Friday, May 11, 2007

Heat and cold treatment

It's been a while since my last post, and I have to admit that I have lost the enthusiasm that I had at the beginning. I still surf the web for information on bedbugs, but am not as obsessed with them as I used to be, which may not be a bad thing after all. More and more I feel that, besides finding a solution to this epidemic, just as importantly, we need to find some ways to help us stay rational, calm, and mentally healthy. Fortunately, there is plenty of information about this that can be found on the Internet.

One strange thing that I have noticed on various bedbug blogs and forums is that, although pesticide resistance is so common, people don't talk much about it. Many sufferers don't know much about it, some are even in denial, and the experts are reluctant to talk about it since such topic is not welcome and often lead to heated argument. At least one expert told me that some bedbug sufferers took issue with her while she was trying to explain pesticide resistance to them. As a sufferer myself, I do understand that for people who have suffered so much from their infestations both financially and mentally, chemicals seem to be the last hope, therefore it is difficult for them to accept the truth that chemicals may not work as well as they have expected after all. But denying the truth will only make things worse by misleading others and spreading false information. As May Berenbaum, the head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, wrote in this article "If Malaria's the Problem, DDT's Not the Only Answer", "Overselling a chemical's capacity to solve a problem can do irretrievable harm not only by raising false hopes but by delaying the use of more effective long-term methods." (Recent research from both Virginia Tech and the University of Kentucky indicates significant pyrethroid resistance in bedbugs. Click here to see the abstract of the study done by Michael Potter and Alvaro Romero of the University of Kentuky.)

When dealing with extremely stressful situation such as a bedbug infestation, there are two things that people would commonly do. The first is to find a scapegoat, and immigrants are a convenient one, even though data clearly do not support the claim. By blaming others, one is basically implying that it isn't his/her fault, and therefore he/she does not deserve the consequence. The second is to look for a magic bullet, which is often DDT. Although subconsciously they might know that there is no such magic bullet, denying the truth would at least make them more comfortable psychologically. People talked about how DDT worked like a charm in the old days, but never mentioned that after the initial success, it failed in the Global Malaria Eradication Campaign, largely due to mosquitoes' resistance to DDT and malaria parasites' resistance to drugs. People also mentioned that the WHO was once again endorsing the use of DDT in Africa for malaria control, without realizing that its repellency action plays a large role in reducing malaria mortality, but repellency action will not do us any good in our war against bedbugs.

Besides being in denial, people also don't have enough knowledge about pesticide resistance. They don't realize that resistance occurs at the population level, and that it is very possible that one population is resistant to a pesticide while another a block away is susceptible to the same pesticide. Without knowing this, whenever they hear that an infestation has been removed by a pesticide, right away they would jump to the conclusion that bedbugs aren't resistant to that pesticide. In addition, it is possible for resistance to revert to susceptibility, and there is also cross resistance between DDT and pyrethroids. Pesticide resistance is a very complicated matter. Making the conclusion that DDT will solve our problem without having sufficient knowledge on pesticide resistance is inappropriate, to say the least. The bottom line is that, while there has been controversy over DDT's side effects on our environment and health, there has been no controversy over DDT resistance. For some background information on DDT resistance, please take a look at CDC's web site on malaria vector control.

(Updated on May 22, 07) More updates on DDT:

May Berenbaum wrote in the above mentioned article that by 1972, when the U.S. DDT ban went into effect, 19 species of mosquitoes capable of transmitting malaria, including some in Africa, were resistant to DDT. "What people aren't remembering about the history of DDT is that, in many places, it failed to eradicate malaria not because of environmentalist restrictions on its use but because it simply stopped working."

According to an article published in the Lancet in 2000, the current distribution of DDT resistance covers regions including West Africa (A gambiae), southwest Asia (Iran, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka; A culicifacies), Greece (A sacharovi), Egypt (A pharoensis), Central America (A albimanus), and a small area of Colombia in South America (A darlingi). However, the WHO indicates in this article that recent evidence from Africa indicates that pyrethroid and DDT resistance is more widespread than anticipated.

In May 2007, the WHO clarified its position on DDT, saying that it is "very much concerned with health consequences from use of DDT" and reaffirmed its support to the Stockholm Convention and commitment to reducing reliance on DDT in malaria control.

Pesticide resistance is such a common phenomenon that it has become the biggest obstacle to the successful control of most pests. For the pests that reproduce slowly, resistance is less of a problem since it takes longer time to develop, and for some pests such as termites, resistance is not an issue, since the reproductive functions are only carried out by the king and the queen, hence no selection would occur. But for most pests, resistance is the single most critical issue we need to deal with. To see resistance in action, simply spray some cockroaches with a roach spray, and you will find how hard it is to have them killed. That is not because the sprays are not effective. These products had been tested numerous times and proved effective before released to the market. It is because the roaches have developed resistance to them after repeated use.

What many people don't realize is that, among all the causes of treatment failure, pesticide resistance is the most difficult one to deal with. If someone happens to have a resistant bedbug population at home, further treatment with the same pesticide or the same class of pesticides will do nothing but wasting more money and time, and speeding up the selection process and allowing further development of resistance. Increasing the dosage (saturation strategy) may or may not solve the problem depending on the degree of resistance, but is not practical in general. A better approach is rotating the pesticides with different modes of action. As I mentioned previously, there are a few OPs and carbamate pesticides available, along with a handful of newer pesticides and natural products. However, although experts believe that some OPs and carbamates are more effective than pyrethroids, they are not equally effective and are generally a lot more toxic, and resistance to OPs and carbamates are also common in other pests. Therefore, it is true that rotation is a good way to deal with resistance, but there is no guarantee that it will work, particularly because of the very limited choices of pesticides available to us today.

