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Bedbugs — Not Your Average Creepy Crawler

September 09, 2011
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Bedbugs are making one of the biggest comebacks of the century, pestering cleaning and maintenance companies and leaving ruined reputations in their wake.

Until recently, American pest control professionals rarely had an encounter with bedbugs.

Due to increases in international travel and the banning of synthetic pest control chemicals, however, infestations have increased dramatically.

Over the past few years, American pest control companies have noted an increase in the number of calls regarding bedbug infestations — those companies who used to receive one or two calls per year are now receiving one to two each week — nearly a 60 percent increase since 2005.

In fact, a 2009 U.S. Congress study titled "Don''t Let the Bedbugs Bite Act of 2009" reported that bedbug populations in the United States have increased by 500 percent over the past few years.

Bedbugs can hide in the cracks and crevices of nearly every item found in a room, including beds, headboards, picture frames, electrical outlets, furniture cushions, desk drawers, windowsills and wallpaper.

They have even been found living in the zippers of luggage or clothing.

Because bedbugs are creatures of the night, your staff may not observe an infestation during a cleaning or maintenance visit.

Often, the only way for anyone to become aware of an infestation is if itchy, red welts appear on a guest or tenant.

Unfortunately, once that happens, the damage is typically done to the building''s reputation — and that''s generally where you come in.

A Building Owner''s Worst Nightmare

Bedbugs are flat, brown creatures that are about the size of an apple seed.

They move around by crawling or hitching rides from place to place and spend their evenings feasting on innocent humans'' blood.

After a feast, a bedbug will turn a deep red color.

Bedbugs will routinely travel up to 20 feet from their daytime hiding places to get a meal.

Though they are not known to transmit disease — something recent research might argue against — bedbugs typically leave itchy, red welts on the arms, face, neck or hands of their victim.

Bedbugs can live for a year without eating and are able to withstand temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bedbugs multiply quickly — a female bedbug can lay nearly 200 eggs in her lifetime and can produce more than three generations over the course of a year.

Bedbugs don''t care if their environment is clean or dirty.

Though nearly 40 percent of those surveyed in National Pest Management Association''s "Bedbugs in America" study believe that bedbugs are attracted to dirty homes or hotels, bedbugs can thrive in both sanitary and unsanitary conditions.

Once a bedbug infests a building, they can move easily from room to room through pipes or in vacuum cleaners.

They can even spread to neighboring rooms if someone from an infested room moves to another in the building.

Becoming The Center Of Attention

Bedbugs require more attention than other crawling insects, such as cockroaches or ants.

The techniques used to eliminate and prevent other insects are ineffective when dealing with bedbugs.

These techniques focus on minimal application of pesticides and placement of products in areas where humans and pets cannot come into contact with the product.

These methods don''t work on bedbugs because:

  • Bedbugs are not attracted to the chemicals found in insecticides
  • Bedbugs are shaped in a way that their abdomen may not come into contact with the surfaces treated with insecticides
  • Bedbugs are often found in secluded sites where pesticides are not able to reach.
While some chemical treatments have proven to be effective, most are not safe for the environment or for those who use the room following treatment.

Especially with bedbugs, there is a risk of over-application of pesticides, which can be harmful.

And, bedbugs are far too clever and resilient to respond to general cleaning measures such as vacuuming floors and surfaces.

If You Can''t Take The Heat

Heat remediation is proving to be the only environmentally friendly approach to getting rid of bedbugs.

It provides a safe, chemical-free atmosphere and is a convenient and quiet solution that won''t disrupt current building tenants and guests.

Bedbugs die when exposed to temperatures in excess of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat remediation requires a system that raises the temperature within a room for a sustained period of time, usually greater than 15 minutes.

When used properly, it is 100 percent effective in killing bedbugs in all stages of development — egg, larvae, pupae and adult.

Electric portable heaters are the cleanest and most convenient type of heat treatment available today.

They don''t produce any toxic combustion byproducts nor do they require fuel to be stored on-site.

There is no chance of fluid leakage and they are safe to operate in unattended, enclosed areas.

Heated air is circulated throughout a treatment area, raising temperatures on walls, ceilings, furnishings and floors, as well as within wall cavities and other openings.

Before starting a treatment, the pest management company would need to take necessary precautions to ensure electronics are disconnected from their power source and anything that may be damaged by the temperatures is removed.

Power to lights is turned off and sprinkler systems must be addressed.

The best approach is to temporarily change the sprinkler heads to those with a high temperature rating.

Once temperatures that are lethal to bedbugs are maintained in all target areas for a sufficient period of time, equipment is turned off.

The room is then slowly and evenly cooled to prevent damage without the use of air conditioners.

After surface temperatures of the heater coils have dropped below 105 degrees Fahrenheit, the heater, fans and monitoring equipment can be removed.

As the cleaning and maintenance community continues to combat this pest, effective solutions are needed to assure your clients that the issue is handled.

If one of the buildings you service is ever faced with a bedbug infestation, heat treatment is a safe, simple and effective solution that can eliminate problems before bedbugs destroy anyone''s reputation.

Rob Coburn is the product manager for process and comfort air heating at Chromalox Inc., the company responsible for the ThermEx line of heat remediation equipment. For more information on Chromalox''s pest control solutions, visit

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