Bed Bug Control
At one point it seemed as if bed bugs were a vague problem of the past, a mythical creature only mentioned cutely before bedtime. However, the recent surge in worldwide populations has reminded us all of just how real and deeply aggravating these nuisances are.
An enormous market for eradication methods has, like the pests themselves, sprung up overnight. Television, newspapers, magazines, and the internet are all awash with a sea of information on how best to handle these insects. Sorting through the barrage of advice and figuring out which options are best for you can be an intimidating process.
Regardless of how they first entered the territory they now haunt, the people who live there and deal with the pests daily are ultimately going to be the ones most responsible for implementing an effective elimination strategy.
Undertaking a through and comprehensive plan from the beginning will save you weeks of time, hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and spare you from an enormous amount of unnecessary frustration.
About the Guide
This guide will assist you in confirming if they are the source of your problem, review monitoring and control options for you with a comprehensive guide to the major treatments methods on the market, take a brief look at some questionable techniques that sometimes get recommended to consumers, and give you advice for what to do when your approach isn’t working.
Have Bed Bug Problems?
While this guide is directed mainly towards residents of infested properties, this guide can also provide information for property owners and Pest Management Professionals alike.
Bed Bug Detection
Before you grow overly concerned or attempt to implement a full-scale reduction plan, it makes sense to first confirm that you do indeed have an infestation.
There are many insects that can sneak into your home, bite your skin, and make you itch: spiders, mites, fleas, and ants, to name just a few. Allergies and various illnesses can also cause skin itching and irritation.
These insects typically leave a red welt that in most cases varies in size somewhere between that of a pencil eraser and a penny. Within the larger circle of the welt you can usually see a smaller circle where the bug broke skin.
Often the bites come in clusters of three, and while they can show up just about anywhere on your skin, typically they prefer to feed on the area of the body that is covered by a t-shirt and shorts.
If you’re having trouble identifying the bites, there are plenty of images online to compare them to, and recognizing a match will help in confirming whether or not you have an infestation.
Finding Physical Evidence
The other main way to confirm an infestation is by locating physical evidence of their presence within the home. This can mean finding signs of their activity, or discovering their main nesting spot within the home.
Search along walls, cracks, gaps, seams of mattresses and furniture, along every edge of your box spring and bed frame. In doing so, you may encounter the insect shells from when they have grown and molted out of their exoskeleton, or find traces of blood and fecal material on walls and surfaces.
(For more information on the biology, see this article from a member of the California Department of Health.)
As gross as these symptoms may be, it cannot only help to locate the primary base of operation, but it can provide a professional with information about the nature and extent of the infestation.
Ways to Detect Them
If you’re pretty sure that you have an infestation but are having trouble finding evidence or locating them, there are several methods which can help. You can use a trap (often commonly referred to as a monitoring device) to immobilize the bugs, and possibly give you a sense of where they are coming from.
For example, let’s say you put sticky traps under each leg of your bed, some on the left near your wall and window, some on the right in the direction of your bathroom. The next morning there are bugs stuck on the sticky traps you placed under the left side of your bed.
This could be a clue that the bugs are coming at night from the direction of the windowsill or from the baseboard at the bottom of the wall to the left side of your bed.
Dogs that can sniff out the presence of bed bugs are becoming an increasingly popular detection tool. Trained canines can be rented or brought into a unit by a professional, both confirming the presence and possibly locating their nesting spot.
It is important to use a smart, experienced dog for this kind of job, and you may want to confirm that the supplier is a licensed professional. As with all efforts at detection, a negative or inconclusive finding does not mean your home is free from infestation.
Assessing the Situation
It’s not uncommon at the beginning for you to feel overwhelmed by the reality of having to cope with an infestation.. Some folks take one glance at all the work needed to remove them and say “This looks like a lot of trouble, maybe I can just tough it out,” or “I’ll just wait and see if goes away on its own.”
This attitude can make a person’s existing problem considerably worse. Getting chewed on by these bloodsucking insects isn’t like the stray cricket or mosquito that somehow ends up in your apartment.
These insects are highly motivated blood-feeders that have been just waiting for a way to hitch a ride into your home. They can quickly set up camp and multiply into the hundreds when left unchallenged, potentially spreading to anyone who steps foot in your house, and can even begin seeking out your neighbors.
Research has started indicating that they might also be responsible for spreading diseases such as Staph (see “Bedbugs as Vectors for Drug-resistant Bacteria” for more information). Quite simply, not fighting an infestation can be an impractical and harmful choice for yourself and others.
What’s Your Action Plan?
The course of action a person takes depends greatly on what kind of home they live in, how much they can afford to spend on treatment, and what the particulars of their written housing agreement are.
Rarely is only one treatment method utilized to eliminate them, and most successful removals rely on a balance of Do-it-Yourself techniques and professional assistance.
There is no getting around it: removal requires a great deal of focus and energy, but devising and implementing a sweeping plan tailor-made to your situation will yield the best results.
A tenant renting an apartment may not be financially responsible for the removal of the insects, but this will depend both on their lease and on the laws where they reside. In most states, landlords have a legal obligation to provide a habitable residence for their renters, and an infestation violates that commitment.
Because of the recent resurgence many cities have passed laws obligating property owners to inform potential leasers of previous infestations, and also requiring landlords to take financial responsibility for removal for current tenants (see Overview of State and Local Bedbug Legislation and also this discussion at bedbugger.com).
Accordingly, the first action you should take while renting is to check what your lease says about pest removal, and then investigate what your state and local laws are applicable.
Report the Problem
A report should be filed with the management in writing, that way it can be potentially referenced later for legal purposes. Property owners often require in the lease that they be notified quickly, meaning within 24 to 48 hours, by a tenant if there are insects in a dwelling. This is so management can intervene before the pests spread to neighboring units.
Usually property owners will want to arrange for an exterminator to treat the apartment within a few days, and the responsibility of preparing the unit for that visit often falls on the renter.
If the apartment is not adequately prepared by the scheduled date, the exterminator may refuse to treat the unit; the property owners may attempt to charge the tenant for the failed visit, and may even go as far as attempting eviction.
Often leases include harsh penalties against tenants that fail to take the preliminary steps necessary to begin a pest removal. Likewise, if it is the landlord’s legal responsibility to provide removal services and they fail to do so, it can become grounds for a tenant to pursue a rent reduction, a release from their rental lease, or a lawsuit.
Other actions often accompany reporting the infestation to the property owners. Sometimes a landlord may try to place responsibility for the infestation on the tenant, perhaps blaming questionable furniture brought into the unit.
A renter may want to ask the front office about other recent reports on the property, or inquire of their neighbors about recent infestations directly. If action is not taken by the landlord, it may become necessary to contact the local housing authority, a renter’s association, and possibly a lawyer.
If you are living in a house, your course of action will be determined by whether you are renting or owning.
House Rental: Know Who is Responsible
If you’re renting, you’ll want to consult what your rental agreement says about pest control. Sometimes when renting a stand-alone house, the lease may be heavily slanted towards putting financial responsibility for pest removal on the renter; without neighbors directly attached, it is hard to prove that the infestation was anything other than the renter’s fault.
