Thermal treatment for bed bugs: bake the little B@#$%^&s!

by nobugsonme on July 29, 2007 · 13 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bug treatment in hotels, bed bugs, best practices, heat, illinois, pest control services, thermal treatment, tools and weapons, usa

Remember this Pest Control Technology Online article from January, which we blogged a few months ago?

You may recall how Dr. Michael Potter comments on thermal treatments for bed bugs:

STRUCTURAL HEATING. Elevating the temperature within buildings has been used to eradicate pests ranging from grain insects to termites. Structural and containerized heat treatments are also being developed for bed bugs. Companies such as TempAir (Burnsville, Minn., 888/838-4035) have begun licensing the patented technology to interested pest control firms. Portable heaters and fans are used to gradually heat the air within rooms to about 125 to 130°F while monitoring with strategically placed sensors. A licensing and royalty fee is typically required along with the initial equipment purchase.

While heat treatments hold promise, eliminating infestations by raising the temperature within a building may not be so easy. As observed with cockroaches, bed bugs may seek out cooler areas as the temperature within rooms builds. Whether some bugs will be able to survive by moving to cooler locations (including adjacent units) still needs further study.

TempAir, the company mentioned by Potter, sells machines for thermal remediation of bed bugs, such as smaller portable machines for pest control, and little trailers that bake your bed bugs.

This describes how the process works. Please do not try to replicate this in your home — it is dangerous in terms of fire, may well be illegal, and may well cause your bed bugs to thoroughly spread throughout your home or into walls, making them harder to eradicate.

TempAir does not offer the actual services, though. You may be able to call them to find a PCO or operator in your area. Apparently Excelsis is using bed bug dogs to find bed bugs and TempAir heat technology to bake them to death in Chicago.

Last year, one of their machines was tested by Purdue researchers. I hope we will see the results soon.

1 willow-the-wisp July 29, 2007 at 8:50 am

Coit carpet and restoration in SF and Bay area would be a likely source to check into if you are going to go “the heat up and the hope to God it works route.”
Nobugs and all:
I wonder if this would be a good time to use a repel first???
Repel on all the walls then heat up so the bugs will NOT disappear into the cracks.
But, of course, ALL adjacent units would need to do this simultaneously–and of course more than once. This I say, because using repels will drive the bugs deep into the walls.

Then … you would need a third and maybe a forth treatment to get the bugs to cross over the poisons–once they come out of the walls and take the “final bow”– I mean the final bite.
It all gets so complex … the multi treatments in multi dwellings.
I mean what would one do first???????????????
This may be a better course or the best course of action to take:

*I guess they should start by drawing as many bugs over poisons FIRST—as in more traditional methods using a regular Bed Bug PCO company.This may involve more tha none treatment. Then, try the group heating thing with the repel put on all walls of all units.

*That would ensure that as few bugs as possible would be in the walls before you’d put a repel on all the walls and then use the “heat therapy” to keep them out of the walls

*Whomever it was that said “bed buds are among the most difficult house pests to treat” deserves a Nobel Prize for such an understatement.

*But I guess this is really more abut taking your stuff OUT of the home and put it INTO one of these odd looking trucks and then BAJKING it all and then BRINGING it all home.

*People would still need to treat the home while the stuff is “cooking in the oven truck”

*In this case, more ways to skin a bed bug gets more costly and even more confusing!

*IMHO or is it imho … I think these trucks are good for free standing houses or for multi unit dwelling that are all treating in sync. In this case even those who thought they had no bugs and indeed. Did not have any bugs WOULD also need to treat! … If they did not—then you might have a success story in the infested apartments but a new infestation brewing in the units that did not comply with all of the laying down of poisons, the repel on the walls the heating and then the waiting and possible need for retreating ALL UNITS YET AGAIN.

Should that not fit into the mix somewhere too?

*If anyone is scratching his or her heads in dismay at all this … your not alone.
But I think my last case scenario—this onewith all the asteris added is likely to turn out to be the best. I say so ,so long as all treat and not just some—Especially concerning apartments condos and hotels where the extent of bed bug infestation is never really toally known.
When will it all come together?
We would need governments to step in with violation fines and stricter laws.
But these would be laws easily fought as we supposedly have so much freedom in the good ol’ US of A.
Invariably … som would fight for their rights and understandably so. If I had no bugs and they came and told me I’d have to go along with all of this—I’d balk.
Such baulkers, would need proper education … and government monies need to be offered to help in all of this.

*Nobugs and all: Most (including me) agree that using repels are very risky. It is nearly as bad as setting off a bomb.perhaps it may even be worse if your using it on your baseboards … But in combined strategies … like using this shake and bake your bed bugs treatment … some of the “do not’s” may become some of the “you may also have to’s.”

