Basement + neighbour + bedbugs = flipout?
September 7, 2014 4:26 PM   Subscribe

The guy who lives in the basement our of shared house brought a second hand mattress into the unit that was infested with bedbugs. The entire house has been heat treated once, and his unit has been heat treated three times. How do we even begin to decide if we need to move out?

We rent the second and third floor of the house; there's a lady on the first floor, and F, the culprit is in the basement. As far as we know, there's been no sign of them on the first floor or our unit. I've laid a few of the yeast/sugar/water traps but have never caught anything.

The basement was heat treated three times within a month and a half of the infestation being detected, and the entire house was done in the first round.

We live in Toronto, and have been fairly anxious about the entire thing. We're thinking about having a bb sniffing dog brought in to check the entire house.

Right now what I would really like to find is any research on the topic -- is there research on the effectiveness of heat treatments in residential infestations? About the accuracy of sniffing dogs? About how common infestations are in downtown Toronto? About the spread of bedbugs through residential houses?

Beyond that, any other comments/suggestions/thoughts would be totally appreciated.
posted by slipperywhenwet to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
move out now. i had bed bugs in toronto, and they go away if you leave, nuke all of your clothes with DE, and LEAVE. LEAVE NOW.
posted by PinkMoose at 4:29 PM on September 7, 2014

Bedbugs suck for sure, i just had them, but it sounds like this was found early, treated promptly and is not in a unit adjacent to yours. Heat treatments aren't always 100% effective, but I wouldn't freak out yet. You might think about caulking up cracks and packing the things you have in storage already into airtight containers instead of cardboard boxes. The dogs are supposedly very effective, but I don't have any stats, sorry.

Bedbugs are a hassle, but so is moving. If you're financially secure enough that you're thinking of moving over this, I'd hazard a guess that you could probably pay to have a moving truck with your stuff in it vikaned, if worse comes to worse.

Don't put de in your clothes, BTW. It's not meant to be used anywhere where it will be stirred up and breathed in.
posted by geegollygosh at 4:42 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

If moving out seems possible financially and logistically, i'd strongly consider it.

Pull your bed away from the wall, get rid of bed skirt and anything under the bed, and put bed bug traps around each leg.

+1 to putting stuff in airtight Tupperware instead of cardboard boxes.

But really, just move.
posted by amaire at 5:04 PM on September 7, 2014

Bed bugs are some times the worst thing ever, but not always. Many of my clients (in low income housing in Toronto) have bed bugs and if done properly, treatments are usually effective. If you haven't seen any, don't have any bites, etc - you're probably fine. It sounds like the treatment done in your house was thorough and timely. It is recommended that treatments happen 2 weeks apart, at least twice, so that's good. You do not need to move just because someone in the basement has them, especially if your landlord has been responsive in dealing with the issue.

This is a link to some Toronto info on your and your landlord's rights and responsibilities in this situation.

This is a city of Toronto fact sheet about bed bugs.

You can always have a health inspector visit your apartment in Toronto. Same for municipal property standards inspector. And the City has a special Bed Bug team that I have only ever had positive experiences working with.
posted by hepta at 5:21 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hey hepta, thanks about the Toronto bed bug team -- were you referring to the Toronto Health Connection?
posted by slipperywhenwet at 5:27 PM on September 7, 2014

If you have bedbugs- YOU WILL TAKE THEM WITH YOU.

Moving does not solve the problem. It cannot solve the problem, and if your moving into a multi unit building there is no way to know if all the tenants are bedbug free anyway, or you could suddenly be the neighbor infecting everybody else.

The best way to treat when you have no sign of bugs is to buy the little bedbug wells, keep clothes and other items like blankets and purses off the floor, and don't throw stuff from outside on your bed and put your linens through laundry regularly (or just dry them on high heat for 30 minutes).

Currently my downstairs neighbor has bedbugs. It is scary, but it isn't movable over. Take a deep breath. It is inconvenient, anxiety provoking, and you can loose sleep. But bedbugs are not deadly. They do not transmit disease. They are super annoying and hard to kill, but the bed bug threat is partly in your mind.

