When you get a bed bug infestation, your first instinct is probably to panic. They’re disgusting little pests that literally feed on your blood.
Plus, bed bugs are notoriously difficult to kill--adults can go anywhere from 20 to 400 days without feeding, depending on the temperature and humidity. They’re cold-blooded, so in cold temperatures, their metabolism slows down and they can survive longer without food.
So, how do you get rid of bed bugs? Your best option is killing bed bugs with heat.
Here’s what you need to know about bed bug heat treatment and why you should consider this treatment option as your first line of defense against an infestation.
What is Heat Treatment for Bed Bugs?
First, though, you should understand what heat treatment for bed bugs is.
Heat treatments involve a process of heating up your home to a temperature of 130 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the treatment will kill bed bugs in all stages of life, including eggs, nymphs (immature bed bugs) and adult bed bugs.
Heat treatments at this temperature range usually kill bed bugs within the first hour and a half. However, exterminators typically keep the heat treatment going for several hours to make sure that any lingering pests are dead.
Why is Heat Treatment So Effective?
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? So why are heat treatments so effective in killing bed bugs?
Well, for one thing, bed bugs are increasingly resistant to many pesticides.
Think about it--we’ve been using the same pesticides to kill bed bugs for years. Over time, the bed bugs that don’t die from pesticides reproduce to make more bed bugs that are resistant to pesticides. And suddenly, you’re facing a group of bed bugs that is resistant to chemical treatment.
That doesn’t mean that chemicals are useless. They’re actually quite helpful as a supplement to keep the bugs contained. But as a standalone treatment, you won’t know whether you have resistant bed bugs until you try to kill them with pesticides--and the bed bugs refuse to die.
But heat is a different matter altogether.
Organisms can develop chemical resistance to a variety of random biological hazards, from potentially harmful chemicals to viruses to bacteria. But one thing organisms can’t develop a resistance to is heat.
That’s because it’s impossible at a cellular level. Living things are designed to thrive at certain optimal temperature ranges. When that range is exceeded, certain key proteins in cells begin to die and deteriorate.
This deterioration causes critical malfunctions in how the proteins of the cell interact with each other, disrupting key processes that help the cell live. If the degradation is too severe, the cell dies.
In a large, complex, multicellular organism like a human (or, say, a bed bug) the effect of rapid cellular degeneration makes it impossible for the body to maintain certain critical processes. If too many systems fail, the organism itself dies.
And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a single bacterium or a giraffe--if your cells can’t survive at certain temperatures, your body cannot function and shuts down completely.
When you trap a bed bug with a heat treatment, what you’re really doing is trapping the bed bug in an environment that’s too hot for it to survive.
Since the entire room (or your entire house) is too hot, there’s nowhere for the bed bug to escape before the heat kills it. And since the exterminator keeps the heat up for several hours, the bed bug can’t simply wait out the heat, either.
The bed bugs are just trapped in a room set at their thermal death point, for hours at a time.
We use a process called thermal remediation with Temp-Air heaters.
This process does more than just wipe out bugs with extreme heat--it raises the temperature of the room gradually to attract bed bugs to that area before killing them.
You see, bed bugs aren’t an all-purpose parasite. They feed specifically on warm-blooded creatures. So they’re not attracted to grime or dirt or anything like that--what they’re really attracted to is heat, since it’s a sign that there could be a warm-blooded meal nearby.
So, if a heating system raised the temperature slowly to make the bed bugs think that there could be a meal, they’ll all come to that area rather than fleeing from a temperature that’s too high for them to survive.
This way, you can ensure that your entire infestation is wiped out in one go.
Better still, our thermal remediation process is safe and eco-friendly for your whole home. Our system keeps the room at a steady 135 degrees Fahrenheit so that your belongings are protected.
That’s a big improvement over things like propane heaters, which can turn a room into a 250-degree oven that fries your electronics just as effectively as it fries bed bugs. It’s a rather expensive difference--pay to wipe out bed bugs, or pay to wipe out bed bugs and replace all of your electronics?
Why Use Heat Treatment?
If rapid cell death isn’t enough to convince you to use heat treatment, there are several other reasons why heat treatments are more effective (and convenient) for homeowners.
Done in a Matter of Hours
For one thing, heat treatments take less time than many other treatments.
When you get a heat treatment, the exterminator will take several hours to treat your possessions or rooms in your home at a high temperature that will ensure any lingering bed bugs are wiped out.
