Sometimes getting rid of the bugs means getting rid of the tenant

Harry Lehotsky was a Winnipeg inner city pastor/activist before he died of pancreatic cancer a few years ago. I admired and respected his work immensely. One of Harry’s duties was writing a column for the Winnipeg Sun. In one column he outlined his experience with one of his tenants who complained that there were bugs in his suite (this was before bed bugs were an issue). Harry, being a no nonsense kind of person, bought two cans of raid (one for himself and one for the tenant) and they were going to kill all the bugs in the suite. When they entered the suite Harry was confronted with a fifthly hoarding situation and Harry wrote later of the encounter that “the only way they were going to get rid of the bugs was to get rid of the tenant.” I think that Harry’s response is sometimes warranted with bed bugs.

A few years ago we were treating a case of bed bugs in an apartment block and had zero success getting rid of the bugs. We tried endlessly to elicit cooperation from this fellow but nothing worked. After a year of fruitless treatments the tenant decided to move. And within 30 days of his leaving the bugs were gone from the suite and the suite has been bug free for at least 2 years.

More recently we have come across another similar case. We are treating one fellow in an apartment block endlessly with little cooperation from the tenant or results. In the year I have been there I have never noticed the floor being cleaned or the garbage picked up. The place is filthy. The interceptors continued catching bugs. All surrounding suites were bug free. At last I inquired if he had any friends that might have bed bugs. It turned out that yes he knew 3 other people who lived at the exact opposite end of the building and these suites were not being monitored. We checked these three suites and all three had severe infestations. The tenants from all four suites constantly visited each other. I explained to these tenants that they should be taking bed bug precautions when visiting each other but they all refused to heed my advice. In fact when I showed up to treat the suites the tenants immediately visited their friends without changing clothes – sigh! They even sat on couches that I recommend be discarded because of the bugs. As such the only way I was going to get rid of the first case of bugs was to get rid of the bugs in all 4 suites. And given cooperation levels I am not holding my breath.

We continue to treat this building and as of today 2 of the 4 suites showed no activity in the climb up interceptors. I suspect there will be a reoccurrence in the two “bug free” suites at any time. The original suite continues to get a smattering of bugs and the other infested suite most recently still had over 100 dead bugs caught in the interceptors during the last inspection. It might be possible that this suite is the cause of the recurring infestations in the original suite.

On the other hand it may be the tenant with the original infestation has friends in different infested buildings that I do not treat. If the tenant visits these suites without precautions I will never get rid of the bugs. And given that all four of these tenants exhibit no inclination toward prevention strategies it may be, to quote Harry Lehotsky, “the only way we are going to get rid of the bugs is to get rid of the tenant.”

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