I work with people who have bedbugs all the time. In a metropolitan area known for having bedbugs. If you treat, you should be just fine. You will live and you will be okay. Most nightmare stories about bedbugs really have to do with non-compliance (not moving the bed from the wall, not drying clothes on high heat, bring infecting objects back in the room and ignoring a problem until it is super out of control. That does not sound like you.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:41 PM on September 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: AlexiaSky, yeah, obviously we'd have our stuff treated and sanitized before moving.
posted by slipperywhenwet at 5:54 PM on September 7, 2014

There is also risks with moving trucks. And if you don't trust that the exterminators did their job, how are you going to trust that you are bedbug free in the new place?
Here is a resource I frequently quote when dealing with bedbugs: Midwest Pesticide Action Center
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:00 PM on September 7, 2014

Response by poster: I feel like this thread has become somewhat derailed -- we are not really looking for advice on *how* to move or how to treat an infestation, really want we want is *reliable*, calm, ideally peer-reviewed information on:

-the efficacy of the treatment that has already been done;

-on the efficacy of other bb detection methods, like sniffer dogs;

-on the risk of spread from one unit to the next; and general statistics on BB in Toronto.
posted by slipperywhenwet at 6:16 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

They'll travel from apartment to apartment. I had this happen to me. I was told by the exterminator that they sometimes crawl up wiring and through electrical outlets. In the end, I wound up moving.
posted by batbat at 7:17 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

This study says dogs are extremely effective but there are doubts.

This article, though 11 years old, is specific to Toronto.
posted by daninnj at 7:34 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: daninnj and batbat -- thanks for those links, very helpful!
posted by slipperywhenwet at 7:41 PM on September 7, 2014

As others have said, anywhere you move to could also have bedbugs. Or you could get bedbugs from the moving van. In your current place, you (presumably) have a landlord who is responsive and fellow tenants who are now aware of and alert for the presence of bedbugs. And you have only two other tenants in the structure, which is also favorable; in a bigger building with more units, there are more people that might bring bedbugs in or not comply with treatment protocol. I think that's as good as it's gonna get in some ways.

I have had a LOT of bedbug anxiety in the past few years due to a confluence of weird circumstances. What I have finally settled into is:
a) am I itchy, with visible bite marks consistently appearing over a period of days/weeks?
b) am I consistently seeing what appears to be physical evidence (tiny blood spots on sheets, or any bedbug skins or bedbug poop spots)?

If the answer to both of those is no, I have decided not to be worried about having bedbugs. I'm still cautious about things that could lead to /getting/ bedbugs (like, not gonna be buying a random used mattress or couch any time soon), but I don't worry about having them absent the above things, because that worry was basically ruining my life.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:33 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've done both the heat and chemical treatment - and the dog! We were told that the bed bugs like to hide in the base boards. And it's not so much about the bed bugs - but the eggs, which hatch much later after a suspected infestation. I believe the dog only detects bed bugs (not eggs)
I haven't found much in Canada in the way of studies. In the states, the CDC has some references. The articles are more about varying effects of pesticides rather than alternative treatments. Some of the American Universities have studies and recommendations on bed bugs (we follow Cornell University)
I have my doubts about the heat treatment. You really have to seal the room thoroughly to get a consistent high temperature (we heated treated a 12 x 12 room for 12 hours. I can't remember what temperature it reached.). From what I have read - bed bugs are survivalists. When they sense heat or cold or any danger, they find cover. Apparently they can hide for a long time (30 days +) . I don't think there is any 100% treatment.
If it's any use - in Vancouver, a lot of agencies that deal with homeless individuals use saunas. All belongings go in the sauna. But it is very varied - some say 3 hours in the sauna is good - others say 3 days. I suppose it depends how hot the sauna is.
But like what most people said - bed bugs are everywhere - on buses, in airports...they travel in wallets and purses...
posted by what's her name at 10:08 PM on September 7, 2014

