Indian Pest Control Industry; thermal imaging of insects inside walls

by nobugsonme on December 28, 2006 · 14 comments

in bed bugs

Two interesting things in the Financial Express article from India:

First, the note that there are only two pest control companies in India.

Second, the mention of ThermaCam, new thermal imaging camera for detecting and tracking termites inside furniture:

Anand said the company is trying to step up the use of technology in pest management, launching its Therma-Cam thermal imaging camera that produces fully radiometric images and scans moving termites inside furniture.

This might be really useful with bed bugs, detecting them in walls and inside furniture.

1 Bugalina December 28, 2006 at 8:45 am

They are suggesting that they can use a thermal cam to track the movements of the bed bugs based on the heat they generate ???? Funny..supposedly the bed bugs can track humans by the heat they generate…as well as the CO2

2 Sean December 28, 2006 at 10:28 am

This technology does work for termites and ants to a certain extent. Since termites and ants are frequently in motion within the nest and tunnels they do produce heat. Usually termites and ants are contained within a medium thus helping to trap the heat that they give off.

Bed bugs are relatively sedentary and not fully enclosed within a medium. I would love to see some data using thermal imaging to detect bed bugs. I am skeptical, but open to the possibility that this might work.

Entomologist / Pest Professional

3 nobugsonme December 28, 2006 at 11:56 am

Yes–the article only mentioned termites being tracked in this way. We do need some way of finding the bed bugs, though my understanding is they now tend to be spread around rather than all nesting in one spot, so maybe this won’t help. Back to the dogs, eh?

4 John December 29, 2006 at 10:51 pm

I agree with Sean’s comment. A bed bug may be much harder to detect with a thermal camera than termites. Detecting bed bugs in hard to find places can however be done with a well trained and certified bed bug canine team. You can find out more about bed bug canines at


5 Doug Summers MS December 30, 2006 at 10:16 am

I also doubt that a thermal camera will be of much use in locating bed bugs. An infrared camera can detect small differences in temperature emissions. Wood that is riddled with tunnels created by the termites will show temperature differences due to the decreased density and the passage of air through the wood. A termite colony may contain large numbers of insects while a bed bug infestation is likely to be much smaller. The camera can only detect changes in temperature and I don’t believe that a small colony of bed bugs will give off a detectable heat signature. I agree with John the best approach is to use a well trained BedBugDog(tm) K9 team. I tried the link that John listed without any success. You can find more information about Bed Bug Detection K9’s from Florida K9 Academy at

Doug Summers MS
MoldDog Environmental

6 John Bethel December 30, 2006 at 2:08 pm

Doug is correct about canine scent detection team. The Florida K9 Academy is the best training facility in the country and produces top quality canines. Thanks Doug for catching the typo on the link, the site is

The dog teams are really just another tool to use against what Dr Potter referred to as “The Perfect Storm of Pests”.


7 bugalina December 30, 2006 at 3:10 pm

I have a question..about the dogs..Can they detect bed bugs if they are somewhere in the ceiling? For example, in an AC vent, or ceiling molding? Bed bugs can move rather quickly, I have witnessed one moving at lighting speed into a wooden floor crack. What is the dog’s “range of detection”? And, once a dog detects the bugs…isn’t it necessary to have the chemicals right on hand to give immediate treatment ? So I guess what I am asking is, isn’t it necessary that the dogs and the exterminator work in tandem in order for an extermination to achieve any possible success.. Detecting the bed bugs is necessary but what good does detecting them do without killing them? And since they are moblie in nature, they don’t nest, then once detected they must be immediately hunted down…correct?

8 John Bethel December 30, 2006 at 5:20 pm

I will attempt to answer the question from Bugalina. Bed Bug detection with dogs is simply the interpretation of the dogs alert to the scent given off by bed bugs. A well trained dog team will alert to scent dropping from the ceiling vents or even pictures on a wall. Many times the teams success come down to the ability of the handler to accurately interpret the alerts and signals given by the dog. Scent comes of almost all objects, including bed bugs, in what is often referred to as the “scent cone”. The further away from the object, (in this case the bed bug) the wider the cone becomes and the weaker the scent. A good handler will interpret their dogs signals and help pin point the bedbugs. Many times certified canine teams will work closely with PCOs to insure proper areas are treated. Although it would be nice to visualize that canine teams are tracking individual bed bugs that may escape, in most cases an infestation involves dozens if not hundreds of bed bugs making detection a process of identifying specific areas to be treated. The need to have a PCO ready to treat the identified areas within a day or two is a very good idea. I would suggest a process a of canine investigation, treatment by a PCO, re-treatment by the same PCO five to six weeks later and a final recheck by the canine team to insure extermination of the bed bugs. I would suggest finding a well trained certified bed bug dog in your area who can help. Good Luck

John Bethel
Certified Handler

9 nobugsonme December 30, 2006 at 6:01 pm

Thanks for your explanation, John. I’m very excited about bed bug sniffing dogs.
I would suggest, though, that the follow-up treatment should be much sooner than 5-6 weeks. Bed bug eggs hatch within 10-14 days and most people seem to suggest the second treatment comes around 2 weeks after the first. Kill those nymphs while they’re young.

10 John Bethel December 30, 2006 at 6:54 pm

Thanks for the clarification on my post, you are correct on the PCO follow-up, 5 to 6 weeks is for the final canine team recheck. I mistyped in my first response. The recheck by a canine team can also happen sooner if the bed bugs seem to be gone.

As many of us are aware, finding them can be the easy part and my example is a best case scenario. People should expect to have more visits from a PCO if the infestation is well established.

John Bethel
Certified Handler

11 BIPLAB MAHATA March 11, 2007 at 9:34 pm

can so0me one provide me this..articles…

12 nobugsonme March 11, 2007 at 9:57 pm

Sorry, Biplab Mahata.
We just talk about bed bugs here.

13 Gary Broberg June 8, 2008 at 11:41 am

I am a fire fighter of 21 years and very familiar with thermal imaging.I am also a master dog trainer, having gone through some of the best train the search dog trainer and search dog handler courses that the United States Government offers. Thermal Imaging has severe limitations for the detection of bed bugs. Thermal imaging detects the surface heat of the object. Bed bugs are very illusive. As a result, bed bugs can not be detected by thermal imaging with out some aspect of the bed bugs body exposed. Therefor, bed bugs will not be picked-up by the imager when hiding inside cracks and fixtures. Specilaty trained dogs are still the most effective way to detect. A dog that has recieved formal training will always be 99.9% acurate where conditions provide. Once a trained search dog has been scented on a scent item they never forget unless they are affected by some sort of illness.

Gary Broberg

14 nobugsonme June 8, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Hi Gary,

Thanks for your comment.

I appreciate your feedback. I understand there’s no reason to think this technology would work with bed bugs.

As for dogs, I agree that they can be a useful tool. I am skeptical that all trained dogs are 99.9% accurate. I have heard enough customer stories to suggest that reputable dogs are not 99.9% accurate, and in fact, some trainers and handlers admit as much.

That’s not to say dogs are not very useful, nor would I suggest that better detection methods currently exist. (Human inspections are not 99.9% accurate either!) In my understanding, a good bed bug dog with a handler who seeks a live sample when the dog alerts could be very valuable. They do have limitations, however.

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