Some people try to freeze bed bugs. This can work--again, the temperature is so far from a bed bug’s preferred living environment that the temperature itself causes them to die. However, this process can take several days, and you may not be able to part with your furniture for that long.
Alternately, some people try to DIY it by sealing their possessions in bags and locking them in storage until the bed bugs die.
This is based on a clever understanding of what bed bugs are--they’re parasitic insects that survive by feeding on the blood of humans and animals while the host is asleep. It’s why they like mattresses so much--easy access to their food source.
So, by sealing your infested possessions in bags and then putting them in storage, you are theoretically starving the bed bugs to death.
The problem, of course, is that this process could take several months to ensure that all eggs, nymphs, and adults are dead. You may not have several months to spare--and why would you bother when you could have it done in just a few hours?
Pesticides Alone Is Not The Best Route
You could get a spray treatment with pesticides, and that, too, could be done in a few hours.
But chemical resistance aside, pesticide treatments alone may not be the best choice for you to handle your bed bug infestation.
Think of it this way: bed bugs are parasites. They feed on your blood. That means they like to occupy areas where humans live.
A common myth is that bed bugs only infest beds, but that’s not true at all. They infest more than just furniture. They live everywhere they can in order to have easy access to their food source (you). They live in beds, but they can also live in dark cracks and crevices--even a nail hole in the wall (adult bed bugs are the size of an apple seed).
So, if bed bugs live where you live, you have to treat every possible crack and crevice of your personal living space in order to ensure that an infestation doesn’t come back.
Heat treatments are a green extermination option, and they leave your home intact and chemical free in addition to being free of any creeping pest infestations.
You Can Cover Every Corner
Not only that, but heat treatments allow you to cover every corner of your home more effectively.
When bed bugs invade your home, they make a home anywhere that they can successfully hide. That often includes your bed and mattress, but they’re not picky--they’ll live just as happily in the walls, the carpet, the baseboards, and anywhere else they can stay out of sight until dinnertime.
Worse, bed bugs multiply rapidly, so even if you get rid of an easy-to-spot infestation, you may still have bed bug eggs or nymphs hiding elsewhere in your home.
Chemical treatments can trap the bugs in and create a barrier when you treat them. The real benefit of heat treatments is that the heat permeates your entire room or entire home and everything in it. Bed bugs may be able to hide from chemical sprays, but they can’t hide from the heat.
What Happens on Extermination Day?
With that in mind, let’s talk about what actually happens when extermination day rolls around.
The exact steps on extermination day will vary based on the company you hire, but there are a few commonalities.
First, the extermination team will arrive and place all of the appropriate equipment outside your home, including generators, industrial fans, and specialized heaters.
From there, they’ll go through your home to strategically place fans so that hot air will move throughout the house to kill all the bugs. They’ll also make sure that the heat will reach even the most hidden places.
They’ll also place temperature monitors throughout your home. This will help ensure that the heat treatment is at the right temperature and is consistently hot throughout your entire house. They’ll also move your possessions as needed to make sure everything is equally exposed to the heat.
You should plan to have everyone out of the house from early morning to at least late afternoon. The heat treatment takes several hours, and you want to make sure that your home is cool enough to safely occupy (135 degrees isn’t death for humans, but it’s still not a good idea).
How to Prepare for Bed Bug Heat Treatment
If a bed bug heat treatment is the right option for you, it’s important to prepare your home and belongings in advance of the heat treatment. Otherwise, you may not get the results you were hoping for--or it may not be safe to run the treatment.
First, you should do your own inspection before the exterminators arrive. Check for any signs of bed bugs and any particular areas that need focus.
From there, go through the whole house systematically.
You’re going to want to leave certain items in the house for heat treatment, but certain non-treatable items need to be removed. Heat treatment could ruin these items or create a serious fire hazard.
You should remove:
Aerosols and pressurized cans (like hairspray)
Any indoor plants, seeds, or bulbs
Any wax figurines or candles (they’ll melt)
Any oil paintings or valuable art
Carbonated beverages or drinks under pressure
Any other valuables that could be damaged by extreme heat
You should also unplug any electronics from outlets before the heat treatment is performed--you don’t want to create a fire hazard.
If you have any medications, make sure to store them in the refrigerator for the duration of the heat treatment process. Otherwise, they could be damaged or destroyed by the heat, and you don’t want to pay to replace them. If you have any food that may melt at higher temperatures, place that in the fridge or freezer as well.