Pesticide resistance is not the only reason why we need alternative control measures. Some people are sensitive to chemicals or have little children, thus chemical treatment is not an option. Even if you do hire a PCO, he will not treat all the items that have been removed from your drawers and closets, and there are also items that cannot be treated with chemicals at all. Vikane gas fumigation and structural heat treatment are often not an option to many people since they are expensive, cannot be used to treat a single unit in a multi-family dwelling, and may not be available or legal to use in many regions. In these cases, your best bet would be some alternative control measures, such as high heat, cold and caulking. These control measures can be just as effective as chemical treatment, to say the least. If used properly, they won't cause side effects and can be done by yourself at minimal cost.

Both heat and cold have been used to treat bedbug infestations, but research and data are still scarce. Many of the following concepts and theories are general rather than bedbug-specific, but can still be applied to bedbugs.

Heat kills insects by disrupting lipids, affecting water balance, damaging cell structures, and so on. For example, under normal situation, water loss from the body surface is kept at a slow rate by the wax layer. When the critical transition temperature is reached, increased kinetic energy cause the wax molecules to break the intermolecular forces - the van der Waals forces, and move apart, which in turn allows water to escape at a faster rate and cause dehydration eventually. Heat can also denature proteins inside the insect's body. Once denatured, the protein loses its normal conformation and can no longer function properly. However, insects do develop physiological and behavioral responses to high temperature. The first line of defense is usually behavioral avoidance. For example, during structural heat treatment, as the temperature goes up, a bedbug would try to escape the heat and seek a cooler shelter. Insects also develop physiological heat tolerance. The most common mechanism is the use of heat shock proteins. When an insect is exposed to high temperature, the synthesis of normal proteins is greatly reduced, while the heat shock proteins are induced and bound to denatured proteins to prevent or repair damage caused by heat. However, heat tolerance is generally much less of a threat compared with cold tolerance. In particular, steam and boiling water are so lethal that these tolerance mechanisms become irrelevant. (Note that tolerance is commonly used to refer to insects' ability to tolerate stress caused by extreme temperatures. Tolerance occurs at the species level, whereas resistance occurs at the population level.)

Heat treatment normally refers to structural heat treatment. Super heated air is released into the target area and circulated, and the temperature is raised to 140-160oF for several hours. This is to ensure that the temperatures in the harborages are maintained above the thermal death point, which is about 113oF. The biggest challenge is that, unless temperature can be raised up rapidly, bedbugs would try to escape the heat by moving into deep cracks or exiting the unit being treated. Therefore, the heated air needs to be well circulated to be able to penetrate into deep cracks, and the bedbugs have to be well contained either by caulking or insecticide dust. But I highly doubt that this step is currently being taken.

Heat sensitive items such as electronics and plastics are either protected with thermal blankets or removed from the treatment area. But some items, such as vinyl windows and plastic parts of big appliances, are difficult to protect or remove and may get damaged. Depending on the temperature and the duration of the treatment, wood furniture might shrink or crack due to loss of moisture. Since not every item is treated, some bedbugs might survive if they hide in the untreated items.

Some studies have found that the combination of structural heat treatment and insecticide works better than heat or insecticide alone. For example, field trials of the combined treatment with heat and Diatomaceous Earth have been conducted in cereal processing plants in Canada and U.S.. The increased effectiveness could be due to a few factors. Heat could damage the lipid wax layer and make it easier for the Diatomaceous Earth to penetrate. Also, as a bedbug tries to seek cooler sites, increased mobility would also increase its chance of hitting the Diatomaceous Earth on the ground. This is the reason why I also believe that the combination of pyrethroid and DE would work better than either one alone. However, keep in mind that in general, insecticides have longer residual action at lower temperatures due to reduced vaporization, and that pyrethroids typically work better at lower temperatures. In some cases, heat tolerance could even provide cross protection against some pesticides, and vise versa.

Relative humidity also plays an important role in structural heat treatment. Inserts are able to lower body temperature by evaporative cooling, a mechanism that is similar to sweating. As water is released to the surface of the body and evaporates, heat energy - latent heat of evaporation is released along with it, hence the body cools down. However, if relative humidity is too high, less water will be vaporized, and hence less heat will be removed from the body. Therefore, in general, it is to our advantage to have high relative humidity during structural heat treatment. On the other hand, with low relative humidity, although an insect is able to effectively cool down its body by evaporative cooling, it loses water at a faster rate and will eventually die of desiccation. In this case, it is important to not keep any water nearby, otherwise the insect might still be able to survive.

I mentioned the use of boiling water and steam in my previous posts. The biggest advantage of using boiling water and steam is that they kill instantly on contact. (Previously I said that the temperature of boiling water was 100oC, twice as high as the thermal death point for bedbugs, 45oC. But this kind of comparison makes sense only when the Kelvin scale is used. Temperature expressed in Celsius or Fahrenheit is not a ratio variable since zero degree on these scales is not an absolute zero point. Nonetheless, the temperature of boiling water is much higher than the thermal death point for bedbugs, making it lethal enough to kill instantly on contact.)

While it is generally not practical to use boiling water to treat an entire infestation, it also has some advantages. There are quite a few items that can be dis-infested with boiling water:

Anything that can withstand high temperatures, such as cookware, bakeware, dishware, kitchen utensils, etc.

Anything that you decide to discard, such as furniture and vacuum bags

Small furniture such as wooden chairs and stools.

Anything that is not expensive, such as mop, broom and garbage bin. You can give them a quick rinse, and who cares if they deform a little?

Some bedding items. I used it for my sheets and blankets. But depending on the material, some items could get damaged.

For large furniture, the biggest challenge is that excess moisture can cause other problems. But if you have an effective way to remove the moisture, then you might want to consider using it.

