Bed bugs are annoying and difficult to control pests that can cause many health issues and a lot of discomfort and stress. It is incredibly important to get rid of these insects as soon as they are spotted. Nevertheless, when you start looking for solutions, you will soon discover several ways to deal with bed bug problem. Common options include insecticides, chemical treatments, desiccants, foggers and bug bombs, and heat treatments.
Bed bugs are very resistant creatures and can withstand numerous substances. Because of their resistance to insecticides and their difficulty to be found, heat treatments have become a popular and preferred method for their total extermination. In this ultimate guide to bed bug heat treatment, we will go over all important questions and ways of dealing with this problem, so keep reading and take notes!
Effective Methods for Killing Bed Bugs
There are two common bed bug treatments – with insecticides and with heat. Insecticides can either be chemical or non-chemical. Pyrethrins and pyrethroids are the most-used chemicals for killing bed bugs, although some bed bugs have become resistant to them. Pyrroles kill bed bugs by disrupting their cells, while neonicotinoids, a manufactured version of nicotine, damage their nervous system. This type of insecticide is preferred since it works on bugs that have become resistant to other chemicals.
Desiccants (silica aerogel and diatomaceous earth bug spray) destroy the bugs’ protective outer coating, leaving them to dry out and die. The bugs can’t become resistant to them, but they work very slowly, taking several months to kill them all. Bug bombs, or foggers, can easily kill bed bugs, but they can’t reach into cracks and crevices where bedbugs often hide. These bombs can also be highly toxic to humans if not used correctly. There are also plant-based insecticides, like Bed Bug Patrolare or EcoRaider bug spray, which are less harmful than chemical insecticides and work pretty well against bed bugs.
The other way of getting rid of bed bugs is with heat. This is a highly effective and more eco-friendly solution that leaves no residue. The heat kills off bed bugs in all of their life stages, from eggs and nymphs to adults, and it takes only one treatment performed by a bug exterminator to permanently stop the infestation.
How Heat Kills Bed Bugs
To properly kill off bed bugs with heat, you need specialized equipment that can heat the house to between 135°F and 145°F. This is usually done by a licensed bed bug exterminator who will place thermometers around the room and closely observe the situation to ensure the air is heated enough to kill bed bugs but not enough to cause damage to the homeowner’s belongings.
The temperature is carefully monitored in open spaces and cracks, crevices, and other hard-to-reach places from multiple sensors placed throughout the house. Adult bed bugs die off at 119°F, while their heat-resistant eggs require higher temperatures, up to 125°F. Once the thermal death point is reached, the heat treatment is continued for an hour or more to kill all the remaining bed bugs and their eggs. Overall, it takes between six and eight hours to kill all bed bugs with heat.
Doing It Yourself
The short answer is yes, you can exterminate bed bugs on your own, however, the process might be longer than you expect. Take time to research products and learn how to safely and properly use them. Regular and thorough inspections and quick re-treatments are necessary to fully get rid of bed bugs. Try not to miss a spot during the treatment because you will have to start over the process from scratch.
You can kill off bed bugs with insecticides, foggers, and even heat if you are willing to invest in the right equipment. Nevertheless, this is a very challenging process, especially in extreme infestations. Pest control professionals often have years of experience and a high level of training needed to adequately perform the heating process and know how to avoid damage or harm to your health and your belongings. Also, during heat treatment, you need to move your furniture and other objects so they can be exposed to high temperatures from all sides, which can, unfortunately, have negative health effects if not done the right way.
Identify Bed Bugs
Larger infestations are easy to spot, but smaller ones are more challenging to find and properly identify. However, if not identified early, bed bugs will spread to other rooms of the house or transfer to other people, starting a new cycle of a bedbug infestation.
Bed bug bites are the usual indicator of a bed bug infestation, although people tend not to recognize them as such, thinking the bug bites are from a mosquito or a rash. Another, more reliable way of identifying a possible bed bug infestation is to look for physical signs like rusty-looking, reddish stains on bedding and mattresses, dark spots which are bugs’ excrement, tiny bed bug eggs and eggshells, and live bed bugs.
When not feeding, bed bugs dwell in various places. In most cases, they can be found around the bed frame and the bed itself, near the tags and seams of the mattress and box spring, and in the cracks on the headboard. If the house is heavily infested, bed bugs can be found in the seams of the couches and chairs, cushions, and curtains, in drawers, electrical receptacles, and appliances, under wallpapers or wall hangings, and even in screw heads.
Determine the Extent of the Infestation
Once you have determined an infested area, now you need to check if it has spread further from the initial room. You can use a black light, which can be used to find bed bugs that cannot be seen with human eyes since they will glow under ultraviolet light. For bigger areas or bigger bed bug infestations, a thermal camera may also be used to detect these pests in their cracks and crevices. If you don’t own such equipment, it is best to call in bed bug specialists who can help heat your home to the proper temperature and get rid of the bed bugs for good.
Prepare for Treatment
The following are preparation steps that need to be taken. Make sure to remove:
- Aerosol cans, candles, fire extinguishers, or ammunition from the house;
- Unopened beverage cans and bottles, food, pets, live plants, and musical instruments;
- Medication and makeup;
- Fish tanks larger than 10 gallons.
