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Bed Bugs: Proactive IPM Strategies Critical in Multi-Unit Housing

bed bug management methods

A new, in-depth review of existing research on bed bug management strategies says preventing bed bug infestations is less costly than curbing existing ones. Preventative methods include visual inspections (top), interceptors (lower left), and adjusting furniture so that beds don’t touch walls and bed linens don’t touch floors (lower right.) (Photo credit: Alvaro Romero, Ph.D.)

Amid the persistent threat of bed bug infestations in multi-unit housing, the best advice for property owners, managers, and tenants looking to avoid the pests is the same advice that applies to many other afflictions: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

So says an extensive review of existing research into management strategies for bed bugs, published today in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management (JIPM). The free, open-access report examines dozens of field studies on bed bug management and concludes that “programs that consider the residents, housing managers, and staff and attempt to detect infestations before they are reported and before populations spread to multiple units stand the best chance at succeeding.”

Multi-unit housing such as assisted living facilities and affordable housing communities are particularly vulnerable to bed beg (Cimex lectularius) infestations, and research shows that the most common management strategies in these settings rely mostly on application of insecticides. These reactive methods are often costly and are not always successful, says Alvaro Romero, Ph.D., assistant professor of urban entomology at New Mexico State University and lead author of the JIPM report.

“We consider early detection and regular monitoring to be the most important components of successful integrated pest management (IPM) programs for bed bugs in multi-unit housing,” Romero says.

A multi-pronged IPM approach to bed bug management includes a variety of nonchemical methods—such as clutter reduction, mattress and box spring encasements, steam treatment, heat treatment, vacuuming, laundering, and placement of bed bug traps and monitors—all of which “help to reduce risks associated with chemical methods, such as pesticide exposure events and insecticide resistance development,” says Romero, who wrote the JIPM report with a team of researchers from University of California Cooperative Extension; UC Riverside; UC Berkeley; University of Arizona; University of Hawaii at Manoa; and Colorado State University.

Part of the challenge faced in managing bed bugs in multi-unit housing is the need to continually educate tenants on bed bug prevention and identification. Past studies that Romero and colleagues reviewed on the public’s ability to identify a bed bug correctly consistently showed low percentages of people able to do so.

Meanwhile, property owners and managers are advised to weigh the investment in ongoing, preventative management methods against the risk of costly control efforts necessary once an infestation has occurred.

“Although proactive IPM approaches for bed bugs may initially generate substantial additional costs, these long-term programs may eventually make economic sense as the best ways to effectively manage bed bugs in these challenging environments,” says Romero.


  1. I’ve been in the pest prevention business for over 23 years on the west coast of Canada. Specializing in integrating long lasting pest products into the building as it is being assembled. My market is typically the high end custom home clientele that recognizes the prudence of my service. It makes sense to me to incorporate a product, such as Diatomaceous Earth dusts, and/or borate dusts, into all the common walls and ceilings of multifamily dwellings. I believe this would slow down the migration of not only bedbugs, but other structurally significant insects, like cockroaches and ants throughout the building.

  2. At Orkin I have incorporated many successful pre-construction proactive wall-void treatments of desiccant products during the later phases of construction; prior to drywall framing within the interior of units. These desiccant products typically have quite a long duration of efficacy(if not denuded by other chemicals or moisture); that will significantly help in deterring bed bug infestations from accessing the adjacent units via wall-voids if applied correctly & in the proper quantity.This is only a deterrence that will not 100% prohibit a bed bug infestation.

  3. Is there any information on the use of Timbor or other borax pest, bactericide, fungicide treatment for bed bugs? It seems it has an effect of ku-ka-rachas (an exoskeleton non wood eating bug). so why not bed bugs?

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