Free Bed Bug Basics Workshop

Why Philly is a particularly bad place to get bedbugs

Philadelphia Inquirer, June 2018

by Julia Terruso

Caroline Allen had just moved into a studio apartment in West Philadelphia when she noticed a bug bite on her foot. She assumed a mosquito got her. But by the end of the week she had bites up and down her legs. When she found a crawling little brown bug, about the size of an apple seed, she called her landlord to confirm her fear:

Bedbugs.

To continue reading, visit:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/bed-bugs-philly-housing-task-force-policy-health-20180705.html

A Philadelphia Bed Bug Story

July 3, 2018
If i can ever help your group, let me know. This is a serious problem that is not going away anytime soon. We had paid our house off and now will have either rent or a mortgage payment since we did sell our house at a lower price than we can buy another at. We are both retired and this just killed any financial planning we had. Thank you for your emails. And again don't hesitate to contact me in the future. -Anonymous

July 2, 2018
You can share my story with your group. We are out at least $20,000 from this ordeal. (5 weeks of Hotel bills, Eating out when in the hotel, Treating our house and the elderly man’s house, Paying to have his house cleaned out and then hauling our old furniture away, paying for all new furniture. Cancelled plane tickets to our daughters for Christmas, etc.) None of which is reclaimable as you can’t sue since the city doesn’t have a party wall law, which I am sure you know.

And I still look everywhere for the bugs when out. The other bit of information I wanted to tell you was, once I started telling people in my neighborhood, other people told me about their problem with it. There were apparently 9 houses on a neighborhood street where it passed from each row house. -Anonymous

June 7, 2018
...[t]he family removed the elderly man from his house and we paid to have all of his belongings trashed as they were heavily infested with bugs. The exterminator we used said the infestation had to have been going on for a year judging by the number of bed bugs crawling everywhere. We then paid to have his house treated. The family, thankfully, has not returned him to his house but has boarded it up for now. We did not return to our house as we could not get past the thought of bugs since we had lived with the situation for two months. We remediated our house and then sold it 6 months later. We did fully disclose the bugs and remediation. I wouldn’t wish that situation on my worst enemy. Thanks for your reply. -Anonymous

December 21, 2017
We have a neighbor who has a serious infestation of bed bugs that are starting to find their way into our house since both share a party wall.
He is elderly and the family is dragging their feet to get the gentle man help. We have offered to get a reputable exterminator to eradicate the infestation, the same one we have that is helping us with the bed bugs, but they so far we have not gotten the okay from them to do anything on his house. Do you know of any agencies or resources that we can contact? Are there any options for us since we can longer sleep in our house for fear that these will come back again and start biting again. -Anonymous


Penn State Team Urges Progress on Bed Bugs

June 2018

In 2015, Megan McGinty, was at a breaking point. A regional property manager for Federation Housing, Inc., a non-profit organization that develops, builds, and manages affordable housing for senior citizens in Philadelphia, she wanted desperately to rid the 1,500 residents whom she served of the bed bug infestations that had taken root in their homes.

McGinty sent one of her employees to an “IPM in Multifamily Housing” training session taught by Dion Lerman, environmental health programs specialist for the Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program at Penn State. There, the employee learned how to implement IPM practices in the 11 high-rise apartment buildings managed by McGinty. After the workshop, Lerman continued to assist McGinty and her team in developing a plan of attack. Together, the group applied a number of practices, including a portable heat chamber to eliminate bed bugs from furniture, wheelchairs, and other hard-to-treat items.

Two years later, the housing development contains zero bed bugs. “By adopting IPM protocols, they went from having a chronic infestation problem across their entire system to having no bed bug issues,” said Lerman.

According to Lerman, Philadelphia has had a bad bed bug problem since the beginning of the century, and residents continue to suffer. “A recent survey found that more than 11 percent of residents have had bed bugs in the previous five years,” he said. “Part of the problem, is that the city does not have a bed bug policy, ordinance, or even an agency that’s in charge of addressing the issue.”

Lerman, along with Michelle Niedermeier, program coordinator for community integrated pest management and environmental health at the Penn State IPM Program, hope to see that change as they provide technical advice to the community. Recently, local agencies, non-profits, university professionals, health care professionals, senior and low-income housing advocates, lawyers, and everyday citizens established a new group called Philadelphians Against Bed Bugs (PhABB).

"The goal of PhABB is to work with the city of Philadelphia to develop and enact a bed bug ordinance based on current best management practices and protocols that would require property owners to keep their properties free of bed bugs; implement a code enforcement policy that takes infestations seriously; educate the residents and city employees about best practices for extermination; and implement and enforce policies to keep homes, schools, and workplaces free from infestations,” said Lerman. “The Penn State IPM Program is the educational arm, helping citizens of Pennsylvania to understand the importance of properly managing bed bugs.”

According to Lerman, in December 2015, an earlier citizen-based Bed Bug Task Force, commissioned by Philadelphia City Council, submitted a set of policy recommendations to the city’s Office of the Mayor. The recommendations call for a bed bug policy that puts the onus of responsibility for inspection and remediation of bed bugs onto property owners, operators, and managers. In addition, the recommendations call for property owners, operators, and managers to provide prospective tenants with written disclosure of the unit’s bed bug infestation and remediation history, and they protect tenants if they report an infestation to the appropriate city agency.

PhABB is currently awaiting a response from the managing director of the mayor’s office about the adoption of the policy recommendations. In the meantime, PhABB partnered with a local puppet troop, called Spiral Q, to create “Boris the Bed Bug,” a costume that will be donned by volunteers at events around town to help raise awareness of the need for a bed bug policy, and to help educate residents about the do’s and don’ts of bed bug remediation.

