Bed Bug Heat Treatment

    bedbug xmas
    Photo of a bed bug infested mattress by Charkrem/Flickr.

    Bed bug heat treatment sounds like a promising, green way to get rid of bed bug infestation in your home. What is this process exactly and what are its advantages and disadvantages for you?

    What is bed bug heat treatment?

    Bed bug heat treatment is a bed bug elimination method that relies on high heat (upwards of 113 degrees Fahrenheit/46 degrees Celsius) to kill bed bugs along with their eggs and larvae. While heat can be a very effective bed bug killer, this method comes with some drawbacks as well as advantages. Consider both sides of the story when deciding how to address a bed bug infestation.

    Advantages of bed bug heat treatment

    Nontoxic. The primary benefit to bed bug heat treatment is that it is nontoxic. Instead of utilizing potentially dangerous pesticides, applicators use either dry heat or steam to kill bed bugs. Toxins won’t be left lingering in your home or on belongings, either, making rooms and structures safe for use immediately after treatment.

    Effective. Furthermore, since many bed bugs are developing resistance to pesticides, bed bug heat treatment offers the additional benefit of being more effective in some cases than an application of pesticides would be.

    Disadvantages of bed bug heat treatment

    Time-consuming. One significant disadvantage is that the process of setting up, applying the heat, and cooling down can take time, which may put a structure or room out of commission for six hours or more. Furthermore, bed bugs may simply flee the heat, moving to neighboring apartments or buildings and returning the next day, because bed bug heat treatment does not offer long-term control.

    Logistically complicated. Furthermore, because of the heat, all plants, perishable foods, delicate art and electronics, and of course pets must be removed from the room for the course of the treatment, which can require some coordination. (However, there are also mobile bed bug heat treatment trucks, into which pieces of furniture can be placed for heat treatment outside of the house. Many exterminators are now offering bed bug heat treatment trucks.)

    Fire hazard. Fire can also be a concern with bed bug heat treatment. It may spread quickly through a room or structure even with attentive workers prepared for the possibility, especially because sprinkler and other fire suppression systems need to be turned off during treatment. A local fire department may have some specific advice on handling fire risks, or a formal policy regarding bed bug heat treatment and safety.

    Uneven application or damage to belongings. With steam treatment, there’s also a risk of uneven application if workers aren’t thorough, or damage to belongings due to the steam penetration.

    Consider your options

    For those dealing with bed bugs, the number of options when it comes to eradicating them can feel a little bit overwhelming. In addition to bed bug heat treatment, there are also cold treatments available, along with the more traditional pesticides. New options for managing bed bugs are always emerging, as well.

    When considering the choices, it can help to talk to multiple pest control contractors, as well as the public health department, to fully understand the risks and benefits of each. In all cases, it’s important to follow directions associated with the treatment to make sure it’s as effective as it can be.

    s.e. smith writes for

    Updated June 13, 2018.

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