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Heat treatment experience--so far, so good

(8 posts)
  1. sleeplessinhonolulu

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Tue Oct 30 2012 1:54:08
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    It's too soon to declare this a success, but I thought I'd at least record our experience so far.

    My husband starting getting bites just over a month ago. We initially thought it must be allergies because I wasn't getting any bites (I didn't know that some people don't react). We realized on Oct. 10 that it was bedbugs when I saw two crawling on the couch; we investigated and also found an adult hiding in a fold of the bedskirt.

    Turns out we had a relatively light infestation, but it was severely affecting both my husband's and my ability to work, so we didn't think we'd be able to be patient enough to be bait during an extended chemical treatment.

    Because we know the likely source (we took a trip to Manila, which has a major bedbug problem, and when we had a k9 inspection the dog alerted on the suitcase we had with us), we opted for heat treatment. We were quoted at $1200 for our entire 1-bedroom apartment, and agreed to split the cost with our landlords.

    The prep for treatment was minimal. We had to remove art and photos from the walls (PCO treated the backs with chemicals instead), combustibles like aerosol cans, and heat-sensitive electronics. We weren't asked to take all the clothes out of our big dresser or closet, but we did empty everything out of the drawers in the two bedside tables. The dog didn't alert on them, but the PCO wanted to be sure. The only prep that was kind of a pain was taking down the vertical blinds that cover an entire wall in our living room (PCO said they might warp).

    On the day of the treatment, we dried on hot and bagged two sets of clothes and only the necessities for the day. We put on one set right before leaving the apartment. The treatment took significantly less time than I expected (I presume because our apartment is under 500 square feet and since we're in Honolulu our starting temp is higher than it would be on the mainland in October), about 3 hours. Before coming back into the apartment, we changed into the other set of clothes (the first set went immediately into the dryer when we got back). The PCO said that almost all the bugs were in our headboard (which is wicker, with a gazillion tiny hiding places). In addition to the heat, they used chemical treatment on anything that would have been too sensitive to the heat, along the baseboards, and in wall sockets.

    Putting the apartment back together took a couple hours (the blinds again taking the longest), but altogether it was far less invasive and time-consuming than I expected. The only thing that seems to have stopped working is a table lamp that was on its last legs already; I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it died on its own.

    It's now been 6 days since the treatment, and we've seen no new bites or signs of bugs. We've been trying to live normally so as not to mask any signs--if they're still here, we want to see them! We also have a follow-up k9 inspection scheduled in another week. I'll update with a new post then. Fingers crossed!

  2. sleeplessinhonolulu

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Mon Nov 5 2012 16:27:59
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    Update: Found live bug, back in monitoring mode

    This morning was our follow-up K9 inspection. But last night, I found a bug crawling on my sleeve while I was sitting on the couch. We captured it and put it in alcohol, and the PCO confirmed this morning that it is a bedbug (not yet an adult, full of blood).

    However, the dog didn't alert anywhere in the apartment (except on the controlled hide, a vial with eggs and adult bugs). The PCO got out her flashlight and did a visual inspection on both the couch and the headboard/head of the bed; she found fecal traces in between cushions on the couch (but that doesn't mean much since we know they were in the couch before) and a very crispy adult on the floor under the headboard (which must have just gotten missed in the vacuuming after the heat treatment). She said that it is technically possible for it to be just one, as a bug or two can crawl into the bathroom to survive during the heat treatment, but then has to emerge to feed since it's difficult for them to actually live in the bathroom. So hopefully it really was just one, though the pessimist in me doubts it. Of course it's technically possible that the bug wasn't a leftover from before the treatment, but had been introduced since. But we've literally had no one else through the apartment since the treatment, and haven't traveled or stayed anywhere else. We don't have a car, so we know we don't have a secondary population living there (although we do take public transit, which I know is a possible source of reintroduction). My husband is going to take a flashlight to work and inspect his desk area to make sure none are coming home with him.

    But anyway, our PCO gave us some climbups and helped us dust them with baby powder and position them. She's coming back on Friday to check on them, and said she'll also try to bring the other dog the company uses to double-check the first dog's (lack of) findings. She said there's no sense in trying to treat again without more information, so we're back in a holding pattern. If the climbups yield any results or the other dog alerts, they'll treat again (with chemicals this time).

    The good news is that the PCO was extremely helpful and apologetic, and I'm confident she'll make sure everything gets taken care of at no additional cost to us. Which is good, because I would not be happy about paying more after a $1200 heat treatment! I did note when we first got the treatment summary that although the work order specified 3 hours of heat, deadly temperatures were only maintained for 1.5 hours (according to the crew's own record). I mentioned it to the office manager when I first saw it, but didn't make a fuss (honestly, as long as they killed the little suckers, I didn't much care how), but could probably leverage it if the company balked at treating or tried to charge us extra. Hopefully it won't come to that!

