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Controlling Bed Bugs in Apartment Buildings--Part 2, IPM

IPM logo
IPM can improve your control of bed bugs and may reduce the amount of insecticides you need to apply
Graphic by Pinto & Associates

IPM Techniques Significantly Improve Bed Bug Control

Can IPM\1 tactics be used against bed bugs? Of course.

Can IPM reduce the amount of insecticides used against bed bugs? Yes, sometimes, by fine-tuning treatments and reducing retreats.

Can IPM improve your success? You bet!

1/ For information about IPM, see What is IPM?)


Miracle IPM Tactics...Not

We're not saying that there are magical nonchemical control tools to take the place of insecticides any time soon. The nonchemical alternatives available, such as vacuuming, heat and steam treatment, cold treatments, caulking and sealing, have both advantages and disadvantages, and results in the real world have been mixed. Thermal treatments for bed bug control are rapidly developing technologies, and heat and cold may prove to be major control tools in the future.

It’s the other components of IPM…education, communication, monitoring, and sanitation…that are critical to bed bug control today.

For example, what is the major reason for bed bug retreats in apartments? In our view, it is that residents weren’t prepared for treatment. They didn’t bag and wash sheets and clothing, or clean out closets and dressers, or gather toys and clothing from the floor. So the apartment is filled with bed bug hiding places that technicians can't treat.

Here are pictures from two infested apartments taken at the time of bed bug service. Clutter like this is common.

cluttered closet cluttered floor
A cluttered closet provides numerous untreatable hiding places for bed bugs It is not possible to successfully control bed bugs under these conditions
  Photos © Pinto & Associates


With today’s technology, it’s just not possible to control bed bugs with these refuges remaining in apartments.

Avoid this problem through improved communication and education. Property managers and residents need to know about bed bugs, the role of clutter in bed bug infestations, and their responsibilities in helping control them (see How to Help Keep Bed Bugs Out of Your Bed and Preparation for Bed Bug Service).

Also educate residents about the danger of new bed bug infestations by buying or renting infested second-hand furniture, carpets, blankets, pictures, and fixtures from stores, yard sales, auctions, and flea markets, or by picking up discarded furniture (see Sources for Bed Bug Infestations).

Highrise apartment building
An apartment unit should never be considered in isolation. Check the units next door, above, and below.
Photos © Pinto & Associates

Think Holistic...See the Big Picture

A common problem with bed bug service is that infested rooms or apartments are often addressed in isolation...

“There are bed bugs in 312. Get rid of them!”

But bed bugs move easily from room to room and even from floor to floor. They may migrate or they may "hitchhike." Whenever a new infestation is identified, other rooms and residences need to be checked.

At a minimum, the units on either side, and above and below, need to be inspected initially and then monitored for bed bugs for at least a month or two, and treated if necessary.These inspections are critical, because a new infestation may really be overflow from a severe infestation nearby, or bed bugs from the new site may have already moved out into the building.




vinyl mattress cover
Vinyl mattress covers reduce bed bug problems
Photo from

Mattress and Box Spring Covers

Residents also should be educated about vinyl, zippered mattress and box spring covers (see Help Keep Bed Bugs Out of Your Bed). The covers trap any bed bugs hidden inside the mattress and box spring so that they can’t come out and bite. They will eventually die.

The covers also make it more difficult (but not impossible!) for new bugs to find hiding places on the bed.

Covers can be purchased online or from medical supply stores, and cost from $7 to $30 each depending on their size and thickness.



Bed bug service isn’t just insecticide application. Incorporate IPM to improve control, and even reduce insecticide use over the long-term by lowering retreat rates and making properties less susceptible to bed bugs.

Next--Check out our 10 Recommendations for Apartment Managers

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