Bed Bugs Abatement a Growing Challenge for Landlords, Cities, Insurers

Claims Journal (Part 3)
Friday, June 17, 2011

Treatment Options

Though insecticides may be the treatment of choice for killing bed bugs, other options do exist, according to Henriksen.

"There are several different methods that are effective in killing bed bugs. Heat is one of them. Others include steaming, freezing, vacuuming, and use of properly applied pesticides. You are getting a lot of information on the temperature at which bed bugs can be effectively killed because a lot of research is still being done in that area. The most current data that we have shows that all stages of bed bugs…will be killed at 122 degrees Fahrenheit."

Factors considered when evaluating treatment methods include the extent of the infestation, the type of location that will be treated, and any budget parameters.

Treatment costs can fluctuate dramatically by protocol and region, says White.

Dr. Stephen Kells, associate professor and Extension and Research Entomologist at the University of Minnesota, who is conducting research on bed bugs, says humans have lived with bed bugs since the days of cave-dwelling.

Through research, he has found that freezing works well for smaller household items, like books. In order for the treatment to work the temperature has to be near or at freezing for approximately 6 to 10 days.

Steaming is another option, though not by utilizing a carpet steam cleaner. Instead, a steam generator must be used and the temperature must be between 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit in order to control bedbugs.

When treating with pesticides, Dr. Kells recommends multiple product types including dust, short action, and residual. "The reason is each has a specific area of use. Residual is used outside of rooms, dust to fill voids in the wall, and short action for beds and mattresses," the professor says.

Treatment Considerations

The NPMA has released best management practices for bed bugs in an effort to address appropriate treatment protocol. "They offer guidance to our industry in terms of the parameters under which good and effective bed bug work can be done", says Henriksen.

For instance, Henriksen says it's not a good idea to throw away a mattress known to have a bed bug infestation.

"We don't recommend anyone throw away their mattresses. In some cases that may need to be done. But if it is done it should be done only in consultation with the pest management professional. If someone goes and throws away their mattress, if done improperly, it can actually spread a bed bug infestation. Those bugs will walk off that mattress or crawl off that mattress as you are dragging it through your home."

Henriksen says many things can be saved and effectively treated.

Dr. Kells recommends asking questions of any pest management company retained for bed bug treatment. If a pesticide will be used, questions should include:

• Is it registered with the EPA?

• Is the pesticide labeled for bedbugs or for treating their habitat?

• Is it labeled for indoor or outdoor use, landscaping, farms, or barns?

In addition, he's seen issues arise when tenants try to remedy problems themselves. Using the wrong product or application method leads to increased costs in the cleanup of a contaminated apartment. Dr. Kells recommends landlords or their insurers oversee the treatment protocol.

In the case of the Ohio residential fire, Dr. Kells believes the manufacturer's own directions might not have been followed. He said the pest management professional used garage-style direct-fired heaters with a propane cylinder and placed them inside the home. "The actual unit made by the manufacturer for properly heating up a house during bed bug treatment requires that if a propane burner is used, it is positioned outside of the house," Dr. Kells said.