How Does Bed Bug Treatment Work


Bed Bugs

When Treatments Don’t Work

If the goal is to eliminate bed bugs, the job has to be done correctly. Bed bugs are so small that they can live in a crack the width of a credit card, increasing the control challenge.

Pesticides often are an important part of a control strategy but they must be used properly for the treatment to work. There can be many reasons for failure of a pesticide treatment to completely control the bed bugs, including:

  • Not finding all the bed bugs.
  • Inadequately preparing area (failure to remove clutter, seal cracks and crevices, etc.).
  • Overlooking treatment of any of the known resting areas (bed bugs may rest or hide in hampers, bed frames, even furniture).
  • Failing to treat nearby areas where bed bugs may have migrated (adjacent rooms or other apartments in multi-dwelling housing).
  • Disregarding recommended label rates (applying pesticides at too low a rate may not kill bugs and may speed up development of resistance to that chemical).
  • Not following up on treatment in an appropriate timeframe (many pesticides will not kill eggs, so treatment must be repeated after the eggs hatch, or the infestation will not be controlled).
  • Not allowing enough time for a pesticide to work (some pesticides, such as drying agents or growth regulators, may be effective but take some time to kill the population).
  • Bed bugs becoming resistant to a specific type of pesticide.
  • As insects, such as bed bugs, are exposed to a pesticide over time, the most susceptible ones are killed first, leaving only the less susceptible ones to breed. This can result in a rapid decline in relative effectiveness of the pesticide.

Pesticide Resistance as a Cause of Treatment Failure

While there is evidence of resistance in some populations to certain types of pesticides, pesticide resistance can only be verified in laboratory tests. Researchers are currently trying to determine the scope of the resistance problem, which will vary from community to community. This research will support the development and use of effective control strategies.

Because of the potential for resistance, homeowners and others trying to control bed bug infestations must always use pesticides appropriately and according to the label. It is also important to:

  • be vigilant in surveillance, identification, and monitoring efforts;
  • hire trained, experienced, and reputable pest management professionals; and
  • use a comprehensive approach.

For example, you may wish to:

  • choose different types of pesticides from the list of currently labeled ones for sequential treatments; or
  • use pesticides for which insect resistance has not yet been reported, such as diatomaceous earth, in combination with other control techniques.

Remember, as illustrated in the list above, resistance is only one of many possible causes of a treatment failure. All possibilities must be explored in any situation.

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Bedbug Treatments: Facts and Myths

What works and what doesn’t to get rid of a bedbug infestation?

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Bedbugs aren’t easy to get rid of, and in desperation, you might be tempted to try the first remedy you read about online. Unfortunately, many of these methods are ineffective—and some can even be dangerous. If you ever find yourself in a battle with these pesky varmints, make sure to separate fact from fiction before you fight back. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will save you time, money, and aggravation.

Fact: You’ll Need to Call Pest Control

The most effective means of getting rid of bedbugs is to call in a trained professional and have them apply a pesticide. Many pros also recommend giving your home a thorough cleaning because bedbugs can hide anywhere and pesticides can’t be applied to everything you own. You’ll need to get rid of clutter and launder anything washable in hot water. You may also need to steam-clean your carpets and furniture.

Fact: Pesticides Don’t Always Work

Bugs can develop resistance to pesticides over time, especially if they’re overapplied. Chemicals, such as deltamethrin, that were once commonly used to combat certain pests are no longer effective. According to research from 2017, bedbugs may be developing resistance to pyrethrums, the most common chemical used to combat them.

Fact: You May Not Have to Toss Your Furniture

If the infestation is caught early, a professional pest control application and diligent cleaning should remove these critters from your furniture. More severe infestations are another matter. If your mattress is torn or separated at the seams, bedbugs have likely moved inside, making treatment near impossible. In such circumstances, replacement may be your only option.

Fact: Mattress Covers Work

A number of companies make bedbug resistant mattress covers that form an impenetrable barrier around the exterior of your mattress. If you’ve had your home treated for a bedbug infestation, using a mattress cover can prevent any remaining bugs in your mattress from getting out and biting you.

