Heat is the bed bug’s Achilles’ heel

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July 10, 2013

Because bed bugs directly seek out and attack humans, and they can harbor in the tiniest of cracks and crevices, thoroughness in treatment is absolutely critical. Heat is the bed bug’s Achilles’ heel: Just five minutes at 122°F will kill them. Heat is ideal for treating clothing, bedding and objects from small furniture and toys to ornamental pieces and electronics. Items that won’t be harmed can be put in a dryer. Otherwise, heat chambers can be used. There are an increasing number of chambers available, and plans for building your own can be found on the Internet. Heat also can be used for entire-premises treatment in some cases, although the process can become complicated and the equipment expensive.

Heat, of course, has no residual. I’ve found the ultimate extended residual to use as a standalone or complement heat or other chemical treatments is an engineered silica dust. Because it’s a desiccant, heat will speed up the kill by making the insects even more susceptible, and there’s no resistance to silica. Unlike most chemicals, the product isn’t affected by heat, and an added bonus is the extremely low toxicity to humans and pets.

Liquid treatments with pyrethroids and/or nonrepellents can be used for crack-and-crevice and surface treatment, provided they’re labeled appropriately for the areas to be treated. Small voids, such as hollow bed or furniture legs, conduits or wall voids can be ultra-low volume (ULV) fogged with an appropriately labeled formulation. Because of the significant pyrethroid resistance in some bed bug populations, however, pyrethroids shouldn’t be used as the sole treatment.

There are a significant and increasing number of treatment and monitoring options available. More than one method generally will be required for effective results against these tenacious pests. Examining the business aspects of bed bug treatment also is important. Treatments are labor intensive. And even if every bed bug is killed, accounts such as hotels or rental properties can become reinfested quickly by the next guest or renter. These issues must be addressed when bidding jobs to avoid potentially significant losses.

About the Author

Dr. Cisse Spragins is founder and CEO of Rockwell Labs Ltd. She is also a PMP Hall of Famer, Class of 2018.

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