I recently serviced a large commercial senior residence in Trenton, NJ where I handle all of its pest control needs. The manager contacted me after an elderly tenant reported to him that she had a bed bug infestation. Unfortunately, the property manager was not timely notified of the problem, and it was a severe infestation by the time that I had arrived. Often, the elderly do not notice bed bug issues because of their diminished senses. Many are not even aware that they are being bitten, especially if they are on corticosteroids such as prednisone, which hides allergic reactions to bed bug bites.
Also, the sad reality is that the elderly often have trouble keeping up as well with housekeeping functions because of mobility issues and build-up of excessive clutter is common. Excessive clutter translates into almost unlimited harborage areas for bed bugs and other pests. With this particular unit, there was excessive clutter build-up. In fact, her clutter problem was so bad, that I could not properly inspect the unit let alone initiate treatment. I approached the manager and asked for help. The tenant’s family, if there were any, needed to get involved. The manager contacted her family members and they all pitched in to get rid of the clutter so that the unit could be treated.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of eliminating clutter in a home or apartment. Clutter is an invitation for trouble because it gives insects and rodents almost unlimited harborage, which means more nesting locations. With a favorable breeding environment, pest populations can skyrocket in no time. Bed bugs, in particular, make good use of harborage areas. These bugs are small and flat (one slang name for bed bugs is “mahogany flats” because of their shape and color), so they are able to easily find their way into the tightest of spaces — even in the stitching holes of mattresses!
Also, bed bugs can go for long periods of time without a blood meal, so simply vacating the premises for a period of time won’t work as a way to eradicate bedbugs. Despite what you may have heard, you can’t get rid of a bedbug infestation by trying to starve them to death! How long can bedbugs live without a feeding? It all depends. Nymphs can’t live as long without food as an adult bedbug. Also, the bedbug’s activity level is a factor. The more energy it uses searching for food, the sooner it will die. Also, colder temperatures extend the bed bug’s life. So, there is no easy answer, but it’s pretty clear that bed bugs can survive a year or even longer without a feeding under the right conditions! So, if you temporarily vacate your apartment thinking that you’ll be free of bedbugs when you return, you’re in for a rude awakening. These bugs will be patiently waiting for you to return home — except this time around, they are going to be extra hungry.
After the clutter was removed, I used by HEPA-vacuum throughout all of the potential harborage locations to suck up any bed bugs, nymphs, eggs, and casings left behind after molting. I then applied a residual product to these cracks and crevices to kill any bedbugs that managed to escape the wrath of my HEPA-vac. We will still need a few follow-up visits after the initial treatment until we are assured that the apartment is bedbug-free. However, even after the first treatment, this tenant is well on her way toward getting rid of these nasty, biting insects that infested her home.