Myth: You Can Kill Bedbugs With Bug Bombs

Bug bombs, or total room foggers, release a pesticide into the air in your home. Most bug bombs contain pyrethrin, one of the chemicals used to combat bedbugs, so you might think this product is an effective way to eliminate an infestation. Not so.

First of all, bedbugs (and other crawling insects) typically flee when pesticide is released, heading for cover in the deepest, most inaccessible crevices of your home. Second, effective treatment requires directed applications in all the places where bedbugs hide: behind moldings and casements, inside electrical boxes, or inside mattresses, for example. Chemicals released by a bomb simply can’t reach such places adequately to kill all the bedbugs in your home.

Myth: Bedbug Sniffing Dogs are Highly Effective

While companies that use bug-sniffing dogs may claim a success rate of over 90%, the truth is, there hasn’t been a lot of testing to see if these claims are true. (And at between $500 and $1,000 for their services, that’s an expensive "maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t.") In 2011, two researchers at Rutgers University did put some bedbug-sniffing dogs through their paces in real apartment buildings, and the results were nowhere near as effective as advertised. The accuracy of the dogs’ detecting abilities averaged just 43%.

Myth: You Can Kill Bedbugs by Turning Up The Heat

Heat treatments do kill bed bugs effectively, but simply turning up your thermostat isnota heat treatment. To roast bedbugs in your home, you’d have to heat the entire house evenly to over 120° F for at least an hour (including the voids between interior and exterior walls and the insides of your furniture). No home heating system is designed to do that. Professional heat treatments usually involve sealing your home and using multiple heat sources throughout the house to raise the temperature.

Myth: You Can Kill Bedbugs by Turing Off The Heat

Temperatures below 32° F can and do kill bed bugs outside of the home—if temperatures remain below freezing for a prolonged period of time. but who wants to live in a freezing house? Moving out for the two to three months that it would take to starve bed bugs of their source of food (you) is equally impractical.

Do DIY Bed Bug Treatments Work?

>While bed bug treatment isnot something that you want to DIY, there are some DIYers out there who will want to fix the issue on their own. While the following tips will not help you fully remove the bed bugs in your home, they may help you reduce the infestation.

The scary truth is that most people don’t know they have a bed bug problem until a few days after they’ve been bitten or until they spotsigns of bed bugs. These bloodsucking pests are active only at night and are rarely seen by their victims. Prevention is always the best strategy againstbed bugs. However, should you find them in your home, here are a few treatments to help reduce the number of these nasty critters.

How to Help Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Take Your Infested Bedding to the Laundry

Did you wake up with small insect bites clustered around your arms, neck, back (or any area of your body that is exposed while sleeping)? Is your mattress and bedding dotted with dark reddish spots or smears? Are there bed bugs’ molted skins present? Or does your bedding have a slightly sweet or "rotting fruit" odor? If your manufacturer’s instructions allow, wash your bedding in hot soapy water at a temperature of at least 120 degrees. Your washing machine’s hot water setting should do the trick. A normal household dryer’s settings are typically hot enough to kill bed bugs, so dry all bedding using your dryer’s highest heat setting. Bed bugs cannot survive in a hot dryer longer than 20 to 30 minutes. Be sure to check the care instructions for your items first, and keep in mind high heat settings can damage some fabrics. Be sure to transport your bedding to and from the laundry room using a dedicated hamper or bags in order to help prevent cross-contamination of clothing, towels and other laundered items

Vacuum and Seal

Run your vacuum across your mattress, inside the bed frame, under your bed, along your baseboards and even your headboard. Be very thorough in all cracks and crevices where bed bugs, eggs and other particles are hiding. Dispose of your vacuum bag in your outside trash receptacle. Wrap your mattress (and even your box spring) in specially designed, bed bug encasements. These help prevent bed bugs from being able to hide and make nests in your mattress.

