If you’re worried you may have bed bugs in your home, your first question will likely be something along the lines of, “how do I get rid of these things, and fast?” You have two main options when it comes to ridding your home of these troublesome little insects: heat treatment and chemical treatment.
In this guide, we’ll look at the pros and cons of both. You’ll also get all the basic knowledge you need to make sure you can be free of bed bugs as quickly and efficiently as possible.
A Few Things You Should Know About Bed Bugs
First, to help you put your treatment options in context you should know a little bit about bed bug prevalence, their life-cycle and why infestations are so tricky to deal with.
How Common Are They in the US?
Fifty years ago, bed bugs had been all but wiped out. However, since the 1980s, there’s been a sharp resurgence. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this has happened partly because bed bugs have become resistant to some pesticides, and also because transmission rates have increased as a result of international and domestic travel.
Today, many pest control experts consider bed bugs to be the number one infestation problem in the US.
Fact 1: bed bugs are very common.
Why Are They Difficult to Treat?
Bed bugs are extremely stealthy. They’re small, and are guided by a survival instinct of tucking themselves away into tight, difficult-to-reach crevices. They’re capable of lodging themselves in areas little thicker than the width of a fingernail, and can stay there out of sight for months between feeding sessions.
These factors make bed bugs both hard to find, and difficult to eradicate even once you know where they are.
Fact 2: They’re stealthy, sneaky and resilient.
How Quickly Should I Treat an Infestation?
Adult female bed bugs will lay up to anywhere from five to a dozen eggs daily. In its lifetime it will lay up to 500 eggs. A bed bug colony is therefore going to grow very quickly. But that’s only part of the problem. Their movement patterns make it even worse.
A female is hard-wired to retreat from other bed bugs before laying its eggs. This means bed bugs have a tendency to migrate quickly from room to room. A small colony in one bedroom can rapidly become an infestation across your whole house.
Fact 3: Fast action, and quick-acting treatment is important.
Now that you’re up to speed on how bed bugs operate and why they pose such an infestation control challenge, let’s compare your treatment options.
Option 1: Heat Treatment
Heat treatment involves raising the temperature in your home to the point it’ll kill bed bugs. A pest control specialist will place specialized heaters throughout your home, gradually raising the temperature to over 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Strategically placed fans circulate the hot air, effectively turning your bed bug infested rooms into a convection oven.
A bed bug will die within an hour or two if it’s exposed to temperatures in the 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit range. They’ll die instantly once the heat increases beyond that. That’s the temperature we aim for.
The whole process is discreet, takes less than a day, and is powered off a single generator.
Heat Treatment Pros
- It’s usually a single treatment: Done right, a heat treatment to exterminate bed bugs will require just one treatment. Chemical treatment usually requires several visits.
- It attacks bed bugs where they’re most vulnerable: bed bugs are tough insects, and they’re remarkably good at hiding out of reach. Moreover, some strains are resistant to certain pesticides. The beauty of heat is that, unlike chemicals, it gets everywhere. No matter how many layers of bedding or clothing a bed bug is hiding under, the heat can reach and destroy it. Heat is also deadly to bed bugs throughout all stages of its life-cycle. They can run but they can’t hide.
- There are no residual effects: Once the heat in your house returns to normal, the only lasting change you’re left with is a lot of dead bed bugs. This is an advantage if you’re worried about chemical residues in your home.
- Heat treatment is discreet: Let’s face it, having your home treated for bed bugs is not exactly something you want to advertise to your neighbors. Heat treatment is discreet. All that’s visible from the street is a generator, which you could easily be using for anything from running fans to dry paint, or steam cleaning your carpet.
Heat Treatment Cons
- Heat treatment won’t stop bed bugs from returning: Heat leaves no residual effects. Without residual chemicals providing a preventive barrier, they may return. However, keeping your home freed of clutter and thoroughly cleaning your bedding on a regular basis are both effective non-chemical bed bug prevention measures.
- You’ll need to prepare your home: During treatment, your house will have to be vacated, including your pets. You’ll also probably need to make sure that heat-sensitive items such as wax and crayons from the house. Our pest control experts can offer advice on what’s safe to keep in your home and what should be removed.
