their tendency to hide out where humans sleep, and bite them when they’re unaware. Bedbugs need blood from mammals to survive, and make their homes where people are likely to spend time: beds and couches, at home and in hotels, yes, but also offices, movie theaters and public transportation, just to name a few.
Bedbugs reach an adult size of approximately ¼-inch and are reddish brown in color, with six legs and a flat appearance when they haven’t eaten. If a bedbug has recently bitten someone, it will be elongated and swollen. They do not have wings and are unable to fly. Adults can be seen by the naked eye. The much smaller and lighter in color nymphs are harder to see easily.
How Do I Know if My Rental Property Has Bedbugs (and How Did They Get There)?
Bedbugs are resilient little creatures. General heat and cold won’t kill them. Adults can go months without eating. And where you see one, there are almost certainly more. This makes them very good at surviving in a world that would much rather see them eradicated.
The main way people bring them into their living spaces is through travel. For example, staying in a hotel room that has bedbugs (which may have come in from a previous guest) is a common way that people bring them back home, in luggage or on clothing. Buying used clothing or furniture without taking precautions is another way to end up with bedbugs. Finally, even something as simple as purchasing clothes can invite trouble: Bedbugs may lay eggs in the fabric, and an unwitting consumer would have no idea until they started seeing the telltale signs of infestation.
Once bedbugs are in a home, they can be very difficult to eradicate, especially if the home exists in a building with multiple rental units. Boston was the only Massachusetts city to make Orkin Pest Control’s list of the top bedbug cities in the U.S. for 2020 (coming in at #40, down from #38 in 2019). However, that’s no reason to assume suburban property managers or owners in smaller cities are out of the woods. Bedbugs are everywhere.
Signs of bedbug infestation
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), looking for bug bites is not a great indicator of bedbugs. Some people do not react to bedbug bites at all. Other insect bites or hives can mimic bedbug bites. Someone may also have gotten bitten elsewhere and not brought any insects home with them.
Instead, if you are concerned about infestation, look for physical signs of bedbugs around the rental unit. There may be rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets, mattresses or box springs (either from bedbugs being crushed or from bedbug excrement). Dark spots slightly larger than a period at the end of a sentence that are reddish-brown and “bleed” like a marker on the fabric indicate excrement. You may also find tiny (about 1 mm) eggs and eggshells, pale skins from shedding nymphs, and live bedbugs.
To check for live bedbugs, look around the piping and seams of the mattress and box spring, and check in cracks on the bed frame and headboard. Bedbugs prefer to feed at night and will travel up to 20 feet from their hiding spaces to do so.
If you’re dealing with a heavy infestation, you may also find live bugs in the seams of upholstered furniture, in drawer joints, around electrical boxes, behind wall hangings (even loose wallpaper), and where the wall and ceiling meet. If you can slide a credit card into the space, a bedbug can also easily get in.
The only proof of bedbug infestation is capturing a live bed bug.
How Do I Avoid Bedbugs in the First Place?
We discussed earlier some of the main ways bedbugs can get into a home. Two of those problems are easy to fix: Simply properly wash any clothing before you wear it (which is a good practice to have anyway, as clothes are treated with chemicals when they are shipped) and inspect any secondhand furniture you buy before bringing it into your home. When washing clothes or other textiles, use the highest heat possible, as this, not detergent, is what effectively kills the bedbugs.
It’s the biggest culprit – travel – that can be the hardest to beat. Though travel has slowed during the pandemic in 2020, people are still staying in hotel rooms every day. It’s impossible to know if someone was in your hotel room right before you, and whether they may have brought some undesirable pests along in their luggage. Even something such as the national bedbug registry is only as reliable as the reports people make, and it only takes one guest with hitchhiking bedbugs to ruin a place’s sterling reputation.
So, how can your tenants ensure they’re safe when they travel?
“You can't tell whether a building or hotel room has them based on cleanliness,” the bedbug registry page explains. “The bugs can thrive anywhere there are cracks and crevices to hide in.”
So, upon checking into a hotel room, do some due diligence. Do not set your suitcases down on the floor or bed. Instead, put them in the bathtub or on the bathroom counter if possible. If the hotel provides a luggage stand with metal legs, this is also appropriate. Next, go into the room and start with the bed. You’re looking for all of the signs of bedbugs that we mentioned earlier. Reddish spots, casings, eggs, live bugs. Use the flashlight function on your phone to make this easier. If you see any of these signs of infestation, take your bags and request a new room immediately.
