Bed bug problem plaguing downtown Montgomery apartments

Published: Feb. 27, 2014 at 6:08 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2014 at 4:05 AM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Bed bugs continue to invade a Montgomery apartment complex and residents say they're fed up. WSFA received reports of residents at the Jefferson Davis Apartments suffering from bleeding sores on their arms and legs after being attacked by bed bugs in their sleep. Now, tenants and the property management are speaking out about the pervasive infestation.

Harthus Barber says the tiny critters have invaded his bed and his life.

"The bed begs keep coming back. They would go away for 2-3 weeks when they would spray and come right back. And as they came back, they would come back in droves. You would have maybe 3 or 4 bed bugs in your room and next thing you know, you have 15, 20 just crawling around and they come out at night. And that's the problem. You get attacked at night," he told WSFA.

Residents say it's a problem that's has been plaguing the downtown complex on Montgomery Street for several years.

"There's a lady that just left today. She's been here probably 15-20 years. And there's several people in the past 2-3 months that have been moving out on account of the bed bugs," added resident Richard Gilliland. "It's a very horrible situation."

Their bites have left Barber, Gilliland and other tenants with itchy, painful sores and scars.

"You begin to feel a burning sensation and you start itching and scratching. Sometimes you scratch so hard that you will have a blister on your arm," Barber said.

"Some of the people have sores on them. I have scars on my arms where they've bit me," Gilliland added.

Several residents have even taken the property management to court over the bed bug infestation and litigation is ongoing.

The management declined to go on camera but told WSFA they're doing everything they can to combat the bugs. They say there are some residents who aren't keeping their apartments clean, making their pest control efforts useless.

Some of the residents we spoke to say they don't know what more they can do, even trying to take matters into their own hands.

"I've done what they've asked but we still get them. Last night, I had like two or three of them that tried to bite me and I just smashed them and killed them," Gilliland said, adding that he can feel bed bugs dropping on to his bed at night. "The spray they're using will knock them down and kill them for a while but they always seem like they come back."

"I exterminate them in my own apartment on a frequent basis. And it's somewhat helping but it's not getting rid of the bed bugs," Barber added. "It's inconvenient and it's very uncomfortable. Every morning I get up, I have to check every piece of clothing before I put it on. I'm constantly vacuuming the floor. I'm constantly spraying and putting powders down but still in all the problem remains."

Residents say the powders and sprays have led to out-of-pocket expenses for them. They've also made trips to the doctor to get medications to treat the bed bug bites.

The managing agent for the complex, who did not want to give his name or do an interview, says in-house pest control is being used at the apartments so that the staff can "concentrate on the problems at hand." He asks residents to continue putting their sheets and clothes in the dryer as heat helps kill bed bugs.

Residents say there are some tenants at the complex who are not mentally or physically able to follow the steps needed to eradicate bed bugs from their units. The complex caters to the elderly and disabled. It is privately owned and contracted with HUD.

Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once introduced into an apartment building or hotel, bed bugs can readily spread from one infested unit to another.

The Alabama Department of Public Health confirmed that they received complaints about the presence of bed bugs at the Jefferson Davis Apartments but because bed bugs are not a vector, meaning that they do not transmit a disease or parasite, and because the apartments are privately owned, it is not a situation they are handling. Officials said bed bugs are not a widespread problem in Montgomery.

The Department of Public Health provided a fact sheet on bed bugs with tips on prevention and treatment: [DOCUMENT: ADPH Bed Bugs Fact Sheet (.pdf)]

Orkin provided the following information about bed bugs on their website:

-Bed bugs do not have wings and are not capable of flight. Unlike other wingless insects such as fleas, bed bugs also are not equipped to jump long distances. Bed bugs may move from host to host, although this is typically accomplished by crawling.

-The common bed bug prefers to feed on human hosts and does not prefer pets or other furry animals.

-They are transported by people, most often in personal belongings like luggage, purses, gym bags or other items which are kept close to sleep areas.

-Bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases to humans.

-If you think you think you have bed bugs, it is best to contact a pest control professional. Homeowners are not  likely to resolve a bed bug infestation on their own, due to the bug resistance to many over-the-counter products and the bugs' ability to hide.

Meanwhile, at the Jefferson Davis Apartments the bed bug battle is ongoing.