Methods of Eliminating Bed Bugs

Dr. Harold Harlan © Armed Forces Pest Management Board (with permission)

There are many components in the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy for bed bug control. Bed bugs are very difficult to eliminate and bed bug control requires much more than a quick application of pesticides. Understanding these components will help you select a qualified pest control company and let you know what to expect.

Bed Bug Inspection and Monitoring
A bed bug inspection is the first step in bed bug control. A thorough inspection by a qualified person or a canine bed bug detection team is required to precisely locate all harborage sites and roughly estimate the size of the bed bug population. This information is critical in determining the methods that will be used and to prevent overtreatment with pesticides.
Monitoring bed bug activity during and after treatment is critical in determining the effectiveness of the treatment program.

Another important component of bed bug control involves educating the occupants and other involved parties about bed bug infestations. You should be provided with basic information about bed bugs, prevention and travel tips, and housekeeping strategies to fight bed bugs.
Heat Treatments
A. Dry Steam –  When applied properly, steam will kill any bed bugs, nymphs and eggs it reaches. It can be used to treat mattresses, boxsprings, upholstered furniture, carpet, etc. Care must be taken to apply enough steam to do the job, without leaving excess moisture that could cause mold and mildew growth.
B. Compartment Heat Treatment – In this method, infested items are placed in a large, sealed container and heated to 120 to 140 degrees to kill bed bugs and their eggs. The process takes up to 24 hours. This method is used to disinfest beds, furniture and other household goods.
C. Structural Heat Treatment – In structural heat treatments, hot air is forced into a sealed building, raising the temperature to 120-140 degrees throughout the building for up to 24 hours. Temperatures this high kill all stages of bed bugs and their eggs. There is the possibilty that some areas of the building do not reach the desired temperature, leaving some bed bugs or eggs alive.
D. Heat Treatment of Infested Rooms – In this method, individual rooms or areas are heated to high temperatures using propane or electric heaters to kill bed bugs and their eggs. There is some concern with this method that rising heat in one area of the building may cause bed bugs to move into other unheated areas.

A. Residual pesticides – A residual pesticides are formulations designed to remain in the environment for a period of time (days to weeks), poisoning bed bugs as they move across the surface.Your pest control professionals will apply suitably labeled, registered and formulated residual insecticides to surfaces that the bed bugs contact and to cracks and crevices where they hide and rest.
B. Contact pesticides – Contact pesticides are formulations designed to kill bed bugs immediately upon treatment. There is no residual effect with these treatments.

Your pest control professional should be able to communicate effectively with you. He/she should explain the treatment plan with you, outlining your responsibilities and telling you what to expect. This communication should be ongoing throughout the control process.
Occupant’s Responsibilities

You will be required to do extensive work as part of the bed bug control process. This is essential to the success of the treatment. You may be asked to prepare the rooms for treatment and inspections, launder all your clothing and bedding weekly, vacuum regularly and thoroughly, minimize clutter, and make repairs necessary to reduce harborage sites. To see a complete list of things you can do to help see Housekeeping and Maintenance Strategies for Fighting Bed Bugs.
Housekeeping & Maintenance
Your pest control professionals will recommend encasements for your mattresses, boxsprings and pillows and may instruct you to discard some items that are unable to be treated. They may use targeted vacuuming as a method for removing accessible bed bugs and eggs.See Housekeeping and Maintenance Strategies for Fighting Bed Bugs to find out what you can do to help control bed bugs.

Cold Treatments

A. Cryonite Treatment – The Cryonite system uses pressurized carbon dioxide equipment to deliver a spray of “snow” which rapidly freezes bed bugs and their eggs. This method can be used to treat beds, furniture and personal belongings, as well as deep into cracks and crevices and is non-toxic.
B. Chest Freezers or Commercial Freezers can be used to treat smaller items that would not be damaged by moisture. Items must remain in the freezer for at least four days at 0 degrees in order to effectively kill bed bugs and their eggs.
C. Diatomaceous earth, silica gel and other mineral based dust formulations may be used as a supplement to other types of pesticides. These dusts can only be used in an environment with low humidity. They kill bed bugs by dehydrating them over a period of two or more weeks.
D. Insect Growth Regulators may have significant impact on bed bug molting, fertility and egg hatching success, but they take time to work and are used as a supplementary method by pest control professionals.