I like this idea, but it is, by no means, the end all method to the mutli-faceted treatment(s) and regimes needed in multi unit dwellings now … is it?

2 nobugsonme July 29, 2007 at 9:37 am


I seriously think that people with bed bugs should not be experimenting with repellents, or constructing their own treatment plans in the way you suggest above. The point of heat treatments, theoretically, is that they can work without the use of pesticides. In any case, if pesticides are needed, the customer is not the expert. A PCO should be offering the plan.

If professionals are offering thermal service, they should be orchestrating your treatment plan–you should follow their plan exactly. Before working with them, ask for information on their success rate. You may even ask to see data on effectiveness (if available) and maybe even to speak to some former customers.

I appreciate your creativity, Willow, but I am not sure you have the authority to suggest that people ‘may have to” use repellents with such a treatment. PCOs who know what they’re doing with bed bugs CAN be trusted to get rid of your bed bugs. Your own ideas and plans may sabotage theirs. They have experience. Why not allow them to do their work?

I know you may answer that doing it yourself is an option, but I seriously disagree when it comes to heat treatment. Please do NOT try and do this on your own. You can start a fire, you can disburse the bugs, and none of us amateurs know enough about pesticides to say that spraying something into the walls before a heat treatment is a good idea.

This website was created to give good solid advice on bed bugs, about things we know work, and I’d hate to think people were surfing in and trying something because someone was making statements like those you make above–based on pure speculation.

By the way, I think those “trucks” may have been larger heat generators. I was not certain they were for loading your stuff into, as you suggest, but then I did not read the entire site, so correct me if you saw that.

3 willow-the-wisp July 29, 2007 at 10:12 am

I’m not suggesting any do it yourself. I’m suggesting how much planning and stategy may be needed–I’m suggestion this will take a while, and for folks to realise they will need to do a lot of stuff–but I did not ever say they should just do it on their own.
Did I?
Surfers–I did not and I don’t say that.

Anway–the trucks … they are ugly.
I think some are for piping air in and some for putting funiture into.
So your back.
Thank you?

4 nobugsonme July 30, 2007 at 10:32 am

Hi Willow,

When you say things like,

“I wonder if this would be a good time to use a repel first???
Repel on all the walls then heat up so the bugs will NOT disappear into the cracks.”

To me, that sounds like giving advice, a how-to. And it’s not based on any thorough knowledge of repellents. I think if you are going to speculate you have to be really clear. Lots of times people will happen upon ideas they find on Bedbugger and assume they are advice–“all advice created equal”. It’s not. Some of the advice on Bedbugger has been used by many and carefully seasoned. Other “advice” is just speculation, ideas, or (unfortunately) manufacturers and sales people masquerading as contented customers.

Reading between the lines, Willow, I can see your speculation. But can panicked newbites, looking for answers, see it? The FAQs on pest control warn against using various substances which repel. At face value, it looks like you’re suggesting people do use repellents. That’s a scary bit of advice, seeing as this is neither your professional area of expertise, nor a method you used yourself!

I hope that makes sense. Your participation is very welcome. I just want you to be super cautious about making speculatory statements of what might work, seeing as people are coming here for solid advice.

I guessed the trucks were not for loading furniture into because the doors looked quite small, again, we don’t know.

5 willow-the-wisp July 30, 2007 at 1:03 pm

They should not do it!
I hope a seasoned professional that would test it out might try!
We have professional here–this was speculation for sure!
Nobugs …
I’m so glad you pointed that out!
I hope they see what I said …
What you said …

And now this!

Mr. Willow

Ps folks–I’m not high on repels and have not used them, as; I don’t really feel they usually do more good than harm i.e. they drive bugs into the walls! even up the walls.
Then …. You’ve got bed bugs on the ceiling (or worse) in the walls–MUCH faster than you might have otherwise–not good! They will get into the light fixture and set up shop. And, if that is over your bed ???

As always

Mr Willow

6 Winston O. Buggy July 30, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Presently in NYC one problem is that the heat generator must be fueled by
natural gas or popane neither of which is permitted in NYC buildings. There
are ways to push it up to four (maybe 6) floors or so but that requires a
larger unit. Electrical units which are used in some commercial food opps are usually 220v based as 110v usually ends up blowing fuses and cascading circuit breakers. Also there are other issues such as home belongings that might not
deal well with heat. Keep in mind this technology started with drying concrete
in industrial settings and in the food industry is used in specific controlled
non living space environments like silos and processing floor areas.
As you can imagine units are costly and fans are needed as well.
I mentioned a number of other concerns in a previous post
but I certainly feel that heat plays into the future solution.

7 willow-the-wisp July 30, 2007 at 5:33 pm

I looked at the site–the fans …
the voltage scared me.
the temps scard me
guess I’m scared!
chicken willow.