Steam can be practically used to treat most items. Steam is about 100oC at standard atmospheric pressure. But while it takes 1 calorie to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1oC, it requires 539 calories for 1 gram of water at 100oC to convert to steam at the same temperature. Therefore, same amount of steam carries a lot more heat energy than same amount of boiling water does, even though the temperatures are the same, and this is the reason why steam burn is worse than boiling water burn. When steam hits a bedbug, phase transition occurs again, but in the opposite direction, namely condensation instead of vaporization, and the significant amount of heat energy is released to hit the bedbug. However, not all steam units are suited for bedbug treatment. You should choose a unit that produces steam of slow vapor flow (so that it would not blow away nymphs and eggs), low moisture and high temperature.

The problem with steam is, only a small portion of the steam will reach the target, and most of it will condense upon hitting the cool surfaces. So if you are treating a deep crack or a thick mattress, the amount of heat energy that eventually hits the bedbug may not be enough to kill. Two things can affect the amount of heat energy that hits the bedbug: the distance from the nozzle head to the surface of item being treated, and the amount of time that the steam is applied to it. Keeping the nozzle head too close to the surface or releasing too much steam to the same area might cause excess moisture. Dr. Harold Harlan suggests this distance to be around 1 - 1.5 inches. Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association recommends that the nozzle should be moved at a rate of 30cm per every 10-15 seconds. Ideally, an infrared thermometer should be used to constantly monitor the temperature. According to Dr. Stephen Kells of the University of Minnesota, the temperature of the surface just treated should be around 80oC.

Clothes can be washed in hot water and dried on the hot cycle. A recent experiment done by University of Kentucky entomologist Dr. Michael Potter showed that washing cycle using hot water alone killed all stages of bedbugs, so did 5 minutes of drying on hot. Initially I was a little surprised by these results, but further research indicated that similar temperature and time settings were also lethal enough to kill other pests. Table 13.1 is based on the work done by Frobes & Ebeling in 1987, and shows the time required for 100% mortality (LT100) of four common household pests.

Temp (oC)Argentine ant (adult) German cockroach (adult)Confused flour beetle (adult)Western drywood termite (nymph)

Time for 100% Mortality of Four Pests in minutes

From this chart we can see that, first, insects are very vulnerable to high temperature, probably more than most people realize, second, a slight increase in temperature can significantly reduce treatment time. For a typical dryer, the temperatures of the low, medium, and high settings are about 140, 150, and 180oF, respectively. A five-minute drying at any of these temperatures is generally considered enough to kill all stages of bedbugs. Similarly, the temperature of the hot water at the tap is over 120oF, and a full washing cycle is enough to dis-infest any washable items. But again, it is always a good idea to have some margin of safety.

Other equipment that can be utilized to generate high heat include microwave, oven, and steam iron. An oven probably works better than a microwave since it is difficult to monitor the temperature inside a microwave, whereas the lowest setting of an oven produces a temperature of at least 150oF. If you live in a warm climate, you might consider wrap your items in plastic bags and place them directly under the sunlight for a few hours. Black bags are preferable since black does not reflect sunlight and hence naturally absorbs more heat than white does. However, since it is difficult to monitor the temperature of the items inside the bag, this is not a reliable way to dis-infest an item. Another alternative and probably more reliable way is keeping the items in your car that parked directly under the sunlight in the summer.

The main issues with these treatment methods include damage to the items and excess moisture. You should avoid applying heat to electronics and the outside surfaces of your furniture, and be very careful with the items that have plastic or adhesives. Both boiling water and steam could cause excess moisture. But in my opinion, moisture is a small price to pay, and it can always be removed or reduced afterwards with fan, dehumidifier, paper towel, hair dryer, and so on.

Cold treatment can be used to treat the items that are difficult to treat otherwise. Cold too can cause protein denaturation as well as irreversible injury to the cell structures and the neuromuscular system. However, cold treatment is generally less effective than heat, and cold tolerance poses a greater threat than heat tolerance does. You might wonder how an insect, about 70% of whose body is water, can survive sub-zero temperatures for hours or even days. There are a few reasons behind this. Firstly, the insect body might contain high concentration of antifreeze proteins and cryoprotectants such as glycerol, which allows the insect to depress the freezing point of the body fluid well below the freezing point for water. Secondly, even when the freezing point is reached, an insect might have the ability to undergo a process called supercooling, so that the body fluid does not freeze even when the temperature falls well below the freezing point. In fact, pure water, which consists of hydrogen and oxygen only, can be supercooled to about -42oC. While natural water, which contains other substances such as minerals, dissolved gases, and organic and inorganic substances, freezes at 0oC. These substances act as the nucleation agents, around which ice crystals start to form and spread, and the process is termed heterogeneous nucleation. But since pure water does not have such substances, nucleation occurs spontaneously once the supercooling point is reached, and the process is termed homogeneous nucleation. Nucleation and the subsequent crystal growth are the two essential steps of crystallization - a process that converts a liquid to solid crystal.

The presence of any nucleation agent or ice crystals can be devastating to an insect that undergoes supercooling, since once ice crystal starts to form, it can spread rapidly. To avoid such danger, an insect must try to minimize the water content in the body and to avoid any contact with external ice. In addition, supercooling is often associated with diapause, a predictive dormancy during which metabolic rate is greatly reduced and development is suspended. Before entering diapause, an insect would empty its gut to remove any potential nucleation agents. The bedbug's ability to survive without feeding for more than a year and to withstand subzero temperatures for extended period of time largely owes to its dormancy mechanism. There are two types of dormancy: predictive and consequential. Consequential dormancy is usually an immediate response to harsh environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures and dehydration, whereas predictive dormancy is predetermined. For example, the shortening of the day length signals the arrival of winter and could trigger diapause. But due to the use of air conditioning and heating and consequently the relatively constant indoor temperature, personally I think the importance of diapause is not as significant as it was in the old days, and dormancy is most likely consequential and is caused by adverse conditions such as lack of food or pesticide application.

