Property Management Tips: Turning Up the Heat on Bed Bugs in Apartment Units
Bed bugs are literally catching a lot of heat these days.
The nation’s bed bug infestation, which made headlines a couple of years ago, is still on the move, and every recliner, sock or backpack is a suspect – not just those satin sheets. Multifamily properties, as well as hotels and college dorms, are prime targets.
These appleseed-size pests that multiply like wildfire are not welcome guests. Once inside, every room, nook and cranny is inviting. Bed bugs cling to clothing, squeeze into suit cases and hide in your laptops. Wooden studs and sheet rock aren’t big enough barriers to keep bed bugs from migrating unit to unit.
However, a sure-fire way to control the problem is heat.
Heat treatments are becoming more effective in reducing a bug population that in recent years has become immune to direct-contact pesticides like pyrethroids and harder to control using other applications.
Pesticides as well as freeze or steam treatments require direct application to the bug, and often take more than one try – a great inconvenience to not only residents but multifamily property managers. Also, since pesticides usually require two or three trips, residents have to take all linens and clothing to the cleaners each time as well as prepare the rest of their household for treatment.
What’s more, removing items from an infested area can spell trouble when they are brought back into an area treated by chemicals or other direct-application methods. A bed bug can hide in personal belongings like purses, backpacks, or cell phones, and can easily return to the scene of the crime.
But heat treatments can keep bed bugs at bay.
The process requires 8-12 hours from start to finish, costs about $1,200 to treat a typical two- or three-bedroom unit and takes no prisoners. Residents can usually return to normal lifestyles later that day.
To effectively control an infestation, the unit or area is heated to 135 degrees by 40,000 kilowatt generators running 4 – 460 volt heaters. This excessive heat dehydrates and melts the waxy exoskeleton of bed bugs. At 122 degrees, the bugs die within seconds.
Little advance preparation is required, and residents are spared the grief of removing furnishings from their homes. Electronics, clothes, furniture, and linens can remain in the apartment unit. Fresh fruits, alcohol, ammunition, anything that can expand with heat should be packed into the freezer, and medicines should be put in the fridge.
And since most electronics – a favorite hiding spot for bed bugs – are rated at 160 degrees, your flat-screen TV and computer should be okay!
Inconvenience to residents is otherwise minimal. In some cases, an overnight stay elsewhere may be required, but residents can simply toss all clothing brought back into the treated unit in the dryer and run on high heat for a few minutes to prevent a re-infestation.
With little disruption to the resident, aside from the obvious, heat treatment is currently the most complete and convenient form of bed bug treatment.
It’s not pretty, but it’s effective.