Keep the evil motherfuckers away from me.
August 16, 2010 2:38 AM   Subscribe

I just found my apartment building listed on the Bedbug Registry. How freaked out do I need to be? What can I do?

It's a small, old building with four stories. The post didn't specify which unit the bedbugs were in. They left the comment a week ago. I find the report credible - I have noticed a few mattresses cast out on the curb lately, and recently the guys in the next house over discarded an armoire with a "Warning, bedbugs" sticker on it. The author writes that the landlord has not been taking the infestation seriously ("won't pay for professional treatment") - and based on my past interactions with the landlord, I have no trouble believing that.

I'm moving out on Sept 1st. I'm reasonably sure I don't have them yet - I haven't noticed any bites, and neither has my live-in boyfriend. So:

1) Given that the bedbugs have only a two-week period in which to infest my stuff, how worried/vigilant do I need to be? How fast can the motherfuckers multiply, spread, and move through an apartment building?

2) I'm going to do the diatomaceous earth and caulk regimen recommended here. Are there other ways to keep nearby bedbugs out? (I would detonate a DDT bomb if I could.)

3) The landlord is coming by tomorrow to show the place to prospective tenants. When they're done, I want to take him aside discreetly, ask him about the rumour, and (attempt to) convince him to hire a professional exterminator. I am not hopeful, but I want to maximize the odds of success. As a landlord, he is diligent, responsible, and no-nonsense - but only when his own bottom line is at stake. When it comes to the concerns of his tenants, he is completely apathetic. Therefore, appeals to his own self-interest seem like the best possible tactic. Any suggestions on what I should say?
posted by mellifluous to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Ref 3, remind him subtly that you can in fact talk to other tenants...
posted by Solomon at 4:25 AM on August 16, 2010

If the landlord only takes care of business when it suits his own bottom line... and new tenants are coming to see your apartment... and new tenants are essential to his bottom line...

"Hi new tenants! Welcome to the apartment. Sorry for all the diatomaceous earth powder lying around, this building has bedbugs."

This is a total jerk move and I don't even necessarily recommend it, I'm just putting it out there. You should probably try and e-mail or talk with the landlord first.
posted by cranberrymonger at 6:06 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get a mattress encasement... they can be expensive, but it will be worth it to be sure that your bed is protected and you won't be taking any bugs in your mattress with you when you move. I saw some encasements at Sears and Walmart, but I wasn't sure about the quality so I got a Protect-a-Bed encasement at Home Outfitters. After my (reasonably mild) experience with bugs, I would recommend an encasement for anyone who rents, anywhere.

You may also want to isolate your bed (move it away from the wall and bug-proof the legs) as a precaution. You'll sleep better... bugs wreak havoc on the nerves, even if they don't pose a physical health risk.
posted by kaudio at 6:09 AM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'd combine some of the above strategies.

Contact your landlord and say, "This building is on the bedbug registry, and my neighbors have bedbugs. As a result, I'll be using diatomaceous earth powder in my home to prevent them from coming in, as neighbors already have infestations. If you hire an exterminator and bug-bomb this place, you won't have prospective tenants looking at our home-grown solutions."
posted by juniperesque at 6:58 AM on August 16, 2010

Get yourself over to Learn how to spot them (bites are the last sign, and many people don't react to them). They'll have info on good versus bad exterminators and legal issues (your landlord may get in to legal trouble for not exterminating them, depending on where you live).

You can get them in 2 weeks. You can also get them brushing against someone on the bus.

If you spot something you think is a bedbug, snag it in clear packing tape, fold it over to seal. Exterminators can't break out the chemicals without proof, and mine was very happy that he didn't have to look for them because I had examples.

It isn't your job to protect prospective tenants or your neighbours, but it would be a kind thing to do. Infestations aren't fun.
posted by QIbHom at 8:01 AM on August 16, 2010

With only two weeks to go, you probably don't have to worry about them infesting your whole apartment. However, if you take bedbugs with you to your new place, even just a few, they can definitely take over.

My advice would be the mattress encasement, as well as washing all washable stuff in hot water and drying on high heat as you pack for the move. You can also throw other textile-ish things you wouldn't normally wash into a hot dryer. This would also be a great opportunity to get rid of things you don't want anymore. As you pack, you might want to err on the side of "throw out" as opposed to "donate to goodwill".

I had a bed-bug encounter while traveling just a few weeks before a recent move, and that's what I did with all my luggage - wash/dry on hot, run through a hot dryer, throw away. I also read recently that you can use a hot blowdryer to achieve the same effect as a clothes dryer, which I did to some electronic stuff I didn't want to put in a dryer (and which would be unlikely to be infested with bedbugs, anyway).
posted by Sara C. at 8:07 AM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Be very freaked out.

Diatomaceous earth will likely work well. That's what finally solved things for us.

If you're looking for evidence of whether or not you've already been infested, take everything you have that's washable and run it through the dryer on high heat. Then check the lint trap for dead bugs. If you find any, seal up your newly safe clothing and bedding and take every precaution listed above for the rest of your apartment.

It's great that you may have a chance to be proactive and prevent a potentially terrible situation.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 11:00 AM on August 16, 2010

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