To combat these mechanisms, researchers have discovered ice nucleating active bacteria that can be used to initiate nucleation and reduce insect cold tolerance. However, some freezing tolerant insect species have developed a complete different mechanism and can withstand certain amount of freezing outside the cells, and deliberately promote crystallization at higher temperatures to prevent the injury or death caused by rapid and spontaneous crystallization. Personally I doubt that household pests such as bedbugs would have evolved such extreme cold tolerance mechanism, even though they did live in the caves with humans in the ancient times. But this is just my opinion and is not based on scientific facts.

There are different opinions on the temperature and time settings for cold treatment. Some experts have suggested that 0oF for about one week should be able to kill all life stages of bedbugs. But since very few experiments have been done on cold treatment, I don't think this is conclusive and would only take it as a minimum requirement. For your information, a home refrigerator usually runs a few degrees above 0oC and a home freezer runs between -15 to -20oC.

Nevertheless, cold treatment can be used to treat many items that can't be treated with chemical or heat, such as toys and books. Small items can be placed in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator. For bigger items, use a chest freezer. However I've found that in a chest freezer, the temperature was acceptable at the bottom, but was much higher near the top, so do not over-pack the freezer. Unless you have a commercial unit, it is generally not practical to treat furniture with cold. But if you live in a cold climate, you might be able to dis-infest your furniture by wrapping them in plastic sheets and keeping them in your balcony or backyard for a few weeks in the winter.

Electronics seem to be the most difficult to deal with. Aerosols might cause short-circuit, and heat can damage the electronic circuits. Electronic components operate properly within the commercial temperature range of 0oC - 70oC, and could get damaged at sub-zero temperatures. I did keep many small electronic devices such as router, telephone, answering machine, mouse and keyboard in the freezer for over a week before moving, and everything still worked fine afterwards. My suggestion is, if it is something that you can part with and there is no other option, consider cold treatment, but if it is something expensive, don't take the chance. Also, after you take the item out, don't power it up immediately, instead, let it warm up slowly and reach the room temperature first.

Whether you use heat or cold, ideally you want to have the temperature changed as rapidly as possible, so that injury can be caused before the tolerance mechanism is turned on. Never expose an item to an intermediate temperature before exposing it to a more severe temperature. An insect's tolerance mechanism is turned on once a threshold is reached, and sometimes this could happen in a matter of a few minutes. Once the mechanism is turned on, it will provide protection from injury at a more severe temperature, and the effectiveness of treatment will be greatly reduced. One strategy to fight such mechanism is to keep repeating the cycle of freezing and thawing. This is because as the temperature returns to normal, the tolerance mechanism will be turned off as well. However, insects have developed a variety of tolerance mechanisms, some are associated with great fitness cost and must be turn off quickly while others take much longer to turn off. Since temperature setting and timing can be quite different for different insect species, without further research on the effects of cold treatment on bedbugs, it is difficult to employ this strategy practically. To minimize moisture caused by condensation, it is recommended to keep the items in a polyethylene bag, remove as much air out as possible, and thaw slowly after the bag is taken out of the freezer. When treating books with cold, another technique is to insert some aluminum foil sheets in the book to increase the freezing rate, probably due to aluminum's good thermal conductivity.

Similar to Integrated Pest Management itself, the use of extreme temperature is often mistakenly believed to be a new approach to pest control and not commonly accepted and practiced. The truth is that, the use of both heat and cold can be traced back to the beginning of pest control, but has declined since the arrival of the synthetic pesticides. However, due to the side effects and resistance that synthetic pesticides cause, there has been renewed interest in the use of heat and cold. Insects do develop physiological and behavioral responses to heat or cold. But a few degrees increase in temperature can be more significant than one hundred fold increase in pesticide dosage. And such increase in temperature or duration of cold/heat treatment is usually safe and doable, whereas such increase in the dosage of a pesticide could cause significant consequences and is usually not practical. It is true that heat or cold treatment does not have residual effects and treatment has to been done very thoroughly. But given the low effectiveness of the residual pesticides currently available, thorough treatment is likely the only way to effectively eliminate an infestation.

Updated on Jan 03, 2008.

It's been over a year since I had my bedbug infestation and subsequently infested my parents' place, and I believe I can finally claim victory now. I have stopped posting simply because I don't have much to write about anymore. If you work hard enough, it is entirely possible to win your own battle, but overall, we are losing this war, and I don't see an end to it yet. Bedbugs are still spreading everywhere and there is still no magic bullet.

Here are a few more recommendations that I would like to make:

Make notes of what you do everyday. By doing so you will know what you have done and will be able to identify easily what steps you might have missed.

Use plastic bags for storage. Ziplock bags are preferred. Keep the items that you don't use daily in a plastic bag before putting them in a drawer. Discard all the cardboard boxes. If you can't, place each box inside a garbage bag.

Use plastic sheets since bedbugs have difficulty crawling on them. Keep a plastic sheet under your CPU to prevent bedbugs from crawling into it, and under your chair, couch, and bed for extra protection.

"Bugged Out in Brooklyn" made a great suggestion on one of my old posts, which was to wrap double sided carpet tape along the side of the mattress over a fitted sheet. This should work well provided that there is enough space between the mattress and the bed frame so that they don't touch each other.

If everything else fails, the bed sheet can be used as your last line of defense. If you can somehow attach a piece of plastic sheet to the edges of the bed sheet, bedbugs will have a hard time getting close to you. You can even use this when you stay in a hotel. For extra security, have some double sided carpet tape on top of the plastic sheet. This way even if the bedbugs drop from the ceiling, they will be trapped. For this to work properly, the head and the foot of the bed should not be significantly higher than the mattress, otherwise you will need a very long sheet to cover the head and the foot of the bed.

