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A Bed Bug in an Office Does Not Mean an Infestation

By Chris Williams on April 25, 2016.

Our office manager at work told us someone found a bed bug in one of the offices down the hall. Now everyone is freaking out, worried about getting bitten or that we might take bed bugs home. Could that happen? V. B., Deerfield, NH

First, I hope that your office has contacted a professional exterminator to assess the situation. People almost always overreact to a bed bug sighting in an office. Bed bugs in offices never evolve into a full-blown, widespread infestation like they can in residences. The main reason is that offices just don’t have the right setup. Think about it. Bed bugs feed at night on sleeping people. Female bed bugs must have a blood meal before laying eggs. People are awake in offices (hopefully) and notice any feeding attempts on the part of a bed bug. There is no easy way for bed bugs to develop into a breeding population or infestation in an office.

Offices Have Bed Bug Introductions, Not Infestations

Simply put, in offices we don’t have bed bug infestations, we have bed bug “introductions.” When a bed bug is discovered, it can be found to have hitchhiked into the office on the clothes or possessions of a worker, visitor, or custodial staff. The person in question probably has a bed bug infestation at home and, if they work in the building, may even be responsible for repeated introductions. If the business deals with the general public, occasional bed bug sightings in a waiting room or lobby can occur as visitors carry in bed bugs on their belongings.

Yet, because of the dynamics of group behavior and the fear of bed bugs, once word gets around, office workers will claim to have been bitten. Any little skin irritation will be attributed to the presence of bed bugs and any random bug will look like a bed bug. Too often, an entire office floor will receive repeat and unnecessary insecticide applications. The main strategy for dealing with bed bugs in an office setting is to identify the general area where bed bugs are being introduced, then focus monitoring and control efforts in that area.

Can Office Bed Bugs Hitchhike Home With You?

As to whether you could take an office bed bug home, that’s always a possibility but if you consider how few bed bugs are present (one?), it’s very unlikely. If you’re concerned, avoid placing personal belongings that bed bugs could crawl into (purse, briefcase, tote bag, coat) on the floor. Place these items on top of a file cabinet or someplace higher up. You can also place possessions in large, Ziploc bags or use a bed bug “luggage spray” to treat backpacks or totes.

In the best case scenario, that bed bug in your office was a single introduction accidentally carried in by a one-time visitor. However, instead there may be a repeat visitor or one or more workers in your office who will periodically (and unknowingly) carry a bed bug in to work. In this case, there may be more sightings before the source is finally tracked down.

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