However, this is not always the case, as they might have been in the house prior to the current resident’s move-in. The property owner may have a preference about who is allowed to treat or spray the house, and the lease may already dictate to what degree each party is financially responsible for treatment.
House Ownership: DIY or PMP?
If you are the property or home owner, it may at first seem like it’s in your best interest to perform a Do-it-Yourself treatment. While you could be successful with this route, your best bet, especially with larger infestations, is probably going to be to hire a Pest Management Professional (PMP).
As is often the case with home maintenance, attempting to do a larger job on your own for the first time may offer some learning experiences, but it could also prove to be a waste of time and money that leaves you wishing you’d instead contacted a professional.
Pushing the stakes higher is the fact that failure to handle an infestation properly in the early stages can make your problem substantially worse later on.
Unless you’re forced to go the DIY route, your Pest Management Professional is going to be your biggest help in devising a plan for eradication. Speak with them before you implement any major temperature or pesticide-related elimination techniques. A good PMP will keep you from undermining your own efforts.
Beginning Management Steps
Regardless of where you live or the major elimination steps you plan to take, there are universal preparatory actions that need to be taken. They can sneak into just about anywhere, and failing to remove one or two of them can lead to a re-infestation.
A good initial cleaning can help you avoid that. Sorting through and reducing household clutter will give them less places to hide during the remainder of the treatment.
Washing all clothing, linens, bedding, and other fabrics with high heat will kill any pests that might be lurking inside the material. As soon as you know an item to be absolutely bug free, double bag it tightly in plastic to keep any intruders from sneaking in during the rest of the treatment.
Should You Throw Out Infested Items?
You’re also probably going to find yourself making some decisions early on about whether to dispose of furniture or attempt to treat it. The first impulse many people have is to trash their belongings, but hold on: this is a strategy that can quickly get expensive and may make matters worse. It is possible to eliminate bugs from furniture and mattress using certain chemicals that are labeled safe for direct application on those materials.
If you decide you must dispose of something, wrap it tightly and thoroughly in plastic and consider putting a sign or sticker on it that says HAZARDOUS. Then place the item far from anyone’s home with few or no stops during the transporting process.
The plastic wrap is because you’re trying to keep the bugs from jumping off the item and infecting a new area, such as another room in your home or a neighbor’s dwelling.
The warning sign will hopefully let any sanitation workers, furniture salvagers, or other passers-by know that the item is to be handled as little as possible. You may be hesitant to do this last part, but think of it as bug karma. Keeping others from getting these nasty insects will reduce your chances of them transmitting back to you in the future.
Tools to Get the Job Done
Irritation and desperation may compel you towards a “whatever works” approach when it comes to choosing methods of elimination. Instead, it’s recommended that you research techniques, consider the details of your own circumstances, and when possible, consult a professional.
Please read any instructions that come with control and elimination tools, and observe all safety advisories. Devise a plan when using bug control or elimination tools to ensure that you are using them properly and effectively.
Bed Bug Monitoring Devices (a.k.a. Traps)
How Do They Work?
Bed bug traps work either by being strategically placed in an area where they will draw the bug’s notice and lure them in, or by careful placement in a location the bug is highly likely to scour through.
Sometimes traps are also referred to as bed bug monitors, the reason being that these devices can be used not only to detain the pests, but also to confirm whether they are currently active in the area.
Monitors can also give you an idea of where the pests are coming from. There’s quite a range of bug traps that can be implemented, from cheap, DIY traps to expensive technical units that could cost a couple hundred dollars.
Most interception methods are relatively uncomplicated. Simple sticky glue traps are placed in areas that they are believed to likely to travel. Placing one or more glue traps snugly against the baseboards of a room may trap a few of them, as might placing them under the corners/legs of a bed or sofa.
Other devices can be placed under the legs of the bed to trap bugs using them for passage, such as small containers holding oil or chemically-diluted water.
Using a Moat
The slightly more complex method of a bug moat works in a similar way; the moat is like a small container built into a slightly larger container, with the smaller part of the moat being placed under the leg of your bed frame. The well between the smaller and larger container parts is considered the moat area, and this area is coated with a slippery talcum powder.
Hopefully, the bugs will climb the outside of the container on its way to climbing the bed leg, slip down into the moat and be unable to get out. Masking tape is often applied to the outer wall of the moat so the insects have an easier time climbing up into the trap.
There are now several different established ways to lure these insects into a trap, and the bait is typically a combination of heat, pheromones, and CO2.
One of the cheapest methods to put together is a dry ice trap, which is in many ways similar to the previously discussed moat technique, except instead of putting the leg of a bed frame in the middle of the moat container, you’re going to put a cup or thermos containing dry ice in the center.
Like your breath, dry ice produces CO2, which attracts these bugs. The goal here is to lure the bugs towards the dry ice and then trap them in the surrounding well. For a quick guide to building your own dry ice trap, see this article from the University of Nebraska.
There are several portable monitoring devices now available on the market, but let’s talk about three of the better-known ones.
The BedBug Beacon involved mixing what many claim is simply yeast, sugar, and warm water in a container, thereby naturally creating CO2. The container is attached by hose to a small plastic sticky trap, and for several days bugs will be drawn by the CO2 into the sticky trap.
Unlike the other methods we’ve discussed so far, the CDC 3000 and the NightWatch Monitor are electrically powered, and both use a combination of heat, CO2, and pheromones to lure bugs.
With both of these devices, the monitor is plugged in, the bug attractant is put into place, and the CO2 canister is attached, and then the devices work on their own over the course of several hours.
Time, Labor, and Cost
Pest control professionals do sometimes utilize traps and monitoring devices, but usually the methods we’ve discussed in this section are used by the occupant. Once the proper supplies are acquired, setting up a monitoring device and getting it going only takes a few minutes, and depending on which method you’re using, can keep working for one night to a week.
- Applied in minutes, adhesiveness can last for a few days, depending on brand.
- Can start as low as $4, depending on the quality and bulk number in the purchase.
- The length of effectiveness depends on how long the inside walls stay slippery.
- Talcum powder, lubricants, and tape can be purchased for less than $10. A four-pack of plastic ClimbUp interceptors for under your bed legs can be found online for around $20.
Dry Ice Trap
- Dry ice traps running off of about two pounds of dry ice can last for about 10 hours.
- You can find local locations to purchase dry ice using dryicedirectory.com. The average cost of dry ice is around $2 a pound. A cooler or thermos to hold the ice, pet food bowl to put it on top of, and appropriate gloves shouldn’t cost more than $20.
The BedBug Beacon
- Claims to produce enough CO2 to keep luring bugs for up to 5 days.
- Can be purchased online for $50, refills run around $25.
The NightWatch Monitor
- Has bug pheromone cartridges that will attract bugs for a week and enough CO2 to work over the course of a night.
- Runs between $350 and $400. Replacement lures can be bought in four-packs for around $16.
The CDC 3000
- Needs CO2 and pheromone-laced sticky trap replacement after each 10 hour session of usage.