Upon returning home from travel, do not bring your bags directly into the house if possible. Keep them outside in the garage or in the laundry room, and immediately wash and machine dry your clothing. It’s the time in the dryer, not the washer, that will kill these pests. Do not store your suitcases under your bed. Instead, keep them in an out-of-the-way place, such as your garage or basement, when you are not traveling.
One of My Rental Units has Bedbugs. Now What?
If you find that one of your housing units has bedbugs (ask your tenants for pictures or a live capture if possible; remember, many bugs can leave bites that look like bedbugs), don’t panic, but do act quickly. Time is of the essence, especially if the affected apartment is part of a multi-unit building.
“Because residents share the same building infrastructure, i.e., hallways, walls, ceilings, floors, and utility lines, bedbugs can easily move among different units in multifamily housing, thereby spreading quickly among people who live in close proximity to each other,” states a protocol from Mass Legal Services for treating bedbugs in multiunit structures. And, buildings with a large number of units will see greater tenant turnover than smaller rentals, creating a greater risk of bedbug spread.
Landlords Must Treat for Bedbugs at Their Expense
In Massachusetts, it is the landlord’s responsibility to eradicate bedbugs (and all other vermin) in properties consisting of more than one rental unit (along with all other vermin), according to 105 CMR 410. In single-family homes, the landlord must keep the place structurally sound, but the tenant must pay for their own extermination.
In a multi-unit housing situation, this has the potential to turn into a dispute between landlord and tenant over who is responsible. But regardless of who got the infestation going, once there are bedbugs, the onus is on you, the landlord, to get rid of them.
First, you must hire a licensed pesticide applicator to inspect the affected apartment as well as all surrounding units. All affected units must be treated accordingly. The earlier an infestation is caught, the easier it will be to eliminate. Areas must be treated at the same time, as bedbugs may move from one area to another, simply relocating the problem. At any rate, expect to have your pest control company visit more than once.
“A thorough insecticide treatment should involve 2-3 visits from the [pest management professional], as it is unlikely all the bedbugs will be killed in the initial treatment,” states an article from the University of Minnesota on bedbug treatment.
“We generally expect an average bedbug infestation to take about three treatments spaced apart three to four weeks,” states an article by Bay Valley Pest Control out of California. “If bites reoccur or are continuing into the third week, a follow-up treatment should be scheduled. Some customers have relief into the fourth or fifth week and then need their next follow-up.”
It is not recommended you move your tenants during this time, because even if you have a vacant unit available, they may bring the bedbugs with them to their new residence.
That said, there are many things you and your tenants can do to prevent the spread of bedbugs that don’t involve pesticides.
Before Treating with Pesticides
In addition to pesticides, you must make sure you get rid of all places bedbugs can hide. Do a thorough cleaning before you treat your rental units. Vacuums (properly fitted with filter bags that can be treated and sealed for disposal) are effective at removing bedbugs and their eggs. Steam cleaners are also effective at killing bedbugs, though properly treating everything with steam can take a lot of time. If it is possible to raise the temperature of the bed bugs to 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit), they will die; this may require raising the core temperature of the room to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more until every hiding place is hot enough.
Next, bag up all linens (including curtains and towels). Bag them in clear plastic bags and bring them to be laundered. Destroy the bags at the laundromat and do not bring them back to the rental unit.
All clothing, pillows and stuffed animals should also be laundered and dried with the highest heat possible.
Remove everything possible from the rooms that must be treated and get furniture away from the walls. Remove outlet and switch covers (remember, bedbugs are quite small and can get anywhere you can slide a credit card). Wash these plates, and all wood or metal furniture, with hot and soapy water. (Always dry your outlet covers completely before reattaching! When in doubt, hire a licensed electrician.)
Mattresses and box springs can be encased in special bedbug covers that will trap insects inside (many of these covers are also designed to create a barrier for dust mites, a bonus for people suffering from allergies). Covers should be left on for at least 18 months if there has been an infestation.
Finally, all people and pets should leave while pesticides are being applied.
A Note on Bedbug Detecting Dogs
Some pest control companies may advertise a more unique service: dogs that can sniff out bedbugs. It seems like a logical choice. After all, it’s well documented that dogs have more sensitive noses than humans do, and dogs’ powerful noses are used in all sorts of situations where people fall short. But can they reliably detect the presence of bedbugs?