Schedule a Bed Bug Inspection Now

Though the tips above may help you temporarily reduce the bed bug infestation in your home, these insects are prolific breeders and hard to fully remove. Of course, the best method for controlling bed bugs is professional treatment. An experienced bed bug control professional will be able to inspect your home for the presence of bed bugs and recommend a customized solution, based on if, and how many, bed bugs are found.

Effective bed bug control typically requires different methods of treatment used together – something that a trained professional will be able to do.Click hereto schedule your inspection. A local technician is ready to professionally assess and address your situation, eliminate bed bugs where they live and breed and get your home in order with as little as disruption as possible. Call us, and let us help you protect your family from bed bugs.

MSU Extension

There are steps to take after a pest management professional has treated your home for bed bugs.

When working with a pest management professional (PMP) to eradicate bed bugs, it is important to cooperate and follow all steps that are specified by the PMP. According to research, individuals who work cooperatively with their PMP’s can make the eradication process much shorter. The Michigan State University Extension article, Preparing Your Home for Bed Bug Treatment, outlines the steps that should be taken.

If the PMP’s treatment included pesticides, they will tell you how long to wait before re-entering the home. Once inside, air the rooms for an hour. Linens and clothing that were left in the treated rooms should be washed and dried. Wash in hot water and dry on the hot setting for at least 30 minutes. The PMP will tell you when the room can be vacuumed.

Bed bug management is a time consuming and difficult task. After physical repairs, cleaning and treatment have been conducted it is important to monitor for surviving bed bugs. If the PMP used conventional treatment, there may be some surviving eggs that will hatch. This doesn’t mean that the treatment was ineffective. As these eggs hatch it will be necessary to continue monitoring and to have follow-up treatments. A conventional chemical treatment program will usually require at least one follow-up treatment two weeks later.

You may continue to sleep in your bed after treatment. Encasements should be put on mattresses and box springs. Any surviving bed bugs in the mattress or box spring will not be able to escape the encasement or bite. Encasements also prevent bed bugs living in other parts of the room from establishing themselves in the mattress or box spring.

After treatment the PMP will inspect to determine whether the treatment has been effective. If a significant reduction in bed bugs is not observed, it may be necessary to consider a combination of methods or an alternative to the treatment that had been used. You will have to follow any steps outlined by the PMP prior to the follow-up service to prepare the room(s) or home. Monitors such as sticky traps or bed bug interceptors may be helpful in the weeks following treatment.

There are several reasons why a treatment may not be effective:

  • All sources of the bed bugs were not identified during the inspection phase.
  • All sources of bed bugs were not treated.
  • Ineffective insecticides were used or there was insufficient contact time if heat was used.
  • Re-introduction of infested items. If any of your belongings were removed prior to treatment and then brought back afterward, bed bugs could be re-introduced. In order to avoid this, do not move items out of the home or area to be treated without first consulting with your PMP.

For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit the Michigan Department of Community Health website,

This article was published byMichigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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Does Bed Bug Heat Treatment Work?

From pesticides to mattress covers, tea tree oil to chemical foggers, diatomaceous earth to frequent vacuuming, you can find thousands of sources touting as many remedies for bed bugs. One frequently-mentioned extermination method is heat treatment, where pest control companies (or sometimes, negligent landlords) claim to kill bed bugs by raising the temperature of the affected area. Heat treatments are simple, but are they really effective? Our apartment bed bug attorneys explain the pros and cons of killing bed bugs with heat.

How Do Heat Treatments Work Against Infestations?

The theory behind heat treatment is simple: the affected home or apartment is transformed into a temporary oven, effectively baking the bed bugs to death.

Specific procedures and equipment used will vary from one company to the next. Generally speaking, the company applying the treatment will fill the apartment or home with portable heating units as needed for the size of the space, gradually raising the internal temperature until it falls within the range of 113 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit (about 45 to 57 degrees Celsius), depending who whose guidelines are being followed.

Some companies say they will rotate furniture and appliances throughout various rooms to ensure that each and every possession receives an equal and adequate dose of exposure to heat. Others supplement their heat treatments with the application of insecticides into cracks and crevices. All promise thorough and effective eradication.