- Although early models were available at one point, the future distribution of the CDC 3000 from Australia-based Cimex Science is still being worked out. Estimated price range is between $500 and $1,000.
While not widely considered a comprehensive method to control and eliminate an infestation, traps and monitors can help you to confirm if indeed they are present, and also eliminate several of them in the process.
Since it is not considered a comprehensive removal tool, a monitoring device or trap should be used in combination with other methods. The best times for their use are:
- at the beginning, when you’re trying to establish what insect you’re dealing with
- after treatment, to see if they are still present
- as an early detection/warning bell against future encroachments.
In the case of the traps that rely on a lure to draw insects out of their hiding place, only some of the bugs who haven’t fed recently are going to be attracted, so these devices may work best where they may not have regular access to a host, or do not have many feeding options.
For this reason, portable devices may be particularly effective in areas that are currently uninhabited by people, or only occupied by them part of the time.
Health and Safety Precautions
DIY moat traps placed on the floor, underneath bed legs, can be particularly messy. There’s a good chance that whatever you put down there is going to come in contact with pets, children, or your own feet.
If you have a particularly active home and do not want to see what you put down there spilled on carpeting or otherwise spread around the vicinity, you might want to pass on this potentially messy DIY bug barrier.
Dry ice can reach temperatures well below freezing, and can be harmful when it comes in direct contact with humans. Use gloves and observe any safety precautions the dry ice may come with before working with it.
When using a portable monitoring device that is drawing these bloodsucking insects out with pheromones, CO2, or heat, you want to make sure that the unit itself does not become home to the insect, and that the unit is then brought to a new location, allowing the pests to spread. This could potentially undo much of your work, or make matters worse.
Making the Most of it
To avoid disappointment, don’t overestimate what a trap/monitoring device will do for your situation. Use it mainly as a tool for assessing their presence, killing a few of them, and perhaps making it a little more difficult for them to get to you in the future.
Provided you’re not taking any with you on your person to bed, you’re using sealed mattress and pillow covers, and then using moats under the bed legs, the combination of those methods may get you through a bite-free night of sleeping.
The NightWatch Monitor is more of a tech toy than the other methods, and so, like many technical devices, it can have its own quirks and malfunctions. Don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer if you don’t think the CO2 is properly distributing.
Just follow the directions on the sheet and remember the trapping motto: If your traps do not catch the bugs, this doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t around.
Method #2: Vacuuming
How Does it Work?
Using a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment, the surfaces of the infested areas are subjected to strong, focused suction. It is not recommended that a brush or bristle attachment be used as these can catch tiny eggs before they reach the vacuum bag. Instead, either the hose end or the narrower crevice tool attachment is used.
Special attention is paid to folds, crevices, and hard-to-reach areas where they and their eggs might be. This includes along the seams of mattresses, furniture, cushions, box springs, and along the corners and under the baseboards of a room.
Using a vacuum with a vacuum bag as opposed to just a filter is highly suggested. Immediately after usage the vacuum bag should be removed and sealed within at least one or two more plastic bags, and then ideally disposed of in a location outside of the home, such as a garbage can or local sanitation center.
Time, Labor, and Cost
You can make use of your vacuum before a professional exterminator arrives, or before additional DIY steps are taken. The amount of time this takes depends on the size of the living space where the infestation is occurring, the number of pieces of furniture involved, and your own individual commitment to trying to get rid of the infestation; so potentially one to several hours.
If you already own a cleaner that uses vacuum bags, then this method costs nothing. If you’re interested in purchasing a new vacuum with a hose and bagged canister, you can look to spend anywhere from $50 to $400, depending on the brand you go with.
Why a Vacuum?
A vacuum is a very effective way to quickly remove insects from a piece of furniture or flooring. Many are resistant to sprays and chemicals, and overuse of chemicals is ultimately what has contributed to that.
A vacuum will indiscriminately remove chemical-resistant and non-resistant insects alike. However, even a vacuum with strong suction used over a surface multiple times might not eliminate all of them and their eggs.
Health and Safety Precautions
Those concerned about stirring up allergens during the vacuuming process may want to wear an air filter.
Making the Most of it
Using a cleaner with a vacuum bag cannot be stressed enough. With filter vacuums, there is a risk the bugs or their eggs may continue to live on inside your vacuum and re-enter the home at a later time, putting a person right back at square one. If the pests are being sucked up into a bag that is then disposed of far from the dwelling space immediately after, the chance of re-infestation is reduced.
Method #3: Professional Exterminators
How Do They Work?
Often the best course of action for dealing with an infestation, especially for those unaccustomed to handling them, is to contact an experienced professional. Each Pest Management Professional (PMP) is different, favoring some techniques and methods over others, and may offer a variety of services.
Treatment options can range from temperature-based approaches to chemical treatments, and even into full-scale fumigation. A large number of PMPs use restricted-use fumigants such as methyl bromide and sulfuryl fluroide (Vikane), which are only allowed by law to be applied by licensed professionals.
With the increasing magnitude of the epidemic in the United States, there are now a large number of companies, particularly in major cities, which offer complete eradication management, including preparatory cleaning and laundering services.
A property manager may have an arrangement with a particular contractor to use all of their pest control services, or you may have to hire your own PMP. It’s important to do some research on the methods used for controlling and decide which path will be right for you, and then contact a professional that can help you take the proper course of action.
Remember though, just as your PMP should listen to your concerns and needs when it comes to treatment, you should listen to their concerns. The best plan for ridding a dwelling is going to take communication, consideration, and effort on the part of all involved.
Time and Labor
Even if you’re hiring a comprehensive team of professionals to help you manage your infestation, it’s going to take some work on your end. Decisions about how to handle your home and its belongings will have to be made by you.
The amount of time the project takes depends on the size of the space being treated, the amount of items in it, and the willingness of yourself and others to invest the energy needed to go over it all and see to it everything is bug free.
A team of two or three people working diligently could prepare a medium-sized apartment for spraying within 12 hours, and then have pesticides or temperature treatments applied over the course of a couple of hours.
A larger home with a more severe infestation may take several days of preparation, and one or more treatments may be applied over the course of days or weeks.
The cost of professional exterminators will vary greatly depending on the nature and range of the services being provided. Comprehensive services that include preparatory services and guarantees will probably cost upwards of $1,000.00, depending on how much you need done.
Some PMPs offer a discounted rate to property owners who need multiple units treated. If you own an average-size apartment, a good estimate is that it will cost you slightly more or less than $200.00 for a visit from an exterminator.
Follow-ups may cost less or even be free, depending on the PMP’s policy. Ask them about that up front, in addition to requesting a preparatory to-do list so that you get the most out of their visit.
The PMPs will probably be bringing their own temperature or spraying equipment, so the main things you’ll need on your end are vacuum, plastic bags to put your heat-treated clothes and inspected belongings into, and basic cleaning equipment to make the place as clutter-free and clean as possible.
Why a Professional Exterminator?
Working with a trained and experienced professional is more than likely your best shot at solving your problem. A good PMP will help you figure out an effective order to implement management methods, and help protect you from pitfalls that could prove to be a waste of time and money, or make your problem even worse.
