If you have had a bed bugs infestation in the past or currently have one, we understand that it can be a stressful experience. When an infestation occurs, people usually look for the fastest and most effective way to get rid of it. A common question we get is: “do heat treatments always work to kill bed bugs?” Maybe you have only tried sprays and chemical to kill bed bugs without success. Through research and our own personal experience, we recommend using a heat treatment to eradicate bed bugs. The question still remains though: do heat treatments always work?
Bed Bug Life Cycle
The bed bug life cycle is important to understand before choosing a bed bug treatment plan. First, bed bugs start as eggs that hatch and progress into nymphs. There are different stages of nymphs as they eat each blood meal and progress towards being a mature adult. It takes about five weeks for bed bugs to reach their adult form, at which point they will eat every few days and start to lay eggs.
Pros of a Heat Treatment
Heat treatments are VERY effective in taking care of bed bug infestations if done correctly. One advantage of using heat over chemicals is that heat kills bed bugs in all stages of the life cycle. Chemicals do not kill the eggs, which results in multiple visits and sprays that are not always effective. READ MORE
Additionally, heat treatments have no residual effect. After the treatment has been performed, the room slowly gets back down to a normal temperature, and there are no adverse effects. The only difference in your room should be that there are lots of dead bed bugs!
Challenges to an Effective Treatment
There are a few challenges that can come with heat treatments, but they can be overcome. Keep in mind that heat treatments are designed to get all areas of the room over 120 F. This is the optimal kill temperature for bed bugs. Bugs exposed to this temperature will die in only a few minutes. Even at 113 F, bed bugs will die after a longer exposure to this lower temperature.
If a room is cluttered, it is difficult to get every area and item in the room to the lethal temperature. We recently treated a home with our large propane heater. This is a hotter, faster treatment than our electric heaters. We stay at the site the entire time and frequently go into the room and move items to ensure heat coverage. This house was fairly uncluttered; however, it had several areas where there were a few piles of bags. Each time we lifted a bag, we saw live bugs as the air underneath the bags was unable to get to the lethal temperature. Fortunately, we were there to shuffle items and expose those “cold” areas to heat. We would see the bed bugs move for about a minute and then die quickly.
It is challenging to keep a room at the optimal temperature if heat is escaping from the treatment area. Areas of concern frequently include chimneys, old windows, and vents. These areas need to be covered to avoid heat loss. At a recent job, we had to treat behind a knee wall when we treated an upstairs bedroom with a slanted ceiling. This proved challenging as during the evening, the area behind the knee wall (which was not insulated) dropped in temperature as the outside air became cooler. Luckily, this treatment took place over 24 hours. We utilized electric heaters, which allowed time for the temperature in the knee wall area to increase as the sun rose the next day.
If you have already sprayed chemicals, this may actually make a heat treatment more difficult. In our experience, chemicals may kill some of the bed bugs, but not all of them. When chemical treatments are not fully effective, they tend to push the bugs into hiding, which makes them more difficult to kill with heat. The further the bed bugs go into walls or floorboards, the longer it takes heat to penetrate those areas and reach the bugs. Therefore, we prefer to wait at least a week after the last chemical treatment before we bring in the heaters to eliminate bed bugs.
Moving Stuff Around
Avoid disturbing the room prior to the heat treatment as much as possible as this could cause the bugs to go into hiding. Our goal is to hit them with the heat before they know what’s coming. The only exception to this is to remove heat sensitive items, or items that could get damaged at hot temperatures. We provide a checklist of things to do before a treatment to ensure that it is as successful as possible while moving as few things as possible from the treatment area.
We believe that all of these challenges can be avoided. More than just avoiding challenges, you can have a very successful treatment to eradicate bed bugs. We offer DIY options where you can rent the heaters. Or we can come do it for you with our full-service options: just give us a call. We are here to help!