Today, let’s look at bed bugs from a professional’s point of view.
Everyone is trying to push their new product and sell snake oil to the masses. I thought it would be refreshing to discuss bed bugs from someone whom deals with them every day. Just like every other exterminator, I too was taken by surprise when bed bugs first appeared a few years ago. In all my training and experience of 23 years I never came across them. Well let me tell you when the first call came in we were all scratching our heads. As it turned out, not only were bed bugs back, they were back with a mission. Our first reaction was to spray what we thought would kill these little guys like we did with everything else. It didn't take long to figure out these bed bugs were a special kind of super bug and would require a different approach. Turns out bed bugs are resistant to all pesticides. Spraying can kill some but only makes that generation more resistant. Our customers became used to our great service and not being able to get rid of bed bugs wasn't an option for them. Research was limited on the bed bug and most of what was even available was from the 1940's. So our industry kicked into high gear. Unfortunately, most of the ideas were just to make a quick buck off the hysteria of the public. Our industry became divided. Spray or don't spray. Well, we knew spraying wasn't the answer so I set out to research other ground breaking treatments. I started with freezing. The idea seemed to make sense until I tried it. It just wasn't practical. You would need to freeze the entire area using a device the size of a quarter. The temperatures were not cold enough, long enough to get the job done. See with bed bug treatments 99% isn't enough. They will return. Steam was next. Made sense too. Again the issue was such a small area of actual treatment and it wasn't hot enough for enough time and was too impractical.
Heat!!! Now we started to see some results. Propane heat was the first I looked at. Forced hot air into the area of concern causing certain death. This looked promising but issues arose. Too hot too quick cause damage to the belongings. Cracks in the counter tops, walls and glass. The old saying, "Drop a frog in boiling water and it will jump out. Put a frog in water then turn the stove on and it will cook", came to mind. I discovered that when high heat was forced into a room with bed bugs they, like the frog got out. Bed bugs will move away from the forced heat to the cooler side of the room. I later discovered that using propane heats the air outside then forces it inside. Doing this produces about 8-gallons of water into the air of the area being treated. The idea of using heat is to dry out the bed bugs. Having high humidity drastically slows that process down. This is why there are a lot of re-treatments needed when using propane as a heat source.
Another type of heat system was developed about the same time. This system uses a generator to create electricity to power its heaters. These heaters slowly heat up the area where bed bugs are. (Remember the frog?) This allows the items in the area and to react to the slowly rising temperatures and adjust. No damage is caused. What I saw with this system was amazing. The bed bugs at about 110°F degrees became very active and excited. It allow me to see where the bed bugs were actually hiding. None ran away from the heat. If anything they went towards it. Once lethal temperature was reached fans are turned on. Hot air moving fast gets hotter. This process is called thermal remediation.
At 113°F degrees it takes about an hour to kill an adult bed bug and 6- hours to kill an egg. Between 118°F - 122°F it only takes 60-seconds to kill all stages of a bed bug. This was the answer to the bed bug issue. Now at first companies were only heating for a 2-3 hours. This proved to be not enough time. Yes it only takes 60-seconds but they have to be exposed to it. They still hide. Fans are the key to the success of the treatment along with rotating the items in the room to allow full thermal penetration. Maintaining the temperatures for 5-6 hours delivers 100% eradication of a bed bug population. That said keep in mind the best treatment is only as good as the people providing it and cooperation of the customer is essential to a successful treatment. Clutter is a big deterrent to positive results. One inch of clutter removes 10% effectiveness. At that point why even do it.
So from a professional who kills bed bugs every day, I hope you can find some helpful hints in this blog. It is important to also caulk any cracks and crevices in your home especially where bed bugs have been. Reducing the hiding places helps. Now you decide if you want to put all of your clothes into bags, live out of them for weeks while you have your place spayed with a material that has been proven to not work or have a thermal treatment performed using electric heaters powered by a generator for a day for 100% eradication of bed bugs in your home. Good luck!!!