Paying to have a moving truck Vikaned--people will do that?
posted by persona au gratin at 12:54 AM on September 8, 2014

At least in theory, heat treatment should work. Here's an abstract of one study:

Responses of the bed bug, Cimex lectularius, to temperature extremes and dehydration: levels of tolerance, rapid cold hardening and expression of heat shock proteins

This study of the bed bug, Cimex lectularius, examines tolerance of adult females to extremes in temperature and loss of body water. Although the supercooling point (SCP) of the bed bugs was approximately −20°C, all were killed by a direct 1 h exposure to −16°C. Thus, this species cannot tolerate freezing and is killed at temperatures well above its SCP. Neither cold acclimation at 4°C for 2 weeks nor dehydration (15% loss of water content) enhanced cold tolerance. However, bed bugs have the capacity for rapid cold hardening, i.e. a 1-h exposure to 0°C improved their subsequent tolerance of −14 and −16°C. In response to heat stress, fewer than 20% of the bugs survived a 1-h exposure to 46°C, and nearly all were killed at 48°C. Dehydration, heat acclimation at 30°C for 2 weeks and rapid heat hardening at 37°C for 1 h all failed to improve heat tolerance. Expression of the mRNAs encoding two heat shock proteins (Hsps), Hsp70 and Hsp90, was elevated in response to heat stress, cold stress and during dehydration and rehydration. The response of Hsp90 was more pronounced than that of Hsp70 during dehydration and rehydration. Our results define the tolerance limits for bed bugs to these commonly encountered stresses of temperature and low humidity and indicate a role for Hsps in responding to these stresses.

Here's a paper about bed bugs in four cities including Toronto in 2010. I can't access it but a librarian (or another Mefite) might be able to get it for you.

Bed Bugs and Public Health: New Approaches for an Old Scourge
Mona Shum, Elizabeth Comack, Taz Stuart, Reg Ayre, Stéphane Perron, Shelley A. Beaudet, Tom Kosatsky
OBJECTIVE: To share four Canadian cities’ experiences with bed bug infestations and to explore public health roles in managing them.
METHODS: We summarize presentations from a workshop at the 2010 Canadian Public Health Association Conference which examined the re-emergence of bed bugs in Canada and compared management approaches of municipal and public health authorities in four large Canadian cities. We include updates on their activities since the workshop.

I also have a lot of respect for the calm, hands-on expertise of David Cain, who lives in the UK and runs the site He answers people's questions in the bedbugger forums sometimes (not a calm place! be forewarned) and is generally helpful and knowledgeable. He sells/sold bed bug detection devices which are basically a piece of cardboard glued to a piece of thick white paper. Bed bugs love to sleep in cardboard (it's an ideal "harborage" for them) and they love to be near the head of the bed, so if you put this cardboard-on-paper device on the wall at the head of the bed, they'll go there after they feed and they'll poop on the paper before crawling into the cardboard. So it's a cheap and effective way to know when you've got an infestation.

Hope some of that is helpful. Sorry you have this stress on your hands.
posted by feets at 3:51 AM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much feets and what's her name!
posted by slipperywhenwet at 5:25 AM on September 8, 2014

As the property manager for an apartment complex, I have dealt with 2 instances of bed bugs and my first priority is to get rid of them before they spread into other apartments. I also interviewed with Orkin and went on a bed bug inspection of an apartment compex to make sure the bed bugs were eradicated. If it was a reputable company that took care of the bed bugs in your building they will come back to do a re-inspection with the dogs within 30 days to make sure they are gone. If the are not gone, they will apply another treatment. The heat treatment is the best way of getting rid of them, that is the only option my management company will use. I hope this helps!
posted by jenniheise at 9:32 PM on September 8, 2014

Best answer: Hey sorry for the delayed response - Toronto Health Connection is part of what I am referring to, but Toronto also has at least two 'Bed Bug Specialists' employed by the city.
posted by hepta at 11:24 AM on September 12, 2014

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