Unsurprisingly, temperatures that are bad for bed bugs can also be extremely dangerous for pets.
You should make sure to remove any pets from the premises before the heat treatment begins, including:
Take them to a kennel or take them to stay with a friend or neighbor for the day. If anything, it may be wise to take them to the vet to be checked for any signs of bed bug bites so that they can get treatment if they need it.
Protecting Your Home in the Future
After you’ve gotten a heat treatment and wiped out your bed bug problem, the last thing you want is another infestation.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep an infestation from cropping up again. Here are a few ways for you to keep your home bed bug free after your heat treatment.
Reduce Hiding Places
One of the best things you can do to keep bed bugs away is to refuse them the opportunity to come into your home and set up shop.
To do this, start by reducing the number of hiding places.
Remember, bed bugs can and will hide anywhere they can find. Clutter is their favorite place to hide since you tend to overlook a mess and it’s easy for them to come out when you’re not paying attention.
In addition, a cluttered space makes it difficult for an exterminator to treat your infestation since it’s difficult to properly identify everywhere that’s been infested with bugs.
If your mattress has been treated for bed bugs, buy a special bed bug cover and beg bug box springs. This will make it much harder for bed bugs to find ways to hide in your bed and bite you while you sleep.
You should leave the coverings on for at least a year, and make sure to buy products that have been tested against bed bugs and are strong enough to last the entire year without tearing (it doesn’t take much for bed bugs to find their way through).
We said earlier that bed bugs aren’t attracted to filth. They aren’t, but many people think they are, which is why many people think that regular washing and drying will help keep bed bugs away.
It will help keep bed bugs away, but not for the reasons you think.
Regular, heated washing and drying of your bedsheets, blankets, bedspreads, and any clothing that touches the floor keep bed bugs away because the heat kills any bed bugs or bed bug eggs hiding in these items. The heat of a washer and dryer, much like heat treatment, is too high for the bugs to survive.
So, don’t give them a chance to take hold. Wash, steam, and dry your items regularly--don’t be shy about the heat, especially after you receive a bed bug treatment.
If a bed bug infestation does return after heat treatment, don’t panic.
Even if heat treatment does kill all of the bugs on the first go, it is possible that bed bugs may come back at a later date. They’re resilient pests and astonishingly difficult to wipe out completely, especially once they’ve made their way into your home the first time.
If you get another infestation, take a deep breath. Remember that you’ve dealt with an infestation before and you can deal with one again--this time, you already know what to do! It’s difficult to get rid of bed bugs for good, but it’s not impossible.
The important thing is not to let panic control your actions. Don’t throw out your furniture if it’s been infested. It’s expensive to replace furniture, and throwing it out may not resolve the issue. If anything, it may introduce the infestation to a new environment and create a new problem in another area, in your home or in someone else’s.
If you notice an infestation, keep calm and don’t make rash decisions. Don’t let the infestation take control of your thinking. It may be possible for an exterminator to control and eradicate the problem, even if the furniture is infested. The important thing is to get ahead of the problem as soon as possible.
Call a Professional Immediately if Infestations Return
If an infestation returns, it’s time to get your exterminator on speed dial.
There are several ways to DIY a pest control solution, from putting infested items in the freezer to setting them outside in freezing temperatures to creating your own heat treatment. However, there are several problems with a DIY approach.
Let’s say you want to freeze the bugs out. That will kill them, but you have to make sure it’s cold enough for long enough to actually kill the bugs. The problem is that many consumer freezers don’t get cold enough to kill bed bugs completely.
You also need to make sure the temperature stays consistent for an extended period--something that’s rather difficult to achieve if you have to keep reopening the freezer to check the temperature.
The same problem applies to placing affected items outside in freezing temperatures. You have no way of knowing whether it will stay cold enough for long enough to actually kill the bugs. And if it doesn’t, the bugs will come back inside with you--or flee to your neighbor’s house.
Just like that, you have a neighborhood-wide infestation.
DIY heat treatment isn’t a good idea for many reasons. For one, you don’t have the equipment available to safely conduct a heat treatment. You also don’t know how to manage temperatures and what to avoid in order to prevent a fire hazard.
Do yourself a favor. Call bed bug specialists first.
Do You Need Bed Bug Heat Treatment?
If you need a bed bug heat treatment, your best bet is to call in the pros. That’s where we come in.
We’re not exterminators. We’re bed bug experts. And when you’ve got an infestation on your hands, why would you settle for anything less than the best?