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Non-toxic bed bug extermination

A morbidity and mortality weekly report on the data collected from 2003-2010 for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention from seven states in America evaluated illnesses associated with insecticides used to control bed bugs. Out of the total of 111 cases identified in seven states, the most frequently reported health outcomes were neurologic symptoms (40%), including headache and dizziness; respiratory symptoms (40%), including upper respiratory tract pain and irritation and dyspnoea; and gastrointestinal symptoms (33%), including nausea and vomiting.

With the continuous use of chemical pesticides, bed bugs have become more or less resistant. Non-chemical treatments make use of non-toxic methods to eliminate the bed bugs. These treatments are safe on humans but deadly on pests. Eradicating bed bugs entails removing the bugs, their eggs and also eliminating their nest in addition to their hiding places.

Detection and Disposal

A proper non-chemical treatment has to start with a plan that takes into account all the possible aspects of infestation. The disposal of potentially infected goods is a start; if they are to be retained, they can be put in dissolvable laundry bags and then into the washer to ensure that the washable goods can be cleaned without having to handle them. Detection of pests can be done using insect interceptors that trap pests. “This has the effect of stopping bugs from reaching the host to feed on the blood and thus, putting an end to their reproduction,” says Adam Steeves, Owner, Adams Pest Control, Canada, in a discussion on LinkedIn.


High powered vacuums lend a helping hand in controlling the bed bugs menace. It does not really help in the eradication but allows dislodging live bed bugs along with their debris that includes dead bedbugs, molted skins, hatched egg shells, and faeces. This has to be done before the actual treatment so that the after treatment inspection is made easier.

Steam treatment

Since bed bugs can be killed using heat, steam is a powerful tool for handling infestations. A temperature of 114-115°F is enough for effectively killing the bugs. Steamers can be used in infected areas and also on various infected surfaces without leaving harmful residue. Steam option takes considerable patience, as constant concentration of steam has to be maintained over every inch of the surface. The steamer head must also be large to avoid the steam coming out at such velocity that it blows bed bugs and their eggs across the surface. Steam cleaning is an effective way of reducing an infestation quickly. However, steam alone will not eliminate an infestation.

Diatomaceous earth

The bed bugs can be killed by various desiccant dusts that stick to the waxy layer of the bugs that keeps them from losing moisture. If the waxy layer is no longer present, then bugs desiccate and die within a couple of days. Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a desiccant dust made of the silica-based skeletons of microorganisms called diatoms. DE is very safe to use and has a broad label allowing the product to be applied in many locations where insecticidal dusts cannot be used.

There is more than one type of diatomaceous earth, the 100% DE which is used as an animal food additive works well for killing bed bugs. Non-toxic sprays also use the same method as the dusts but with food grade plant oils. “In my experience with bedbugs, I find it helpful to use a variation of treatments. De-cluttering a room, using vacuums followed by using steam power in strategic areas along with a combination of dusts and residual sprays work well if used properly,” says Chad Hicks, Consultant at Elite Pest Control & Wildlife Removal, USA.

Old methods like mattress encasing that includes sealing the mattress with tight zipper covers to trap in any existing bugs and dissuade more from entering are no longer viable. New technologies have made incredible progress in non-chemical bed bug treatment.

Pressurized Carbon Dioxide Snow

This new technology uses pressurized CO2 snow at -108°F where exposed bed bugs are frozen to death. The snow mixture is blown out of a pressurised cylinder through a nozzle that forms vapours to penetrate baseboards, bedding, box springs, the furniture, other cracks and crevices where bed bugs aggregate. The pressurized snow freezes the cells of the bed bug killing them instantly. Similar to steam cleaning, the Pressurized Carbon Dioxide Snow process requires patience and will not eliminate a bed bug infestation if used alone. Other control methods will still have to be used.

Heating Systems

Some of the most effective new technologies for bed bug control have been the development of heating systems that are capable of superheating infested rooms to kill all the bed bugs. There are currently two heating systems being used for bed bug elimination. These are the ThermaPureHeat® and the Temp-Air Heat Remediation System®. The principles behind these two methods are essentially the same.

Propane generated heat or electric heaters are used to raise the temperature inside the room to 135°F (this temperature will not damage electronic equipment).The heat is blown into the room for several hours. The temperatures in cracks, crevices and hard-to-reach places are monitored remotely from numerous sensors placed throughout the room. Once the bed bug thermal death point is reached at all of the sensors (114-115°F), the heating process is continued for 60 minutes (or more) to kill all of the bed bugs and their eggs. The advantages of these heat systems are that the resident does not have to remove or bag their belongings, and most infestations can be cured in a single treatment. The disadvantage of heat treatment is that the technology is relatively new and also the process is time consuming (taking 6-8 hours from setup to take down), and therefore expensive.

Compiled by Vanita Nair

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1 Response

  1. Wow, I never realized there were so many different things that can kill bed bugs effectively. Using normal everyday bug spray hasn’t done much to solve our problem, so maybe one of these methods is what we need to rid ourselves of these pesky nightmares. I’ll get a bed bug exterminator to assist us so we’re confident these products and methods are used properly.

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