Bed Bugs Abatement a Growing Challenge for Landlords, Cities, Insurers
Claims Journal (Part 3)
Friday, June 17, 2011
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
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
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.
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
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
• Is it labeled for indoor or outdoor use, landscaping, farms,
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.