Hot and Cold Treatment for That Pesky Bedbugs is Just Right
Perhaps more than any other structural pest, the bed bug illustrates the need for an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. IPM employs not a single method, such as pesticide application alone, but combines several of the best means of control, often adopting less hazardous and more effective pest management. In these cases, your best bet would be some alternative control measures, such as high heat, cold and caulking.
There are several techniques to treat bed bugs. The most common treatments are heat, steam, freezing, pesticides, and natural alternatives. Which one is more safe and effective depends on a lot of factors. Factors like how bad they are, your living situation and personal tolerance level of the treatments.
Both heat and cold have been used to treat bedbug infestations, but research and data are still scarce. Many of the following concepts and theories are general rather than bedbug-specific, but can still be applied to bedbugs.
Like vacuuming, steam cleaning is not likely to eliminate all bed bugs from the premises, but it can be a useful supplement to pesticide treatments. Steam can be useful for flushing and killing bed bugs hidden deep in furniture such as couches, where insecticide treatment may be ineffective or impractical.
Units that produce "dry" steam are less likely to damage household goods. Steam must be at least 113 degrees Fahrenheit (F), the minimum temperature to kill bed bugs, and care must be taken to reduce pressure so that bed bugs are not literally "blown away" before they can be killed by the steam. Steaming should be avoided around hazards such as electrical outlets.
infested items can be microwaved to destroy bed bugs. Drying items such
as clothing and rugs in a hot dryer for 20 minutes or more also will
kill all stages of bed bugs. However, sealing infested items in plastic
bags and leaving them in the sun on hot days has not proven effective.
Pest management professionals are increasingly looking to heat to control bed bugs. Whole houses and, in some cases, multi-unit structures are heated to temperatures well above those lethal to bed bugs, to help assure uniform heating of household contents. Rooms must be heated for several hours during which bulky contents are turned to help ensure heat penetration deep enough to kill bed bugs hiding inside.
Heat treatment is labor intensive and requires special equipment. Typically a generator is used to supply power to heating units (maybe three or four for an average-size house) and fans (about two per room) that circulate the heat, usually between 140 F and 150 F. Higher temperatures can damage furnishings and electronic equipment.
Heat treatments of this type are advantageous because they present no pesticide hazard. However, they also provide no residual activity. That is, they do not prevent a structure from being re-infested after it is heat treated. For this reason, residual pesticides are often applied in conjunction with heat treatments. Such applications may not prevent re-infestation, but help control any bed bugs not killed by the heat. A certain percentage of heat treatments, perhaps 10 to 20 percent, fail to kill all the bed bugs present. Often this is due to residents failing to adequately prepare the premises for heating.
Abrupt temperature change is best when attempting to kill bed bugs, so the bugs do not have time to adjust to the new temperature. Because it can take many hours for heat or cold to penetrate objects, the process of killing bed bugs is complicated by the density and depth of the items to be heated or frozen. It may take 15 days at 32 F to kill bed bug adults and 30 days to kill bed bug eggs that are unprotected, and much longer to kill those that are hidden inside items. Temperatures below freezing will kill quicker, but less is known about killing bed bugs with cold compared with using heat against them.
One method of applying freezing temperatures to bed bugs entails the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) applied as "snow" with a portable application device, i.e., Cryonite™. When applied directly onto bed bugs, the frozen CO2 will kill them. However, this method is similar to using contact pesticides, that is, there is no residual activity. It can kill only as many bed bugs as the applicator can find. The advantage of using this type of freezing device is that bed bugs may be killed quickly and without the use of more hazardous pesticides. Again, this is not a stand-alone treatment, and it is recommended that it be used as a supplemental to the application of residual pesticides and/or other means of control.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Graeme Stephens has been running the largest owned carpet cleaning company
in new Zealand for 24 years. IICRC qualified "master restoration technician"