Updated on May 15, 2008

Yes, I stopped posting, since I had posted everything that I knew about bedbugs. This blog is not perfect, but I think it is informative, and if you try as hard as I did, I believe you will have the success as well.

Currently I spend lots of time meditating, although this has nothing to do with bedbugs, I do believe that meditation is one of the most effective ways to deal with the stress caused by bedbug problem. I am going to a meditation retreat this summer, due to the success that I had previously, I am not so afraid of bedbugs anymore, but honestly, I am still a bit worried that I might get them again from the retreat.

Updated on Nov 20, 2009

It’s been three years since I first encountered bed bugs, and I remain bed bug free. I don’t have anything new to write about, but I do want to stress again that I am not against using pesticides. I won’t hesitate to use anything that’s effective on bed bugs, even if it could cause side effects to my health and/or the environment. But the truth is, most pesticides available are simply ineffective but costly. This is the reason why I recommend other measures such as caulking and heat treatment.

Also, any advertisement in the comment section will be removed. I’ve been trying to keep this blog ad-free from day one, because I believe this is the only way to keep my views unbiased.

Someone posted in the comment section his/her experience of eradicating bed bugs using space heaters, which I think is worth reading. Heat is one of the most effective measures against many insects including bed bugs.

There have been too many spam comments so I turned on moderation, sorry for the inconvenience.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for doing all this research.

You do a great job covering this technical material & translating into practical terms with good tips on how to apply the knowledge effectively. I think you captured the essence of why DDT is attractive to a bed bug sufferer & your point about resistance being the key issue is well stated.

Keep up the good work

Doug Summers MS

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Frank,
I am a fan, and always grateful of the care you take with the information you present--and I greatly appreciated your article on the origins of the epidemic, among others.

However, it strikes me that, in fairness, you might preface your endorsement of IPM methods to combat bedbug infestations by disclosing that you employed such methods successfully after moving, which itself was preceded by a normal pesticide treatment by a PCO, forgive me if I'm misrepresenting your experience. Moving is notoriously a likely failure for most, but it works in many cases, and, at the very least, when not completely successful, greatly reduces the size of the population.

You see, I too am worried about pesticide resistance. And I acknowledge that it is almost never discussed, because it is a thoroughly dispiriting subject, no doubt. However, I am not convinced that IPM methods currently available can be effective for most infestations. I'm talking wide deployment, large scale, big picture, policy, I hope you understand. The matter has not been studied, to my knowledge. Perhaps a field trial is in order. A trial of infestations in apartments, much like Dr. Potter's field trial of Cincinnati apartment dwellings, where only steam, vacuuming, caulking, and other such measures are utilized. I would be extremely interested in such data. Anecdotal evidence and personal experience lead me to believe that such IPM methods would be a poor solution. Some individual infestations, sure. A sound policy for the rest of us? Highly unlikely.
With deepest respect,

9:52 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Hi Doug and Hopelessnomo,

Thanks for reading my blog.

I actually had two infestations going on at the same time. Shortly after I discovered my infestation, I infested my parents' place. I did move out for a few reasons including bedbug infestation, even though I have never been bitten again since I had isolated the bed and caulked the baseboard and the floorboard. For my parents' place, I never used pesticides, instead, I caulked the whole place very thoroughly, including all the furniture. It was hard work, but I think it has paid off.

I have never opposed the use of chemical, and always believe that chemical should be part of IPM. As I posted recently on the Yahoo message board, all pesticides are toxic and are subject to resistance. We shouldn't just ban any pesticide because it causes side effects, otherwise we will have nothing to use eventually. Unfortunately, this is exactly the situation we are facing right now. But pesticide resistance is a completely different issue. If a bedbug population has developed resistance to a specific pesticide, further treatment with the same pesticide will do nothing to it. You have to either find out if the specific population is resistant to the pesticide, or more practically, rotate pesticides with different modes of action.

I do believe that rotation is a good way to handle pesticide resistance, but due to the very limited choice of pesticides we currently have, besides rotation, the best thing we can do is to combine pesticides with alternative control measures.


3:18 PM  
Blogger I HATE BED BUGS! said...

You have very extensive posts... Very informative! For someone like me who is caught in the web of the bed bug, it is very helpful and reassuring. I think you for your meticulousness in describing things!

4:08 AM  
Blogger I HATE BED BUGS! said...

and by "think" I mean thank!!

4:09 AM  
Anonymous Whole House Dehumidifier said...

I read more than I wanted to know. Feeling a little green, a little scared, and a little grossed out. Great post though.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Howard B said...

