Problems Associated with Treating for Bed Bugs in Public Settings

Home should be a place where you can put feet up and relax but one man in Augusta, ME was frustrated with his living situation. Plagued by bed bugs with nowhere to turn, he consulted with his town officials for assistance in getting a new place to stay. However, when they turned him down, he spewed his frustration all over the counter by slamming a cup with over 100 live bed bugs on the Augusta City Center’s counters, with one bug even landing on an employee.

According to the Central Maine’s news article, the office was promptly shut down and City Manager William Bridgeo said they quickly tried to recapture all the bed bugs that were on the counter in the General Assistance office. Although the offices were closed and a pest control company was called in to treat the areas, the office was expected to open back up a few days later after a canine deemed the area “bed bug free.”

The question that this incident arises is, are the office areas really free of any bed bugs? Is there anything that they can do it ensure that all the bed bugs that were unleashed were in fact contained? According to previous reports, bed bugs had been found at the Augusta City Center on other occasions, so what can be done to prevent these closures?

According to Rutgers University Department of Entomology Professor Changlu Wang, “Treating public places are challenging in that there are no ‘typical’ bed bug hiding places in offices as in residences. It would need extra caution in deciding which method to use and where to apply treatment in offices.”

Wang, along with many other bed bug researchers, understand the difficulties with treating for bed bugs in public settings, however, this is becoming more and more common across the country. It isn’t uncommon for public offices, schools, hospitals or even movie theaters to find bed bugs in their environment. But what can they do to treat for bed bugs when those environments typically are limited to the use of pesticides and various chemicals that can be used in those settings?

“I actually suggest actively monitoring for bed bugs in any office situation after a bed bug sighting has been reported,” said Dawn Gouge, Public Health Entomologist with the University of Arizona.

In reference to the incident in Augusta, Gouge recommends that the officials consider ongoing bed bug monitoring to ensure that all the bed bugs are gone.

“In this instance, deep cleaning and ongoing monitoring would definitely be recommended,” she said. “Interceptor traps or SenSci ActivVolcano traps could be placed under desks, Nightwatch traps could be used over weekends or set to come on during nighttime hours when the office is unoccupied. I personally would be inclined to monitor for bed bugs for longer than four weeks.”

Wang agreed with Gouge that in the case of Augusta City Center bed bug problem, the office should consider bed bug monitoring.

“Since bed bugs can easily live for a few weeks without feeding, it would be prudent to install some pitfall style bed bug monitors along the perimeters of the floor and beside the desks in the office where bed bugs were released,” he said. “Examine the monitors every 1-2 weeks for 4-6 weeks. Adding a chemical lure to the monitors would be more likely to detect bed bugs if they are present.”

Bed bugs in public spaces can be complicated but by using pitfall interceptors, pest control professionals can expect to detect any bed bug activity with an ongoing monitoring program and thus treat the issue before it becomes a larger problem.

“A couple of things to consider with the Augusta incident, it clearly demonstrates just how frustrated some residents can get when dealing with bed bugs, although his actions were not justified at all,” Gouge said. “The office had previous bed bug sightings and even if bed bugs are found in the offices we cannot assume they were ones released by the frustrated chap. It is quite possible other workers are battling bed bugs at home and could be bringing them into the building accidentally which is why ongoing bed bug monitoring is so important in these instances.”