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Health and Safety


 CHFT Bed Bug Resources

Welcome to the CHFT bed bug page - a centralized resource and information source for CHFT members that includes information, tools, strategies and tips for addressing bed bugs and related challenges in co-ops.

Special thanks to ONPHA for allowing CHFT to modify and publish their bed bug information.

This section will contain information on:

A Cautionary Bed Bug Tale

By Eliza Moore
I reached down to scratch my leg, which was a bit itchy.
It didn’t help, so I scratched again—itch, scratch, itch,
scratch. Now the other leg was itching too...

Read more.

Co-op Cost Cutters Bed Bug Package

Co-op Cost Cutters is launching a complete pest control package, with a focus on bed bugs.   In this link you will find several options for bed bug inspection, including a variety of treatments and support for members who need help preparing their units.  The companies are listed alphabetically
and all offer a program discount.   Also you will see the HD Supply list of products that
can help in the battle against these pests.

CHFT continues to develop new resources and partnerships to help its members respond quickly, efficiently, and effectively to the difficulties posed by bed bug infestations.


Bed Bugs: General Information

In the past 50 years, bed bugs have been rare in North American residential sectors.  But they have recently made a comeback in urban housing markets and, increasingly, in suburban and rural communities. Partly a product of changes to pesticides laws and regulations and partly the result of increased international travel, bed bugs are increasingly found in communities across the province, in households of all types and all income levels.

About Bed Bugs

bed bug from sideBed bugs are brown, flightless, nocturnal insects. There are a variety of different species of bed bugs; however they all feed on the blood of mammals and birds.  Domestic species prefer to feed on people who are asleep, however they will also bite household pets and other pests (e.g. rodents). 

An adult bed bug is five to seven millimeters in size, approximately the size of an apple seed. Prior to feeding bed bugs are flat, approximately the thickness of a business card. When they have fed, they increase in size and thickness. Bed bug eggs are almost white in colour and are shaped like small grains of rice.


The Bed Bug Life Cycle

bed bug life cycle

The bed bug life cycle has seven stages: egg, five nymph or larva stages, and adult. A female bed bug will lay eggs every few days and typically will lay 300 to 500 eggs in her life time. The offspring must have a blood meal between each stage. Under ideal conditions the complete bed bug life cycle is four to six weeks. The short maturation period of bed bugs and abundant egg production of female bed bugs means that untreated infestations can grow very quickly. 

Adult bed bugs can live for approximately one year, but can hibernate and live longer if they are unable to access food sources. A bed bug's feeding can last three to 10 minutes. While usually painless, the resulting bite can develop into an itchy welt that may last for several weeks. The bites are also prone to infection if scratched. Some people may develop severe skin conditions or experience allergic reactions to the bites.

Where do they come from and where do they live?

There are popular misconceptions that suggest that bed bugs are a "low income" or a "city" problem.  Both are untrue.  Bed bugs can be found anywhere where a lot of people come together, particularly places like hotels, apartment and condominium buildings, and hospitals. They have been found in movie theatres, on subways, and in luxury hotel suites. They are not a problem faced only by the poor; they are a problem faced by all of us. They are hitchhikers, hiding in luggage, laundry, and in objects, waiting to be brought to a new home.

Given their size, bed bugs are able to hide in any type of crack or crevice found in a typical home. They will typically be found hiding on or around mattresses, box springs, and bed frames, as well as in upholstered furniture. This is not surprising given their nocturnal feeding habits. Depending on the infestation they can also be found under and behind baseboards, on curtains, in clothing, and even in electronics; they can be found almost anywhere!

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Bed Bugs: Preventive steps for staff and members

Information and education are vital to preventing an infestation of bed bugs or to catching it quickly.  A proactive and open dialogue about bed bugs will help to reduce the stigma that surrounds an infestation and encourage members to be vigilant in inspecting their unit and to notify staff of potential concerns.

There are some quick and easy habits that can help staff and members to prevent and identify potential infestations. 

For members

  • While curbside finds such as furniture, clothing, electronics and household objects can be tempting, there may be a reason that they have been discarded. Since bed bugs often infest soft, upholstered furniture like couches and chairs and can live in the joints of things like tables. Members should be given this information and be encouraged to avoid bringing discarded furniture and other items into their units.
  • If members of the household notice unusual bites on their skin or stains on their bed sheets that could be blood, they should inspect the mattress and bed frame for small rust brown or black stains. If they find stains or bedbugs, or suspect that they have an infestation, encourage them to notify the staff immediately so that an inspection can be completed.
  • If the unit has a bed bug infestation, members should be instructed not to remove furniture without first wrapping it in plastic and marking it as infested. Taking furniture through the common areas, like hallways and elevators, unwrapped will spread the infestation and make it more difficult to treat.
  • Clear away clutter! Bed bugs can hide in small cracks and crevices so members should be encouraged to clean their unit, particularly around where they sleep. Items that you would like to keep should be sealed in boxes for a set period of time or left out to be treated depending on your pest control operator's instructions.