    I'll continue to update our saga in hopes that it will be of use to others...and if anyone has had experience in situations like this, feel free to comment/advise. I'd be particularly interested to know from any experts how likely it is that a single bug would really be all by its lonesome--are the odds of that better or worse than a K9 and visual inspection missing other bugs?

  3. Paranoid12

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Mon Nov 5 2012 19:38:21
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    omg, I hope you get it all sorted out. Right now, I'm in a bind and can not afford any sort of professional treatment. hopefully, in a couple of months I will have a significant increase in income and will be able to afford a heat treatment, which I already had quoted for, about $1250 + tax. Hearing about you finding a live one after makes me scared. I would think it would be a one time treatment. Does you PCO offer a guarantee for another free treatment within a certain number of days?

  4. jdel

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Mon Nov 5 2012 22:45:43
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    I was wondering about heat treatments - how do they work in apartments? Do the bugs not just flee into neighboring apartments? I am wondering because I also live in a small apartment and we have a firm in town that offers heat treatment.

  5. sleeplessinhonolulu

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Tue Nov 6 2012 6:45:05
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    @Paranoid12, what the company did for us is schedule a free follow-up K9 two weeks after; if the treatment was shown to be ineffective (either by live bugs or a K9 alert), they'd do chemical spot treatments as necessary at no additional charge. I would definitely recommend talking to the company about it directly (and don't be afraid to press a little) if they don't offer you some sort of warranty up front. Our company was a little dodgy about it (they "guarantee" 100% elimination with one heat treatment, but kept saying how they can't offer a warranty because we could reintroduce bugs after a successful treatment and try to blame them for it), but when I talked directly to a PCO, instead of an office manager, she was able to arrange the K9 and assure us they would do any follow-up treatment for free. I just called her up and told her my concerns--that I was uneasy about paying so much money without knowing that it wouldn't all be wasted. So far, she's been completely great about it, even supplying us with the climbups.

    @jdel, I'm obviously no expert, but the guy managing the heat treatment said it's generally not a problem. I've read that they try to seal off exit points, but I have no idea how they would realistically do that. Other research I've done on the same question says that by the time the bugs realize it's getting hot enough to kill them--no idea if that's true either. I know that in our apartment, they dusted the baseboards, electrical outlets, etc. with chemicals in addition to the heat. Perhaps that's so that any who retreat are killed coming back?

    The team that did ours also uses heat treatments in the hotels (the tourism industry here is massive, and it comes with a sizable bedbug problem), so they have actually more experience doing this in multi-unit buildings than in single-family homes. So they must have some strategy for preventing it.

    Perhaps this is a little strange considering we may be dealing with a failed (and expensive!) treatment, but I actually don't regret going with heat at this point. At the very least, my husband immediately stopped getting bites the night after the treatment, and that has largely allowed us to return to work and normal life (I don't react at all, but he has a pretty bad allergic reaction). Even if we have to deal with follow-up treatment with chemicals at this point, at least he's not being eaten alive every night. And, of course, I still have my fingers crossed that it truly was just one. I'll feel a whole lot more secure if a second dog also finds nothing. (In fact, I would consider it money well spent to hire a K9 team not affiliated with the same pest control company to come out and confirm, but this is the only K9 team in the islands, apparently.)

    I'll update when our PCO comes back to follow up.

  6. sleeplessinhonolulu

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Fri Nov 16 2012 0:12:08
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    Update:

    PCO returned and found nothing in the climbups. She decided not to have the dog check out the apartment--they had just come from an appointment where the homeowners had other pets and were very uncooperative, so the dog was very unfocused. I was disappointed, but completely understood; a false positive would have been bad for everyone, and a false negative would just give us a false sense of security (and possibly make our company reluctant to continue treating under our warranty if necessary).

    Today, I found either a cast skin or a dead nymph (I think it was the former) in our bedding. I was trying to get a photo when I apparently breathed too hard and it blew off. It was so tiny and light, there's no way I could find it again. Maybe it could have been in our bedding for a while? We've washed and dried all our bedding multiple times since treatment, so I don't know.

    My husband hasn't gotten any bites, so if they survived they must be biting me. We're now considering some BB Alert Passive monitors.

    I'll update again if we find anything (or if we seem to be clear in a month or so).

  7. studiopeg1

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Fri Nov 16 2012 11:36:12
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    We had to have a second heat treatment. This seems to be the norm for most cases I have read about - even the ones featured on ABC news.

    My parents are at day 29 after the second treatment and all is well so far. When we reach 60 days without anything then we will consider it a success.

    Don't fret if you need a second treatment, it's not unusual. But if you have success after just one, that is great!

  8. sleeplessinhonolulu

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Fri Nov 16 2012 14:26:32
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    With your second treatment, did your company cover it, or did you pay for a second one? (If you don't mind saying.)

    I ask because the whole reason we agreed to the much more expensive heat treatment was because it was supposed to be a one-shot deal.


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