How to avoid getting bedbugs this moving season

Moving season means garage sales, free furniture on the curb, rented moving vans and increased anxiety that bed bugs might take advantage of any of these things to work their way into new homes.

Montreal's Public Housing Authority says there's an increase in infestations after stable levels for 2 years

Bed bugs are flat and brown, or plump and red depending on if they've eaten. (Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press)

Moving season means garage sales, free furniture on the curb, rented moving vans and increased anxiety that bed bugs might take advantage of any of these things to work their way into new homes.

After two years of stability, there's an increase in bed bugs in Montreal, according to Mathieu Vachon, a spokesperson for Montreal's Public Housing Authority.  

"It's still a very big problem in Montreal," he said.

Bed bugs are rarely seen but are recognizable because they look slightly like apple seeds and are flat if they haven't eaten, or plump and red if they have snacked on someone's blood recently.

Look for them in bed frames, mattresses, drapes, floorboards, carpets, book bindings, electrical outlets — basically anywhere that isn't pure plastic. 

Don't use a bug bomb

Pest specialists stress prevention and a quick response if a person spots any signs that a home has some tiny, hostile visitors.

"Moving Day" in Montreal is coming up July 1. Along with all the other consideration that go into changes spaces, don't forget bed bugs. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Vachon said that calling a professional is the best solution for anyone facing an infestation — treating it oneself with a store bought item is a bad idea.

"First off they're useless," Vachon said.

"They only push away the bugs. So if you're in an apartment building, they may just push them to your neighbours."

Avoid free curbside furniture

Never pick up furniture on the curb. Mattresses, lamps, drawers, chairs, sofas, you name it, it could be infested.

Vachon said a good neighbour should visibly damage items that are infested to make it clear that are not to be taken.

Be careful when shopping at garage sales as well and inspect items before buying. 

One man's garbage is another man's treasure? No, leave it. This garbage could be infested with bed bugs. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Plan your move carefully

Moving vans and the reused blankets that movers put on items can have bed bugs in them.

Put fabric items in tightly closed plastic bags and seal boxes with tape, making sure all opening are blocked.

Also, cover mattresses and furniture with big plastic bags that can be tightly sealed off.

And pick the right mover

Make sure your movers are aware of the bed bug problem and are working to ensure their service isn't spreading the pest.

"The person who has bed bugs will infest the truck and all the people who move that day," pest control specialist Harold Leavey said.

Inspect a rented van before putting items in it.

Vacuum the inside and throw the bag out in a bin outside your home immediately afterward.

Scan your new home

Inspect your new space before moving furniture in. It's easier to check for bed bugs with a flashlight when there aren't any items in the way.

Vachon said its best to pay particular attention to the bedroom — bed bugs rarely move beyond it unless there are so many that there isn't enough room for all of them in there.

Insects gather in corners and around electrical outlets. (150 Sanford Ave. N Facebook group)

Bed bugs can hide in electrical sockets, mouldings, behind radiators and even in cracks in the walls.

Don't let yourself become paranoid

Leavey said it's important not to stop living out of fear of a bed bug infestation.

He said that some of his clients have told him they're so scared of getting bed bugs that they avoid going to the movies — worried one will crawl onto them from the seat cushions.

"You can't let it get that bad. At that point, bed bugs aren't burrowing into our mattress, they're in our head," Leavey said.

Best practices

  • When buying second-hand clothing always wash the items in hot water as soon as you get home, or put them in the dryer for an hour. Extreme heat for a prolonged period of time will kill them.
  • Fully inspect any second-hand furniture items before bringing them home.     
  • After a trip, put all clothes in the dryer immediately. Luggage and handbags can be cleaned by thoroughly running a vacuum over them.
  • After any vacuuming of suspected bed bug-ridden items, always seal the bag and throw it out outside the home.

With files from Radio-Canada’s Alain Labelle