In addition, Lerman offers a free monthly “Bed Bug Basics” workshop that helps participants understand bed bugs and what they can do about them. The workshop takes place on the second Tuesday of every month from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at 675 Sansom Street.

In the midst of all of this activity, Penn State researchers also have created a new tool that promises to provide bed bug relief. Aprehend, a biopesticide that targets bed bugs, was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2017 and is officially registered and sold in 48 states. Lerman and Niedermeier hope to soon initiate a field trial of Aprehend in Philadelphia.

To learn more about Aprehend, go to: http://www.aprehend.com/product/

Philadelphia has a bed bug crisis.

Most major cities have a policy to deal with bed bugs, but the City of Philadelphia avoids bed bugs like the plague. No city agency will take responsibility for addressing this serious issue.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree that bed bugs are "a pest of significant public health importance." But when bed bugs have you losing sleep and suffering panic attacks, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health's response is to send you a fact sheet.

International Property Maintenance Code standards adopted by our city call for structures to be kept "free from insect infestation." However the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections will not cite a property for bed bug infestation stating they are either not a structural pest or not an insect — neither of which is correct.

And as is often the case when you don't have a plan, a nuisance becomes a crisis. In an annual ranking of bed bug-infested cities, Philadelphia ranked No. 2.  We were No. 1, but Detroit took first place.

People treat you badly when you say you have bed bugs, so you whisper the truth to a trusted friend. But the truth is that bed bugs don't discriminate. Anyone can get bed bugs. Entire blocks of the city can get bed bugs. The only way to stop bed bugs is to establish a clear policy.

Although the folks in charge of health and buildings have decided bed bugs are not their problem, Philadelphians Against Bed Bugs disagrees. It's a problem when you can't get your landlord to address a bed bug infestation. It's a problem when bed bugs needlessly cause another family to abandon furniture and mattresses they cannot afford to replace. It's a problem when essential food, healthcare, and transportation services are denied because agencies won't serve people who live with bed bugs.

Philadelphians Against Bed Bugs has a plan. The City of Philadelphia needs to adopt the Philadelphia Bed Bug Task Force's 2015 Policy Recommendations: Require property owners to keep their properties free of bed bugs. Implement a code enforcement policy that takes infestations seriously. Educate our city about best practices for extermination. And implement policies that keep our homes, schools, and workplaces free from infestation.

Until then, sleep tight!

Education

What are the best resources for learning about bed bugs?

  • Preventing and Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Safely:  A Guide for Property Owners, Managers and Tenants.  Download in English or in Spanish.
  • Got Bed Bugs? Eliminate Bed Bugs with IPM.  Download in English or in Spanish.

What are bed bugs, besides scary?

Bed bugs (Cimex Lectularius) are small, wingless parasites that feed mostly on the blood of humans.

When did bed bugs become a thing?

The bed bug used to be a common pest in the US, affecting one third of the population. After World War II the use of pesticides essentially eliminated them from the United States. However, small populations persisted, and bed bugs continued to thrive in areas around the world. Over time bed bugs developed a resistance to every pesticide used against them. The older formulas, now banned, no longer kill the bugs. Beginning around the year 2000, new bed bug populations were introduced into the US by travelers. By 2008, bed bug infestations had become a major issue in the United States capturing media attention.

How common are bed bugs in Philly?

In Philadelphia, calls to the Vector Control program of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health increased monthly, reaching over 69% annual increase between 2008 and 2010. Similar reports from around the country confirm these trends. In another Philadelphia study, 11% of a sample of South Philadelphia residents had contact with bed bugs in the previous 5 years.

What happens when they bite?

Bed bugs are most active at night. They often bite people who are asleep or sitting still for an extended period of time. Bites are usually the first sign that people notice when they have bed bugs. Reactions to bites can vary widely, ranging from blisters and pustules to no reaction at all. Physical reactions to bed bug bites can include skin irritation, swelling, and rashes. Reactions to bites may take as little as a few minutes to as many as 14 days to appear. It is very hard to look at a bug bite and know if the bite came from a bed bug or another insect. A proper inspection is needed to confirm if your home has bed bugs.  

Can bed bugs drive you crazy?

Living with bed bugs can also result in psychological and emotional distress including loss of sleep, anxiety, and depression. Bed bugs frequently prevent or delay critical ­home health care and access to other public services for elderly, mentally ill, and disabled individuals creating additional challenges for vulnerable members of the population.  The stigma associated with bed bugs interferes with reporting and treatment, and can result in social distancing, isolation and deprecatory treatment by others. 

How long do they live?

Early detection is critical in stopping a bed bug introduction from becoming an infestation. Adult female bed bugs lay white, pearshaped eggs in clusters of 10 to 50 in cracks and crevices of bed frames, floors, walls and other similar sites.  The bugs go through various stages before becoming a mature, oval, brown or red-brown adult. Adults may survive as long as one year without feeding. Under perfect conditions, the time from egg to adult can be 4­6 weeks, with eggs hatching in 10­14 days.

Treatment

Step One: Read these. You need to know what you are up against.

  • Preventing and Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Safely:  A Guide for Property Owners, Managers and TenantsDownload in English or in Spanish.
  • Got Bed Bugs? Eliminate Bed Bugs with IPM.  Download in English or in Spanish.


Step Two: Hire a qualified exterminator.  The only effective way to eradicate bed bugs is an integrated approach using multiple methods, starting with careful inspection, and probably using heat or steam treatment. A minimum of three visits at 10-14 day intervals will be required, and should be specified. "Pesticide only" treatments will fail, because of resistance by the bugs, but especially their eggs.  For more information:

Copyright Philadelphians Against Bed Bugs 2017