There are two types of bed bug infestations: One marches into your home and takes over the room, while the other crawls into your brain and just won’t leave. It’s the itching when nothing is there, did that piece of lint just move kind of infestation — the paranoia induced by finding out that one of your neighbors has critters. Short of Scotch Guarding all of your possessions (not recommended, BTW) and sitting alone in a HAZMAT suit, since friends are just walking carriers, what do you do to calm your nerves and protect your residence when bed bugs are discovered next door?
To help you be Gandalf the Grey (“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”), I rang up the bed bug pros at Hill and Sons Pest Management to find out. First, the bad news: your fear is well-placed. Bed bugs can travel 100 feet an hour, so if you have a fellow tenant with bedbugs, there is actually a good chance you’re next. When they get hungry, say after your neighbor has fled their infested apartment, they go on the hunt, easily finding a new home within the building, squeezing through any opening they can find.
The good news is there are preventative measures that your landlord should be paying for. New guidelines added to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in 2011 state that landlords who receive complaints of bed bug infestation are responsible for treating the infested unit along with the units next to, above, and below.
A smart landlord will have the whole building checked, performing treatment to those units necessary, and applying insecticides to vulnerable cracks and crevices throughout the building. (If your landlord won’t do it, preventative treatment to a single unit will run you between $100-$300.)
So what can an apartment dweller do?
Make wooden headboards a no go, since the two things bed bugs love are warm places (i.e.: your scalp) and wood. You can buy a product called ClimbUp Insect Interceptor (roughly $16 for a pack of four). These go on the four legs of your bed, or any other furniture in the home, and make it impossible for the bed bugs to climb up or down without getting caught. When using ClimbUps you want your bed and linens to be isolated.
Prevent your bed and bedding from touching the wall, rugs, floor, or furniture ensures that the bugs have no choice but to journey up the leg posts and get trapped. ClimpUps can be used on all furniture, the bed is just usually where if you have bed bugs they are going to be, or move to, since that is where they can snack on you the easiest. Some more prevention tips from our experts: Pick up plastic encasements for both your mattress and box springs, especially one that zips closed tightly with no opening. If you already have bed bugs, they get trapped inside and can’t bite through to snack on you. If you don’t, they won’t be able to get in.
Also, hunt for all openings and cracks at pipes, joints, and molding wide enough for a credit card to fit through. Seal them with silicone sealant (a.k.a caulk) to make it tougher for bed bugs to move from your neighbor’s apartment to your own. Lastly, once a week, vacuum thoroughly your carpet, drapes and upholstered furniture and dispose of the vacuum’s contents carefully, preferably in a sealed bag far from your apartment. Vacuuming and removing the contents outside the home can stop an infestation moving its way in, and is also especially helpful for people who buy thrifted items.
How can you tell if it’s too late?
If you find tiny bloodstains on the sheets from where you’ve been bitten.
Remember that poem from childhood? “Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite, and if they do, beat them with a shoe, and then they’ll be black and blue.” Too bad that doesn’t actually work.