For staff

  • Staff that enter members' units should be aware of where they set down possessions, such as bags and coats, and should inspect items once they have left members' units.
  • Co-ops should develop and circulate a bed bug policy that identifies:
    • how and to whom members should identify potential infestations;
    • the level and type of support available to members in preparing their units; and,
    • whether or not and when the co-op will compensate staff that develop bed bug infestations at home that may have come from their work in the co-op.
  • Develop a list of community resources that can assist members who may need support preparing their units for treatment.

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Bed Bugs: Treatment techniques, strategies, and specifications

Once a bed bug infestation has been identified, it is important to act quickly to prepare and treat the unit. But what does preparing and treating the unit mean? Should adjacent units be sprayed as well?  What preparation is required prior to spraying? What type of treatment is most effective for bed bugs and their eggs? This section will answer some of these key questions.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) model is recommended to address all types of pests, including bed bugs. The IPM model is a pest management model that focuses on making informed, strategic, and proactive decisions to eliminate or control the pest in a building or complex. The IPM model focuses on gathering information and making thoughtful, well considered decisions that ultimately provide more cost-effective and higher quality pest management than treating a single unit at a time.

Notifying neighbours

One of the key steps in the implementation of an IPM model is information gathering. This work is particularly important in order to identify the nature and extent of an infestation and will allow staff to make better decisions about the type of treatment to use.

Once an infestation has been identified in a unit, it is important to determine whether or not there is infestation in adjacent units as well. If infestation is identified in adjacent units, the unit(s) neighbouring those units should be notified as well. Proceeding in this manner will help staff to identify the size and severity of the infestation and to remedy it at once; reducing the likelihood that treated units will be re-infested with bed bugs from untreated neighbouring units.  This approach also allows staff to use insecticides and other chemical treatments more sparingly and cost-effectively than annual, building-wide sprayings or spraying individual units as the need is identified. This type of proactive approach will not only reduce infestations and pest management costs over the long-term, it will also demonstrate a co-op's on-going responsiveness to a challenging issue.

Preparing the unit

Unit preparation is the single most important factor in the successful treatment of a bed bug infestation. A properly prepared unit will allow the contractor to access, and treat, all parts of the unit, minimizing the need for repeat spraying. But how does someone properly prepare a unit? 

"Preparing a unit" generally means that the household should:

  • Wash and dry all clothes, linens, and bedding. Items should be washed in hot water and dried for approximately 60 - 70 minutes at highest setting to ensure that the heat has killed any bed bugs or eggs that may be present. If items are already clean or are not washable, placing them directly into the dryer for 60 - 70 minutes at highest setting will kill any bed bugs or eggs present.  Once the items have been cleaned, they should be sealed in air tight plastic bags until the entire treatment process (including follow-up treatments) has been completed.
  • Double bag when taking clothing to the laundry room and discard bags immediately outside the building.  Use fresh bags to take clothing back into units and seal tightly at the top.
  • Vacuum and / or mop all flooring in the unit including crevices along the baseboards. Clean wet areas of the unit such as the kitchen and bathroom(s).
  • Vacuum mattresses and all furnishings (including upholstered furniture, such as sofas and chairs, and things such as dressers, cabinets, and bed frames). Make sure that the vacuum bag is disposed of in a tightly sealed bag once the preparation is completed!
  • Arrange and organize possessions, removing clutter and garbage that could inhibit treatment and / or provide bedbugs with somewhere to hide.
  • Move all furniture a minimum of 6 inches (15 cm) from the wall to make it easier for the pest control operator to spray baseboards and electrical outlets.

Members should be reminded not to dispose of furniture or possessions without first sealing them in plastic. Removing unsealed furniture, mattresses, or possession may spread the infestation to the common areas or to other units!  Special storage/disposal plastic and bags are available for this through CHFT's Co-op Cost Cutters program.  For more information about how Co-op Cost Cutters can help, contact Miriam Wohl  at 416 465-8688 extension 212, or miriam@coophousing.com .

The pest control operator may have additional requirements for unit preparation that they will outline in an information sheet. The bed bug life cycle typically means that follow-up sprayings are necessary approximately three to five weeks after the initial spraying.  Clothing and bedding that is used during this period should be washed and dried regularly and the unit should be cleaned, and furniture moved, prior to each follow-up treatment.

For staff, it is important to follow-up with members prior to the first spraying to ensure that unit preparation is taking place. Doing so will also allow staff to identify members who may need assistance to prepare their unit. Depending on the community, there may be programs or resources that will help a member to prepare a unit for treatment. Take the time to look for community-based programs so that staff can connect members in need as quickly as possible.

