A Walmart store near Erie, Pennsylvania recently experienced an odd, but concerning, incident when they found bed bugs crawling around a men’s fitting room. They also found several pill bottles containing additional bed bugs in the store.
One of the pill bottles containing live bed bugs was found by an employee inside the pocket of a boy’s jacket that was for sale. Law enforcement officials believed the bugs were deliberately released.
What do you think would have happened had the jacket in question been purchased and taken home by an unsuspecting customer? The answer to that question would not have been good for the store, customer or pest management service provider.
Even though the bed bugs could have survived in the dressing room for several months, once they sense co2, body odors or body heat they’ll seek out that source. This is when they look to hitch a ride on a shopping bag, backpack or article of customer clothing, and into a home or apartment.
A situation like this is a bit of anomaly and a circumstance most property and facility managers won’t have to face, but what if it did happen at your facility?
Stephen Lipp, special services account manager for Sprague Pest Solutions in Seattle, says property and facility managers should have a plan in place to deal with any pest situation, especially bed bugs.
“It’s not a question of if your office building, hotel or healthcare facility will be exposed to bed bugs but when,” says Lipp. “Bed bugs are the best hitchhikers in the world and can easily travel between locations on luggage, bags, bedding or clothing making almost any facility vulnerable.”
What should a property or facility manager’s “rapid response plan” include if they find themselves with a possible bed bug infestation?
Lipp recommends the following:
- Cordon off the area where bed bugs are suspected to have been found and limit customer and employee exposure.
- Call your pest management service provider immediately and have them perform a thorough inspection to make an accurate identification of the pest.
- If it is determined bed bugs are present a customized treatment plan will be developed based on your facility’s specific needs.
In addition to removal of the bed bugs, Lipp recommends scheduling employee training sessions on what signs indicate bed bugs may be present.
- Blood spots
- Fecal stains
- Skins from molting
- Bedbugs, live or dead
Lipp adds that is important to debunk myths around bed bugs – they do not jump or fly, you can kill them yourself, that ‘bug bombs’ work (they actually help spread the infestation) – with employees.
“A proactive approach that includes establishing protocols and employee training will put you in a position to react quickly if bed bugs are introduced to your facility,” says Lipp. “It allows your pest management partner to get the upper hand more quickly and with less hassle.”
Where the Bed Bugs Are
Bed bugs are not particularly picky about what commercial properties they infest. According to research from the National Pest Management Association, the following commercial facilities are where pest management professionals have most often found these blood-sucking pests:
- Nursing Homes
- Schools/Day Care Centers
- Office Buildings
- College Dorms
- Doctor’s Offices/Treatment Centers
Proactive Bed Bug Mitigation Tips
- Vacuum and clean all areas including offices, hallways, lobbies, break rooms, storefronts and restrooms daily. Make sure to dispose of the vacuum bags and clean canisters.
- Install bed bug monitors for early detection.
- Train employees to notice the signs of bed bugs as they go about their daily duties. Pay close attention to the seams of furniture, mattresses, drapes and upholstery for telltale brownish or reddish spots. Bed bugs have also been known to infest electrical sockets, surge protectors and behind picture frames. Vigilance in spotting possible signs of bed bugs by employees is an important part of the control process.
- Eliminate clutter – especially in storage areas – as they provide ideal harborage areas for bed bugs in office settings.
- Carefully inspect all items and packaging when unpacking new inventory or receiving shipments for signs of bed bugs.