The answer is: sometimes. A 2015 report from ABC news showed that four out of 11 dogs who were put to the bedbug test alerted to bugs when none were present. The news station surmised that this may be due to the fact that the dogs received treats when they alerted to the presence of bedbugs.
The report did not say that dogs shouldn’t be used, but urged consumers to make sure that the dog’s handler could show evidence of bedbugs before shelling out for an extermination.
“Entomologist Sorkin advises homeowners not to be pressured into doing expensive treatment when a dog alerts to the odor of bedbugs but no bugs are found. Instead, he recommends using bedbug monitors or traps that can be found in stores,” the report concluded.
In summary, the presence of bedbugs is an annoyance for tenants and a hassle for landlords. It’s better to exercise caution when traveling or bringing home clothes or furniture than to have to deal with an expensive and time-consuming extermination. If you do find yourself dealing with bedbugs, act quickly and effectively, and urge your tenants to report problems as soon as possible. The faster you get the situation under control, the happier everyone will be.
Please continue reading for additional content on how to deal with bed bugs.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs: Advice from Ford's Hometown Services in Central Massachusetts
Bed Bugs, just the name can make you itch, and believe us they make you itch! Only 15 years ago, bed bugs were just an insect you may have heard of, but now bedbugs are becoming a real problem for many homeowners. Even more worrisome is the fact that bedbugs are invading our hotels, planes, trains, dormitories, and apartment buildings. Adult bed bugs are about 3/16 inch long and reddish-brown with oval, flat bodies. They are sometimes mistaken for ticks. Signs of infestation include itchy welt-type bites usually found right next to each other in two’s and three’s. The host does not feel the bite while it is occurring. When they feed, they inject a secretion into the puncture to prevent clotting of the blood. Their saliva is what will cause your skin to itch and even become swollen. Bed bugs are not known to transmit any human blood-borne pathogens.
Beware of Pest Management Companies who have never treated for bed bugs. Their inexperience can prolong your infestation and make it harder to eradicate your problem.
Beware of furniture or mattresses placed out for “free” and carefully inspect all antique store and garage sale items before bringing them home.
Bed Bug Warning Sheet
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of trying to get rid of bed bugs. Use your lease sign-up to inform your tenants about how to prevent and get rid of bed bugs. Do not let renters take mattresses or other used furniture off of the street.
Our Bed Bug Warning Sheet is free for members of the public to use with their rentals (membership not required).
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs: Video and Transcript
Pest control is a common issue for landlords so we asked a representative from Ford's Hometown Services speak to WPOA members about controlling pests like bats, bed bugs and cockroaches. This information on pest control is vital to preventing pest infestations. Watch this video and prepare yourself for the eventual pest run-in you'll eventually have.
Ford’s Hometown Services: Bedbugs, Roaches, Bats - Joe Blake
Joe: Thanks, guys. I’ve been coming to these meetings since summer before last at the picnic down by the lake. I might as well have watched just in that time, the attendance at the meetings grow like crazy, and I’m really impressed at the speakers and the information that’s given out. I’m going to have a tough act to follow.
I’m not used to speaking in public and Brian’s presentation was really excellent. I don't have a PhD in killing things and a PowerPoint. Brian is a good friend of Jeff and I couldn’t say enough good stuff about him, but I’m just honored to have the chance to talk to you guys and hopefully everybody will get something out of it and everybody will be able to take some new information away.
Ford’s Hometown Services, like Rich said, we’ve been in business since 1941, and I’ve been with the company for a couple of years now. I also brought a couple of my colleagues who answer questions at the end. One of my technicians, Matt Russo, that is dedicated to the three-families and the multifamily properties in Worcester, he has done some work for some of the guys here. If you have us come out, he’s probably going to be the guy that comes out there. He’s been with the company for nine years, and he’s an excellent, excellent technician.
But Rich asked me to talk specifically about roaches, bedbugs, and bats. I guess I’ll start with this one, the bats.
Rich: Hold on one second. I asked about bedbugs, and you said, “I love cockroaches.” Can you please talk about—
Joe: [laughter] Yes, I told Rich that I would like to talk a little bit about the cockroaches as well, but we’ll start with the bats. I think the bedbugs are probably going to be the one that is going to be the most interesting, but we’ll start with the bats.
