Pest control pro says no, city says call landlord
By Sabina Mollot
Last week, Town & Village received a letter from a resident of the East Village who had dealt with a bed bug problem in her home and said she had some luck getting rid of the bugs using a variety of home remedies.
The woman, who didn’t want her name published, wrote:
“I had a bedbug situation and researched everything to get rid of them. I did get rid of them and here’s the way I did it. Food grade diatomaceous earth is the answer.”
She then included a link to an online pest control product store called Do My Own Pest Control, which has a page of information on diatomaceous earth, as well as tips for treating an infestation.
“Also very effective,” the author of the letter added, “is spraying tea tree oil on your mattress and covers and also lavender oil sprayed around will also repel these ugly bugs.”
In response to her suggestions, T&V reached out to get opinions on whether or not do-it-yourself bed bug elimination, in particular through the products suggested above, is at least worth a shot.
As reported in a recent article in this newspaper on a bed bug infestation in a Stuyvesant Town building, landlords are responsible for the cost of bed bug elimination. However, tenants are responsible for any costs related to preparing the apartment for treatment and the prep alone can cost thousands of dollars.
Not surprisingly, a representative of pest control industry who spoke with T&V said the answer on whether DIY treatment would ever be recommended was no.
Barry Beck, the CEO of Assured Environments, a company that handles bed bug elimination in Stuyvesant Town, said it’s pretty common for his employees to find diatomaceous earth and lavender oil in the homes of clients. But they still have bed bugs.
Beck said he doesn’t recommend tenants or home owners try to use diatomaceous earth, a powder that dehydrates bugs, on their own because they won’t necessarily have the proper tools to use it effectively. Generally, people will pile the product around impacted areas, when it’s actually supposed to be applied “very sparingly,” he said, in crevices and other places the blood sucking pests like to hide.
While the product will kill an insect that comes into contact with it, “when you have heavy clumps of the stuff, an insect is not going to go there.”
Beck said he wasn’t familiar with use of tea tree oil so he opted not to comment on that home remedy, but he did say that after testing lavender oil, he found it to be ineffective.
Not only that, one client had sprayed so much lavender oil in her bedroom “that it was overwhelming. You could smell it at the front door,” said Beck. She still had bed bugs.
In conclusion, said Beck, “Most experts across the country would agree that bed bugs are not an insect home owners have success (getting rid of on their own). And I’m not just saying that to toot my own horn.”
In agreement with Beck was a rep for CWCapital. Company spokesperson Brian Moriarty told T&V, “Management would urge anyone with bed bugs to contact resident services immediately so they can implement the proper extermination protocol.”
In Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper, bed bug sightings have been on the decline in the past couple of years, according to management’s data. However, there are still infestations, and a bed bug registry listing impacted buildings is managed by the ST-PCV Tenants Association online.
When asked if the Tenants Association was aware of any tenants who’ve had success going the DIY route with extermination of bed bugs, TA President Susan Steinberg said she was not.
“I don’t know of any tenant who has tried to get rid of bedbugs on their own,” Steinberg said. “If they are out there, they haven’t come forward.”
However, she added, some tenants have been taking precautions.
“As a preventive measure, many tenants are using diatomaceous earth. Including me,” said Steinberg. “When I was part of a cloverleaf inspection, I immediately applied the powder around the baseboards, dusted the electrical outlets and powdered the area around my bed boards. I’ll never know how effective the stuff is, but I sure felt better.”
A manager at Do My Own Pest Control did not respond to a request for comment on if or when DIY treatment is recommended. However, on the site, included in the tips for bed bug treatment are not just relying on one product as bugs may just avoid it or build up a resistance to certain chemicals.
When asked if the city would ever recommend DIY treatment, a spokesperson for the Department of Health & Hygiene said she would get back to us.
However, she didn’t, other than to provide a link to the department’s website, which has a guide on bed bug prevention and treatment.
The site notes that the problem usually requires a licensed exterminator to cure the problem and that pesticides are usually needed, though only a professional should apply pesticides. The city also recommends that tenants who have bed bugs notify the building owner as soon as possible and there are tips on how to assist the work of a professional. The site doesn’t mention use of products like tea tree oil and diatomaceous earth.
One tip in the guide: “Cooperate with your landlord, neighbors and pest management provider. Getting rid of bed bugs needs to involve everyone.”