Ideally, you would contact a PMP immediately, but they’ll increasingly seem like a good option if DIY methods have proven ineffective. Many methods can be implemented to start elimination well before an exterminator arrives, and probably should be used beforehand, such as cleaning, vacuuming, steaming, and using monitoring devices.
If you’re going to have a PMP treat an area, hold off on the use of any bug spray or dust beforehand, and if you’ve been using any of those products, let them know, in addition to informing them of other methods you’ve been using.
A PMP should be given a good idea of what chemicals or other methods you’ve been using so they can calibrate their own approach accordingly.
Health and Safety Precautions
A major benefit of using a Pest Management Professional is that they will be doing a lot of the most perilous work, and will inform you directly of additional safety precautions you should take. You may need to vacate the unit for a few hours during or after they spray/fumigate, but they’ll probably tell you that.
Your biggest health and safety concern when working with an exterminator is making sure you hire a competent one. Look for online reviews of the business before you hire someone, have them come to the property for a preliminary inspection before hiring, and question them about their methods.
If, for example, their methods seem vague and they’re not asking much of you in terms of preparation, or if they’re making promises that sounds too good, then they’re probably not interested in helping you solve your problem as much as they just want to take your money and move on to the next person they can swindle.
Also, don’t assume that a PMP who charges a higher rate is necessarily just out for your money. If they know what they’re doing and their methods save you time and the cost of future treatments, they could easily be worth the top rates they charge.
Making the Most of it
The key to a successful visit from an exterminator, besides picking out the right one, is getting the most out of their visits that you possibly can. This means doing all the preparatory work that you can, eliminating clutter, making it easy for them to investigate and access space around the home to determine the nature and extent of your infestation.
It’s also important to tell them what you’ve been doing to combat it, and especially tell them the names of any chemicals you’ve used. If you don’t, they could try a treatment protocol with something similar to what you’ve already used, which would not only likely prove ineffective but possibly increase the bug’s resistance to pesticides.
Follow up Visits
It’s also important to remember too that one visit from your PMP may not solve everything, and that might not necessarily be your fault or theirs. Sometimes they are gaining access to a dwelling in ways that we don’t pick up on at first.
There are also some incredibly resilient, pesticide-resistant strains of these insects in the world right now. If they return or never leave, do not get discouraged. Look for holes in your last approach, preparatory methods you can strengthen, methods you didn’t utilize last time.
Consider asking your PMP for a follow up. If they don’t seem nearly as dedicated to solving your problem as you are, take your money elsewhere.
For more advice on picking out a Pest Management Professional, see this article from the University of California.
Method #4: Steamers
How Do They Work?
A steam cleaner can be used to effectively kill adults and their eggs by exposing them directly to high temperature mist. After attaching a towel to the end of the steam nozzle, the hot mist is slowly applied to mattresses, furniture, pillows, carpets, or other surfaces that are not damaged by water where adult bugs and their eggs might be located.
Tools, Time, and Cost
A steam cleaner can effectively be used by most any DIYer. Essential to the task is a steam cleaner that holds around 50 ounces of water, enough for an hour of continual usage, and is capable of producing steam that is at least 120°F or higher.
A couple of towels will be needed, one to attach to the end of the steamer, in addition to replacement towels should the one attached become over-saturated and drippy.
Since it’s crucial the steam be hot enough to kill the pests, testing the steam’s temperature with an instant read digital thermometer is recommended.
Like with vacuuming, how long this job takes depends on how much surface there is to cover, and preparing the cleaner can take some time too. The work required just to set up and steam a mattress can take an hour alone, and additional furniture and surfaces will add to that. Steaming is not a job to be rushed, either. Slowly and closely applying the hot steam will have the best results.
Larger steam cleaners can sell as cheaply as $85 but can also get into the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Towels are only a couple of bucks, and a digital thermometer can be acquired for as little as $7.00-$8.00.
Why a Steamer?
Using a steam cleaner can be a very effective way to terminate bugs and their eggs, if used properly. Steam can reach into areas a vacuum cannot, and heat will kill insects that are pesticide-resistant.
For the person who hasn’t had luck with pesticides or is wary of using them in the first place, or doesn’t have money for exterminators, steam can be a relatively cheap and powerful method to use.
However, when used in combination with pesticides, extra precautions need to be taken. Make sure you’re not washing away residual treatments, or applying dry powder to wet, recently steamed materials. Doing so could cancel out the effects of the dust treatment.
Health and Safety Precautions
While a relatively safe method, the use of steam does require a little consideration. In order for steam to be effective at killing bugs and their eggs, it needs to be plenty hot, and so the person using it should be careful not to burn themselves.
Additional moisture in general can contribute to mold, but the addition of pesticides in the air to a living space that has just been worked over with a steam cleaner could prove potentially hazardous to the inhabitant’s health, so use of steam should be carefully coordinated with anyone planning to treat the infested area with pesticide.
Also, steam can damage wood, paper, electronic devices, and other items usually sensitive to the presence of water, and should be used carefully.
Making the Most of it
The amount of pressure with which the steam is released creates some additional concerns when using steam. Using a towel over the end of the nozzle will keep the steam from coming out too forcefully and just blowing the bugs around instead of exterminating them.
Another reason why it makes sense to consult with anyone applying pesticides before using steam is because the steam might blow away pesticides that need to stay in a certain location to be truly effective.
It is important too to make sure that the steam is held close enough, for long enough, and while it is hot enough to the infected area. The steam loses heat between the nozzle and its destination, so the chances of it being effective increase the more directly it hits the bugs.
What Temperature Levels are Needed?
Some experts say that temperatures above 120°F are where these insects start to die, but most pros aim for over 140°F and perhaps ideally, closer to the 180°F range. It’s also important to not take breaks during the steaming process and give the bugs time to escape and relocated, which is why a steam cleaner with a larger water capacity is required.
While steam is a very effective weapon, it has its limitations. It might not penetrate deep into a mattress or other materials, and there are some surfaces it cannot be applied to. Steam may still be needed to used multiple times or in combination with other treatments like mattress covers and pesticides to completely solve an infestation.
Method #5: Freezing
How Does it Work?
As we’ve already discussed with steaming, bugs die under extreme temperatures, so subjecting an area of bug infestation to freezing conditions can eliminate some of the pests. There are three main ways to freeze them: put them inside a freezer, put them in a naturally cold area, or spray them with frozen CO2.
The main technology on the market for freezing bugs with CO2 is known as Cryonite, it uses an artificially-created snow to freeze bugs with a nozzle spray, and can be rented or purchased with no license needed. Unless you’re using Cryonite, you’ll want to wrap whatever you’re freezing in plastic so that the bugs cannot escape to warmer climates or spread to other objects.
With a Cryonite unit, a CO2 snow is applied in cracks, gaps, and any surfaces bugs might be located. The snow should be applied evenly, not so little that it’s hardly there, but not so much that it collects and insulates the insects underneath.
The goal is to flush the bugs out of hiding while overwhelming them with frozen C02, scoop them up for disposal, and then flush them out again after 20 minutes, and possibly again a few days later.