Our guy, Leo DuPont, has been in the business 33 years, and he does the bat eviction and exclusion. Bats, they’re going to come to your backyard in the spring when it warms up. It’s very rare to get one in the wintertime, but when they do come back, a lot of times what will happen when they start having babies and stuff, the young ones are clumsy and they will end up in living spaces and you get a call from a tenant who’s freaked out and says, “I got a bat!”
Usually when there’s a bat inside the house, almost every single time, there’s actually a colony that’s in the structure. It’s not just one bat, but it’s a family of bats, and the problem will over time, just get worse and worse until it gets fixed.
The work that’s done to take care of it is kind of a three-step process. (1) First, Leo would come out. he would give you the quote. Take a look at the structure. (2) Then on the second visit, he would come out. He would install one-way doors, clean the guano up, and seal all the openings. (3) Then we give it about two weeks and then he would come back out for a third time and remove the one-way doors. Doublecheck his work on the openings, and make sure everything is good, close up the holes that he made for the one-way doors.
It comes with a one-year warranty. I mean we guarantee our work. We’ll stay behind it. Usually at that point, everything is done, and everybody is happy.
Sandra: What’s a one-way door?
Joe: Well, a one-way door is an opening that the bats can get out, but they can’t get out, but they can’t get back in. But anyway, the bat process, I was hoping to have Leo here because he has a little dollhouse that he shows everybody all the different access points and things like that. Another thing, too, a way that you can sometimes know if there’s bats is sometimes you’ll hear a fluttering noise when the young ones are learning to fly.
Another thing, it’s against the law to do bat work in July when the pups are new. Until they can get out and be on their own, you’re not allowed to kick them out because they’re protected.
Audience: [unintelligible 0:04:35]
Joe: Well, bats are beneficial. The average bats eat about 10,000 mosquitoes a day and they’ve been having colonies collapse because of disease, so they’re actually protected.
Anyway, on to roaches. With cockroaches, similar to mice, one of the issues you get especially with the three-deckers is the plumbing runs up and down the kitchens. They’re all on top of the other, so they’ll use those pipes as a runaway and oftentimes, give you a lot of headaches.
If you have roaches in a three-decker, it’s one of those things that you can’t just treat one unit and you expect to get rid of them. Again, it’s one of those things that isn’t necessarily to take care of.
One of the issues is back when Brian and some of my guys started out, they were doing this traditional roach treatment. Over time, people got used to using just baits to control them. The problem is that the roaches adapt. They say that if there is a nuclear war, the only thing that will survive for sure is cockroaches. Well, they’re good at adapting in an apartment environment as well, and they’ve gotten used to the baits, so they’re always changing the bait formulation, making them better, making them better.
But if you got a roach problem and you bait, chances are it’s not going to work. You’ll need to get somebody in there and do a traditional treatment. Bait is a good maintenance tool, but it’s not necessarily a good one to try and get rid of the problem.
Roaches, like mice, can be disease vectors. They can cause all kinds of problems, and you guys know the kind of issues that you run into when you have a tenant that cause you problems with them.
Roaches are also a pest to commerce. They’re a pest that a tenant could go visit someone, set their pocketbook down, come home, and they could have a roach that’s pregnant in there, and spread them easily.
They’re relatively common in Worcester. One thing, in the display case, there’s some different types of roaches, and one of the things that happens a lot in the summertime, we’ll get a call from somebody else, “Hey, I got cockroaches. My cat was playing with a cockroach in the hall.”
There is a roach that is kind of a golden color. It’s called the Pennsylvania wood roach, and most of our calls are actually for that roach, but it doesn’t come in and reproduce inside the house and infest the house.
The one that typically gives you the problem is the German roach, and there is as sample of it here. The thing that identifies it, if you magnify it, you’ll see two brown stripes on its head. If you have a tenant that has a roach, take a look at it. If it’s a uniform golden color, chances are it’s a Pennsylvania wood roach. If it’s got two brown stripes on its head, it’s a German roach and you’ll need to have something done about it.
Now on the bedbugs. Bedbugs are extremely easy to get and it’s a growing problem. Years ago when they banned DDT, bedbugs were almost eliminated at that point. But when they banned the DDT, their control mechanism went away. Gradually over time, the population has grown and grown and grown, and it’s growing in Worcester, but it’s not an epidemic the same as it is in places for the south.
