Identify the source to prevent bed bug re-introductions


May 3, 2019

  • Helping tenants prevent a reintroduction is as valuable as getting rid of the bed bugs in the first place.

  • Tenants often cannot imagine how they became infested.

We know how important it is to prevent bed bug reintroductions. If customers bring in more during the control efforts, it can confuse our evaluation of the control progress.

People are fond of saying “you never know.” But sometimes you do know. Sometimes folks know exactly how they got bed bugs, and that helps immensely in preventing a re-infestation. If they don’t know how the bed bugs were introduced, you may be able to help.

Finding the source

It is quite possible for an infestation to start from a couple of bugs inadvertently brought in on luggage or clothing, but it’s probably a long shot. If the customer is regularly visiting an infested home, business, etc., bringing home a bug or two is easy to do. Over time, the chances for re-infestation to start rise sharply. People with heavy infestations know it, and their visitors know it.

A child bringing bed bugs home from summer camp or from college is easy to identify. A visitor from an infested home who comes to stay may often be above suspicion at first, but leaving an infested bed is a convincing sign.

An infested piece of furniture is an instant infestation, but it may not be so obvious, depending on its source. It’s pretty obvious when it has been brought in from the curb, but less so when it is purchased from a second-hand store — and even less when it comes as a gift.


Bed bugs found on a sleeping bag used at summer camp leaves little doubt as to how they were introduced. PHOTO: MARK SHEPERDIGIAN, BCE

When the object is not furniture, but an item from a friend such as electronics or a guitar case, it gets even harder. The friends of children can bring bed bugs home in many undetectable ways.

In the case of multi-unit housing, it is vital to inspect adjacent units. If a neighboring unit is contributing bed bugs to its neighbors, it will not be difficult to detect the infestation. Condominiums in some states may present a problem if the owners refuse to allow an inspection, but this also is an indication that they likely have bed bugs. The association by-laws should have a clause that requires compliance when conditions may be affecting other units.

For those cases when customers honestly don’t know how they got bed bugs, you can help by walking them through the common sources — from the easiest to identify down to the most difficult. If you can eliminate one or more of the sources, the actual source will be among those remaining.

It may not be foolproof, but preventing re-introductions is an important part of bed bug control.

Read morePMPs share common bed bug locations

You can reach Mark Sheperdigian, BCE, vice president of technical services, Rose Pest Solutions, Troy, Mich., at

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