Time, Labor, and Cost
The freezing method can be done by anyone with access to either a Cryonite unit or a sufficiently cold enough environment in which to place infested materials. Time and temperature are particularly important when using freezing, and if they are not exposed to cold enough temperatures for long enough periods of time, they may survive.
It may take several weeks or months in a temperature consistently below 30°F before they begin to die off. Using the freezing snow from a Cryonite unit takes significantly shorter time: the CO2 is often sprayed in their hiding place to flush them out, and then again 20 minutes later, with possible additional treatment sessions as you feel inclined to do so.
If you have plastic bags and enough freezer space, or live in a very, VERY cold area, freezing can cost next to nothing, but may just take a while.
Finding places that rent Cryonite units can be tricky, and prices will vary. Cryonite treatments by a professional can run upwards of $500, and can go even higher depending on the size of the space being treated, but takes a considerably shorter amount of time than other freezing methods.
Freezing offers similar advantages and disadvantages as heat or steam methods. It can be used to kill insects that are otherwise unaffected by pesticides or traps with bait lures. It is a mostly non-toxic way to eliminate the infestation in some hard-to-reach areas.
At the same time, like steam and heat, areas being treated might not reach the appropriate temperature quick enough for complete eradication. Freezing may be worth considering if you have items you think are infested, don’t need to access them regularly, and have somewhere appropriate to put it.
For example, let’s say you have an extra mattress you think may be infested bugs, you have a sizable outdoor storage shed, and you live somewhere it’s consistently below freezing for several months at a time. Wrapping that mattress in sealed plastic and putting it in the shed for several months may work for you.
This same technique can be applied when using smaller items, perhaps items you do not want to expose to extreme heat but think could handle extreme cold.
Cryonite treatment offers several advantages over other methods as well. When used properly it will not leave a liquid residual on items that are treated with it, meaning it could potentially be used on food items, in areas with electronic equipment, on motors, and other areas you would otherwise want to keep free of liquid or pesticide. There’s also no drying time to take into account, like with steam or liquid pest spray.
Like most containment and elimination methods, freezing is meant to be only one tool utilized when dealing with the problem.
Putting items in a freezing environment is generally not a practical or comprehensive method, but that does not change the fact that SOME of the insects will die from the extreme cold, so some people may take their chances and try it.
Cryonite spraying may work best when used with a vacuum, as the flushing action will drive them out of hiding, possibly kill them, and make them slow, visible, easy targets for the nozzle of your vacuum.
Health and Safety Precautions
Make sure that what you’re applying to freezing conditions can stand up to it. If you have a very old book or a piece of electronic equipment you think is infested, it might not do very well if placed in a freezer.
Some desperate people may consider shutting off the heat in their home for a while, but this is an ineffective method as it may not be cold enough for the length of time needed, and may just open up the occupants to greater stress and health risks.
Please read the safety instructions (available for viewing here) before attempting to use a Cryonite unit. The snow can reach temperatures of -78°F and produce a burning sensation on the skin, so extreme caution is needed when applying.
Also be careful whenever releasing large amounts of CO2 in enclosed spaces; while it is a very naturally occurring chemical, it can be poisonous to humans in large amounts.
Making the Most of it
Freezing is not generally a widely recommended technique as it is often tricky and impractical to implement, and has varying degrees of results. You certainly shouldn’t put all your hopes in freezing the bugs to death, but it may garner you some results when implemented as part of a larger strategy.
Regardless of whether you’re putting something into a cold climate or spraying it with a Cryonite, remember these crafty insects will attempt to use its environment to survive by insulating itself from the cold. This can mean hiding deep inside the recesses of a mattress or sofa, or positioning itself just right under several layers of real or artificial snow.
Freezing has the best result for eradication with the insect is exposed to immediate freezing conditions. Give it too much time and mild enough conditions, and it will find a way to seek out an escape to a warmer area.
Method #6: Heat Treatment
How Does it Work?
They cannot survive high temperatures, so significantly increasing the temperature of a dwelling or an infested item for an extended amount of time can be an effective way to eliminate the pests and their eggs.
When attempting to raise the temperature of a house or apartment, powerful heaters are brought inside the structure and then fans are used to distribute the heat throughout the area. Generally the heat is generated from one of two main sources: propane or electricity.
The heat is either pumped into the unit from outside, as is often the case with propane, or generated directly inside with heaters sensibly placed inside the dwelling.
The power for the heaters that run on electricity comes directly from the building being treated, or from generators brought to the treatment site. A number of thermometers are positioned throughout the unit to monitor the heat and make sure it is getting sufficiently hot enough to kill the insects.
Heating Tools and Devices
Heat treatments can also involve placing infested items into something that will sufficiently cook the item for a long enough time as to kill the bugs.
One popular option is a PackTite unit, essentially a portable heater inside a large insulated bag. You place items inside the bag on a rack above the heater to treat them. The inside of the bag gets up to 140°F, and is recommended that items be treated inside for several hours.
Another method people use if they do not have a PackTite unit is solar heat. With this method, objects are placed inside black plastic trash bags and then put in locations that best utilize the heat of the sun, such as out on pavement or in a yard, or inside of a car.
When leaving the bag outside, you want to keep the bag several inches off the ground to avoid the bottom side of the bag from staying too cool. You might even want to flip the bag periodically like a burger.
Time and Labor
Some of the simpler heat treatment methods involving dryers, ovens, PackTites, or solar power can be done yourself. Technically, larger jobs involving heat generators can be a DIY project too, but renting or buying multiple heaters and running them on your own may not be a very practical solution for the average home occupant, in which case you might want to consider hiring professionals for the job.
Time is a very important factor with heat treatment, and a failure to sustain intense heat can produce no results.
The absolute minimum length of time you want to expose insects to temperatures of 120°F or greater is 30 minutes, and in most cases, you’ll want to go significantly longer, two, four, perhaps six hours or more. Some professionals have their best results using an infrared sauna treatment overnight, for at least 8 hours.
Heat treating a home will require enough heaters to raise the entire area of the infested area, fans to circulate the hot air, and thermometers to monitor the progress. Treating individual items will require a dryer, oven, PackTite unit, black plastic bags, thermometers, and possibly racks to place the bags on.
Unit heat treatment is still a relatively new market, so equipment price for rental and purchase vary greatly, as do heat treatment services.
Heaters with the tens of thousands of BTUs needed to heat an entire unit up can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Rentals may cost a couple hundred bucks, and the same can be said for professional heat treatment service.
Some consumers are having luck using infrared sauna heaters for elimination in smaller spaces, and these heaters generally run around $300 each. A PackTite unit prices around $300, and black plastic bags can be purchased for a couple of bucks.
Why Heat Treatment?
When done properly, heat treatments are one of the most effective techniques for eradicating an infestation. Some of these bloodsucking insects have become pesticide-resistant however all will die if exposed to high heat for long enough time.
With heat, getting the bug to make direct contact with the instrument of their demise isn’t nearly the issue it is when using a steam cleaner or Cryonite unit. For people wary of pesticides, or living in cluttered areas who are having a hard time locating their infestation, heat treatment may become one of your main tools.