One of the things about bedbugs is in the heat, they reproduce faster. The average time to sexual maturity of a bedbug is six weeks. When it’s hot and humid in the summer, when you’re getting those 90- or 100-degree days with high humidity, it will actually shorten to it a two-week life cycle. That’s why a lot of times in the summer, you’ll see somebody who hasn’t said anything about bedbugs all of a sudden they got them everywhere because the population had suddenly exploded.
Like roaches, you can’t just go in and treat a single unit and expect to get rid of them. You may not have to treat the whole building, but the way that we do it, we’ll do the unit that’s infested, and then the technicians are going to go in and do a single treatment on any adjacent units just to make sure that the problem doesn’t spread.
One of the issues with bedbugs and the treatment for them is that a lot of materials that are used, the bedbugs can detect and it can spread. It can actually spread to multiple units, and that was one of the issues that Rich had. He had somebody trying to take care of them and the problem had actually just spread. They had gone from one unit to three units.
Our guys use material that’s undetectable as a primary tool. We’ll treat with material on the bed that they can detect is one of the materials that’s commonly used, but what does that is it alleviates the bites faster because it can take time to get rid of the bedbugs. Our treatments are two weeks apart. We do three treatments because there’s nothing that’s going to kill the eggs.
Then you’ll hear a lot of talk about heat treatment for bedbugs. The issue with the heat treatment is if you have bedbugs harboring in say an exterior power outlet and you heat that room up, they can actually get on the other side of the insulation. They’re really good at getting through cracks, so you might kill a lot of them. You might kill the ones on the bed, but there might half a dozen that survived and six months later, you got a problem back again. Then try calling somebody and have them come back out. But anyway—where was I going with that?
Male Audience 1: [unintelligible 0:10:33] building disgusting
Joe: [laughter] Yes. another thing, too. Probably in the landlord-tenant scenario, the most common way that the bedbugs come in is when someone brings in used furniture, any kind of used items. If you see a couch sitting by the side of the road, who knows? Tenants have the tendency to pick the stuff up and bring it in.
I actually talked to a landlord, and he had bought a television on Craig’s List and brought it home and had gotten bedbugs himself. The television generates some heat and those bedbugs like to harbor in places that generate heat. They’re also very quick. They can hide in the tiniest little crack and crevice. The good news is they’re not a disease vector. They’re one of the few pests that doesn’t carry diseases, but they certainly cause a nasty bite.
Again, I’ve heard from so many landlords. Actually there was a lady that called me and she said somebody had come in and treated one of her units on a three-decker and had her to throw everything away and that’s completely unnecessary. When we treat, we’re going to kill the bugs and you don't have to get rid of the furniture, and she called me crying because obviously they treated one unit and now she had bedbugs in three and had already thrown everything away and paid somebody $1,000 and had to replace all the furniture.
Don’t listen to that stuff. If you guys have any bedbug questions, call someone like myself or I don't know if Brian does bedbug work, but—
Brian: There’s too much of them.
Joe: [laughter] Yes, yes. It’s getting to be where we’re having to do all the stuff all the time, more and more, and the problem seems to be spreading northwards. Every year, it seems like there’s a little more bedbug work. How much time do I have, Rich?
Rich: Like an hour and a half.
Joe: [laughter] Yes, I told Rich I’m not a public speaker. He said you’d never know [laughter].
Sandra: You see, a lot of products that are sold in either Home Depot or any of the hardware stores that says that this will basically take care your bedbug problem. I haven’t done it. I’m just curious as to what your feeling is about that.
Joe: You’d have to be really lucky, really lucky. The issue with bedbugs, again they harbor in cracks and crevices, tiny little places. If you have anything more than just the very beginning, if you got a few on the bed, and hit them directly with the product, you just might get rid of them, but they could be in a curtain rod. They move fast and they hide in the tiniest little place.
When my guys go in, if we see a power outlet right next to the bed, we’re going to dust it. We’re going to treat that where they’re going to find the spots, and our guys like Matt, you hear a lot of companies struggle controlling bedbugs. In the whole time he’s been with the company, he’s never failed to eradicate them. He’s got 100 percent success rate on the jobs he’s led. I got a couple of guys that are like that that just have the knowledge. They know how to do it. They come in. They get rid of them but trying to control bedbugs on your own is tough; even a lot of professionals struggle with it.
