Thermal effective in pre-war apartment building?(7 posts)
My NYC cooperative apartment board is considering thermal treatment in our medium sized coop in NYC, but we have concerns about the nature of the building's construction and how that may impact on the effectiveness of thermal.
The building was constructed in 1927. It is brick, with lathe and plaster walls that in some apartments is buried under sheetrock.
We are wondering about the possibility of cold spots in such a building, and also of driving the bugs from an apartment that is being treated into an adjacent one that isn't. (We cannot afford to heat treat the entire building.)
The one company I discussed this treatment with ONLY does thermal, nothing else. They told me that the bugs don't flee the heat -- quite the contrary -- they claimed that the bugs are drawn to the heat.
Any thoughts about these issues in such a building?
Thanks in advance.
1927 brick, lathe, and plaster single family home here! We tried treating one room and the bugs moved, so my suggestion would be to treat all surrounding units, if they are willing to try it. It sounds like apartments above and below may be the most important. Otherwise, go the old-fashioned route and use chemicals. That's what we ended up doing. I got the same line about "drawn to the heat".
I cannot speak to the construction issue.
What I can speak to is that when done properly, heat treatment can treat a single unit (or just several units but not all) in a building.
Whether or not it can be done properly will depend on the expertise of the company in question. I live in a mid 20th century multi-plex (4 units, to be exact). My one bedroom unit was treated (not a single room, but a single unit) with thermal after a longer than a month infestation. (This was nearly three years ago, and on the west coast at that time, there was not a general knowledge of bed bugs. Me finding bugs I'd never seen before after suspecting mosquitos and fleas was the first I heard of them.)
My unit was treated successfully, and the substantial infestation was gone in a single treatment.
Heat's been used for pest control longer on the west coast where it's been used as an option for drywood termites (besides Vikane). The bugs did not have the option to flee to a separate room since the whole unit was treated. However, as I said, the PCOs out here have a lot of experience using it. Also, my building;s construction is very different than the construction of most of the apartments I lived in back east; my unit has a self-contained water heater that is inside my unit, not in a shared basement as they generally were back east.
So while I cannot be specific about the construction of your building, I do think it's important to understand that done properly, heat can be used on single units in a multi-unit building. I was the only infested apartment in mine; all other units were inspected. None were infested after treatment.
Edited to Add:
For what it's worth, one PCO who did thermal explained it to me this way. The temp is raised at a certain rate. As it gets warmer, the bugs flee the heat to cooler spots. The temp keeps rising however because of the use of heaters and forced air. Eventually, in those coolspots, the temp rises too. At that point, the bugs attempt to flee the heat there, but jump into the even hotter temp of the areas outside of their initial places.
Neither my PCO who specialized in thermal nor any of the PCOs on the boards here has ever described it to me as the bed bugs being drawn to the heat. Maybe they've just been explaining it differently to folks, but that sounds odd to me. Some PCOs may use a chemical to flush the bed bugs out before treatment starts. But that's not the same thing.
Hi, Buggedinacoop. I'm with you on the question of "solid" prewar construction with layers of Sheetrock over. It has been mentioned on the forum that in heat treatment, bugs first seek cooler spots, but when the heat gets too high, they actually head toward the heat source. Still, I do wonder about the construction, especially if that's where the bugs are in the first place. But then, this is fairly common NYC construction, so the operator might have accounted for this. Also, bear in mind that heat is also combined with chemicals/dusts, to protect against reinfestation and bugs crawling back in as the bugs come back. Forum member BuggyInSoCal did heat a few years ago and seems to understand the technology Of course, I'd feel more comfortable if the local market were more established and competitive.
I believe we have a FAQ on dogs and you're probably right to be wary. There was a story in the press of a Manhattan complex that did a $250k eradication effort based on uncorroborated dog alerts. When challenged, the operator hedged and said that the dogs could have been alerting to residual odor of places where BB had been in the past, but were no longer, or to "wisps" of BB odors transmitted via heating ducts (very illegitimate reasons to treat a home, afaik). A New York Magazine article about BB last year that there are scam operators in the business who have dogs that are really not trained, just posing.