Hi Frank,

I am a licensed pest control operator here in Florida. I am not an entomologist.
My company has been using dry heat for the past five years. Initially on wood destroying insects and now exclusively on bed bugs, we use dry heat (propane powered heaters) in conjunction with Diatomaceous Earth. We have treated approximately 70 rooms with just one (the second job we ever did) retreat for bed bugs.
I am certain that we were the first as well as the fact that we have done (until recently) more bed bug work with heat than any other company. A former employee/business associate was actually the first to use heat for bed bug control. He left our company and consequently he stopped doing heat work. We continued on, becoming sub contractors for some of the larger companies in Florida utilizing heat for bed bug control as well as wood destroying insects. These companies would included Truly Nolen, Massey Services (who recently began using heat for bed bug control) Orkin and Middleton.
I tell you all this because the one thing that I have noticed (and I have confirmed this with the technical director of Massey) bed bugs do not seem to react to heat in the same fashion as termites or ticks (these are the only other pests we have used heat to control). Both termites and ticks are very heat sensitive and will move almost immediately when there is only a slightly noticeable change in temperature.
Bed bugs do eventually move when exposed to heat, but we have found that when the temperature is raised slowly bed bugs tend to stay where they are… basically until it’s too late. Perhaps this is due to their cryptic nature
Once the temp becomes beyond their tolerance, bed bugs will move, but by then it seems that the heat exposure that they have endured does not allow them to escape to a more livable temp. Again this is only if the temp is raised slowly. If you subject a bed bug to say a blast of steam, he will move immediately.
Heat with Diatomaceous Earth is in my opinion, the best way to control bed bugs in many situations. Hotel rooms and rental furniture would be the great examples of situations where you can be extremely successful using heat to eradicate bed bugs.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I need sleep. Here is my situation. I wonder if anyone can help me. I had someone who visited me about a month ago. He found out about 2 weeks later that he had bed bugs. I don't know if he had bed bugs when he was here, but there is defintely a chance. My kids spend time outside at night, and sometimes get bit by mosquitos, but now I assume every bite is a bed beg. I have seen some bugs and although I have seen tons of pictures, I still don't know if they are bed bugs or not. I saw a yellow bug that I thought was a nymph, but then looking at the size it was probably way too big. I itch at night, but have no idea if it is just in my mind. I have searched every mattress and surroundings daily and do not see any signs of bed begs. No black spots. I realize that it is likely that if i have it that they are younger bed bugs so maybe they aren't showing signs.

Anyways, I don't sleep at night because I am worried that I may have bed begs, but I don't know and have no idea how to determine for sure. I just ordered Declamatouros earth and am thinking of applying it anyhow. I am also thinking about raising the heat in my house to over 100. I am not sure if these steps would help or hurt. Would I put down the DE after the heat or at the same time? I would bring in a professional to do this but I dont think anyone does heat stuff in NY. In short, I am desparate and just dont know what to do. Any thoughts would be most helpful.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi there, reading that you even treated things like your keyboard and mouse worries me that i'm not taking enough precautions. however, my infestation is not severe at all; it was never bad and we caught it soon so it looks like things are heading downhill for the bedbugs. we are moving soon so bringing them with us is a huge concern for me. so far we've only planned to bag up our beds and wash all our clothes and steam items we can't wash. we're not bringing any furniture but the beds. does this seem like enough? thanks for all your information.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Lela said...

I know you are not posting anymore (congratulations on moving past the bugs) but this site is one of the single most useful bedbug resources I have come across and I'd like to thank you for it. I have recently discovered what I believe is a small bedbug infestation - nothing too freaky so far, but I want to nip it in the bud. I am 4 mos pregnant and very wary about pesticides. Although we may end up integrating some chemical treatment, I am grateful for all the non-chemical dependent strategies that you so thoroughly provide. I work in a farmer's market and am familiar with IPM as a growing method - I look forward to applying it to my home as well! Best wishes

8:40 PM  
Anonymous asda sat nav said...

This is a problem that effects a lot of people from all walks of life, bugs, all bugs can invade someones home and more or less take over without intervention.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous smadden said...

Thanks for posting such helpful and thoroughly researched information. Please check out my blog,

My blog will be updated fairly regularly with information, news and new products relating to bed bugs. The website that my blog is linked to is Bedbugcentral is an educational website powered by industry experts, such as Richard Cooper in hopes of educating the public about bed bugs. Check it out! Thanks! :)

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We cut Victor glue traps in half lengthwise and laid them on the floor along the baseboards. We are also using DE. Have wrapped the bed, washed sheets & bed clothing continuously, put tape on the bed legs and sides of the mattress. Sprayed a commercial spray (3 gallons so far). Also do regular vaccuming. Went a few days w/o bites but last nite got several. Can't figure how they are getting to me. Guess we'll try the ceiling treatment. Thought my husband wasn't being bitten but after reading this its likely he is and doesn't know it. We see fewer and fewer but how long can we realistically expect this to take?

9:37 AM  
Anonymous fingerscrossed said...

Howard B,
I recently had one of the companies you mentioned treat my house for BB. We tented with Vikane the first time, then discovered a freestanding building didn't receive enough gas, so we tented the two buildings a second time. Still had bites that were alarming, but not as bad as the early ones. We tented the entire property a third time and just re-entered. I'm scared but choosing to remain hopeful that we finally got them all. My question for you is this. In a situation where one CAN use Vikane, do you believe it to be 100% effective? Do you think it is AS effective as heat and DE? Please tell me I did the right thing!

1:08 PM  
Blogger Howard said...

Hi Fingerscrossed,
Not sure you will ever see this.
All bed bug control methods will fail if the pest control company does not perform the service correctly or the property is not prepared properly for treatment.
The two BEST chances for success in one treatment for bed bugs are fumigation with Vikane or heat treatment.
If you are still getting bitten,I would suggest contacting a company with a scent detection canine. Make sure the dog and handler are NESDECA certified. This is the best way to know if you are still suffering from bed bugs if you can not find live bugs but are still getting bitten

5:12 AM  
Blogger szimonsays said...

Great stuff Frank... too bad you aren't posting more. I am a Board Certified Entomologist out of Toronto.. very close to this issue.. in fact i deal with it every day in one form or another..
There is a bigger picture in addressing the problem. I haven't had a chance to read every line of your comments as I am very busy and was away on sick leave at time you last posted, but the story is far from told. The more sites with unresolved infestations, the bigger the problem will grow.. I think that the better hotels will handle it well - I met one of the directors of a major pest control firm that has this market and I know they are approaching it with a high degree of professionalism.. but this does not apply to all. It will take leglislation to enforce IPM strategies and to enausre that theere are IPM professionals following best practice standards before the problem is really solved.. Your blog does help a lot of people, but I think your target audience is well educated formally or informally because what you wrote is of a high calibre..