Rich: Is it okay with everybody if I take a minute and complain?
Rich: All right, I’ll take your silence as my permission. What happened was with my bedbug situation is I actually had some tenants who were evicted on March 27th last year, and in the two weeks between that date that I got the execution from the judge until the time that they were moved out, these tenants decided it was a good idea to move in five people, two dogs, and bedbugs.
Yes, the moving company took the people. They took the stuff. They did not take the bedbugs with them. What they did do, which was kind of hilarious was they actually put all the furniture in the trash because they wouldn’t take it, but that was the sheriff’s call. That wasn’t mine [laughter].
The moral of the story was it’s really, really important how they treat for it because I didn’t know what I was doing. I called what generally regarded as a good pest control company, according to Angie’s List. Has anybody used this before? It’s not as good as the MassLandlords website, with all the recommendations on there, so that would definitely be a good spot to look for recommendations for specific things.
Just because this company was good, that I hired it treating for mice and cockroaches—not to take anything away from your enthusiasm for cockroaches. They were terrible with the bedbugs. For three months, they did the treatments and they took it from like what Joe said from one unit to three units, which I felt was going in the wrong direction. They were supposed to fix the problem, not make it worse.
We ended up having to treat all six units because the wrong method being used, and I lost probably the best tenant I’ve ever had over it. She was awesome and it was a real big problem.
These guys, came in. I’m just telling my story. I’m not trying to advertise for Ford’s, but they came in and within a month, they were gone after three months of absolute nightmares. It really is important, if you go on our website for specific jobs, to look to see if one of the members has had a good experience or something because it can save you a lot of headaches and a lot money. That was really a long question.
We have some other questions in the room about bedbugs, bats, cockroaches? We have one over here. Here you go.
Female Audience 1: Hi, Joe! Can you just explain to us if you have a three-decker, exactly what is the process is like is it a spray? What does the tenant need to do and do they have to out of the unit for a certain amount of time and what you with the other units?
Joe:Yes. It depends on which unit has the infestation and we’re going to give a preparation sheet to the tenant and also we’ll give you a copy, so that you can make sure that they’re prepared. We’ll take calls. If your tenant has any questions, you can just direct them to me, and I put my cellphone number on my business card. I don’t mind talking to landlords, but I prefer that my cell number doesn’t go to the tenants. But we’ll walk them through the process to get ready.
If say the first floor is infested, then we would treat the first floor, get three treatments. Then we would a single treatment on the second floor just to make sure that they don’t move on that initial treatment. Now if the technician gets up there and he starts treating them and finds them on the second floor, then we would also have to do another treatment on the third floor. Then the second floor would be included in the three treatments. If it’s on the middle, then you would need to do all three. We’d get one, and then the middle one would get the three treatments two weeks apart.
Female Audience 1: Spray or?
Joe: Yes, it’s a combination. The primary tool is a spray, a liquid spray, but also we use dust in cracks and crevices, and each unit is unique. That’s one of the things about Matt. He’s done it enough and he knows exactly what to look for when he walks into a place like drop ceilings are different, if you got wainscoting. There’s all kinds of different issues. We had a place last year that they were down in the rug. They were hiding down in the rug. They actually had to change the carpet. I mean it was a commercial building of some sort and a unique thing, but you run into different stuff.
Rich: Joe had mentioned the prep sheet that goes into the tenants. This thing is pretty exhaustive and it’s pretty inconvenient, so if you can nip in the in the bud, it’s definitely the way to go. In this group, a year or two ago, somebody brought us an insect infestation addendum that circulated from the Boston board of something. Does this sound familiar? If you read that thing, it actually goes through what a lot of what the prep is. It’s pretty invasive, so it’s important to educate the tenants about and try to catch it early. Did somebody else have questions over there? All right.
Female Audience 2: [inaudible 0:19:31] question, but I just want to give a shout-out to Ford’s Lawn Care Service. It is the absolute best. My lawn looks like a golf course. They’re so good, and it never did before, but it’s so lush, so green, and the envy of the neighborhood.
Joe: Thank you. I’ll let Chris know.
Rich: All right, I got a couple more.
Male Audience 2: Yes, this gentleman explained how when he’s evicting the people, they brought in dogs and other furniture, whatever. Are animals, let’s say dogs, a source for bedbugs and such?
