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Can Bed Bugs Travel from Apartment to Apartment?

can bed bugs travel from apartment to apartment

Is it your imagination — or did you just see a bed bug? If you’ve seen your neighbors pulling their mattresses and couches to the curb recently, you may be getting a little anxious, and you should be. A bed bug infestation can absolutely spread throughout a building, and they can be very difficult to manage once they have spread.

How Do Bed Bugs Get Into Your Apartment?

  • On your clothing or personal items. Bed bugs can “hitch a ride” on humans — and that’s one thing that makes them so insidious. Simply riding on a bus or working with someone who has bed bugs could spread the bed bugs into your home, and the only way to protect yourself from this is to avoid contact with those with bed bugs. In dense metropolitan areas, this could be impossible, and that’s why bed bugs so frequently spread.
  • Through used or recycled furniture. Not only can bed bugs travel from apartment to apartment, they can also travel from home to home — through used or recycled furniture. Any furniture with upholstery could potentially carry bed bugs. Thrift shops and consignment stores will generally sterilize these items at a very high temperature, but individuals selling on classified listings may not.
  • From nearby apartments. Bed bugs can spread from nearby apartments by going through cracks and holes in the walls or through outlets. The closer your apartments are, the more likely it is to spread — but your real danger is more likely to be human contact. Standing next to a neighbor in an elevator, brushing past them in the stairwell, or simply helping them with groceries in the lobby could give you exposure to eggs.
  • By moving. If you’re moving from a place that may have had a bed bug infestation, then you’re probably moving the bed bugs as well. It’s usually advised to simply get new upholstered furniture than to try to treat or move the old furniture.

Should Neighbors Be Treated During an Infestation?

For most apartment buildings, this isn’t even a question: once bed bugs are found in a single apartment, the entire building will need to be treated at once. Otherwise the bed bug infestation is simply going to occur again; leaving just a few bed bugs in one apartment is enough to spread it throughout the building. Additionally, most of the treatments for bed bug infestation (such as extreme temperatures) are more effectively done on an entire building rather than a single unit. If you live in an apartment and are experiencing bed bugs, contacting management immediately is the only solution.

Can Bed Bugs Travel on their Own?

A saving grace is that bed bugs generally won’t travel very far on their own. They won’t cross a thirty foot lawn to get from building to building, so they are generally contained within a specific building at a time. But they can travel indefinite amounts when on a human host.

What Is Your Responsibility As a Tenant?

Every jurisdiction has its own laws, but in general a tenant is going to be responsible for notifying their landlord immediately of any bed bug infestation. The infestation itself will generally be the landlord’s responsibility to deal with — but a failure to notify them could lead to liability on the tenant’s behalf. A bug infestation can be compared to a slow leak in a home: even if it’s not the tenant’s responsibility to fix, it is the tenant’s responsibility to mitigate damages. If a tenant lets apartment bed bugs propagate for months on end, they could become liable for the associated costs of a whole building infestation (such as having to house other tenants in hotels).

Bed bugs can be insidious; there’s a reason people panic when they believe they have an infestation on their hands. If you’ve come into contact with an individual with bed bugs or your neighbors have bed bugs, then you are absolutely at risk. You should be careful and always notify your landlord of any signs your apartment may have an infestation.

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