The Risks of Self-Treating for Bed Bugs

By James Lyons
If you find bed bugs in your house or apartment, think twice before you grab that can of insecticide. There are several risks associated with treating for bed bugs yourself with store bought chemicals.
Treating for bed bugs yourself is difficult and quite often does not work. Store-bought bed bug sprays kill on contact, but offer little in the way of residual bug-killing power. These products can repel bugs and break up bed bug colonies, spreading the infestation and making the problem worse! This is a major risk in apartment buildings where bed bugs could be forced to other suites.
In addition, many approved products deemed safe when used according to the label can still be hazardous and must be used as directed by the manufacturer. That said, store-bought products may have some strategic uses, such as treating things (e.g., luggage) before bringing them into your home, but should not be depended on as a full bed bug treatment.
For tenants, it is especially important to avoid self-treating. First of all, your landlord is responsible to hire an exterminator to do this work, so why attempt a challenge that you don’t need to take on? Secondly, you have a responsibility to report all infestations to your landlord immediately once discovered in order to catch them early and reduce their spread. If you treat before you report, you risk possible claims against you for unsuccessfully self-treating and making a bed bug problem worse.
This does not mean you can’t play a role in your bed bug fight. In fact it is encouraged that you take part in an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that compliments the chemicals used by the exterminator. Examples of good IPM techniques include
• vacuuming often
• steaming strategic areas (mattresses, baseboards)
• installing mattress covers
• utilizing interceptor traps
• de-cluttering and organizing
• placing all of you linens and clothes in the dryer for thirty minutes on high and then into plastic bags before extermination.
Good preparation before and after a trip from the exterminator will increase your chances of success. In fact, you are responsible to do some of this prep before the exterminator comes (de-cluttering, organizing, and laundry). Through DMSMCA, you can rent a steam cleaner and vacuums, and get help accessing traps and bed protectors.

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