Even though many workers continue to navigate Zoom meetings from home office desks or dining room tables, there’s one group of cubicle dwellers that will still go into the office every day if given the chance: bed bugs.
Pest activity during the COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed, and this includes the cryptic bed bug. These annoying pests can live without human hosts for months – up to a year in some cases – and will hunker down until a food source returns.
While retail stores or office buildings would not be considered ideal breeding grounds for bed bugs, they are a growing problem in commercial businesses. And as businesses reopen and welcome workers and customers back, bed bugs can be an issue for property owners and managers.
Bed bugs in office buildings, retail stores, or waiting rooms in healthcare facilities tend to wander around randomly looking for hosts. This contrasts to residential settings (single-family homes or apartments/condominiums) where bed bugs will feed on human hosts while they are inactive, asleep, and in the dark.
One good fact about bed bugs in commercial settings is that population numbers tend to be on the lower side, and populations grow slowly by periodic reintroductions and not by breeding. Hoever, these settings may serve as hubs for the accidental transport of bed bugs by workers to their homes and to places they frequent during the day, such as restaurants and other businesses.
If an office building or restaurant has bed bugs, they will be harder to detect. As a result, a bed bug infestation generally will become widespread before workers realize there is a problem.
A proactive approach
Gail Getty of Insect Consulting in Los Angeles says that bed bugs in commercial settings present unique challenges for both property managers and their pest management service provider.
“Bed bugs don’t limit themselves to a single cubicle or apartment unit,” Getty says. “The whole building is their territory. This is why property owners and managers, employees and residents, and their pest services provider must be on the same page.”
The continual in and out of workers and customers provides a continuous stream of potential bed bug transporters.
Getty says it’s important to take a proactive approach with bed bugs. Developing a written bed bug action plan with specific procedures and responsibilities for responding to a bed bug incident is important.
“Collaboration is the key,” she says, “and it is important to develop a plan just like you would for other pests. Don’t wait for a bed bug problem to land at your doorstep.”
What should a bed bug action plan include? Getty stresses the importance of educating office workers, housekeepers, and maintenance staff on the following:
- The risk of moving bed bugs from home to office, from office to home, and from office to office
- Basic bed bug biology and habits
- How to recognize bed bugs, their signs, and their bites, which will indicate the need to contact a pest management professional to rule out bed bugs as the source of bites
- What actions they can take to reduce the risk of spreading bed bugs
Getty recently worked with a client – a large, well-known hotel property – that revamped its entire pest management program, including bed bugs. The process added training for maintenance and housekeeping staff (in five languages) on spotting the signs of bed bugs and how to report them.
“The staff really bought into the new program and they saw their bed bug incidents drop significantly,” Getty says. “Property managers and owners need to engage their pest services provider and design a program that is tailored specifically to the property’s needs.”
What to do if you have bed bugs
- Workers should report potential bed bug sightings and, if possible, take a phone photo or collect specimens. Collected photos/specimens should be shared with your pest management services provider for a correct identification.
- When bed bugs have been identified in the building, workers should be notified and informed about how to prevent transporting bed bugs. Workers should not attempt DIY solutions – let the professionals handle it.
- Office workers should minimize the number of items brought into and out of the building. If items such as coats, purses, backpacks, and briefcases are brought in and out, they should be stored off the floor and in tightly sealed bags or plastic bins when not in use. As much as is practical, office clutter should be eliminated.
- Bed bugs may be prevented from crawling onto desks and desk chairs by installing traps beneath desk and chair legs.
- Items brought back and forth between office and home should be placed and stored in tight-sealing bags or plastic containers in cars and at home. When leaving infested offices, workers should do self-inspections for bed bugs. Upon arriving at home, clothes can be washed immediately and dried in a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes to eliminate all life stages of bed bugs.
If your company is looking for a pest management partner that understands your business and can help you protect your products, employees, and customers, call or text Clark Pest Control at (800) 936-3339.