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. Thanks for the informative blog. I've been fighting bed bugs since I moved to New York City in September. Exterminators have sprayed twice and my wife and I have washed our clothes twice. I have a couple questions. If you answer, please email the link (or the text of the answers), if you'd be so kind, to

Can bedbugs crawl on surfaces covered in Vaseline? Do they return to the same spot each night?

We bought bedbug proof mattress and boxspring covers, watched our sheets and sprayed pesticide throughout our room. No bites for a week. We figured the room, or at least the bed was clear. So we covered the bed legs in vaseline and positioned the bed so it isn't touching anything but the floor (not touching the wall, nor our hamper, nor our dresser).

I started getting bit again after a week and a half. I can't figure out how the bedbugs got to us. Here are the possibilities. Please correct me if I'm leaving anything out.

1. contrary to what I read, bedbugs can make it through Vaseline. They were hiding someplace -- in the walls perhaps -- crawled up the bed legs and onto bed.

2. eggs survived the last round of pesticides and hatched somewhere on our bed (in our frame, for example, or in our quilt or pillows)

3. the 'bed-bug proof' mattress covers don't work

Which possibility makes most sense to you?

One thing that puzzles me is where the bugs are hiding. Do you know if they return to the same spot every night? Or do they -- as seems logical -- hide in the nearest suitable spot after biting me?

Thanks in advance for your advice.

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Frank, I'm a new member of the Fight the Bed Bug Club.

I brought them home about 19 days ago. The original source has been identified beyond a doubt but it took me about a week of itching and scratching and reading before I realized the gravity of this situation.

I cleaned, cleaned, cleaned everything. Washed, washed, washed everything in hot water. My bed, frame, and couches have been sitting on my balcony in -10 for about 2 weeks now. Two days ago I had a professional come over and do his thing (vacuum, steam clean, and spray).

Next I will caulk all the cracks. But do you think I can that the cold will kill these creatures if they were hiding in my furniture?

I have been staying at my parents the last week and was bitten a few days ago.

Frank, can you give me advice? I thought the battle was tied, but now with my parents I feel like waving a white flag.

What a nightmare!


3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Frank,

Thanks for your great work!

I am suffering from bed bug infestation in my apartment. It seems, my neighbors had them and they moved out. They had their apartment exterminated, but right now I have these bugs!! I need help. We had one extermination done and will be having a second one next week. I have all my clothes in big garbage bags tied well. Got rid of my mattress/blankets/linens/pillows..My bed had black spots everywhere. I am staying at my friend's place and using my friend's clothes. I went to visit my place yesterday and found a lot more on the ceiling...I dont know what to do. Though we are having a second round this week.. I am very concerned to buy a new mattress... I cant handle these terrible rashes and itchiness.... What can I do to make sure these bugs leaves my place for good?!!I desperately need some advice please!!

Many thanks again :)

12:15 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

Wow, great work. I never thought that small suckers could influence quality of live so much. Good luck and happy meditating!

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your research is prodigious and your advise thoughtful. I do have some experience to share about using heat treatment.

I too was infected with bedbugs, a depressing experience to say the least, and arranged for standard chemical treatment by a licensed and experienced exterminator, which then had to be followed by a second treatment several weeks later, as the problem persisted. Both treatments did reduce the infectation substantially, probably by 90% to 95%, but a few bugs survived and the spectre of a long continuing battle loomed.

I then went to plan B: heat treatment using space heaters. At first this did not work, as most heaters on the market turn off automatically, a safety feature, at a temperature too low to affect the bugs. Luckily, after much experimentation, I eventually found the right heater and managed to completed destroy the bedbugs.
Here is what happened:

I purchased four DeLonghi space heaters, model DCH1030 (1500Watts). This is the only one I could find that would work, although there might be others on the market. Five or six heaters would be better than four, but you might find a problem with obtaining sufficient electic power (see below). I also purchased a radio shack remote thermometer so that I could read the room temperature from another room.

I placed the four heaters at the four cornners of my bedroom, about 2 - 3 feet away from the walls. I removed all sensitive items (e..g candles), opened all drawers and covers the single window in the room with a blanket. As each heater draws about 10 amps, it is important to obtain power from different outlets in the house, as otherwise fuses will blow or breakers will trip. I placed the thermometer under my bed, turned on the heaters and closed and sealed all doors.

It took about 5-6 hours for the termperature to reach 120 deg farenheit. At one point, when the temperature was approximately 112 deg, I entered the room to see what was happening. I noticed one bedbug moving in circles openly on my bed. It was clearely in a dire circumstance.

I continued to let the room heat at a temperature greater than 120 deg for another five hours. When I entered the room, turned off the heaters and let the room cool down. I noticed also that the heat had well penetrated the wooden furniture in the room, a location wher bugs may well ahve hidden.

I have not had a problem since.

6:14 PM  
Blogger butterscotch said...

In researching how to eradicate bedbugs I came across a product that uses cedar oil. The website has a video showing in a lab how it kills fleas, bedbugs, under a minute. I am surprised nobody has mentioned using pine sol. I have found one squirt and they are dead in their tracks. I'm not sure how bad my infestation is yet but I don't want to take any chances so I am throwing out my mattress, cleaning and laundering, etc. I don't know how effective the pine sol will be on eggs and getting into their hiding places, and will take additional measure as needed, but if you want to kill on contact use Pine Sol. :)

1:07 AM  
Blogger phyllisbug said...

BED BUG SURVEY -looking for feed back for study
Please Help

Were you able to find bed bug products easily?

What type of store would you go to to find bed bug products?

Briefly describe the "ideal" bed bug solution product.

Where did you find the products? (type of store and
department in store)

What type of products did you use?

How was your success with the products?

Please add your own comments as to your bed bug experience.


8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lot's of things that are relatively safe for humans will kill them instantly if you can see them, or know where they are hiding. Rubbing alcohol is excellent. I put some in a spray bottle. Just be careful if you smoke!