Once the bed bugs are dead, the heat is turned down, and the owners and their pets can safely and comfortably return to a clean, sanitized, bug-free home.

Or at least, that’s the idea. While heat treatments have thepotentialto be effective when rendered appropriately, there are some important caveats and specifications which renters and homeowners should be aware of. Not all pest control contractors deliver promised results.

Can High Temperatures Kill Bed Bugs?

It’s basic fact that extreme temperatures can cause organ damage or even death. Humans begin to enter a state of hyperthermia once their core body temperature reaches about 101 degrees, while internal temperatures exceeding 104 degrees — just a few notches higher — can be fatal. Cats and dogs can perish after spending just minutes inside a hot car on a sunny day, and even cold-blooded creatures like reptiles and amphibians must eventually retreat from the sunlight into shade to avoid dangerous overheating.

Bed bugs, like any other living being, are also susceptible to extremes of heat — provided both the temperature itselfandthe duration and consistency of exposure are sufficient. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) reports bed bugs will die after 90 minutes of “constant exposure” to temperatures of 113 degrees Fahrenheit, or after just20minutes of exposure to temperatures of 118 degrees. The eggs, however, can withstand even 118 degree temperatures for up to 90 minutes, which means at least 90 minutes of exposure is necessary in order for a heat treatment to be fully effective against an infestation at all stages of the bed bug life cycle.

VDACS also states that heat treatments are generally “very successful,” adding that “heat is known to be a very effective bed bug killer.” This conclusion is supported by the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, which states that “infestations can often be eliminated [by heat treatments] in one day.” A 2009 study conducted by University of Florida researchers, titled “Lethal Effects of Heat and Use of Localized Heat Treatment for Control of Bed Bug Infestations,” found the following:

In room treatment tests, heat treatment times varied from 2 to 7 h with complete mortality of exposed bed bugs within the treatment envelope created by surrounding the treated furniture with polystyrene sheathing boards.

Pros and Cons: Factors to Consider When Choosing a Pest Control Company

While potentially effective, even heat treatments are not without shortcomings. As noted above, up to seven hours of heat exposure was required to achieve 100% mortality. The same study also found that the “exposure of bed bug adults to 39 degrees Celsius [102 degrees Fahrenheit] for 240 minutes [four hours] caused no mortality,” which confirms the necessity, noted by VDACS, of raising temperatures to at least 113 degrees. Since most pest control companies raise temperatures to at least 120 degrees, the issue of non-lethal under-heating is unlikely to arise.

However, both VDACS and the University of Kentucky cited one other problem with heat treatments: their total inability to prevent against future infestations. As noted by the University of Kentucky, “Heat treatment alone has no lasting (residual) effect should bed bugs be reintroduced into the dwelling.” A nearly identical concern was echoed by VDACS, which stated that heat treatment “has no residual (long lasting) activity.” VDACS further cautions that “the lack of residual activity means that bed bugs can re-infest again the day after treatment.”

In short, while bed bugs are notimperviousto extreme temperatures, heat treatments must fall within specific duration and temperature parameters in order to be effective. Moreover, even effective heat treatments do not eliminate the possibility of new infestations in the immediate future. Reinfestation from neighboring infested apartments or townhouses is a common problem that can only be addressed by the adjacent units being treated in conjunction with the target space.

Renters and homeowners are strongly advised to confirm the exact procedures and standards which are used by the pest control company providing the service in order to minimize the chance of receiving inadequate treatment. Additionally, renters should remember that most, if not all, landlords arenotlicensed and certified to use specialized, industrial heating equipment, and possess neither the legal licenses nor the professional knowledge to safely and effectively exterminate bed bugs with high temperatures.

If you suffered injuries or property damage because of an apartment or hotel bed bug infestation, or the pest control company that treated your home was negligent, the experienced bed bug litigation attorneys of Whitney, LLP may be able to help you recover compensation. To set up a free and confidential case evaluation, call our law offices today at (410) 583-8000.

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