Heat, as with all other methods, should not be your only tool. Sort belongings, wash clothes, reduce clutter, generally do everything you can to prevent these nasty insects from escaping the heat. Vacuum up as many as you can, and still consider using steam or flushing with CO2 areas that might not reach high temperatures, like cracks and crevices.
Health and Safety Precautions
Using heat treatments can also be one of the most dangerous methods. There is a significant fire risk associated with heating units, especially when using larger heaters indoors.
There also may be clauses in your lease, in addition to state and local law, limiting how you can use these heaters. All it may take is a call from one concerned individual for you to be found in violation of your lease, and in trouble with both insurance companies and law enforcement.
As if fire wasn’t enough of a health risk, heaters can reach temperatures high enough to produce significant burns to the skin, and there may also be a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when using heaters indoors.
You also must be careful that everything you choose to keep inside the unit during treatment can stand up to the excessive heat. Please consider hiring professionals to manage heat treatment of your home, and consult all instructions before operating heat treatment equipment.
Precautions When Using Heating Units
If you opt to treat items individually with a PackTite unit, you want to make sure, as when using any heat treatment method, which whatever you are treating can stand the elevated temperature, and will not be ruined by it. Also be careful to make sure it is not touching the sides of the bag, as this may damage the item and/or the PackTite unit.
Risk of Further Infestations
There is also a danger with a heat treatment of causing a migration of your infestation into other areas of your home. If the temperature rises slowly, they will seek a new location that is not as warm. Talk to a professional about which preventive measures you can take to stop this from happening.
You might choose to lay down a liquid or powder pesticide barricade that will kill any pests attempting to escape. If you choose to place an item in black plastic bags and place it in the car or in the sun, consider double or triple bagging it. It would be a shame to spread the infestation to somewhere like a cooler area of your car just because there was a hole in your bagging.
Making the Most of it
Heating will only work if the area where the insects are located reaches the right temperature. You need to make sure that the center point of whatever you’re trying to heat, from a pile of clutter to a mattress, reaches at least 120°F.
When using the PackTite unit, make sure you use the thermometer that is provided to get a reading of what the temperature is at the center point of the materials you are treating. If that center area, which is the hardest area for the heat to penetrate, is not hot enough, then the bugs located there might not die and the treatment will not be completely effective.
When using black bags, remember that the side touching the ground will not be as hot as the top that is being heated by the sun. If you’re heating the bag outside, you might want to place it on a rack with some aluminum foil underneath it, so that all sides are exposed to the sun’s light. Consider flipping it at intervals, particularly if you’re leaving it in your car.
If they keep returning, it probably means one of two things: the area they were located didn’t get hot enough, or they are reentering through a point you haven’t yet secured, perhaps on some item that keeps leaving and returning to your home, like a bag or a person.
The good thing about heat treatments is that, unlike pesticides, there isn’t much risk of the bugs building up a resistance from excessive heat treatments.
You just need to make sure you’re undertaking the process in the most effective way possible and not leaving the pests with an easy escape plan, and this is where consulting a professional can be particularly effective. They may spot the key factor that will make the difference during the next round of treatment.
Method #7: Bed Bug Powder Dust
How Does it Work?
Another effective part of controlling an infestation can be the use of specially formulated bug powder dust. With this method (and always follow the label instructions regarding bug powder application) the pesticide dust is applied with a duster or an aerosol can with a straw on the nozzle into cracks, crevices, and hard-to-reach areas where bugs might wander.
One of the main advantages of these types of powder is that it has a residual treatment effect, meaning it will repel or kill insects that come in contact with the dust anywhere from 2 to 10 days after application.
How Many Types of Bug Powder are There?
There are two main types of bug powder dust available to the unlicensed consumer. In the first type, pyrethrins are the primary ingredient. Pyrethrins are a pair of chemical substances naturally derived from pyrethrum, which refers to several varieties of the flower chrysanthemum.
Often piperonyl butoxide is paired with the pyrethrin to enhance its strength, and also Silica gel, which enhances the absorption of the other two ingredients. When the bug makes physical contact with powder made up of this trio, it will quickly absorb the dust, lose its moisture, and die as a result.
The second main type of bug powder dust uses Diatomaceous Earth as its main ingredient. Diatomaceous Earth is a naturally occurring soft rock that develops from fossils and is used for its absorbent quality, and is often adopted for kitty litter, pool filters, artificial blood clots, and soaking up the moisture in insects and killing them.
Tools, Time, and Labor
Exterminators generally do the most effective job of applying pesticides in both liquid and powder form, but it is entirely possible for you to adequately do this on your own if you have access to a duster, or if you pick up an aerosol spray bug powder.
Both Drione and Tri-Die brand pesticide powder contain the magic trio of pyrethrin, piperonyl butoxide, and Silica gel. Using a duster to apply Drione or Diatomaceous Earth is the most effective way to place the powder deep into narrow openings.
Tri-Die comes in an aerosol can with a straw applicator that makes it very easy to reach into gaps where adults and their eggs are hiding. While the use of a straw on an aerosol can or duster distributor will make for careful application of the powder, if you have health sensitivity or otherwise want to show extra caution when working with the powder, you might want to consider gloves and a dust mask.
Filling a duster and applying powder to all questionable gaps is not a very lengthy procedure, and could possibly be done in 15 to 45 minutes.
A pound of Drione will cost around $50, and could last a year or more, even if used generously every couple of months on the home. A can of Tri-Die is around $15, and can be used for a couple of spray jobs.
Diatomaceous Earth can be purchased as cheaply as $5 a pound, but it is worth it to make sure you’re buying it in a variety formulated for killing for the specific bug you want eradicated from your home. Dusters can be picked up starting around $10.
Why a Powder/Dust?
Unlike vacuuming, extreme temperatures, pesticide spray, and other techniques, powders can continue to repel and kill the pests for weeks if not months.
Using powder dust is a good follow up measure to help guarantee they do not return, and can be very effective when used after areas that have been steamed or sprayed are dry.
Applying powder with a duster or an aerosol can with a straw attachment focuses the application of the powder, so it can be applied with greater accuracy to cracks and crevice and remains there. Almost instantly the powder will stick stay and stay on the surface it is applied to, so airborne misapplication is less of an issue.
Also, the powders legally available to consumers with main ingredients of pyrethrin or Diatomaceous Earth are considered relatively safe and environmentally friendly, especially when compared with more industrial-strength pesticides that professionals sometimes apply.
Health and Safety Precautions
While largely considered a safer method, you should still use caution with powder, and follow the instructions on the label. And even in spite of what the label may say, many professionals do not recommend sprinkling it casually on carpets, furniture, or other surfaces pets or humans may come in regular contact with.
The first reason is it is still a pesticide dust, and could cause allergic reactions or negatively impact children, pets, the elderly, or people with health sensitivities.
Secondly, careless application can be wasteful and ineffective, or worse, not be enough to kill the insects, but instead encourage them to spread to a new area of your home.
It’s also worth noting that dust can stain surfaces and remove the finish off of furniture, so all the more reason careful application is necessary.
