Bed bugs are a big problem for American homeowners: one-fifth of Americans have either had their own bed bug infestation or know someone who's had one. Bed bugs are hard to get rid of, even for professionals, but one treatment that can be effective is heat. Here's what you need to know about this treatment method.
How does heat treatment work?
Bed bugs are hardy pests and can survive in a wide range of temperatures; they can even survive for up to three days inside your freezer! However, high temperatures of over 45°C (113 °F) have been shown to kill adult bed bugs in as little as 7 minutes. The eggs are more resistant to heat and can take about an hour to die at these temperatures.
Why use heat treatment instead of bug spray?
Bug spray is an effective way to get rid of lots of household pests, like spiders and ants, but it's not a great way to deal with a bed bug infestation. This is because bed bugs have developed a resistance to a common class of insecticides, pyrethroids. Pyrethroids have been used a lot because they're relatively safe for people and pets, while being very dangerous to pests, but they've been overused.
Bed bugs have a genetic resistance to these insecticides and this resistance is coded right into their protective outer shells. The insecticides either don't penetrate through the outer shell at all or are neutralized before they can cause any damage.
Can you heat treat your own home?
It's not safe for you to try to heat treat your entire home, due to the risk of fire, but you can treat small items. You may need to do this if you've accidentally brought an infested item into your home. Infested clothes or other fabric items can be treated in your clothes dryer. Bed bugs will die after about half an hour in your dryer, as long as you use the hottest setting and don't overfill the dryer.
You can also use a portable heating device to treat small items that can't go in your dryer, like suitcases, backpacks, or purses. Portable heating devices are specially designed to kill bed bugs; these devices look like a duffel bag on the outside, but have a shelf on the inside where you sit your items. The device heats up to a high enough temperature to kill the bed bugs that are infesting your items. It's very important that you use a device that is designed to kill bed bugs, not a space heater or oven, due to the risk of fire.
How is an entire house heat treated?
To treat your entire house at once, pest control companies pump very hot air into your home through large pipes. The hot air is spread throughout your home with fans to make sure that the entire house is heated to the appropriate temperature.
While bed bugs don't last very long at high temperatures, your house will be kept hot for a few hours. This is to make sure that the heat gets a chance to penetrate all of the places that bed bugs hide, like inside cracks in your floorboards and behind your walls. Missing even one bed bug can allow the infestation to come back, so it's essential that the treatment is thorough.
The whole house needs to be treated at once to get rid of every adult bed bug and egg at the same time. Moving from room to room and treating the bugs gives them a chance to flee to other rooms and survive the treatment.
Bed bugs are hard to treat, but heat treatments are an effective way to get rid of them. If your home is infested with bed bugs, have a pest control company heat treat your entire home to get rid of the entire infestation at once.