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The Role of Government Agencies in Bed Bug Control
Economically, bed bug infestations are a burden on society.  Although the exact dollar amount is not known, the economic losses from health care, lost wages, lost revenue, and reduced productivity can be substantial.  The cost of effectively eliminating bed bugs may be significantly more than the cost of eliminating other pests.  Bed bug control usually requires multiple visits by a licensed pest control operator and diligence on the part of those who are experiencing the infestation.  Control in multi-family homes is much more difficult than in single family homes because bed bugs frequently travel between units, either by direct transport by humans or through voids in the walls.  There are additional costs and complexities associated with coordinating and encouraging participation from multiple residents.
  • Local public health departments have very limited resources to combat this problem.
  • Bed bugs frequently are not seen as a priority. 
  • Municipal codes struggle to identify those responsible for control of bed bug infestations. 
  • Tenants and landlords often dispute who is ultimately responsible for the cost of control and treatment. 
  • Treatment costs are high and transient populations make it difficult or impossible to assign responsibility.
  • Pesticide resistance and limited control choices make treatment even more difficult. 
  • Residents may use over-the-counter or homemade preparations that are ineffective (or even dangerous) and may promote further resistance.
  • Because bed bug infestations are so difficult to control and are such a challenge to mental and economic health, residents may resort to using pesticides that are not intended for indoor residential use and may face serious health risks as a result.

 The economic losses from health care, lost wages, and  lost revenue can be substantial.

Residents may be tempted to apply pesticides registered for indoor use, but at greater application rates than the label allows.  This results in a much greater risk of pesticide exposure for those living in the home.  Pesticides must always be used in strict accordance with their labeling to ensure that the residents and applicators are not exposed to unsafe levels of pesticide residues.

Currently, we are seeing bed bug litigations increasing along with the bed bug problem.  The Mathias case is a published and well documented case that occurred years ago.  In the Mathias case, a hotel was ordered to pay a significant sum in punitive damages by the court.  

This huge sum was due to four primary reasons:
  • There was an ongoing bed bug problem.
  • Property management knew of the bed bug problem.
  • Property management took inadequate actions to address the bed bug problem. 
  • Property management had the front desk staff tell guests that the bed bugs were ticks.
If a property is not going to take suitable actions to adequately address a bed bug problem or attempt to hide or misrepresent their bed bug problem to the consuming public, they are making poor choices and it will be more difficult to successfully defend such a situation.

Anyone following the bed bug situation is aware that bed bug related litigations have been in the news.  Recently a case involving a celebrity and former SNL cast member was in the news.  Celebrity involvement generally brings added media attention, and this case was no exception.

Plaintiff attorneys are seeking compensation for damages and injury including but not limited to: 
  • Mental Anguish
  • Mental Duress
  • Psychological Counseling
  • Bed Bug Remediation Fees
  • Lack of Consortium
  • Medical Expenses
  • Legal Fees
  • Plastic Surgery
  • Moving Expenses
  • Replacement Costs
Bed bug plaintiff attorneys are analogizing bed bug cases to “needle stick” type cases where victims are concerned over blood borne diseases such as HIV.  It’s probably wise to exclude bed bugs from your normal pest control service agreements or contracts and have a separate service agreement or contract that covers bed bug services.

Portions of content provided by:
Entomologist Paul J. Bello, PJB Pest Management Consulting, LLC. - Author of "The Bed Bug Combat Manual"