In other cases a member may have community, family, or peer supports that can assist them to prepare their unit. In other cases, however, the only people in place to assist the member may be staff. While assisting a member to prepare their unit may place additional demands on already busy staff, inconvenience in the short term can go a long way to eliminating the infestation (and need for repeat treatments) and to improving the members' quality of life.   CHFT is also working on a bed bug package that will include services to assist members in the preparation of units.
Types of treatment

There are numerous types of treatment available to co-ops to control and eliminate bed bugs.  Ultimately, the types of treatments available to staff will depend on the communities in winch staff are operating.  But knowing the basics about all of them will help staff to better understand winch option is best for their co-op.

Chemical treatment

Chemical or "conventional" treatments involve the application of insecticides for the purpose of eliminating bed bugs. There are two broad types of chemical treatment, residual insecticides and non-residual (or "on contact") insecticides.

Residual insecticides are used in areas of the unit where there will be minimal contact with members and pets, such as behind baseboards or inside a wall. As the name implies, residual insecticides will remain on the surface for a longer period of time and will kill insects that cross over the surface. Residual insecticides will lose their potency over time and may be reapplied depending on future infestations.

Non-residual or "on-contact" insecticides are used in areas where there will be a high level of contact between the treated surfaces and the household. These insecticides are designed to kill bed bugs and eggs upon contact and will dissipate after a short period of time.

Some pest control operators may combine the use of insecticides with the use of other treatments, such as steam.

In either case, members must not return to the unit for approximately six hours after the treatment has been completed.  Members are also advised to open their windows prior to treatment to allow air to circulate within the unit.

Temperature treatment (Extreme heat or cold, including steam)

Treatments using different temperature extremes can be used independently or in conjunction with chemical treatment. They are popular because, unlike chemical treatments, they may not require the members to be out of the unit for any length of time after the treatment and because they are perceived as more environmentally friendly. Reports also suggest that, unlike other forms of treatment, steam will kill bed bugs in all stages of the life cycle, reducing the need for follow-up treatments. Steam is commonly used on soft furnishing such as mattresses, sofas, and chairs.

There are differing views on the effectiveness of using temperature-based treatments in isolation. There is agreement, however, that for this type of treatment to work effectively, the heat or cold must be applied instantly and not simply allowed to build up. Slowly raising or lowering the temperature may give the infestation the opportunity to migrate to neighboring units or to acclimatize or to go into hibernation. Ideally, any objects which are being treated using temperature-based treatments should be wrapped and sealed prior to treatment in order to prevent bed bugs from escaping.

Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring sedimentary rock consisting of fossilized diatoms, a type of algae. The rock is quite soft and can be easily crumbled into a white powder, which has been used as an insecticide.  It is commonly applied behind base boards, electrical outlets and other places where it will not be disturbed because it can pose an inhalation hazard. Diatomaceous earth functions by absorbing fats from the exterior of insects that crawl over it, resulting in dehydration. It is not recommended for severe infestations nor is it recommended for use with other insecticides.

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Bed Bugs: Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do bed bugs carry diseases?

While bed bug bites can lead to swelling, redness, itchiness and, in some cases, allergic reactions, bed bugs do not spread diseases or illnesses. Bed bug bites can become infected if the bitten individual scratches (and, as a result, infects) the bite, but the bite itself will not result in infection. Bed bug bites should be cleaned with soap and water and, if necessary, anti-itch creams or anti-histamines applied to reduce any itchiness.

2. Can members treat their units for bed bugs themselves?

Members should not attempt to treat a bed bug infestation themselves using chemical or other means. Over-the-counter pesticides and insecticides are ineffective at killing bed bugs and proven insecticides should only be applied by a trained and licensed pest control operator. Further, pesticides / insecticides are often unsuccessful if used in isolation and must be combined with other Integrated Pest Management practices to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Members should also be discouraged from using "home remedies" such as kerosene to kill bed bugs.

3. Do bed bugs only affect the poor or unsanitary homes?

Bed bugs can be found everywhere, from roadside motels to five star hotels, from subsidized housing, hostels and shelters to luxury condominiums, from hospitals to public transit system; in essence, anywhere where people come together! They are not drawn to unsanitary or dirty homes; they can be found everywhere.

Additional bed bug information

Educate members and staff about bed bugs!  

ONPHA has developed a series of videos on bed bugs.   These videos are packed with important information on bed bug treatment and awareness.   Again, we would like to thank ONPHA for allowing us to use their materials. 

Bed Bugs: Preparing For Treatment

The second of two videos produced by ONPHA to raise awareness of bed bugs.  Topics include a closer look at bed bug infestations, an introduction to Integrated Pest Management, proper unit preparation, and preventive do's and don't's.

Click to watch the Video.

Bed Bug Awareness Video

Intended for tenants of non-profit housing, this video is a brief overview of what bed bugs are, where they come from, where they live, simple prevention measures, treatment, and what to do if you suspect your unit is infected.

Click to watch the Video.

 For more information about bed bugs, contact Miriam Wohl at 416 465-8688, extension 212 or miriam@coophousing.com

Special Thanks to ONPHA for allowing CHFT to modify and publish their bed bug information on the web site.