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
Bedbugs are back in Michigan
Steve Pardo / The Detroit News
Critters' irritating bite makes sleeping tight tough
Detroit -- It started in February when Debra Miller, who works as a caregiver, noticed dozens of
red welts on the body of a man she cares for in the Griswold Senior Apartments complex.
"We didn't understand what was going on," Miller said. "At first we thought it was the soap.
Then we thought it was the fabric softener. Finally, I held up a magnifying glass and saw that
something was digging into his skin."
It was bedbugs. And the man's apartment was infested with them.
A resident shows recent bedbug bites at the Griswold Senior Apartments in Detroit. Bedbugs
have been spreading in Michigan. (Photo by Robin Buckson / The Detroit News; Detroit)
The minuscule blood suckers -- once essentially eradicated in the United States -- have made an
explosive comeback. Evidence of their return first showed up in coastal cities of New York and
Los Angeles more than a decade ago and, since then, they have spread throughout the nation.
Living in walls and mattresses, they can go a year without a blood meal. They come out at night,
feasting on blood and leaving ugly welts.
The good news is they don't carry diseases, but they're resistant to modern pesticides and are
adept hitchhikers, stowing away in suitcases, pant seams or inside the keys of laptop computers.
State health officials put together a task force this year because of the growing number of
"It's the biggest can of worms I've ever set my foot into," said Erik Foster, medical entomologist
with the Michigan Department of Community Health. "Education is a huge issue. A lot of people
still don't know they're out there and how they're transmitted. By the time they know they have
bedbugs, they've got a pretty healthy infestation."
The first guide for residents, apartment managers and health officials on how to identify and treat
the problem is expected to be issued in about a month. Foster expects it to be around 70 pages
"The message we're trying to share is it's not a pest anyone should feel embarrassed or any
shame about," said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest
Management Association. "If people would immediately bring in a trained and licensed
professional at the first sign of the infestation, it would really help eradicate the problem."No community is immune
Miller, who lives in the Griswold apartments, has been battling the pests, the apartment
management company and sometimes even other residents for months. She's not alone.
The bugs are now just about everywhere, said Mark "Shep" Sheperdigian, an entomologist
with the extermination company Rose Pest Solutions in Troy. Back in 2002, the company
may have received three or four calls, Sheperdigian said. Now, it's in the hundreds. And
the numbers continue to grow.
"It's not just the big communities," Sheperdigian said. "Smaller communities as well are
starting to feel the pinch. There's no real explanation why they're spreading so rapidly."
Increased international travel and the 1972 ban of DDT are considered the two main reasons for
the resurgence of the bedbugs, Henriksen said.
"We are hearing of significant bedbug infestation in every state. It's become a prominent global
issue as well," she said.
The infestation has led to some creative detection and eradication efforts. High-end New York
hotels have brought in trained bedbug-sniffing dogs and their handlers to identify infected rooms.Heating method works best
Last month, the Ohio Department of Agriculture asked the federal government for an emergency
exemption to allow the use of Propoxur. The insecticide is used in commercial buildings, on
crops and in flea and tick collars for pets. It was removed from home use in the 1990s and can
cause nausea and vomiting if swallowed.
Here in Michigan, a few companies are using heat to blast the bugs into oblivion. Heaters
brought into rooms raise the temperatures of everything in the room to around 130 degrees --
enough to kill all the life stages of the bedbugs but not hot enough to damage items. The process
takes about six hours and can cost $1,000 a room.
It's the eradication method being used at the Griswold and, starting about six weeks ago, at
Wayne State University apartment buildings when the need arises.
"We've been successful in keeping them out of the residence halls, but we do have them in our
three apartment buildings," said Tim Michael, director of housing at Wayne State University.
University officials established a protocol about three years ago involving monthly inspections
About two months ago, the university switched from chemical sprays to the heater method of
eradication. Michael is optimistic and said the heater method has been 100 percent effective.
"It's become one of those things that university housing has to deal with," he said. "We have
people coming from all over the country. It comes in their luggage. Everywhere people go, they
go with you. We're just battling them."
Apartments and dorms are at the biggest risk for growing bedbug populations,
Sheperdigian said. Hotels are too, because of the frequency of travelers coming in and out
of rooms.Proper disposal required
Recontamination is common. Miller has seen residents whose apartments were recently treated
open up a sealed bag filled with bedbug contaminated clothes and take items back into the
Wholesale dumping of infected items can further compound the problem. When cases first came
up at Cathedral Tower, a Wayne State University-area high-rise, residents' items were thrown out
into bins. People would then fish them out.
"The management was just throwing stuff in the Dumpsters," said Ted Phillips, executive
director of the United Community Housing Coalition, a nonprofit providing housing-related
services to Detroit residents.
"We were begging them not to do that."
"I've seen people take mattresses out of the Dumpster and bring them right back in the building,"
The coalition works with people such as Miller on rent and housing issues, helping people set up
escrow accounts, into which they deposit rent money until management companies address the
bedbug problem.Steve Pardo - The Detroit News
November 30, 2009