Things to Consider When Using Heat
Heat treatment is a great option. It’s fast, discreet and can reach infestation areas that are hard to reach with chemicals. You will need a prevention strategy in place though. One great option to consider is to use heat in conjunction with chemical treatments around the boundaries of your house.
This gives you the benefits of minimizing chemicals in your home while setting up a residual chemical barrier where it’s most useful.
Option 2: Chemical Treatment
Chemical treatment involves the introduction of chemical agents throughout the house. Typically, a pest eradication expert will employ three kinds of chemicals: a contact insecticide to quickly eradicate easy to reach bed bugs, a residual (long-lasting) chemical to kill bed bugs on an ongoing basis, and a dust to provide longer-lasting protection in cracks and crevices in and around infested rooms.
The effectiveness of chemical treatment depends on getting to the bed bugs. Unlike heat, chemical treatment is site-specific. Treatment typically therefore happens over multiple visits, to be sure no bed bugs are missed.
Chemical Treatment Pros
- Chemical treatment can be highly effective: Especially if you catch the infestation in its early stages, chemicals can eradicate bed bugs quickly and reliably. Moreover, the combination of quick-acting pesticides with dusts and residual chemicals means you can effectively hit bed bugs over time, and throughout every stage of their life-cycle.
- It can help prevent future infestations: Residual chemicals act as a barrier against future bed bug infestations. While the continued presence of chemicals in the home is not an ideal solution for everyone, it undeniably offers long-term protection.
- It’s cost effective: Chemical treatment is often slightly less expensive than the bed bug heat treatment option.
Chemical Treatment Cons
- Chemical treatment requires a lot of preparation: The chemicals have to reach the bed bugs. This means you’ll have to thoroughly prepare infested areas, removing as many barriers as possible to ensure the chemicals reach where the bed bugs are hiding. A chemical treatment requires time, preparation and careful planning.
- It exposes your home to residual chemicals: While these chemicals are safe for residential use, if you have pets in your home or people with chemical sensitivities, the chemical treatment route may not be for you.
- Chemicals don’t kill the bed bug egg: Unfortunately, chemical treatments don’t kill the bed bug egg. Remember a female bed bug is laying at least 5 bed bug eggs per day.
- You’re most likely looking at multiple treatments & it’s not guaranteed to get you bed bug free: Chemical treatments require a pest exterminator to carefully find and target areas where the bed bugs are most concentrated. As you’ve already learned, these critters are sneaky! For this reason, chemical treatments usually work best when applied two or three times over a period of several days or weeks. Therefore, it’s frequently a less convenient and less discreet option.
Things to Consider When Using Chemicals
The big draw of chemical treatment for many customers is that it provides long-lasting protection against bed bug infestation.
The drawback is that it usually requires multiple applications, and some people may not feel comfortable with having chemical residues in their home. It’s also important to remember that, for the treatment to be effective, you’ll need to carefully prepare your home so that the chemicals can reach targeted areas.
The Best Bed Bug Treatment
So, let’s circle back around to the important question: if you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation, what’s the best treatment to use?
Clearly, whether you opt for heat or chemical treatment will depend on all the factors we’ve looked at in this guide. Some people are drawn to the single-treatment convenience of heat, while others feel that the long-lasting protection of chemical treatment is worth the potential downsides of having residual chemicals in your home.
On balance, for the vast majority of our customers, we recommend heat treatment. It’s quick, it’s discreet, and it just seems to be the best way to counteract bed bugs’ natural sneakiness and resilience. From years of experience exterminating bed bugs, heat treatment wins every time. We consistently get calls from people who have had their homes chemically treated only for bed bugs to resurface again a few weeks or months later.
And of course, if you do want a preventive treatment, it’s always possible to use chemicals to provide a barrier around the boundaries of your home while relying on heat to deal with your current infestation. This can offer the best of both worlds.
If you have any more questions, just talk to us! We’re experts in dealing with bed bug infestations, and we can help you choose the right treatment strategy for your unique situation.
Integrity Pest Solutions is the leading pest control company in Columbus, Ohio. Art, the owner of the company, has done over 12,000 heat treatment for bed bugs in one of the top states that bed bugs have overrun.