Have bed bugs infested your car? Or are you experiencing residual itching or phantom sensations from bed bug bites. Unless you have seen/captured a bed bug in your car, a bed bug sniffing dog may be your best bet at answering this question.
Your car is a small container. Do NOT put pesticides in it, and that includes Diatomaceous Earth (DE) which will float around in the air into your lungs. Regardless of what you’ve read on other bed bug web sites, DO NOT apply pesticides in your car.
If bed bugs are in your car you have a few options; heat, steaming, a NUVAN Pro pest strip or not driving your car for 18 months. No matter which way you slice it, getting bed bugs in your car makes your existing infestation that much worse, but there are solutions, read on.
Ask your pest control professional about using the NUVAN Prostrips if bed bugs have spread to your car. Or call around and ask several companies how they treat bed bug infestations in cars, compare answers, ask if they’ve treated cars and how.
If a pest control company says they use “non-toxic” cedar oil or any cedar based product, make sure you’ve read this FTC report on false and misleading clains regarding cedar oil based bed bug products. Cedar oil is toxic to bed bugs, however, like steam or rubbing alcohol, the cedar oil must come into direct contact with the bed bug. In addition, cedar oil based products don’t have the residual toxicity that professional bed bug pesticides have. And residual toxicity is a very good thing when you have bed bugs, even if you have heat treatment, you will still get a little spray around the baseboards of residual pesticide to catch any stragglers.
Take precautions not to bring bed bugs into a car by always changing into clean laundry from sealed bags immediately before leaving your infested house.
Purses, folders, shoes, notebooks and backpacks can easily spread bed bugs from your house to your car. Keep these items in sealed zip lock bags when you are at home and don’t keep them in your bed room or near your bed. Then just take them out when you leave and put them back in when you return. You can keep your purse or wallet and checkbook in the fridge. It’s an option, it’s pretty safe in there.
Do not bring boxes, or sealed bags you have in your home into your car during your infestation. Do not start sleeping in your car during your infestation. Do not use pesticides, DE or foggers in your car.
When you return home from being out
Put your purses and shoes in sealed zip lock bags upon entering your home and only take them out when you are on your way out the door. If you have a PackTite you can heat your shoes, belts, coats purses and backpacks and it will kill any bugs or bed bug eggs.
You can keep your checkbook, wallet and keys in the freezer or fridge in a ziplock. Then just throw the ziplock into your purse or backpack. When you get home put it back in the freezer. Yes you are now living La Vida Loca but IT’S TEMPORARY.
I’m not confident that steaming or detailing your car would kill bed bugs in your car, but I see it recommended a lot so I’m including it because it won’t make things worse. Low vapor steamers are effective tools for fighting bed bugs in your home and can be used in your car. Steam or “heat” only kills what it can touch so if bed bugs retreat to a hidden place, steam isn’t going to be very effective. These steamers get hot and can cause severe burns and damage to some materials vulnerable to high heat. My steamer goes to 365 degrees F and can melt the exoskeleton right off a bed bug.
Thermal Heat Treatment for Bed Bugs in Your Car
Some pest companies will perform Thermal Heat Treatment on a car, call around and talk to your local pest companies about this. This is similar to having heat treatment in your home. Talk to a professional.
Paint Oven (car repair) for several hours.
Newly painted vehicles are put into an oven to set the paint faster. The entire vehicle is heated. This is not inexpensive, but temperatures in vehicle paint ovens do get well over 115 bed bug killing degrees. Bed bugs will try to retreat to cooler areas of the vehicle as the temperature rises, so it is important that the temperature is evenly distributed throughout the vehicle to be certain any living bugs and eggs are killed. While adult bed bugs will die after 20 minutes at 115 degrees or so, bed bug eggs take an hour to kill.
I called and spoke with the manufacturer of Nuvan pest strips during my infestation (2009) and at the time they had only tested it on bed bugs in their own lab with bed bugs they put between mattresses. I did have a strip placed in my car for three weeks (or three egg laying cycles). The use of NUVAN for the treatment of bed bugs has since grown so be sure and ask your pest control operator about it if your car has bed bugs in it.
The manufacturer, AMVAC suggested that to use it in a vehicle, it should be left in for 21 days to ensure that any baby bed bugs (nymphs) that had hatched in the car during the treatment period, will die. You will not have use of your car during the treatment period. Any vents to the outside of the car would need to be sealed (duct tape?). Once the treatment is over, the vehicle must be aired out for several hours. There is no residual chemical once the vehicle is aired out.
ALWAYS Follow all instructions to the letter when using chemical pesticides or you may cause permanent health damage to yourself and others. Always consult with a professional pest company, or call AMVAC and talk to them.
Talk to pest companies in your area to see if any of them have treated vehicles with Vikane (a deadly gas that kills bed bugs and probably anything else). Vikane is the pesticide commonly used for buildings tented for termites and is used to treat bed bugs in furniture and other objects. After the treatment, the gas dissipates completely after the prescribed amount of time (several hours). Vikane is manufactured by DOW Chemicals. Only trained, licensed professionals can use Vikane (sulfuryl fluoride). IMPORTANT: Read everything you can before having Vikane treatment to ensure the pest company you choose uses the proper strength for bed bugs and their eggs. The MSDS Fact Sheet is available at the DOW link above.