Effective Treatments for Bed Bugs

You have three options for how to treat bed bugs and end your infestation.

  • Whole room professional heat treatment
  • Traditional pesticide treatment
  • Do It Yourself treatment or D.I.Y.

Preparation for heat or pesticide treatment, and D.I.Y. have some things in common. You do all necessary preparation and pesticides are used strategically and prudently with an understanding of the bed bug life and reproductive cycle.

Unless you choose heat treatment, eradicating bed bugs is a game of attrition, where you kill them at a higher rate than they can multiply. In essence, it’s a numbers game.

Heat Treatment also called Heat Remediation

Heating an entire room, storage container or an entire home is the fastest way to end your infestation provided all the preparation and post-treatment protocols are also met.

Heaters are placed in the infested room powered by a generator located outside, or heaters are outside and air-ducted into the home. Commercial fans are used to spread the heated air into every crack and corner of the room until the room reaches bed bug killing temperatures. The temperature of the room will gradually increase to between 120-135°F. Technicians check and monitor heat sensors placed in the room.  The temperature in the room can increase to as much as 135°F. This temperature is high enough to kill bed bugs and eggs. You will be instructed to remove liquids, makeup, albums, pets or anything that could melt at those temperatures.

This treatment will take 4 hours or longer. Older homes or apartments that have hard to seal vents or cracks may not be eligible for heat treatment. If you introduce untreated possessions back into your heat treated home, you could re-infest your home making the heat treatment ineffective. Follow all protocols exactly and you can be done with bed bugs in a day! You can read more about heat treatment here.

Learn more about heat treatment for bed bugs

Pesticide Treatment for Bed Bugs

Typical pesticide treatment involves pesticides being applied several times at 10 to 14 day intervals to catch newly hatching nymphs.

It has become a somewhat common practice for pest companies to start your treatment with a steam treatment, going around baseboards, and your mattress and bed frame. Each situation will differ depending on the home’s age, condition and whether it is attached to other apartments or condos.

Most effective pesticides labeled by the FDA to kill bed bugs will have a residual period where the pesticide remains active and effective at killing bed bugs for an extended period of three days to three months depending on the product. Most residual pesticides do not kill on contact and can take up to ten days for a bed bug to die. Modern pesticides may contain microscopic bubbles of poison that attach to the insect and kill it through its exoskeleton.

Can bed bugs still lay eggs after treatment?

Even after initial exposure to pesticides, the bugs can still lay eggs and mate. If you are seeing many bed bugs or having opportunities to kill bed bugs on contact, that may mean your infestation has likely grown large enough that there are a lot of bugs and they are all hungry. 

Pesticide treatment involves pesticides being applied at least three times at two-week intervals to catch newly hatched nymphs. Most effective pesticides labeled by the FDA to kill bed bugs will have a residual period where the pesticide remains active and effective at killing bed bugs for an extended period of two weeks to three months depending on the compounds. However, most residuals do not kill on contact and can take up to ten days for a bed bug to die.

If you are having many opportunities to kill bed bugs on contact, that means your infestation has grown large enough that the bugs are coming out to feed at all hours. Bed bugs do not have hairs, or groom themselves or lick their legs, so getting the pesticides on the insect requires their bellies to be full so they drag them through the poison. Microbubbles of poison then work on killing the insect through its exoskeleton which can take up to ten days. Even after exposure to pesticides the bugs can still lay eggs and mate. You need to get to zero bed bugs.

Always ask your pest professional for advice about how long to wait before washing the floors after treatment, when to unpack your bagged and sealed items, and any other precautions you may need to take after treatment. If you have pets make sure you have asked about areas your pet needs to avoid and for how long.

How many treatments you need is determined by the estimated size of your infestation and if it is contained to only one room or has spread to many rooms.

Some products that contain DE or diatomaceous earth (silica) work to dry and break the exoskeleton of the bug. That also takes several days after they come in contact with it. It is likely your pest company will use at least two different pesticides in your home. That may include a long-acting residual pesticide and a powder formula with diatomaceous earth that dries the exoskeleton of insects out and is also in those little bags in your vitamins to keep moisture out and insects out.

Bed bugs don’t groom or lick their legs so they don’t consume pesticides by cleaning themselves. Getting the pesticides on or in the bugs requires they be fed so they drag their heavy bloated blood-filled bellies through the pesticides and back to their nests. This is why the whole kill on contact idea is unrealistic. Chemical treatment is hard on you because your pest control person is going to tell you that you must sleep in your bed and act as bait so they can feed (on you) and drag their bellies through the poison.

Cedar based products and sprays for the most part only kill on contact, so does 91% rubbing alcohol. So does Murphy’s Oil Soap. But the point is, they only kill on contact. How many bed bugs have you personally seen and how many are hiding? Cedar based sprays do nothing to kill the bugs or eggs you can’t see. I do not advocate using cedar based sprays for anything more than contact killing, and do not suggest you use them as a sole method of treatment. They have their use.

I do advocate using a competent pest control company who will/should use a variety of pesticides to address the short and long-term problem. I have more details and what to expect here if you are having traditional pesticide treatment. Using a variety of pesticides plus the de-cluttering, laundry and treatment of your possessions is referred to as IPM or Integrated Pest Management.

DIY Treatment

Am I going to discourage you from trying to kill your bed bugs with a DIY approach? No. Is it hard, yes! Will you succeed? Most don’t.

DIY treatment requires a level of ferocity and discipline that you MUST exercise every single day to succeed, and do it on very little sleep, unless you’ve properly isolated your bed.
However, it has been done and I’m going to tell you how. While I did have a professional company apply pesticides in my home, there was still plenty to do on my part to succeed.  Just spraying an alcohol/cedar based spray around and doing laundry isn’t going to be enough. If you are hoping you can get rid of them without spending a few hundred dollars, you’re probably wrong.

They are not going away because you are angry with them. They are not going to go away. They have to die.

I am going to be completely realistic about what is involved so that you have no illusions about what you would need to do, spend and how much time it’s going to take you to succeed going DIY Even if you hire a pest company there is still a tremendous amount of DIY stuff you need to do anyway.

Moving – Nope, You’ll probably take them with you.

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