Research Illustrates a Cost-Effective Bed Bug Monitoring Option for Multi-Unit Facilities

Lawrenceville, NJ – Bed bugs continue to cause multi-family housing authorities headaches when it comes to early detection and treatment, however, recent research has created a viable model for building-wide monitoring within the restraints of budgetary concerns.

Karen Vail, Ph.D., professor and extension urban entomologist at the University of Tennessee, recently released her findings in the Journal of Economic Entomology titled “Bed Bug (Hemiptera: Cimicidae) Detection in Low-Income, High-Rise Apartments Using Four or Fewer Passive Monitors.” The study determined if 1, 2 or 4 bed bug monitors (ClimbUp Black Grip and BlackOut pitfall monitors as well as one sticky trap) would be effective at detecting low-level bed bug infestations within a high-rise apartment building.

Over the course of the 8-week study, pitfall traps detected bed bugs in 79 to 88 percent of the rooms that were confirmed to have them. The sticky traps were only able to detect 39 percent of the time. Although she tested 1, 2 and 4 pitfalls in the study, her results showed no significance in using two or four monitors as opposed to one per room.

Vail hopes her research will inspire building managers to implement a bed bug monitoring program.

“The lower cost of using fewer monitors and less time required to place them may encourage pest management professionals and housing managers to use them more frequently and thus detect bed bugs before they spread,” she said in an Entomology Today article.

Dr. Changlu Wang, Department of Entomology at Rutgers University, said Vail’s research only solidified everything that has been previously conducted on the importance of bed bug monitors.

“Dr. Vail’s study provides further scientific proof that bed bug monitors are valuable tools in bed bug management,” Wang said. “They can help detect the presence of bed bugs and evaluate the effectiveness of the bed bug management programs.”

Dr. Dini Miller, professor of urban pest management at Virginia Tech, previously conducted her own study similar to Vail’s with the same results and hopes apartment management will adopt this style of monitoring.

“I think that this monitoring would be very important for apartment managers to do,” Miller said. “The fact that she got these results within one month of using such a low number of monitors is really encouraging.”

Miller explained that as opposed to other studies where mass monitoring was conducted, Vail’s study illustrates a more feasible monitoring option for housing authorities to implement.

“With four or less monitors, you might have a better chance of getting a person to inspect them on a regular basis,” she said. “Fewer monitors increases the chances of them being inspected. From my experience, even with sticky traps for cockroaches, which we have been doing for the last hundred years, getting technicians or even the housing management themselves to look at them is the challenge.”

Wang also agreed that there are challenges that monitoring programs face but suggests that a minimum of four monitors be used for detecting bed bugs.

“Although one pitfall fall trap per room can detect the presence bed bugs in some cases, it is always much better to install more pitfall traps,” he said. “I suggest installing a minimum of four traps under the legs of each bed or sofa that is used for sleeping. The cost of pitfall traps is low and they can be recycled. To save on the cost of monitors, housing authorities can hire experienced staff or professionals to conduct brief resident interviews and cursory visual inspections first and determine which apartments need monitors.”

Miller agrees with Wang’s suggestions of utilizing individuals outside of the pest control company to help inspect the monitors in a building.

“Dr. Vail suggests in her study that the pest control professional do all the inspections but I would go as far as to recommend that the apartment facilities staff also create a schedule for checking the monitors,” she said. “And it can’t be the same person inspecting the units but instead having different members of the facility group checking different numbers of apartments that way no one gets worn out inspecting the monitors.”

Even though implementing a building-wide monitoring program has its challenges, Wang believes it is the best approach to preventing the spread of bed bugs in buildings.

“The early detection of bed bugs is essential to helping prevent the spread of bed bugs in buildings,” he said. “The best approach for early bed bug detection is to conduct periodic monitoring within buildings with bed bug infestations. Pitfall style interceptors are cost effective tools for detecting bed bugs.”

Miller believes that despite the obstacles, Vail’s research is one of the best options for housing managers to implement a feasible and cost-effective bed bug monitoring program.

“I think what Dr. Vail’s work does is that it shows us if we do the minimum amount, we can get a lot of answers and identify infestations early, which I think that’s what helps us,” she said. “There’s still going to be challenges like manpower having to check all the traps without getting exhausted, but I think if we really wanted to detect bed bug infestations, this is the way to go and this is the best we’ve got right now.”