Winnipeg landlord Leon Wieler keeps his building bedbug free by taking a hardball approach to bedbug prevention.
Written by Jen Skerritt
Leon Wieler has converted an old trailer into an oven, but the hot temperatures aren’t for breads and muffins. It’s designed to heat mattresses, box springs and any other furniture with crevices that can harbour bedbugs to a “killing temperature” that can annihilate the pests.
Wieler first started researching how to squash bedbug infestations when the first one turned up at his Sherbrook Street building four years ago. He discovered that heat is the bedbug’s Achilles’ heel and now uses the bedbug baker as one of his key weapons to prevent the spread of apartment infestations.
Anyone who moves into the building with a history of bedbugs loads their furniture into the makeshift machine, which uses fans and heaters to 75 C. Tenants caught dragging mattresses down the hallway or spraying raid in their suites instead of confessing they have a bedbug problem could be handed an eviction notice.
Wieler’s plan seems to be working. His building has been bedbug-free for six months.
“I figured I should do something about this because I do everything hands-on,” Wieler said, noting he studied to become a licenced exterminator to beef up his bug knowledge. “I’m very serious about bedbugs. Some might even call me anal.”
Wieler’s approach has gained traction among some Winnipeg landlords who are desperate to attack the growing problem.
Bedbugs have infested hundreds of apartments and have been reported everywhere from personal care homes to libraries. It’s a problem cities across North America are encountering, partly because of an increase in international travel and a ban on highly toxic pesticides such as DDT, and a growing bedbug resistance to some insecticides.
Multiple levels of government in Canada and the United States are trying to draft strategies on how best to tackle the problem.
Wieler said his approach is simple: get tenants to co-operate, educate them on how to prevent the spread of bedbugs and ensure the exterminator does a thorough job. He asks his tenants to notify him first if they spot a problem so they can deal with it early before the infestation gets worse.
Wieler said all furniture in an infected suite is wrapped in plastic and taken to the parking lot to be put in the bedbug baker. The suite is prepped for spraying, treated twice, and Wieler installs interceptors on bed frames to catch any lingering bug.
“It’s a big, big problem, and it’s getting worse,” he said.
Wieler is consulting with other landlords to help them rid their apartments of the bloodsucking pests.
Wieler said he recently visited a Broadway apartment building where 21 out of 50 suites had bedbugs.
Wieler said he’s never had an infestation spread from one suite to another, though he has spent his own money to help prep suites and address the problem.
He spent several thousand dollars installing fans and heaters to build the bedbug baker but doesn’t plan to get it patented. Wieler said an American inventor patented something similar to get rid of pine beetles.
He’s also paid out-of-pocket to help tenants prepare their suite for chemical treatment.
“It’s expensive,” he said. “On the other hand, my building has no bugs.”
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2011 A10