Bed bugs: Proactive programs prevent poor performance


October 30, 2019


Clients with multi-family housing units can fall prey to the notion that a proactive program “costs too much,” when the opposite is actually true. PHOTO: MARK SHEPERDIGIAN, BCE

  • Reactive bed bug programs in multi-family accounts cost more.
  • Never underestimate your influence on client expectations.

Do your clients think bed bugs can be eliminated? Do they think they can be managed? Bed bug programs for multi-family housing are either proactive or reactive. The best programs are proactive, but many clients opt for reactive or a la carte programs, thinking it will be lower cost.

The key to lowering overall costs for bed bug management is early detection. Proactive programs may require more in effort and cost at the outset, but over time, the costs are always lower: It takes much less effort to control a light infestation than it does a heavy one.


At first, you will have some heavy infestations to identify and control, and this will take effort. In fact, you will have to visit each unit to find the heavy infestations. Properly trained canine teams can cover an amazing number of units with incredible accuracy, but it also can be done with teams of trained professionals. Use interceptors in units that are questionable, and revisit them in two weeks. Remember that heavy infestations are easy to find visually.

Some heavy infestations are more difficult to treat than others, but finding them is more than half the battle. Be prepared for overstuffed units with hideous infestations. There are a number of strategies to deal with them, but none of them are cheap or easy.



However you decide to go about it, make sure everyone — from the tenant to property management — is committed to a positive outcome. Don’t let a difficult unit stand in the way of a good program.

Regularly inspect all units to identify infestations early. Most infestations start from one or two bugs, and grow slowly over the first month or two. At about three months, the numbers begin to spike and, if left untreated or if only self-treated, the population may explode. If you can get into every unit at least once a quarter, there is little chance of anything getting out of hand. At that point, all the control measures will be easy and inexpensive.

Kick it up a notch by inspecting all move-outs, and then move-ins. The cost of inspection always is lower than the cost of treatment.

The program is completed by education and training. Educate property management on the best practices to prevent re-infestations, such as the proper disposal of infested furniture. Train staff to help tenants properly prepare for treatments.

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

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