Pictured: A mixture of heat treatments and pesticides is often necessary to properly remove a full bed bug infestation.
Bed bugs are historically difficult to kill using singular methods, and so pest management professionals recommend a mixture of heat and pesticides. By heating a room to 125 degrees, all bed bugs in an enclosed space will be eliminated. However, the bugs have a penchant for self preservation that causes them to seek out cold areas as temperatures rise, and pesticides can be used in these areas to catch the bugs as they flee.
“Pest control operators like to spray areas they have a hard time getting to,” said Mark House, director of marketing for Sterifab, a producer of insecticide and disinfectant. “While wasps and bees die instantly from sprays, bed bugs can only ingest most chemicals through the stylus they put into your skin. It’s a small target, and sometimes the bug can be saturated with poison and not immediately die.”
Some states place restrictions on placing residual pest control products in cracks and crevices without a specific targeted pest, making the preemptive use of some products difficult. When they are allowed, Joe Barile, technical service lead at Bayer, said using dust-based pesticides in non-living areas, such as wall voids, to kill bed bugs that move from room to room is effective at circumventing the insect’s resistance to other treatments.
➔ 125 degrees
The temperature needed to properly kill bed bugs using heat treatment.
“Even when hotels are using heat treatments, pesticides are very effective against bed bugs when used in escape sites, and even inside furniture structures that might not be penetrated by heat so easily,” Barile said. “No hotel manager will ever tolerate leaving even a few survivors for this type of pest, so it’s crucial to handle their removal correctly.”
Ron Harrison, director of technical services at Orkin, said that while bed bugs will ignore glue traps, other types of interceptor traps can be effective at identifying rooms with bed bug activity. “Guests often won’t react to the first bite from bed bugs, so by the time they tell [the hotel] they saw something it’s already a problem,” Harrison said. “An inexpensive interceptor trap here and there can find them reliably.”
Harrison also suggests incentivizing the bed bug search for housekeeping by offering small prizes for finding them early before guests do. Harrison also said that bed bugs often hitchhike in guests’ suitcases due to their attraction to body odor found in dirty clothes. Guests can either seal their suitcases in a bag to prevent taking the bugs home in case of an infestation, or move their bags into the bathroom’s tub during the night.
“[Bed bugs] don’t do well walking up the side of a tub, and they aren’t usually in that area anyway, preferring to stay by the bed,” Harrison said.