Joe: Typically, bedbugs aren’t on animals. Their primary food source is humans. It could be anything that someone is carrying. I mean again like a roach, if somebody sets their pocketbook down, and bedbugs could get in there. more often than not, though, it’s either stay at a hotel and we see a lot in really nice houses. People came back from Europe and they brought bedbugs with them. But in rental units, the number one method that they come in is used furniture and things like that. The headaches it makes for landlords is unbelievable.
Rich: When you say used furniture, does that include things from places like Rent-A-Center?
Joe: I actually did a four-family in Southbridge that brought them in from Rent-A-Center.
Sandra: They went to a furniture store?
Joe: Yes, there was actually a used furniture store in Worcester that called us to get rid of bedbugs in several couches.
Male Audience 3: I heard Bob had a problem once actually, too. As it’s such a horrendous problem, is there any preventive maintenance you would recommend not just for bedbugs but generally speaking for all common pests?
Joe: Yes, the over-the-counter stuff that you can get isn’t nearly as good as the stuff that a professional can apply, and it’s not that the poison is any stronger, but the formulations are made so that the insects will come in contact with them. For roaches, for example, you can come down and sell gel baits that you could put out as a maintenance tool.
Also, I brought with me some insect monitors, and anybody is free to grab them. They’re just a little sticky trap you can put out to see. If you put one of those behind the fridge and if you’re concerned about there being a bedbug, put them out by the beds. If you get an insect and you’re not sure what it is, bring it down. we’ll take a look at it, tell you what you got.
Sandra: One of the things that is always recommended after you’ve done your treatment is that the mattresses get the covers to put on them. Where do we tell our tenants to go get the covers?
Joe: We actually carry the covers. Yes, we stock them, and if we don’t have enough, we’ll order what you need.
Sandra: Is there a cost for that? Is that to the owner or is that part of the treatment?
Joe: Well, what I try to do is let you try and convince the tenants. What I’ll do is give you the price for the covers, and let you pay for the treatment and if you can, have the tenants get it on their own, have them give me a call and have them pay for it if you can.
Rich: Do we have some more questions?
One thing I’ve done—I have a lot to say about this—that I hope is helpful is whenever I sit down with people who are moving in, I try to scare them a little bit about bedbugs and I try to set up a network of tattletales if I can. I tell people, “If you see somebody bringing in a couch into the building, let us know because we want to find out if this was new or used whatever the case maybe. If you see somebody bringing a piece of furniture out of the building, they’re probably not just not going to sit on the couch anymore. They’re probably going to bring something else in.”
I tell them, “We’re not going to say no that they can’t have their love seat or whatever, but we want to make sure that it gets treated before it comes into the apartment to prevent stuff like this from happening.”
Can you talk about that for a second, Joe?
Joe: Yes, we could do treatment. We’ve actually had somebody bring a car in that had bedbugs, so we could treat furniture. Yes, bedbugs, they can get anywhere. I’ve heard stories of people picking them up from a cab ride. I could say it’s a growing epidemic and they’re out of control.
Tatyana: Aside from bedbugs actually, it’s not a serious problem, but I have a question about bats. Bats, you find in Worcester. Do they carry any diseases?
Joe: Which ones?
Tatyana: Bats you find in Worcester, do they carry any diseases?
Joe: Yes. People are typically really afraid of rabies in bats, and only once last year I heard of a bat testing positive in Northbridge, but it does happen. They do carry rabies occasionally. I mean we try not to freak people out about it. We did a job for a lady in Feeding Hills, and she had two people trying to scare her into doing the work and overcharge her, but that’s just not the way we do things.
Rich: All right one of the fellows from Ford’s wants to join. You want come up front?
Matt: Hi! My name is Matt. I just want to mention that Joe is talking about people bringing used furniture into homes and everything else. One other thing it may not register at first, but one problem I’ve also seen is that even when people are buying say a new mattress from a place, a lot of times these companies will offer removal of the old mattress, so sometimes people are even getting brand-new mattresses because they’re being put in the same truck as infested mattresses that were being taken out.
What you can even do if somebody ever decides to get a new mattress or anything, have the company sign something that says guarantee that if you do get bedbugs, they’ll do something about it because I have seen that happen before where they’ll take out the old mattress, put it in the same truck as the new mattress, and boom! There you go.
