Firm Kills Bed Bugs with Heat
By Peggy O'Farrell
The latest technique to eliminate a stubborn pest has bedbugs feeling the heat - and dying.
A Michigan-based pest control company with Cincinnati roots used heat to treat a Westwood apartment infested with bedbugs Friday.
As it turns out, bedbugs are fairly resistant to cold temperatures. Unlike many insects, they don't like it hot, said Mark "Shep" Sheperdigian, an urban entomologist and vice president of technical services for Rose Pest Solutions of Troy, Mich.
Temperatures of 113 degrees will kill bedbugs, but it can take hours Sheperdigian said.
Crank the thermostat up to 120 degrees or higher, and the little bloodsuckers dry up and die "in minutes," he said.
Kevin Stacy, special service manager for Rose, and two co-workers set up four large electric heaters in the three-bedroom apartment, then set up fans around the apartment to help circulate the heat.
The setup, powered by a diesel generator, will kill bedbugs in an apartment, hotel room or dorm room measuring up to a 1,000 square feet or so, Stacy said. In bigger spaces, the crew just sets up more heaters and fans.
Sensors are set up throughout the space being treated to make sure an even temperature is achieved.
At about 9:30 Friday morning, temperatures in the apartment hovered around 120 degrees, and bedbugs on a headboard and nightstand could be seen scurrying for cooler climes.
Also visible were dusty white-ish areas that were actually bedbug eggs and rusty brown stains on walls around the bed and behind a set of stereo speakers that had been infested.
High heat can damage some items, including oil paintings and some antique furniture, Stacy said. Those items are treated separately.
Homeowners prepare for the treatment by bringing bedding, clothes and other items out of closets and setting it up in baskets. The crew comes in and shuffles items up to the top of the basket to make sure the heat reaches everything.
Chemical pesticides kill bedbugs, but not their eggs, which means homes might have to be treated several times. It's also hard for exterminators to tell where exactly the bedbugs are located, so spot treatment is difficult.
Heat treatment kills the eggs as well, so unless the bedbugs are somehow re-introduced to a home, one treatment is all it takes, Sheperdigian said.
But it's not cheap: Treating a single apartment, motel room or dorm room costs about $1,000 to $1,500, which is more expensive than conventional treatments, he said.
Bedbugs, which had largely vanished from the United States by the 1950s, thanks to the pesticide DDT, began re-emerging in early 2000s.
Rose got its first bedbug call in 2002, Sheperdigian said.
"Now we're up to hundreds of calls every year. It is growing geometrically," he said.
The Cincinnati Health Department received 352 bedbug complaints about bedbugs in the first nine months of 2009.
Bedbugs are widespread enough that State Rep. Dale Mallory, D-West End, and State Sen. Eric Kearney, D-North Avondale, are introducing resolutions to the Ohio General Assembly that ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow a special exemption approving the chemical pesticide Propoxur for household use against bedbugs.
Rose Pest Services started offering heat treatment against bedbugs in July with a single four-heater system, Stacy said.
They've added two more units since then, and have ordered still more. They're one of a handful of companies nationally offering the service.
The company's service region includes Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and parts of Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia. It was founded in 1860 in Cincinnati as Rose's Rat Exterminator Co.
To set up an appointment with Rose, call or visit www.RosePestSolutions.com
Story by: Peggy O'Farrell • firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by: Jeff Swinger/The Enquirer