Eliminating Bed Bugs
By Del Williams
Bed bugs, termites, cockroaches, and other pests don’t stand a chance against this revolutionary heat process. Completely safe and non-toxic, this process opens a new era in pest control and eradication.
Bloodsucking bed bugs are back with a vengeance and they’re giving hotel guests and property owner-managers sleepless nights as they struggle to deal with a global epidemic that’s triggering costly remediation, litigation, and damaged reputations, even in upscale establishments. Amid evidence that the vampire-like insects are becoming immune to the insecticides used to kill them, a new heat treatment is proving effective at discreetly eliminating both the bugs and their eggs in one application without the use of chemicals or odor.
A Growing Mutant Menace
From housing projects to fivestar hotels, bed bugs have become so rampant in New York City that they’ve warranted a bed bug hotline, as well as almost 7,000 infestation complaints and over 2,000 building owner summonses through last June. Cincinnati health officials have formed a bed bug task force due to rising complaints, and the National Pest Management Association has noted a 50-fold increase in bed bug calls recently. A surge in bed bug complaints across Canada, Great Britain, and elsewhere indicates the global scope of the problem.
The blood-sucking insects are proving tougher than ever to eradicate with traditional means. Hiding in mattresses, bed frames, headboards, sheets, clothes, luggage, carpet, cracks, crevices, furniture, and even picture frames, bed bugs emerge at night and can quickly infest homes, hotels, and other properties. Unfortunately, trying to eliminate both the bed bugs and their eggs can be a nightmare. Females can lay up to 500 tiny eggs in their lifetime, easily hiding 50 to 100 eggs along a seam or under a button, where it’s hard to reach with chemical applications.
In the age of Internet blogs, the mere accusation of a bed bug problem can make you a social pariah or drive away business. And research indicates bed bugs are becoming immune to the insecticides used to kill them.
When researchers in a recent University of Kentucky study exposed bed bug colonies to pyrethroid insecticides, commonly used to kill the critters, they found that one colony never exposed to the insecticide died at typical doses. However, several colonies exposed to the insecticide over decades proved immune to sprays up to 300 times the dose recommended by the manufacturing companies.
Though once controlled with broad-spectrum pesticides, like the now banned DDT, the insects are difficult to eliminate with today’s targeted pesticides, and often require several follow-up visits by exterminators, with no guarantee of success. Furthermore, spraying toxic chemicals into every crack and crevice can raise concerns of exposure and odor, especially among children and the elderly.
Traditional treatments can also be costly, intrusive, time consuming, and embarrassing. For instance, the standard operating procedure for treating bed bugs at a major Las Vegas hotel is to close all the rooms around the infested room, including those above and below, for five to seven days. They rip out and replace the carpeting, drapes, mattress, box springs, bed frame, and headboard in the infested room, while replacing the clothes and luggage of the hotel guests affected.
Tenting a structure to fumigate draws more unwanted attention and may be impractical if the whole structure must be vacated for several days. This is a particular concern of the hospitality industry, which depends on high room use for profit, along with convenience and reputation to bring repeat business.
The stigma involved with bed bugs, along with the follow-up visits typically required of traditional chemical treatments, makes these solutions less suitable for many clients. Even fumigation with Vikane won’t kill insect eggs unless the dosage is increased to three to ten times normal rates, depending on the insect.
A Fast, Discreet, Non-Chemical Bed Bug Eradicator
Fortunately, a revolutionary pest eradication treatment is proving to be a fast, discreet, nonchemical, non-toxic cure to bed bug infestations without residue, odor, or the need for replacing costly furnishings. The process uses specifically designed infrared heaters to heat surfaces and eliminate insect infestations as well as disinfect, decontaminate, and dry out buildings in much the same way heat is used to pasteurize milk and kill bacteria in wine.
The heat treatment process has been successfully used against insect infestations such as bed bugs and termites, mold and fungi, bacteria and viruses, and to improve indoor air quality by accelerating the off-gassing of odors and toxins. Doctors have also prescribed the process to purify and cleanse the structures for asthma patients.
A recent U.C. Berkeley study, headed by Vernard Lewis, Ph.D., a research entomologist, tested the efficacy of this heat process on adult bed bugs and their eggs by heating a single, ranch-style house in California. Infrared heaters and heat exchangers were tested in different sections of the house and sensors monitored temperature continuously. Bed bugs were put inside wall cavities, cabinets, and between mattresses and box springs.
The study noted that the use of infrared heaters to treat bed bugs shows “greatest promise when used for structures where they can be set up overnight and dismantled and removed the morning after treatment. Hotels, schools, day care centers, office buildings, vacation homes, and homeowners that are not opposed to moving out for the night would all be potential beneficiaries of this technology.”
Unlike fumigation, which is applied only to entire structures, the heat treatment process is highly effective for a localized area or whole structure treatments, including infestations confined to a single hotel room, condo, or apartment. Unlike fumigation, no chemicals are involved, with no odor, and no move out is required if completed in a single day. While non-chemical, some pest professionals choose to use the heat treatment process and dust with a chemical desiccant.
The heat effectively destroys the insects and their eggs, which won’t develop a resistance to it as they do with chemicals. Since heat can achieve lethal levels inside mattresses, pillows, wall voids, books, and all contents of a given room or structure, the homeowner or hotel or property owner doesn’t need to completely remove and replace all the furnishings, drapes, carpets, or mattresses, resulting in less cost disruption.
For hotels or property owners sensitive to the social stigma of bed bugs, what’s especially attractive about the heat treatment process is its speed and unobtrusiveness. Since the new infrared heaters fit five on a cart, they can be discreetly brought up an elevator and into affected rooms without disturbing guests or announcing there’s a problem. Taken off the cart, the infrared heaters unfold and plug into electric outlets, and are built for stability with an automatic safety shut off if tipped. Previously, such heat treatment was unavailable in high-rise structures because propane or hydrocarbon fuels were not allowed in them.
Executive Housekeeping Today/June 2008