10:39 AM  
Anonymous bed bugs said...

It is really hard to get rid of bed bugs. i also had this problem and the best solution is to replace all your bed room.

4:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello and thank you for the info regarding bed bugs. Well I just found out that I have these pests in my home. I live in Saskatchewan, Canada and am being told that bed bugs have become an epidemic here where I live. I'm wondering if I have to wash my dark close in hot water as well as drying on high heat. I really don't want to take the chance of washing my darks in hot water for fear of ruining them. My pesty bug friends have caused me great emotional stress along with other issues in my home it has recently caused me to have a nervous break down. The exterminators are telling me that it's going to be a $1500.00 extermination fee which I can not afford. Is it possible to kill these critters with non stop cleaning and disinfecting everything I own? I'm also using bug spray it's called 1 One Shot makers name is Wilson, it's for crawling insects. The can states that it's good for killing Cockroaches so I thought that it would help me keep them at bay. I only found one adult Bed Bug on my sons bed. Since I found only one dose that mean that there is going to be alot more? I also can't find any pics of the larval state so I don't know how to identify the larvae? Can anyone give me some pointers as to what to look for. Thank you Extreemly Stressed Me.

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God helps those who help themselves........................................

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:31 AM  
Blogger Dewey said...

I don't know if this will get to you as I see you have finished with the blog and it is filling with spam comments.
I don't have bedbugs, but I'd like to use your mind a bit. I go to Vegas often and want to avoid them. I have quite a few strategies, but this one is puzzling me. I have a sleep apnea machine and there is no real way to keep the pests out of it. Do you have suggestions on a barrier to be easily used in hotels?

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Preferred Pest Control said...

Hi Frank.

Thanks for the extensive post about your experience with bed bugs.

I am a pest control technician and today I flipped a king size mattress and the bottom of it was covered with tons of bed bugs. Very infested!

We have recently started to do heat remediation treatments for bed bugs and it has been working very well. It is crazy how the bed bug doesn't run from the heat as lets say a cockroach does. It is crazy how I can be heating up a room that is infested with roaches and bed bugs and when I'm heating it up the roaches start pouring out into the hallway but the bed bugs come out and die. Roaches are a lot more resilient to heat than bed bugs are.

Also what is your experience with heat on bed bug instars. I find that adult bed bugs are easier to kill than nymphs or eggs.

Its a crazy world here with bed bugs.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Lisa - Davie, FL said...

Thanks for being there! We have finished a month of permethrin/silica dust/gentrol treatments to no avail. This is even with a minor infestation. We've only seen 6 bugs total the whole tiem. We're moving on to Thermapure Heat treatments. This is our last hope - can't do Vikane in a multi-unit dwelling. This is all so ridiculously expensive! Thermapure is going to be $3000 for our 1900 sq ft townhome with garage. UGH!

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Keith Gordon said...

I have been in the pest control biz for 17 years. Since bed bugs were brought into my area about 6-7 years ago I have performed about 3000 bed bug jobs and I have NEVER FAILED to get rid of them. We do a traditional chemical treatment. We use several products but Phantom and Temprid are the most common. All I have to say is, it is not the chemicals that fail. It is the technicians that are failing. That goes for heat as well. The method is only as good as the technician. I would never think of switching to heat because it costs the customer way too much $$$ and I hear all kinds of horror stories about damage every day of the week. I will admit that from time to time we have to make a second trip but, it seldom has anything to do with the treatment. It is normally because the customer was not prepared or they only gave it a day or two to work. If you are told that it will take multiple treatments... Don't buy from them. The problem is that very few companies have figured out how to do it right. We are lucky because we have really good guys and I am involved in almost every treatment. I also train them from my personal experiences. Not by what I read or people say. Bottom line is, if you spray a bed bug (or it's eggs) with these products, it will die today. If it walks on a treated surface, it will die in 7-10 days. The ones you miss with the spray have to molt 5 times before they are big enough to reproduce. It also has to have a blood meal each time it molts. That means if I kill as many as I can find, then surround the beds, couches and chairs with these products, I have 5 chances that they will walk through the treated areas before they can ever reproduce. This works every time it is tried. I just don't get why our industry has so much trouble with this. Bed bugs are one of the easier problems that we have to deal with.

Good Luck and don't stop looking until you find the guy that says he can do it on the first try with insecticides. Then ask for 5 references and call them. All 5 need to tell you that one treatment worked. Also, stay away from heat. It is too new and we are finding out that it has major flaws. If that fails, move to Iowa and hook up with me. He He!!!!

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!!! I googled "bedbugs caulking" and was directed to this incredibly well-written blog. I honestly believe that bedbugs would not be the epidemic it has now become if people were better informed in how to protect their homes and informed in basic biology and common sense. When I realized I had bedbugs due to bites, I knew that I needed to caulk the seams in my 500 sq. ft. apt in nyc immediately. I probably used about 10 caulk guns and was shocked to see how many cracks had gone unnoticed since I first moved in 6 months ago. I'm positive the bedbugs came in through these cracks. I also coated my wood bed frame in polyurethane as well as some open seams in the wood floor. I doubt I am 100% bedbug free right now, but reading this site makes me feel that I've been taking logical, positive steps to prevent this infestation from exploding. Reading about the lifespan of the bedbugs is especially helpful in keeping me hopeful! The longer I can go without getting bites... the more confident I can be about their population dying. ugh...

2:51 AM  
Blogger Hasan said...

Hi, I have seen a few bed bugs but haven't felt bitten in a few days. This is when I put my head under the ceiling fan. Hence, I was wondering if having some device that moved the air around (away from) your head helps. Basically, I'm not sure if they find your body or your bed (sleeping area/room) using CO2. If it's body, this may be one more way of denying them a meal.

11:28 PM  

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