Stress-inducing bed bug infestations have been on the rise in the city of Vancouver, particularly among rental properties, causing problems for building managers and tenants alike.
According to British Columbia’s Ministry of Health website, there has been a “serious resurgence of bed bugs worldwide” over the past few years. Though the reason behind this resurgence can’t be pinpointed, a lack of accessible chemical solutions, coupled with an increase in worldwide travel, has made it easier for bed bugs to spread and reproduce.
Bed bugs live in large groups and make homes for themselves within walls, bedframes, mattresses, and other furniture. At night, these lentil-size nocturnal parasites feast on the blood of unsuspecting humans and pets.
Though bed bugs haven’t been known to carry diseases or cause serious health concerns, the stress associated with attempting to rid one’s home of these resilient creatures is substantial.
Jessica Lyric, who has lived in Vancouver for over five years, was unpleasantly surprised after recently discovering bugs in her and her husband’s downtown apartment.
“In my sleep, I felt something on my chest. I reached out my hand, grabbed it, and then googled a description and knew what it was,” said Lyric in an interview.
Having recently moved into their apartment, the Lyrics were not aware of any infestations within their building. After a quick search on Vancouver’s online bed bug registry, they discovered that the penthouse suite in their apartment building had recently had an infestation.
The next step for the Lyrics was to contact their landlord. Under B.C. residential tenancy policy, the landlord of any rental property is responsible for insect control.
Though the Lyrics had part of their treatment paid for, the cost associated with their infestation proved to be more than monetary. Aside from spending $800 on countless loads of laundry, mattress covers, hotel rooms, and furniture disposal, the physical and psychological affects were the most difficult part of the experience.
“It was seriously affecting my work and my emotions. Now that they are gone, I constantly think I am feeling them on my skin and I don’t know how long it will take for that feeling to subside… I feel like it will never go away,” said Lyric.
Luckily for the Lyrics, the infestation did not spread and was managed in a timely fashion.
Lumina Romanycia, who suffered a bed bug infestation in her home in South Vancouver, was not as lucky.
“I had one massive infestation that took two to three months to get under control,” said Romanycia in an email.
Romanycia, who lived in an older apartment building in South Vancouver, attributed her season-long infestation to her building managers’ ‘band-aid’ approach to the extermination.
“They responded promptly by getting exterminators in and covering the full costs, but after that, when I had findings of a few recurrent bugs, their policy was to advise me to “wait and see” whether there would be a bigger infestation,” she said.
“Any pest control professional can tell you that the rate at which bed bugs breed makes this attitude unacceptable if you want to achieve total extermination.”
According to Romanycia, the apprehension and lack of sleep, coupled with the task of having to wash, bag and quarantine all of her belongings, left her “looking like a bum and feeling psychologically homeless.”
Dealing with the social stigma associated with bed bugs exacerbated the issue, as even Romanycia’s family responded to her problem with fear and disgust.
“I was constantly bleary and shaky from lack of sleep… and their irrational fear-based response was very trying to deal with on top of everything I was trying to deal with physically,” she said.
After months of unsatisfactory sleep and receiving less-than-ample support from her landlord, Romanycia made the decision to move.
With nearly 2,000 reported cases of bed bug infestations on the bed bug registry website and possibly hundreds more that have not been reported, it is crucial that tenants take every precaution when moving in and out of new living spaces.
A guide to bed bug control released by Vancouver Coastal Health encourages readers to prevent infestation by washing all second-hand items, avoiding infested buildings, and asking visitors from infested homes to check and store their belongings appropriately. Tenants are advised to contact their landlord at the first sign of an infestation.
Romanycia’s advice for tenants suffering from infestation is simple:
“Get the exterminators in as soon as possible, and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”