A story in the New York Press yesterday tells the tale of a pest tech’s daily work. He rides around in a car covered on the inside in Delta Dust:
Plus, everything in Frank’s car, including us, is covered with a fine white powder. It’s called Delta Dust, and its active ingredient is the neurotoxin Deltamethrin AVOID CONTACT WITH SKIN, EYES AND CLOTHING. Also, somewhere back here is Frank’s private, special stock of toxins, acquired mysteriously and discussed cryptically. I start to thumb through the Technician’s Handbook, which appears to be water-warped. “You know why it look like that?” Frank asks. “I sprayed it.”
The pest tech, Frank Middleton, also calls himself “the Mad Bomber,” and he rejects the idea that steam may be useful, as author Joseph A. Bernstein found when he had Frank over to treat his own home for bed bugs:
A full treatment from the pest control company for which Frank worked includes steam to draw out the insects and their eggs, followed by vacuuming to suck them to their doom. The steamer malfunctioned at my place, and I wondered why Frank seemed so unconcerned. Driving by a row of Korean restaurants in Flushing, I ask him. When he steams, Franks tells me, “The bedbugs are laughing. They’re taking a steam shower.” The non-toxic steam is so much environmentally friendly claptrap. You see, Frank believes in the power of chemicals.
Actually, steam is a proven killer of bed bugs. Thermal treatments are great at killing bed bugs.
Steam is a contact killer and needs to be reapplied until bed bugs are gone, and bed bugs will probably be eliminated more efficiently if dusts and pesticides are used in concert with it (and the converse is also true); it does kill bed bugs. For those interested, we have a FAQ on steam.
The “bombing” in question is done with “PI Contact Insecticide Gas.”
The label for Whitmire’s PI Contact Insecticide (PDF), a pyrethrin-based product, gives the following directions under “Indoor Treatment”:
BED BUGS: Take bed apart. Treat joints and channels
if hollow, such as square or round tubing, and see that
the interior framework is treated. Treat mattresses, especially
tufts, folds and edges. Also treat other areas where
bed bugs may be harboring. Do not use in patient
rooms in hospitals and nursing homes for treatment of
The label does not state that the product can or should be used for fogging, but perhaps I am not reading it correctly and some of the pest control experts around here could clarify this for me?
Whether or not this product is intended for fogging, I am concerned that readers of this story who do not know much about how to get rid of bed bugs will come away with the idea that bug bombs are a good idea (these are what most people have in mind when they hear the word “bombing” in regard to pest control). And OTC bug bombs are the last thing you need, since they can actually spread your bed bugs around, making them harder to get rid of.
I am also worried readers might think it’s okay to spread Delta Dust around your car or home and sit in it.
The Delta Dust product label (PDF) describes crack and crevice applications, and states,
In living areas, make applications in such a manner as to avoid depositions on exposed surfaces or introducing the material into the air.
BEDBUGS: Apply DeltaDust thoroughly to all areas where these pests are typically found including: folds and tufts of mattresses, coils of springs, cracks and hollow posts of bedframes, upholstery of chairs and sofas, picture frame moldings and all cracks and crevices in the room should be treated. Allow powder to remain in contact with folds and tufts of mattresses, chair and sofa upholstery for 4-6 hours, then thoroughly vacuum these treated areas, dispose of vacuum bag and place clean linens on bed. Also vacuum treated areas that will come into direct contact with humans and pets.
It’s one thing for a pest tech to choose to drive around in a car covered in powder, but it’s not cool if readers think, “Great idea!” and apply it in this way to their car seats, upholstered chairs, beds, and so on.
For that reason, I am concerned that this is one bed bug story in the news which will do more harm than good.