Bed Bugs, Turning Up the Heat

PESTICIDE RESISTANCE and bedbugs’ innate ability to avoid toxicant contact by hiding in cracks and crevices during daylight hours make alternatives like traps and heat hot topics at Entomological Society of America annual meetings. In contrast to ticks, where researchers have at least investigated biocontrols like micro-wasps, insect-killing nematodes and fungi, bedbug natural enemies have mostly escaped scientific scrutiny and testing.

Rutgers University’s Changlu Wang, an IPM (Integrated Pest Management; using multiple techniques) expert, is better known for his cockroach trapping skills in large public housing and apartment complexes in Indiana. Against bedbugs, Wang uses natural diatomaceous earth in bedbug interceptor traps (Climbup(TM); Susan McKnight, Inc.). This is in addition to clutter removal, bagging and washing infested belongings, new encased mattresses, and steam treatment (vaporized hot water) of floors, drapes and sofas.

Interceptor traps are designed to monitor bedbug infestations, and provide researchers population data. But these bedpost traps are also good control tools: In 10 weeks capturing 50% of the 8 to 1,103 bedbugs per one-bedroom apartment in Indiana. Though bedbugs can still crawl up from walls or behind headboards if a bed is flush against them, or even drop from ceilings.

Unlike “moat” traps surrounding bedposts, interceptor traps have a small container (which Wang fills with 20 ml of antifreeze for insect collection) inside of a larger container that Wang fills with an insecticidal formulation of diatomaceous earth. Future bedbug traps may also be able to take advantage of recently discovered airborne bedbug aggregation pheromones.

At the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Roberto Pereira and others are working on heat fumigation to kill bedbugs. When test tubes containing bedbugs are placed in 111-113 F (44-45 C) hot tubs, these hardy insects survive an amazing 2 to 6 hours.

However, specialized pest control companies in the southern California counties of San Diego and Orange routinely use heat (hot air) fumigation instead of chemical pesticides against drywood termites embedded deep in wooden structures. It requires skill to arrange fans to circulate hot air in buildings. Temperature readings inside the wood are needed every half hour or so to calculate the heat dose needed to cook the insects. If it can be done economically with termites living in walls, heat fumigation can also be done with bedbugs. But expect stiff resistance to heat technologies from established companies with large fixed investments in traditional chemical fumigation skills and equipment.

A cheaper alternative to whole room or whole building heat fumigation is relatively low-cost portable heat chambers. Small heat chambers (e.g. constructed of foam boards) costing $400 or less are already used by the hotel industry, shelters and others to disinfest furnishings. In Florida, portable heat chambers stop the annual spread of bedbugs on preowned beds and furnishings purchased by students. Hospitals have used heat to disinfest wheelchairs of patients too sensitive for pesticide treatments.

8 Responses to Bed Bugs, Turning Up the Heat

  1. Shredder says:

    Steam treatment for bed bugs are effective; though most of tried to use those pesticides in getting rid of bed bugs.

  2. […] Roberto Pereira has been working on hot air fumigation treatments to kill bedbugs in University of F…dorm rooms during the summer breaks between school years. Heat treatments have a long history of use in entomology (e.g. termites, stored product pests), but it takes some air circulation knowledge and skill. […]

  3. Bedbugs keep spreading trough the USA. We need to find more effective ways to fight them.

  4. Pest control for bed bugs is best to place in the cracks and crevices of your mattresses as well as your bed frame and base boards. Not only will this be where the bed bugs will be found, but by placing the DE (Diatomaceous Earth) in these areas you can avoid having the diatomaceous earth be disturbed and turned up into the air. Although it is not toxic, as with any dust, it is best to try to avoid inhaling large amounts.

    Seriously. These little buggers are gross. I purchased a bed bug mattress protector as another defense. I purchased the cotton bed bug blocker mattress protector from It arrived pretty quickly and i didn’t have to pay tax. Hope this tip helps. We have a best experience to pest control bed bugs in Dubai. please visit us to get more info about pest control services.

    joelg replies: Thank you for your tips. DE (Diatomaceous Earth) was recently tested at Virginia Tech. At the Entomological Society of America (ESA) annual meeting, researcher Molly Steadfast said a 1,000 ft2 (93 m2) apartment can be treated with DE for $32. DE costs about $8 for 8 oz (227 grams) in the USA, which can treat 500 ft2 (46 m2). It can take 5-6 days to work. Best to use food grade DE labeled as a pesticide for bed bugs; avoid the DE grades used for swimming pool filters.

  5. noam design says:

    I read this piece of writing fully on the topic of the comparison of most
    up-to-date and previous technologies, it’s remarkable article.

  6. […] have “hooked” or “trapped” bed bugs, might be considered an extreme and specialized form of pest control heat treatment to be practiced with extreme caution. But compared to combating blood-sucking (vampirism) and […]

  7. […] stored grain and many other packaged agricultural products, it would not be surprising to find that heat treatments combined with silica products like diatomaceous earth will also prove efficacious and perhaps also […]

  8. […] have “hooked” or “trapped” bed bugs, might be considered an extreme and specialized form of pest control heat treatment to be practiced with extreme caution. But compared to combating blood-sucking (vampirism) and […]

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