Making the Most of it
To save time, money, and energy, it is important to purchase and use truly effective powder the first time. This means purchasing a dust that is intended for treating them as opposed to just any type of insect.
Boric acid, for example, is frequently used for treating cockroaches, but in studies has been revealed to be ineffective for these types of infestations.
It’s also critical to get the right strength and variety. Because Diatomaceous Earth has such a wide range of uses, it comes in many different formulations. It is important to buy DM especially formulated for controlling your infestation, otherwise it might not be effective.
Know the Limitations
Understanding the limitations of powder will save you great deal of frustration as well. Part of the reason there has been a resurgence in infestations is because they have become immune to the effects of pesticides, and in many cases this includes pyrethrum derivatives.
It has also been noted that Diatomaceous Earth can sometimes only be effective as a pesticide on young or weaker adults or eggs. So to get the most out of these chemicals, applying them together in a focused manner may yield the best results.
You’ll want to remember too that sunlight weakens the effect of these powders, and moisture will negate them completely. If you want the powder to be effective for a long time, make sure it is not coming in contact with steam or recently steamed materials, liquid spray cleaners, and other forms of wetness.
Method #8: Liquid Spray
How Does it Work?
Using a liquid bug spray is similar to using steam or frozen CO2, but with a considerably more chemical edge. In this case, you are using a liquid pesticide on cracks and surfaces that may kill the insects on contact, possibly leaving a mild residual on surfaces that can also kill pests who encounter it in the future.
The liquid spray often comes in an aerosol can, or is mixed with water and applied via a pesticide sprayer. Some may be killed on contact, and follow-up applications with the same or a different chemical are a possibility.
How Many Types of Sprays are There?
There are three main types of liquid spray chemicals currently available, but they are marketed under many different names and come in slightly different chemical formulations.
The first are pyrethroids, a synthetic chemical derived from pyrethrum, a substance we discussed in the section on powder dust. One of the most popular and effective type of pyrethroids is deltamethrin, which is found in products like Suspend SC.
The second main type are neonicotinoids, another synthetic chemical that work on the central nervous system of insects and is often paired with a pyrethroid for treatments. Both Temprid and Transport GHP contain a pyrethroid and a niconeotinoid.
The third type are chlorfenapyrs. This is not a toxic substance until it is digested by them, and so this is often applied as a residual spray. Chlorefenapyr can be found in products like Phantom. In some US states, the sale of Phantom is prohibited or restricted to licensed pest management professionals.
For more information, see the article “Bed Bug Treatment Using Insecticides”.
Time and Labor
Liquid sprays are best applied by a local professional, as they will most likely know not only the most effective technique for applying the spray, but will be aware of any local restrictions against certain types of spray treatment. However, a cautious DIYer can effectively apply liquid spray treatment, especially if they observe all label instructions.
The actual spraying itself does not take very long. Preparing your home for spraying may take considerably longer.
Reducing clutter along with sorting and inspecting your belongings is part of any effective treatment plan, but is especially necessary with spraying because you’ll want to put material into plastic bags so it does not come into contact with the spray, especially any electronics.
Additional spraying may be required as these tough insects may not die off instantly.
Some of these pesticides can be purchased in aerosol cans starting around $25. Treatments intended to be mixed with water and sprayed can go for around $50 or $100, depending on the amount you’re buying. Pesticide sprayers can start out as cheaply as $5 or $10, and larger, metal units can go into the hundreds of dollars.
A unit with an extended nozzle that can precisely apply pesticide in to narrow areas is recommended. Consider also purchasing and using a dust mask when spraying.
Why Liquid Bug Spray?
Most professionals utilize a liquid bug treatment (along with possibly a fumigant) for elimination, and this is what most consumers have come to see as a cornerstone of treatment.
There’s good reason for that too, as not only does applying the spray only take a few minutes and kill bugs on contact, but it will continue to wipe out the bugs for several days after.
Unlike vacuuming, applying steam or frozen CO2, placing traps, liquid spray can kill bugs and continue killing anywhere the spray is applied. In some ways, its effects are harder to avoid.
However, you should not rely too much on any single method when tackling an infestation, so spraying can be put to effective use with vacuuming, temperature treatments, and powders.
Health and Safety Precautions
More than almost any other method, pesticide sprays have to be used with considerable thoughtfulness and caution. Many are now chemically resistant to liquid sprays, and careless or excessive use could cause them to spread and even increase their resistance.
Please follow all label instructions when spraying. Make sure you’re using a liquid spray that is intended for indoor use, outdoor formulations could prove toxic to yourself and others when used in smaller, enclosed areas.
It is not legal to apply pesticides labeled and manufactured outside of the country within the U.S., and doing so would not only violate the law, but because of a lack of safety oversight in many other countries, could be hazardous to your health.
Most liquid bug treatments do not spray or damage non-electric materials, but you’ll still want to avoid excessive touching of surfaces the spray has been applied to, and possibly take a several-hour vacation with your pets or family after spraying has been completed, so that none of you are negatively impacted by the chemicals.
Making the Most of it
Many people have an idea that sprays, whether used by them or a professional, are the magic bullet that is going to take out their infestation problem.
It’s important not to get your hopes too high, though, because as we’ve stated, many are resistant to even the powerful influence of liquid spray pesticide. Even spraying, which is considered one of the ultimate weapons bugs, is ultimately just one instrument among many that should be utilized to manage your problem.
While most spray treatments have a residual effect and will work for days after, it’s not going to be in most cases as strong of a residual effect as you would experience with applying dry bug powder.
For this reason it may be wise to use both, and to take care you’re not negating the effects of the liquid spray by washing it away with cleaning products, or blowing it away with, say, the flush of CO2 that comes from a Cryonite unit.
Patience and Followup
Like we discussed with the bug powder, make sure you’re using a liquid spray that is intended specially to eliminate these specific insects, and give it the time it needs to work. You may continue to be bit a night or two after the treatment while waiting for the treatment to take full effect.
If a week passes and the bugs are still bothering you, you could consider a follow up spraying, possibly using a different chemical during the second round so as to keep the bugs off-guard and unable to build up a resistance to one treatment in particular.
One idea that’s being pushed by certain parties is that the use of the chemical ozone (yep, that very same chemical found up in the atmosphere, protecting us) might be useful here on the ground for elimination.
Ozone has a lot of industrial and commercial uses, one of them being the elimination of mold, and for a time it seemed like it might be the next big solution for killing these pesks.
One big problem: there’s been no solid scientific evidence supporting this technique, and PMPs not tied to the ozone industry have been coming up empty-handed.
Worse still, scientists have known for a while that ground-level ozone is a major air pollutant contributing to lung problems all over the world (for more information, see the EPA’s description of ground-level ozone) so not only could turning your home into a concentrated bubble of ozone prove to be a giant waste of money, it could be incredibly hazardous to your health.
Insect Growth Regulators
All over the world, types of hormonal sprays known as Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) are used on a variety of locations to keep bugs from developing into adulthood, thus making them unable to reproduce. IGRs are also known for limiting a female insect’s ability to lay healthy eggs, and can kill eggs and nymphs.
