Feds Wage War on Bed Bugs


The war on bed bugs continues to wage on, and some heavy artillery appears to be on the way.

In September, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft of a Federal Strategy on Bed Bugs, which has been about three years in the making. The Strategy is intended to provide guidance for how various levels of government can join forces with pest control efforts to effectively fight the war on bed bugs.

That’s good news for the apartment industry, which has been lobbying Washington D.C. for help. The National Multi Housing Council says Congress should implement a “Manhattan Project” on bed bugs. Such brute force is needed, NMHC says, “to expedite the development of a safe and effective “next generation” pesticide to control bed bug infestations,” and that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) should help educate residents on the collateral damage potential of bed bugs.

Don’t Let Sleeping Bed Bugs Lie

Bed bug infestations continue to be a headache not only for the apartment industry but for society in general. Treatment and awareness sometimes gets bogged down because resources are limited and bed bugs don’t get as much attention as other pests, like ants and cockroaches.

Further, tenants and landlords often argue about who is responsible to eradicate infestations – bed bugs are expensive to treat because pesticide resistance is high. It’s also embarrassing to some residents to admit there is a bed bug problem to begin with, and staying mum enables the pests to gain in forces.

But hoping the problem will go away is not a good strategy to deploy to win the war. Even though bed bugs aren’t believed to transmit disease, they are a public health concern. They suck blood and many people have allergic reactions that sometimes can be severe. Bites can lead to infection and could affect the mental health of some people living in infested homes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Avoid Pesticide Misuse

In addition to direct health issues related to bites, pesticide misuse is another cause for concern. Residents taking a maverick approach to treatment may use pesticides that are not intended for bed bug treatment and further put themselves at risk.

Because of a decline in bed bug reports late in the 20th century, research has taken a backseat to other more pressing issues until now. Attempts to form a battle plan in 2011 failed, when House Bill 967, the Bed Bug Management, Prevention and Research Act of 2011 authored by Representative Jean Schmidt (R-OH) failed.

Integrated Bed Bug Attack Strategy Includes DOD

The Federal Strategy on Bed Bugs, developed by The Federal Bed Bug Work Group, offers new hope that the government is lending a big hand. The draft received about a dozen or so public comments from citizens, pest control professionals and others that the EPA will take under consideration when plotting the final version. The Work Group has some high-powered arsenal in the form of representatives from the CDC, EPA, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Oh, yes. And the Department of Defense.

The Strategy addresses prevention, surveillance, community efforts, education and communication, and research. Most importantly, it brings government agencies together to plan an integrated attack on bed bugs.

Defeating Bed Bugs Takes Education and Vigilance

The National Pest Management Association (NPMA), which was among the respondents to offer support for the Strategy, is asking the government to dig deeper trenches in its efforts to combat bed bugs.

Missy Henriksen, NPMA’s vice president of public affairs, says additional resources are needed to create more cost-effective and less labor-intensive bed bug management efforts, as well as looking at more ways to better protect the public.

“It’s the most difficult pest to treat,” she said. “It’s a very involved process, so we’ve asked the government to take a fresh look at some of the current registered pest control products, screening existing products, looking at fast tracking certain products.”

Addressing those issues, she says, will hopefully increase the pace on what has been a slow advance to win the war on bed bugs. Apartment residents and property managers also need to understand that bed bugs can quickly get out of control. If one unit has bed bugs, dwellings on either side and above and below are at risk of becoming infested.

Further education and awareness is needed, Henricksen said.

“I think we’re slightly above treading water but we’re not winning the war yet,” she said. “I think we’re winning individual battles, and we continue to learn more about bed bugs. I think that bed bugs are a controllable pest and we need to understand that. And for us to continue to win the battles and eventually the war, the public needs to be educated and be vigilant.”

And get some needed firepower from higher powers.



Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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