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Kill Bed Bugs With Heat

Summary: It's a known fact that you can kill bed bugs with heat treatments. But, I have some issues with heat treatments that need to be addressed by people considering this pesticide alternative.

Mike; Vancouver, B.C. asks:

Do you know anything about heat treatments?  What is the success rate?  I live in a relatively cold climate.  I would rather not used residual pesticides.


Flour mills and food processing plants in the United States and Canada now routinely incorporate heat treatments into their pest control strategy. In fact, some North American facilities have used heat treatments to manage insect pest populations for more than 75 years. The process involves heating all or part of a facility to 120“140°F (49“60°C) for 20“36 hours.

Treating residences with heat also has been around for a while and is really getting a lot of attention since bed bugs have come back on the scene. The process can be quite expensive depending upon how much preparation is required. Heat is pumped into a structure through flexible ducts to raise room temperatures in the range of 140-150ºF for about one hour.

Here are a few of my issues with heat treatments. If you have a problem in one or two rooms of a structure and you wish to treat those rooms only, how do you prevent the pests from migrating from those rooms as temperatures rise? The insects won't stick around while the room temperatures rise to 140 degrees.

If it takes professional food processing companies over twenty hours to kill their insects, how does an hour or two of high temperatures kill all of the insects hiding deep inside a couch or inside walls? To be fair, some companies do adhere to the guidelines. Just keep in mind that heat has to permeate through layers of fabric and cushion or through drywall and insulation to be effective.

A "whole house" treatment can be expensive and disruptive. A small apartment treatment may cost in the range of $1,200 and with preparation, take up to eight hours. You have to remove perishable foods and goods like candles and sensitive electronics, even though the treating company will likely tell you that electronics are safe as long as temperatures do not rise above a certain point. I would make darn certain your contract covers issues that may arise with your three thousand dollar TV a month after the treatment has concluded. I would also ask a lot of questions about how the heat affects painted walls and wall paper. And, there is no way you want to leave your piano in that heated room. You will never be able to tune that instrument again.

There have been reports that many museums have stopped using heat treatments because of damage to furniture and specimens. In many cases drawers containing insect and other specimens shrank, cracked and became distorted. The heat treatment side effects were due to moisture loss and shrinkage of the wood making the treatment unacceptable. The humidity issue is yet another question to pose regarding heat treatments.

As you probably can tell, I am not yet a fan of house-wide heat treatments. I would, however, be in favor of heat treatments if done in a chamber or trailer. Lots more control doing it that way. In fact, some companies are using specially insulated box trucks and vans, to treat room furniture and other contents. This limited heat treatment of room contents elevates temperature inside the truck and holds it there for two to six hours.

Heat will kill insects, for sure. I just think there are easier and less expensive methods to achieve the same results. The heat process is chemical-free. That is a very positive point, but I would not call it the ultimate œgreen solution. Just think of all the energy that is used to achieve that temperature level. I think using some low-toxicity or natural pesticides may be an easier alternative.

Here is some additional bed bug information .

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