A group of tenants at Park Norton Apartments in the Arlington Heights area of Los Angeles are itching for help to fight an infestation of bed bugs that some residents say has been occurring for at least two years.
"At night they usually come out," Rosa Lopez, 30, told the Weekly through an interpreter. She held up a plastic bag with a bed bug she recently caught. "I see them on the carpet and sometimes they appear on the blanket and curtains."
Another resident, Elizabeth Gomez, 31, said the problem first started when she moved in two years ago.
"It was really bad," Gomez said. "I would wake up and see many bites on my arm."
Bed bugs are tiny parasites that feed on human blood. They usually attack in the evening while people are sleeping. The crafty little blood suckers usually hide in tiny cracks, crevices or any small space. They can also survive several months between feedings, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Bed bugs don't discriminate either, hitting the poor and wealthy alike because they are prolific and can travel.
Rosa Properties, which manages though doesn't own the Arlington Heights building, hired the extermination company Bee Professionals to fumigate the affected units, said Joel Montano of the Coalition for Economic Survival. CES is a nonprofit contracted with the Los Angeles Housing Department to help those living in low income housing, including the building in question.
CES was made aware of the bug problem in March during a visit to the apartment complex. After hearing several complaints, CES sent a letter in May, signed by 28 tenants, to Rosa Properties, urging them to deal with the issue. The management company responded by sending in Bee Professionals.
"They fumigated the building several times," Lopez told the Weekly. She will refuse future treatments because, she said, she worries about the impact on her son Diego. And besides, whatever they're doing isn't working.
Bee Professionals does not have experience with bed bugs and only specializes in exterminating bees, Montano added.
Bee Professionals can hardly be blamed for their lack of success. Bed Bugs are notoriously difficult to kill. Here's the CDC on their incredible resilience:
Some bed bug populations are resistant to almost all pesticides registered to treat them. Residents may use over-the-counter or homemade preparations that are ineffective (or even dangerous) and may promote further resistance. Pesticide misuse is also a potential public health concern. Because bed bug infestations are so difficult to control and are such a challenge to mental and economic health, residents may resort to using pesticides that are not intended for indoor residential use and may face serious health risks as a result.
The CDC recommends heat treatment, vacuuming, sealing cracks and crevices to eliminate hiding places and the use of non-chemical pesticides (diatomaceous earth) to control bed bug populations.
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CES sent another letter in early June urging Rosa Properties to use Colby Pest Control instead of Bee Professionals because they specialize in eradicating bed bugs. They also avocated for Colby because the company is "green shield" certified, meaning they try to minimize the use of toxic pesticides. Jazmin Duek of Rosa Properties told CES they would contact Colby. That was the last time they heard from Rosa Properties, Montano said.
The Weekly tried to contact Duek for comment. According to her assistant, she is on vacation and will be back August 10.
CES brought the issue to L.A. Councilman Herb Wesson, who sent staff to a tenant meeting July 27. They told the tenants that they would try to set up a meeting with the landlord. Some tenants said they have yet to speak to the landlord and only dealt with the property manager, Rosa Properties. Wesson's staff is also turning to the Department of Housing for assistance.
Leaving Lopez's apartment, her son yelled out: "A bed bug just bit me!"