Killing bed bugs in the cold and snow
by Tommy Underhill
October 10, 2018
We’re getting our first snow of the season here in Denver. While it hasn’t gotten very cold yet — currently a balmy 32°F outside — I’m reminded of the conversations I’ve had about how we can kill bed bugs with heat when it’s cold. As an aside, my wife is visiting family in Tennessee where it’s currently 90°F. What a difference a thousand miles can make!
You may wonder why I included the photo of this red truck in this post. I oversaw cold-weather heat treatment development testing several years ago during a typical upstate New York January. I recall there being several feet of snow on the ground and it had snowed overnight. That day’s high was 18°F. We had loaded an uninsulated moving truck the day before, and the contents were cold. The icicles dripping from the truck were due to the snow melting from the roof of the truck while heat treating the contents. I know the GreenTech Heat process is effective in the cold.
Historically, reports of bed bug activity tend to quiet down during the Winter months. Bed bugs typically do not slow down feeding — they’re just as opportunistic feeders as during warmer parts of the year — humans tend to travel less and therefore transport fewer hitchhiking bed bugs.
Cold-weather bed bug heat treatment tips
I’ve put together a list of techniques to provide better results when eradicating bed bugs with heat during the colder months:
- Preheat the treatment zone - It’s always good advice to have the building owner preheat the treatment area with their thermostat-controlled heating system. Running full-bore, most residential or commercial building heating systems will not raise the internal ambient air temperature above 90°F, but even starting at this temperature can save hours on an otherwise cold-starting treatment.
- Treat for longer durations - If you are conducting an electrical treatment with ePro heaters and can’t preheat, you will need to bring all your heat yourself. When you arrive at the job site, get the heaters inside and begin heating the treatment area before you do anything else. Electric treatments during extremely cold weather may take longer to initially reach lethal temperatures, and more energy and time to maintain temperatures until the hardest-to-treat location remains at 140°F for two hours.
- Accurately verify temperatures - Probe the coldest part of the treatment area. Keep in mind this location may be under the carpeting or down low along an outside wall. You will know you have achieved a 100% kill when the hardest-to-heat location reaches and maintains lethal temperatures for the required time duration.
- Eliminate clutter - Bed bugs hide in so many places, you don’t need to provide any more for them. The greatest issue concerning bed bug heat treatments in cluttered areas: clutter acts as an insulator. Get rid of the clutter, reduce your treatment times, increase the efficacy of heat treatments.
- Maximize airflow - Beds and other furniture are often placed right against one or more walls in a room. Dust ruffles on beds can obstruct treatment airflow under and around a box spring and mattress, potentially limiting the furniture’s exposure to heated air and extending treatment times. Lift and secure the dust ruffle to allow heated air to flow all around the bed. Use milk crates to separate the mattress from the box springs so air can flow between and around these items. Move items away from walls and utilize aluminum blocks to raise air-blocking furniture like dressers away from the floor.
- Use a Titan - Electric heaters produce between 19,000 BTU and 26,000 BTU. The Titan 450 direct-fired propane heaters produces 513,000 BTU and the Titan 800 generates 990,000 BTU — up to 50 times as much heat energy with significantly greater airflow. As air passes through the heater, the Titan 800 can produce a 180.6°F net rise in air temperature. When it’s cold, a Titan is the most efficient way to heat!
Empirical measurements guarantee results
It is possible to achieve a 100% bed bug kill in any weather, regardless of starting temperatures and external ambient temperatures. As with any other insect heat treatment, there is only one mandatory criteria for a successful treatment: achieving lethal temperatures for the required time duration. Measure temperatures and log times and know when all the bed bugs, other insects, and their eggs in the treatment area are dead.
Please feel free to contact us at 855-GTH-BUGS (855-484-2847) with any specific questions regarding successful heat treatments during the winter months. Please visit our online store for more details on specific equipment including heaters, fans, and heat treatment accessories.
I will be at the Global Bed Bug Summit at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel in Denver on November 27-29. If you’re in town or at the conference, stop by our booth and share your story with us!