You may all remember this nursery rhyme from your childhood. However, no longer is this just a nursery rhyme. Toronto is experiencing a dramatic spread of bed bugs to homes and offices.

You have no doubt seen recent news reports indicating that bed bugs have become a major infestation problem in Toronto, and accordingly, condominium boards should consider instigating a program of preventative measures to protect residents from an infestation and to eliminate and/or control any problems which may arise.

The Boards of directors should deal with this problem by addressing three (3) key elements. These are education, observation and communication.

The boards of directors and property management should issue a general notice to owners indicating that if they find evidence of bed bugs in their units they should report the problem immediately to property management. Moreover, residents should be advised that a program is in place to deal with the problem quickly and effectively.

In addition, the notice given to owners should provide information pertaining to the following:

  • What are they?
  • Where are they?
  • Why are they spreading?
  • Are they harmful?

Each of these points should be addressed.

What Are They?

Bed bugs are blood sucking insects that attack humans and other mammals. They are oval shaped, wingless insects. Bed bugs are maternal and have a life span of about one year (1) during which time an adult female can lay 200 to 400 eggs.

Where Are They?

Bed bugs latch on to warm blooded animals or humans. They feed on blood and after feeding, “fall off” until such time as they are hungry again. As these bed bugs “fall off” they tend to be found in upholstered furniture, clothing, bed clothes and mattresses and other places where they are likely to come into contact with their human meals.

It is important to note that bed bugs are not attracted by dirt, or poor hygiene, they are attracted by blood. It is not uncommon to find bed bugs in private homes and high end hotels. Few places are exempt from the threat of bed bugs.

Why are they Spreading?

The spread is believed to be as a result of increased international travel, the more restrictive use of pesticides, their resistance to pesticides, and increasing urban population density and mobility.

Are They Harmful?

Although most individuals bitten do not experience anything more than sometimes undetectable reddish bites which disappear within 24 hours, bed bugs can of course cause physical and psychological discomfort. There are cases in which allergic reactions may develop resulting in inflammation and itching. Secondary infection may also result from scratching the bites. Repeated exposure to bed bugs may result in agitation, sleeplessness and nervousness. Although bed bugs are not related to hygiene, properties infested with bed bugs may be subject to a social stigma.

Summary

The key to a successful bed bug strategy is observation and reporting. Residents should be advised to look for bed bugs by checking for bite marks on skin and looking for tiny specks or speers of blood on bed clothes or mattresses. Owners can also check for live bed bugs or shells in creases, folds of mattresses, box springs, cracks in head boards and bed frames, cracks in plaster, etc. Owners should also be advised that bed bugs may attach to clothes while they are in public places such as the subway, elevators, restaurants, etc. As a result, owners if they suspect a problem, should check their clothes and in particular, outdoor clothes.

Boards should advise owners that if they find evidence of bed bugs they should immediately report it to management. Owners should not try to deal with the problem themselves as they may direct the bed bugs into neighbouring units. The board should also tell owners that arrangements are in place to deal with the problem quickly and effectively, and boards should ensure that such arrangements are in place and that remedial action is carried out quickly and effectively. This will reduce and hopefully eliminate the spread of bed bugs in a complex.

In short, timely reporting and quick action ensures that the infestation is identified, controlled, and eliminated.