While IGRs have been shown to be effective on some types of bugs, unfortunately at the time of this writing independent scientific testing has been unable to reliably demonstrate the effectiveness of IGRs. Some researchers are also speculating that the hormone in IGRs may encourage them to reproduce without producing much in the way of adverse effects.
Some PMPs may swear by IGRs, and there may be strains that they are effective on, but until more testing is performed and reliable evidence exists, IGRs remain something of a risky bet.
Some people might wonder why cheap, easily accessible bug bombs are not utilized in these types of infestations.
The short answer is that a bug bomb mainly works during aerial combat, and these insects don’t fly. The fumes will just slowly fog up the inside of your home where there aren’t any insects, while giving the pest plenty of time to scurry along the edges and escape. It may even just drive them to new territories.
Attempting to use multiple bug bombs inside a home could create a pressure build up that will blow out the windows which, while exciting, is not very helpful.
Cranking up the Thermostat
This may seem like a very simple way to kill some bugs, since they are sensitive to heat. But like so many half-baked treatments, it is generally ineffective and may make your problem worse. Raising the thermostat in your home is generally a bad method because
A) the furnace in your home is generally not powerful enough to get the entire place well over the 120°F needed to eradicate your infestation, and
B) the rise in temperature will be so gradual that the bugs will notice it and escape early, possibly spread temporarily or permanently to new places, and maybe even return after you’ve completed any more efficient termination techniques like steaming or spraying, and hence completely avoiding the treatment that might have killed them.
When the Bugs Just Won’t Leave
If despite all your hard work the bugs are not going away, it’s not the end of the world, nor does it mean you have to give up. Instead, just reevaluate some factors and ask yourself some questions about the situation before devising a new plan.
The Entry Point
Maybe you did kill all the insects that were in the unit at the time of treatment, but new ones are finding a way in. If you haven’t already, consider using a monitoring devices around your home to trap them and give you an idea of what route they’re taking to get to you each night.
Consider too how they might be traveling on items into your home. They might be getting onto your shoes or clothing from furniture at your job, equipment at your gym; desks and chairs at your school; seats in cars, buses, subways, trains, or anywhere you share a seat that might have previously been used by an inadvertent host carrier.
They could also be living or traveling on your briefcase, suitcase, laptop case, instrument case, purse, backpack, gym bag, or any furniture or boxes that are entering your home.
It might be the case that they were either drawn or driven into your home. Maybe your neighbors had them, and through a vent or a hole or because of a badly executed treatment plan, they caught wind of your warmth, scent, or CO2 and sought you out.
There’s even the possibility that you slept near an open window on a warm day, there was a hole in your screen, and there happened to be one lurking close by.
Inspect your home, talk to your neighbors, fill cracks and repair holes, do whatever you can to limit their chances of finding you. You might be surprised to find that these little fixes ultimately make the big difference.
The Weakest Link
Was there something that didn’t get done the way it probably should have the first time? Never washed that giant cloth shower curtain you hang your bathrobe next to while you shower? Forgot to heat treat the pillows? Didn’t tell the exterminator you’d just recently used a bug spray of your own before they used theirs?
Go through every step of your own treatment plan, compare it to the ones listed here and elsewhere (the National Center for Healthy Housing has a very comprehensive report entitled What’s Working for Bed Bug Control in Multifamily Housing), and see if there was a step that was perhaps executed less than perfectly.
Maybe you forgot and did housecleaning a day or two after insecticide treatment, and accidentally undid some of the residual treatment effect. Unfortunately all it takes is the survival of a couple of eggs or adults to get you itching again, but the more you learn about treatment, the better understanding you’ll have what it takes to get the most out of each technique you try.
Jeff White of Bed Bug TV has a great series on YouTube that will provide you with hours of information about infestation and management, and he will even answer your questions by e-mail. Also consider checking out the very educational site bedbugger.com.
If you’ve been going the DIY route or sticking with the cheapest professionals you can find, it might be time to find someone with strong references and even a guarantee, even if it means spending the big bucks.
Likewise, if you felt less-than-impressed with the last professional you worked with, don’t feel married to their future services. If pesticides haven’t been working and you think a heating or freezing treatment might be worth trying, but your PMP refuses to work with anything besides chemicals, you might need to find someone else that is willing to take the actions necessary to solve your problem.
The Best Defense…
After you’ve undertaken a major removal effort, additional steps can be taken to increase the likelihood that they do not return. Remaining vigilant, blocking or catching returning pests in the earliest stages, and giving them no opportunity to establish a presence should be your goal after the grand scale treatment.
A mattress protector will not only reduce the likelihood that bugs infiltrate your mattress in the future, but it can also keep out allergens, dust mites, and other insects.
The price of a mattress cover usually ranges between $10 and $85 dollars. Covers are available in all sizes, and often come in a cotton or polyester material. Cases made of other impenetrable fabric types may be available. Often the casing is wrapped around the mattress and then sealed via the attached zipper.
Pillow protectors are helpful as well, come in similar fabric options, and range in price between $10 and $20.
Maintaining the presence of bug traps and using approved powder treatments on a seasonal basis can also be very beneficial. Because of pesticide resistance issues, sprayings should be limited to an as-needed basis, but some long-lasting powders can be updated on a reoccurring basis.
If you’re interested in learning more about what universities across the U.S. are saying about these insects, check out the research links below:
wow. this has been THE most informative and comprehensive website article i have found. i have tried various options, but am grateful for the confirmation that chemical sprays are not foolproof – both due to their harmful immediate and residual effect (on me) and as a result of pest resistance. i shall once again embark on a steaming and laundry and plastic bag-mission, start vacuuming, and try dry powders. DM has also proven useless, as i just bought the normal kind – not aware this needed to be a special formulation – and all this has done is the dust irritating my lungs to the point of constant coughing – hope i did not cause permanent damage. thank you so much for the great ideas and advice to not give up, after six months, i am ready for ROUND TWO!
Hi linky, sorry to hear about your bed bug problem. I’m also coughing permanently after exposure to diatomaceous earth. Have you fully recovered from the coughing? I would be thankful if you could let me know.
Thank you for a thorough and informative article. One thing I hope to address is the use of sticky tape and glue traps. After reading forums and my own experience (I work in the field), I’ve found that double sided tape and glue traps will mostly repel them and not trap them unless it is a severe infestation. The adhesives have a strong odor and the bugs are smarter than we think. In the off chance that a single bug became trapped on an adhesive surface, they’d likely emit their stress pheremone to notify other bugs to steer clear. I actually noted 3 separate fecal spots around the perimeter of double sided tape used on my brand new bed sheets, the fecal spots were all about the same distance below the tape (2cm). Great for dettering them from biting you but not good for identifying a problem or trapping them.
I’ve had bed bugs for 2 years. The come and go. Sometimes they bother me, and then weeks go by and nothing. I have mattress and pillow protection and spray and earth powder at bottom of my bed. I also have interceptors in every outlet in one bedroom apartment. I use lavender essential oils and incense. I tired and this has cost me a lot.
Hi just curious is there a free app which allows a person to see these bugs with a magnifying glass and watch them for real thanks