8 nobugsonme September 8, 2008 at 9:34 am

Thermal treatments, done properly, should probably be 100% effective.

But you really need to consult your provider. Did they claim 100% effectiveness? Did they give you any kind of guarantee?

It is possible to do Thermal improperly, of course.

And re-exposure is always possible: are you being exposed to bed bugs? (Via work, school, public transit, friends/family?) Are you in an attached unit where they may be coming from neighbors?

9 charles dolwin December 30, 2008 at 5:57 pm

The use of heat treatment is certainly gaining popularity, but it has been going through some evolutionary development. The first types of heat treatment i heard of were in enclosed plastic chambers into which homeowners placed their belongings, but did not treat the space. More recently Chromalox a firmt that specializes in heating systems and controls has partnered with a pest control firm and developed a system, but the start up costs for a pest control operator are considerable – i heard more than $50,000 to buy the equipment and get some basic training on how to do it.. Treatment costs for a 1 bedroom apartment are in the range of more than $1200 i heard and it can take up to 6 – 8 hours and one could presume is labour intensive as it necessitates someone to be there to monitor progress. Probably a wonderful process for a hotel room in which it is fairly easy to remove electronics and other materials that might be damaged, but not so easy for an apartment dweller. The other point of course is the bed bugs reatreating from the heat and I guess part of the slow cook process is to put them into a bit ofa lobster modality — i.e. if you cook ’em slow, they hardly notice the water getting hotter… mind you I have never asked a lobster.. they usually try to get out of the pot as soon as the heat is turned on .. so it is rumoured. I never cooked one not being one from either coast.
Heat treatment does hold a lot of promise and the actual temperatures to kill bed bugs are lower than initially thought. But this is not an easy process and it will likely not catch on as a mainstream treatment until costs drop and the process can be done without major risk of damaging goods. The good news is that technology does enable amazing monitoring of hte process. 20 minutes to a half hour at 40C is said to be fatal, and that is mid day in Tel Aviv or Mecca in the summertime.
When the technology has been developed to the point that charges are not so high, this method could be the best thing since apple pie and ice cream in clean “heat fumigation”… Nobugsonme is right on about the term “fumigation” … means using fumes or smoke or gas… though some love to use the term for any pest control treatment, especially spraying. “Heat fumigation” does capture the meaning but “heat treatment” is really the most accurate way of describing this without getting into poor usage of language. But you know…. language does have its own life and English has a long history of borrowing terms and doing bends like a skilled mouth organ player.. makes me think of Stevie Wonder.. or should i say Blues Harp, but that is actually a trade name. OK Harmonica… for the purists

10 Jackie January 1, 2009 at 8:08 pm

We had the heat treatment done about a month ago. The day of it we saw some bugs in my daughters room so the pest control company came out and did some chemicals in her room and we haven’t seen bed bugs since. Just today my husband and I found about 5 bed bugs crawling on the wall. A month ago it cost us over $2000 to get rid of these bugs in which we thought we had done. It was grueling work to prep for the treatment, buy covers for the beds, buy new beds and get rid of the rash my Daughter had for 2 months before we found them. When I found them today I am just at a loss as to what to do. We called the pest control company and haven’t heard back but we can’t afford to do this all over again!! It took a toll on our bank acct., our lives, and our mental health. These bugs are the worst things I have ever encountered and if anyone has any advice for us at this point that would be wonderful. Right now our first instinct is to move and get the hell out of dodge!! Obviously even if we do that how do we live until we can pull that off. It seems like they are only in our room right now. Please let me know if anyone else has had a re-occurance after their heat treatments, and if there is anything we can do to minimize the upheaval this burden placed on us before!! I am not sure my family is up for it again, but we have to be…

11 nobugsonme January 2, 2009 at 2:07 am


I suggest you read two discussions in our forums: this one, and this one.

You might want to post there too.

I would look into any agreement the thermal company provided — most seem to have some warranty for service. Treatment does apparently fail sometimes and — assuming you were not reinfested by other means — it sounds like it did in this case.

Please do come to the forums, where you will get many more responses.

12 Howard Ursaner March 27, 2009 at 11:45 am

I had 3 heat treatments and i still have bed bugs.It did not work for me.

13 nobugsonme March 28, 2009 at 4:03 am

Hi Howard Ursaner,

Done properly, professional thermal heat treatment can work in one session.

There are a few possibilities for what went wrong in your case:

* Treatment was not done properly. As with ANYTHING ELSE on earth, of course it can be done improperly.
* You’re in an attached home or apartment and neighbors are sending bed bugs.
* Some other unknown source of reinfestation exists (car, friend, workplace infested).

The latter two scenarios can and do happen, as well as the first. If the company knows what they’re doing, then it seems like the latter two are more likely than three failures.

I would be interested in hearing about your situation. Are you in a free-standing home or apartment? Which company did you use?


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