How bed bugs spread through apartment buildings

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By Teri Karush Rogers  |
February 8, 2010 - 5:47AM

The Journal of Economic Entomology has released a chilling case study of a massive bed bug infestation in a high-rise Indianapolis apartment building. 

It’s a Ghost-of-Christmas-Future story for landlords, co-ops and condos interested in avoiding, say, a $250,000 bed bug clean-up bill.

You can download the study at the bottom of this post.  Here's a quick summary of the cautionary facts.

  • Nearly half of this 210-unit, 15-story low-income apartment building became infested within 41 months of the original problem, which likely started with a single resident who moved into a 12th floor apartment.
    • 50 percent of infested residents were completely unaware that they had bed bugs
    • Visual inspections alone failed to detect nearly half of the infestations. 
    • The most reliable detection method was the placement of dish-like bed bug traps, aka “interceptors," under furniture legs.
    • Infested apartments tended to be right next door to each other (53%) or across the hall (45%). 
    • Bed bugs frequently walked out of the front door of one apartment and into another on the same hallway.
    • Bugs were also spread through the building when infested furniture was discarded without wrapping it in plastic, by neighbors visiting infested apartments or infested common areas, and by an infested wheelchair  used in common areas.

    The study’s authors point out that financial constraints prevented these low-income residents—some of whom lived with infestations for two years—from taking some bed bug fighting measures like encasing mattresses, laundering clothes frequently, and replacing heavily infested furniture.  

    “Unfortunately, this population can pose additional challenges which are not indicative of all buildings,” notes BrickTank pest management expert Gil Bloom, who brought the article to our attention.

    “However, the study certainly does underscore a need for a systematic approach to managing bed bugs,” says Bloom, the vice president of Standard Pest Management and a member of Mayor Bloomberg’s Bedbug Advisory Board.



    Related posts:

    How to bed bug proof your NYC apartment

    Co-op hair-raiser: $250,000 bed bug bill

    Bed bugged storage (Part 1):  Is your stuff safe?

    Bed bugged storage (Part 2): How to protect your stuff

    Your neighbor's bed bugs


    Related links:

    Bedbugs make the homepage of the NY Dept of Health (NY vs Bedbugs)

    The active spread of bedbugs in buildings: the stakes for cities (NY vs Bedbugs) 



    Teri Rogers Headshot - Floral

    Teri Karush Rogers

    Founder & Publisher

    Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she had previously covered New York City real estate for The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri earned a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University.

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