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New Bed Bug Task Force in Philadelphia

Posted: March 16, 2015

Bed bugs infestations are on the rise in urban areas across the country, but one city is taking steps to control this growing problem. The Philadelphia Bed Bug Task Force held its first organizational meeting recently, including representatives from apartment associations, realtors, supportive housing, the Philadelphia Health Department, the Philadelphia Street Departments, pest control operators, landlords and residents.

The Pennsylvania IPM Program, Philadelphia First District Councilman Mark Squilla, and others are helping to organize the task force so that all stakeholders will be represented. According to PA IPM Community IPM Coordinator Michelle Niedermeier, there was a lively discussion about the issues and concerns, some of which clearly demonstrated the need for outreach to the community and professionals with accurate bed bug information.

“We decided that we need sub-committees to focus on different bed bug issues, including best management practices and existing policies, legislation and enforcement, and education and outreach. We also discussed developing neighborhood teams to monitor for and treat bed bug infestations and share knowledge,” said Niedermeier.

The task force was formed as a result of a bed bug hearing that was held in Philadelphia in December 2014 to address residents' concerns about homes being infested with bed bugs. Niedermeier worked with several residents to facilitate meetings with Councilman Squilla, Rhonda Griffin from Pest Free Maintenance, Inc., and representatives from the Tenant Union Representative Network, to find out what legally could be done about their bed bug problems.

According to Niedermeier, some Philadelphia residents living in row houses and apartments can’t afford repeated bed bug treatments, and simply getting rid of the mattress is never the answer. “Depending on the levels of infestation, bed bugs may be in more than one room of the house, in the woodwork, receptacles, or even behind pictures hanging on the walls. It is important for neighbors to communicate with each other about possible bed bug sightings, so that everyone can be vigilant.” Residents are hopeful that the task force can get them the help they need to get rid of bed bugs in their row homes once and for all.

Bed bugs were once a common pest, but were mostly eradicated by older types of insecticides and improved home cleaning technologies in the early to mid 1900's. Unfortunately, bed bugs have evolved and older type insecticides are no longer an effective means of controlling them. Current research shows promise for IPM methods of control including the use of heat, steam and other non/low-toxic tactics. Since they seem to be making a come back, everyone should learn to identify bed bugs and their signs, and to reach out to area experts for assistance. Information on effective bed bug management in multiple environments can be found at PA IPM’s bed bug resource web page. There is also information for pest control professionals and information in Spanish.