On the day of heat treatment, make sure you have a new (washed and dried!) set of clothes. Leave your home with as little as possible, leaving purses, bags, and briefcases in the house. Throw away any trash, pet waste, left-out food, and other unsanitary items, as well as the vacuum bag (if you’ve been vacuuming).
Heat Treatment Options
There are several heat treatment options:
Washing your clothes and beddings is usually the first step everyone takes when they suspect they have a bed bug infestation. Washing will kill most bed bugs, but the heat of a clothes dryer eliminates any and all remaining bugs. Put your clothes into the washer and set the temperature to the maximum your clothes can tolerate. For dry clean only clothes, set the dryer for half an hour on medium to high heat.
Steamers are one of the most popular options for killing bed bugs. They have nozzles directed at the infested areas, applying extremely hot, high-pressure steam. It can be used to target specific areas, but you need to ensure the infestation is localized, or you will soon face another infestation.
DIY Heat Chamber
Hot chambers work the same way as whole-house heat treatments, the only difference is the size of the area being treated. Hot chambers are used for smaller items like bedding, luggage, and clothing, but heat chambers can’t help much if you have an infestation. They are generally used for the prevention and treatment of smaller items.
Portable Heating Devices
Portable heating devices such as heaters or stoves are not recommended to be used as a bed bug treatment. Other heating devices like propane heaters can kill off bed bugs, but they are not too safe since they can cause a fire (when not handled by professionals). Also, standard heaters and other small appliances can’t reach the thermal death temperatures needed to eradicate bed bugs.
Whole house heat treatments require specially designed equipment used by pest control operators to raise the temperature in your home to eliminate bed bugs. The insects and their eggs die within 90 minutes at 118°F or immediately at 122°F. A professional operator will place remote thermometers throughout your home, ensuring the required temperatures are reached. The process usually takes between 6 and 8 hours, depending on the size of the infestation and the area being treated.
It takes about three weeks since the end of the heat treatment to properly determine if the infestation is gone. If there are no signs of bed bug activity like bedbug bites, new bugs, casts skins, or fecal matter, then it is likely that infestation has been successfully eliminated. There are also interceptor bed bug traps you can install under the legs of the furniture to monitor for new infestation.
How does a professional heat treatment work?
The professional heat treatment starts with a bed bug specialist coming into your home, bringing high-quality equipment, which he will set up and check with you if all the preparation steps have been properly done. Then he will turn on the heat anywhere from 119°F to 135°F. An optimal and definitive temperature is 122°F when all bed bugs, no matter the size, dry and die off. The operator will then use sensors to monitor rising temperatures in all the nooks and crannies of the house, checking for any hidden bugs. Once a thermal death temperature is reached, the operator will keep the heat on for several hours, making sure all bed bugs and their eggs are eliminated from your home.
Items You Need to Protect From Heat
Here is a list of all things you should remove from your home before the heat treatment:
- Plants and animals;
- Food and beverages;
- Candles, crayons, wax, makeup, and other cosmetics that may melt;
- Medicine and vitamins;
- Oil paintings and art made with hot glue;
- Vinyl records, tapes, CDs;
- Aerosol containers, oxygen tanks, fire extinguishers, lighters, and other combustible items;
- Musical instruments and magnets.
Other preventive steps you can take to ensure your items will be protected during the heat treatment are:
- Turning off and unplugging all-electric appliances;
- Covering TV and computer screens with clean blankets; and
- Turning off all fans and air-conditioners.
Strategies to Avoid Heat Damage
Before every heat treatment, an operator must perform a detailed inspection of his work equipment. After he arrives at the house infested with bed bugs, he needs to properly set up the equipment and use thermostats to maintain a safe operating temperature. We at VORTEX Bed Bugs Solutions recommend that temperatures do not exceed 122°F since this is the optimal temperature for the definitive elimination of these pests.
The operator must also check the floors, blinds for windows, and other materials around the house, making sure they can go through high temperatures without causing any damage. Wood can generally hold pretty well to extreme temperatures, but thinner plastics are quite susceptible to damage. The heating process requires concentration and a firm grip on thermostatic control, otherwise, something might get damaged.
He will also go over the preparation steps with you, checking if all sensitive items have been removed from the house. Heat-sensitive and vulnerable items will be inspected for bed bugs and then placed in storage bins and left outside the house for the duration of the treatment.
The operator may use blankets to cover sensitive floors or other items where the heat source is and where the circulation fans are dispensing the air. This will allow for material to acclimate to the rising heat. The operator will slowly remove blankets as the treatment continues to ensure all rooms have achieved thermal death temperatures.
After the heat treatment, the operator will advise when it is safe to go back to the house and when you can safely return all those items you removed from the home prior to heat treatment.
Bed bugs can cause you a lot of stress and reduce the quality of your life, not to mention cost you a lot of money. These pests can live anywhere humans are, from homes to hotels and everything in between. They are also hard to control and get rid of. The best way to completely eliminate bed bugs is to educate yourself on them and possible treatments. With this ultimate guide to bed bug heat treatment in Washington D.C., we sincerely hope we managed to do so.
If you’re at your wits’ end and need a permanent solution, feel free to contact us. Our powerful heat treatment can treat up to 30 floors high with minimal site preparations and 100% efficacy!