Rich:Wow! All right, I’m going to sleep great tonight [laughter]. I have another question over here.
Female Audience 3: Do bedbugs have any behavior pattern like fleas? If you put out sudsy water with a flashlight during the night, the fleas will jump into it and die. Do bedbugs do that?
Joe: Not that I know of.
Female Audience 3: Okay.
Joe: One, bedbugs don’t jump and they’re actually attracted to the carbon dioxide when you breathe. That’s what brings them in like a mosquito.
Female Audience 3: How about diatomaceous earth? Is that effective on bedbugs?
Joe: Not that I know of.
Female Audience 3: No?
Joe: Like I say, I don't know of anything that you can do yourself, and I now people come in all the time and get stuff from us and try to treat, but almost every single time, we end up having to come out and do it.
Rich: If w have time, can we come back to the flashlight and the suds thing? Did anybody else fascinated by this question? All right, we’ll come back to it.
Male Audience 4: Can you kill bedbugs by putting furniture or mattress outside at below temperatures? Will that kill them?
Joe: It would if you left it out there long enough. The only thing is if you have them say on a couch, that’s probably not the only harborage unless it was a couch that was brought in and that’s the only place the person sleeps and then there’s a chance that that might be where all of them are. More often than not, they’re in a lot of different locations.
Male Audience4: Is bringing in new mattress like you said outside, will that work?
Joe: If it was 10 below, it might work. Yes, I know that if it’ really, really cold, then it can kill them, but I don't know if just leaving it outside will do the trick.
Male Audience 4: [unintelligible 0:28:23]
Rich: All right, who else has a question about these creatures? All right, can we come back to the suds thing and the flashlight?
Rich: No. But I haven’t heard about that for fleas, either. This is true?
Male Audience 5: Do you have a flea?
Rich: Well, I don't have fleas. I just think in case somebody else has fleas at some point in the future but thank you.
Joe: Yes, and also guys, I brought a bunch of cards with me. They have my cellphone number on it. you can call me. Advice is free, so you can call me anytime. Like I say from landlords, I don’t mind you guys call my cellphone number. Just don’t give to your tenants.
Rich: Bats go into attics a lot of times. Is that right?
Joe: Yes, they’re in attic and some type of wood. Bats also carry a bug that almost looks almost identical a bedbug that will occasionally feed on people. If you got a three-decker and it’s only on the top floor, and they see them running up the walls towards the attic, there’s a chance you could have a bat bug infestation and that’s part of the reason why I recommend bringing in a sample of the insect in because we’re going to look at it under magnification.
We’re going to make sure that we treat it properly. But if we go in and treat it for bedbugs and it’s bat bugs, well the bats are the actual primary host and we’re going to kill the bugs that are in the living space, or there’s going to be some bugs that we don’t get until the bats are gotten rid of and we have to treat that area as well.
Rich: Did you say bat bugs?
Joe: I said bat bugs.
Rich: Oh, my lord! This is getting worse.
Rich: In addition to bats being in the attic, is it worth mentioning anything about squirrels or anything else that likes to come into the house?
Joe: Yes, squirrels like mice are big [unintelligible 0:30:06] and we take care of squirrels, flying squirrels, any kind of wildlife. Actually Leo Dupont, who Brian knows well, he’s our wildlife expert. He’s been doing it for a long, long time. Matt has got his trapping license. We take care of skunks and things like that, so just about anything that you don’t want around, we’d get rid of it for you.
Audience: [unintelligible 0:30:32] [laughter]
Rich: All right, so—
Joe: Except for tenants.
Rich: Some people are getting creeped out. We’ve got some bugs upfront to show people. Is that right?
Joe: Yes, there are some different samples that Jeff sent in with me, along with the sticky traps. There’s termites and cockroaches and bees and stuff like that to take a look at.
Rich: Okay, all right. Do we have any other questions? I know that Brian White and Joe and Joe’s very shy cohorts in the back will be available for questions at the end. Matt, did you want to chime in with something now before we wrap it up?
Matt: Yes, guys. I was just going to say one other thing that might be helpful is Joe maybe next time that he comes in, he could bring in some extra copies of prep sheets so everybody could just look at them to get a better idea of what it entails if they ever have that problem in the future.
Rich: Good tip. All right, so let’s give Joe Blake form Ford’s Hometown Services a big hand.