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Q. It has been three months since I discovered bed bugs have invaded my condo townhouse. I have spent $700 on a pesticide company but still have the problem. I am a spotless housekeeper, so this cannot be my fault. I am afraid to go to sleep at night because of the bites. My life has become a nightmare and I feel isolated – family and friends won’t visit because they are afraid of getting them. When I first discovered the bed bugs, I thought they came from one of the adjoining townhouses. But my neighbours tell me they have seen no signs of them. I can only assume that someone else, or I, came into contact with the bugs and brought them home. The condo management has informed me that it is my duty to get rid of them before they spread. What can I do? I am at the end of my rope.

A. When parents tucked their children into bed, many, many years ago, the old saying was “Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Thought to have been eradicated after the Second World War, bed bugs are making a big comeback. They were once all but eradicated with pesticides such as DDT, which killed a wide variety of bug types. Concerns about health and the environment led to many of these pesticides being banned.

Bed bugs can start from various sources. Some common places are infested furniture in hotels, motels and in the luggage of travellers. They have even made there way into libraries, hospitals, stores and movie theatres. No matter how clean you are, if someone brings bed bugs into your home they will quickly spread. Bed bugs feed on blood, not trash. They bite exposed skin and leave behind small, red, itchy welts. They are not generally thought to transmit any diseases, but these insects can cause serious emotional trauma for people who can’t get rid of them.

Finding all of their hiding places can be extremely difficult. However, they are big enough to be seen. They hide under mattresses and in the seams. Some of their other haunts include around bed frames, along cracks or peeling paint in the wall, in picture frames, wooden furniture, behind baseboards, in carpets and behind wallpaper. You can also spot bed-bug droppings that are tinged with blood. No dwelling is immune, and once you discover them, time is of the essence before a huge infestation occurs.

I contacted Michael Goldman, one of the first in the world to train his dog, Kody, to find bed bugs. Kody locates bedbugs and their eggs very quickly. Once the bed bugs are discovered, the next step depends on how large the infestation. If it is small, then proper pesticides will solve the problem. However, if Kody discovers your condo has a huge infestation, you may want to hire Alex Dayan. At the moment, Mr. Dayan is the only person in Ontario licensed to conduct a procedure called ThermaPure heating. The solution is said to be safe and involves monitoring and heating up your home to a very high temperature that guarantees to rid your entire home of bedbugs.

The writer in the above case was responsible in alerting her neighbours. It is imperative that action is taken before an infestation occurs from unit to unit, especially in high-rise buildings. If an infestation has already occurred, it would be difficult to find out where it originated. Therefore, the condo corporation would be responsible for the cost and should act immediately for the safety, security and health of all residents within the condo community. To find out more about Kody and Michael, who live in Ontario, visit puritypestcontrol.com or call 1-877-507-0642. For the ThermalPure heating solution, go to Magicalpest.ca or call Alex at 416-625-8435.

Marilyn Lincoln is a condominium owner, director and author of The Condominium Self Management Guide, 2nd edition. Send questions to marilyncondoguide@hotmail.com.

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