Bed Bugs are Back: Small Tweaks to Treatment Protocols for Long-Term Bed Bug Control


Just when you thought you had the bed bug problem under control they come back…again!  What is going on?  If bed bugs are back, is it because they were never eliminated in the first place? Or, has there been a new introduction of bed bugs? Regardless, the objective is to eliminate the bed bug infestation once and for all.

A little tweaking of the current bed bug protocol may be just the trick to help you achieve a permanent bed bug free environment. Consider the following for YOUR bed bug treatment strategy.

Primary Heat Treatment:  During primary heat treatments ‘heat sinks’ can occur that reduce the effectiveness of the treatment and allow some bed bugs to survive. Heat treatments have no residual activity and, therefore, should be supported with either an active liner on the mattress and box spring or one or more of the insecticides listed below. 

Insecticide Treatment:  Take a close look at the products used. If the residual used on non-sleeping surfaces was not a synthetic pyrethroid-neonicotinoid combo product in a wettable powder formulation, the treatment might not last long enough. If the dust was not a silica gel, again the treatment was not optimized.

Mattress Encasements:  Encasements do indeed kill bed bugs, but very slowly. They do so by depriving them of a blood meal over many months and this is assuming the encasement has remained intact during that time. There is a lot to consider. Was the encasement properly sealed? Has it ripped? If the box spring was not encased, was it thoroughly treated with the synthetic pyrethroid-neonicotinoid product noted above? If the encasement is suspect, consider replacing with an active liner like the ActiveGuard® Mattress Liner.

Multi-Family Housing Units:  Bed bugs can be “shared” between multi-family housing units as bed bugs frequently migrate between units. Focus should be on a very comprehensive bed bug reporting and a control protocol that may include the sealing of entry points and the use of long lasting silica-based dusts, especially in and around the shared walls. The installation of pitfall traps around selected units (not just under the bed/furniture legs) is helpful in determining what areas of the units remain infested. Access must also be provided to all areas of the structure to insure that ‘no pockets of infestation’ are overlooked.  Cooperation with management to both list and notify new renters may help to catch bed bug problems early. Lack of cooperation among all parties may result in a situation where options are limited to just managing bed bug populations rather than fully eliminating them.

Bed Bug Re-Introduction:  Is there a visitor that periodically brings bed bugs into a unit? Or is the resident visiting someone who has bed bugs? Although hard to identify the location from which the bed bugs reside, consideration in assessing both visitors and visits should help. If the outside source of bed bugs cannot be identified nor the introduction of new bed bugs stopped, this may result in a situation where control is limited to bed bug population management rather than elimination.

Hoarder Situations:  Hoarders create a situation where due to their large amount of clutter and “stuff”, effective treatment is impossible. Begin by removing as much of the clutter as allowed, vacuum where possible and treat all of the possible areas from among the insecticides listed above. Discuss with the management firm how they might permanently reduce the amount of clutter in the unit or even consider vacating the person if they are a renter.  Hoarder situations are the least likely scenario to maintain long-term control of bed bugs.  More often, treatment options are limited to bed bug population management rather than elimination.

When a bed bug infestation lingers or returns after control seemed to be attained,  you may want to consider a canine-assisted inspection to distinguish whether this is a case of bed bugs being re-introduced or never being effectively resolved. 

ActiveGuard® Mattress Liners are a perfect complement to any of the treatment scenarios and environments outlined above. Easy-to-install as a fitted sheet, these liners are impervious to rips and tears and offer a two year ‘residual’ that can prevent and control bed bugs. ActiveGuard® Mattress Liners may be installed on the mattress and/or box spring and offer pro-active residual protection that works to protect not only the bed but those sleeping in it as well.

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