Linda Paolo isn't surprised when someone calls to report a bed bug infestation in one of the apartment communities she oversees.
While many cities in the Midwest and East Coast are seeing an uptick in frequency of the blood-sucking critters, some states have soldiered through the initial wave of outbreaks several years ago, Paolo said.
As president of the Florida Apartment Association and a regional director for WRH Realty Services, she is all too familiar with the issue.
“I’ve got properties all over the state,” she said. “And we see them in all properties.”
According to an Orkin news release, the number of bed bug cases the company treated in 2012 was up more than 32 percent, with the largest increase in Chicago. The list also included Detroit, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and New York City.
One of the most important components in fixing a bed bug infestation is educating the residents who live in the units where the problem occurred, Paolo said. Residents should be educated on what to look for to help detect them early on since it’s in a manager’s best interest to call a pest control professional immediately, she said.
A common misconception about bed bugs is that they’re the result of someone who is dirty. But that just isn’t the case, said Ron Harrison, a technical services director at Orkin.
Harrison, who has a doctorate in entomology, noted that one of the most common ways to bring a bed bug into a home is through luggage brought inside after traveling. However, not all bed bugs are a problem since some may creep into a home and not spread.
“A lot of us have brought bed bugs into our homes,” he said. “But because they couldn’t mate, it didn’t develop into a problem.”
However, if a pregnant female bed bug is brought into an apartment, that could cause a problem.
The reason bed bugs need to be treated quickly is because a female can only lay about one egg each day and must have a blood meal for every 10 eggs she lays, he said.
While eggs are being laid, a tenant may not even notice they have bed bugs since the grown adults are as small as an apple seed.
“To have lots and lots of big adults could take you three or four months to get to that stage,” Harrison said. “So that’s why early detection is important.”
Experts turn to one of two options when treating an infestation, and the choice is made by the customer.
A chemical treatment takes preparation on the tenant’s part because a tenant would have to dispose of things that can’t be chemically treated and wash everything that can be washed and dried.
The second option, a heat treatment, involves “cooking” a room to 122 degrees Fahrenheit to kill off the bugs.
“You’re raising the temperature to 122 degrees (F) then soaking that room for an hour,” Harrison said. “The core of that room has to get to that temperature.”
It usually takes about two hours to bring a room up to temperature, which includes making sure a mattress is heated all the way through.
After the initial treatment, a professional may come back to the property two or three more times to inspect it and make sure all the critters were killed during the treatment.
Paolo said while coordinating scheduling with a resident and the pest control professional can sometimes be tricky, her team hasn’t seen much resistance from residents about treating infestations.
“The resident wants them gone just as much as we want them gone,” she said.
Florida is one of 42 states that has a bed bug addendum attached to the standard National Apartment Association’s lease.
Lindsay Machak is an Assistant Editor for Multifamily Executive. Connect with her on Twitter @LMachak.