Bed Bug Heat Timeline
You want to know what bugs me? Heat! Heat treatments for bed bugs annoy me and I will tell you why. First, we’re going to have to talk about how things work in this industry. What happens is a new fangle dangle widget comes out for pest control to kill bugs and we in the industry look into it, learn about it, try it out, and see what it’s all about. We find out whether it’s worth it or not. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is our excitement for the new item filters down into the consumer market on a delay. By the time we find out if something is great, not so great, or even dangerous, the consumer market is still thinking it’s hot snot. That’s what happened with Diatomaceous Earth and this is what has happened with heat.
Years ago everyone was having so much trouble with bed bugs, so they brought in heaters to heat them out. There were no chemicals so it was safe, green, and the silver bullet. They thought they would never have trouble with bed bugs again. I actually took some classes and the person giving them said this could eradicate bed bugs forever, and the industry will change dramatically. Hasn’t happened… Bed bugs continue to get worse and heat is not the silver bullet that you were told. Now, heat is a TOOL in the toolbox. It is a good tool, but no one that is even worth their salt for anything uses heat only. They still apply pesticides. Why? Because when the heat cools off, there is nothing killing the bugs.
How Bed Bug Heat Works… or Doesn’t
You don’t just walk into a house, set up a heater, flip it on, leave and then suddenly everything’s dead. Depending on what you read, the temperature has to be between 120 and 140 degrees at the bug. So the bug itself has to be 120 to 140 degrees for 12 to 24 hours, depending on what you read. You don’t just go in there and set up a heater, turn it on and leave it. This is convection heat. It is heat and fans and you have to know how to put the fans up to get the air rolling everywhere it needs to be. Depending on how your house is set up, that could be very difficult. If you have one big room or an open floor plan, it’s pretty easy. However, consider this. If it’s 200 degrees ambient temperature here, which is well over what it takes to kill a bed bug, what is the temperature inside the pillow, under the bed, between the box spring and mattress, inside the couch, or inside the walls. It’s not 200 degrees, right? So, if you’re sitting there and suddenly it starts to get a little hot and you get uncomfortable, you’re going to move over to a cooler area. Well, that is what the bed bug does. He moves over to cooler places, and those cooler places are almost always places that you can’t get to. So the heat will kill them, but you could push them into the walls. Especially if you don’t heat it up fast enough.
Another issue with heat is that there are certain structures where there’s no point in even trying heat. Most trailers, don’t even bother. They’re not sealed enough and not insulated enough. You can’t even get them hot enough. What about a log cabin or a very old house or a house that is stone? You’re going to have a hard time getting these structures up to heat. On top of that, if you’re not careful, you can at least melt a candle or melt some soap. I’ve seen TVs ruined, linoleum curled up, and finishes on furniture ruined. What about your sprinkler system? What if that goes off? Then you have a thousand-degree house that is flooded. Awesome!
So, it’s not the silver bullet that everybody said it was. There is no residual with heat. When you have heat and you turn it off, there is nothing there killing the bugs. That’s why even the companies that use heat still do chemical treatments. So what’s the point? The guys who do my canine inspections, where the dogs come out and sniff for the bed bugs, have a chamber just big enough to put a suitcase or backpack in to heat it up. They work with a camp for kids and have people coming and going all the time. That’s probably the best use for heat and the only place that I would recommend using heat. The bad thing is I have actually seen hotel owners take the big propane torpedo tubes and set those up in a one bedroom hotel room and try to heat it up. So when they burn the place down and kill thirty or forty people, it’s going to make the news. It’s not going to be good and it will happen. You just wait. It will damage TVs, stereos, electronic equipment, vinyl records, wallpaper, pictures, and appliances.
It’s a good tool, but for me and my company, I’m not even going to bother. I would have to kick you out for 12 or 24 hours and I’m just not doing it. So you want to know what bugs me? Bed bug heat! But I love killing the bugs that you tried to kill with heat!
Phoenix Pest Control