Some other options to consider as a coop are:
- Bed Bug Sauna. A building in Vancouver installed a "hot room" where tenants can bring their infested items for baking. They published a how to online.
- Truck or trailer thermal. A few companies have outfitted trucks or trailers with heating systems for baking furnishings, while the apartment gets treated with chemicals/dusts.
- Fume Cube. You can't gas an apartment, but one operator installs a shed in the yard or on the roof, where furnishings get gassed, while the apartment gets treated with chemicals/dusts.
The Council of New York Coops might have some leads. Also, perhaps a consultation with an entomologist like Lou Sorkin (forum member LouBugs) or an solo PCO like John Furman (forum member KillerQueen) who might not do an entire building but could help you strategize.
Good advice above.
I would just encourage you to talk to several companies before making a choice.
Firms which do heat and other methods (and I think there are several here) work in NYC and they may be able to give you more balanced advice on the best methods for your building. It may well be heat/thermal, but I think you want to talk to firms who aren't just trying to get you to use the one method.
Thinking about it for a while, I have decided not to go with anyone who proposes to treat an apartment unit with thermal only and no chemicals along identifiable escape routes. It just doesn't make sense to me. In old buildings, I think you inevitably have bed bugs traveling from one apartment to another through the walls. Why wouldn't they escape toward other apartments, if not most of them, at least a straggler or two? I think you have to put poisin along their escape routes -- it seems like common sense.
Anyway, I've settled on a plan with John Furman that I think will work great. Our coop board is working on setting up a monitoring system, educating everyone, developing policy for our basement storage bins, getting light colored tables for our laundry room (current folding table is exactly the same color as the standard adult bb pic, dark reddish brown!), etc. etc. It looks like we will even have two Packtites available for residents to use. Who knows, maybe we'll even build a sauna! (thanks for that, cilecto)
by the way, nobugsonme -- you linked me to a habitat mag article about the coop that spent $250K. sounds like that link should come with a caveat, as per cilecto's info. someone should suggest they do a follow-up, perhaps? that's a lot of money to spend! and yes, we've decided not to use dogs. spent several hours reading and concluded that dogs while CAN be useful in very specific situations like sweeping hotels, in an apartment building, we are looking for harborages -- there will always be clues, and if they're in an inaccessible place, they still will leave traces of their activities. in other words, bbs are corporeal things, and they cannot come to eat you and leave no traces anywhere.
I'll add that if I had them in a free standing house and I could afford it, I would totally heat the whole house. Quickest, easiest way to get rid of them, clearly. But it seems more complicated in an apartment building.
And maybe i'm wrong about heat in old construction multi-unit dwellings. Maybe the bugs do behave the way some people seem to think they do -- moving away then moving back, is what it sounds like? But has anyone studied this?
I'm starting to see that from the bugs point of view, an apartment building is like one big house filled with bedrooms. and to think that the reason people are having such a hard time in NYC with bedbugs is that apartments are being treated in isolation, partly because of shame/stigma -- people try to hide it, don't want to tell their neighbors -- partly because of ignorance of how the bugs disperse within an apartment building. They DO walk across the hall!
And also, very important, apartment dwellers must remember that not everyone reacts. This is one way you get multiple units involved, and why all adjacent and katy-corner apartments should be inspected. The lady living downstairs from me is completely non-reactive, so imagine the infestation that can get going under those circumstances.
No sooner did we discover bbs than we contacted our neighbors and arranged for inspection of their homes. This led to immediate discovery of an infestation below me, much more advanced than mine, with a clear picture of how they got from her bed to mine (thinking like a bug, like the great man tellsus to). Immediate outreach to the building uncovered another potential case, in another part of the building, not adjacent to our other 'epicenter'. They had been self-treating for 4-6 weeks and had been about to call an exterminator.
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