Following reports of a suspected bedbug infestation, the first task of the technician must be to carry out a thorough check.
The role of this inspection is to confirm whether or not there is an active bedbug infestation and if an active infestation remains evident, the actions to be taken should be determined.
A detailed assessment is also necessary to determine the time needed to actually carry out the control programme and the necessary equipment, which is essential for the process and to determine its cost.
The inspection should be carried out as carefully as possible so that they do not escape identification of potential bug shelters.
Before the inspection takes place, it is important to inform the occupant and/or relevant staff (e.g. landlord, site manager, etc.) what the inspection will involve and what they should and should not do.
It is essential to inspect the entire room, including cupboards and drawers, and it may be necessary to remove the bed head, lift the carpets and dismantle some items and furniture. It may be necessary to remove the fabric from the underside of the bed and sofas, and some things or objects may need to be removed for off-site or off-site treatment (if applicable).
Access to the room will be restricted for a period during and immediately after treatment (the duration will depend on the treatment applied) and further follow-up checks may be required after treatment.
The occupant should also be informed of his or her role during the processing process, and how to avoid the re-introduction of bugs into the property upon his or her return home or when moving to other facilities. The occupant should be aware that it is preferable to avoid removing items from the room before the technician begins the inspection, as this could also cause them to disperse.
Identifying the extent of a bedbug infestation is key to any control strategy: population numbers, hiding places (actual and potential) and risks associated with potential infestations are the first variables to consider.
In a hotel it is standard practice to inspect all adjacent rooms, including those above and below the suspect room.
In a condominium inhabited by several people or households this is not always possible. To do so without the customer’s knowledge due to a lack of consent would certainly be unprofessional, as well as a serious breach of the customer’s privacy law.
The situation undoubtedly becomes more difficult when the adjacent property is the source of an infestation, as a new infestation is likely to occur in the future in the premises already treated. In such cases, the technician can only suggest the client to inform the administrator of the condominium of the problem, so that he or she can recommend measures to the tenant or owner, as well as informing the other possible neighboring tenants or owners of the adjacent property.
It is important that all these residents are made aware that bugs have been found in the apartment complex and that those who know or suspect an anaphylactic or allergic reaction to the bite of the parasite should certainly have their premises checked by a competent technician.
Preparation is crucial in facilitating the treatment process. However, it should only be carried out after the pre-treatment inspection.
The quality of the preparation will depend on the severity of the infestation and may involve the careful removal of linen, furniture and clothing for immediate recycling.
Books can be removed and shelves and drawers may be emptied.
Sofa beds may need to be tipped over and the underlying fabric removed to allow access.
There is some debate about who should conduct the preparation work. Some pest control technicians prefer to conduct the preparations themselves in order to minimise the risk of bugs being dispersed throughout the facility. While this is generally regarded as the best approach, it requires more time from the technician and therefore justifies higher costs.
Where occupants are able to do so, it may be acceptable for the pre-treatment preparation work to be conducted by them. If the power supply is to be disconnected in a room (e.g., removal of electrical outlets for inspection and possible application of insecticide), it is recommended that it be done by a licensed electrician or authorized maintenance personnel. However, it is the responsibility of the technician to ensure that the occupant is properly informed (preferably in writing) of what is required to prepare and how to do it without causing the pest to disperse.
Bedbug pest control procedures
Non-chemical options are an essential, sustainable element in all control programmes. However, the best results are achieved by integrating them with chemical control methods.
Leaving an infested room unattended for a long period of time is not a valid option for bug control, as they can easily live for many months without a blood meal. Infested rooms should be treated with this procedural code.
Reducing the overall population size of a bug infestation should be the first activity for any control programme.
While the vacuum cleaner will not remove all bugs or their eggs, it can have a significant impact on the population, as well as the removal of dust and debris, which could affect the effective penetration of chemical insecticides if necessary.
Following each vacuum, the vacuum cleaner must be isolated and bags containing any insects or eggs isolated in a closed bag once off the property. When not in use, the vacuum cleaner itself should also be stored in a sealed bag or box.
Steam has the ability to kill bugs at all stages of life, including eggs.
However, unless the level of infestation is low, control cannot be achieved with steam alone and should be used as part of an integrated approach.
There are many brands and types of steam machines on the market, but not all models are suitable. The most effective unit must be able to produce a constant flow of steam, even not intense, but at high temperature. It is best to use commercial units using ‘dry steam’, which allows faster drying times.
Like any tool, steam machines are effective when the operator is also effective. To achieve control, a thorough knowledge of the parasite and its ecology is essential, controls must also be precise and punctual and the treatment process must be meticulous.
Carpet edges can also be treated with steam, together with the top and bottom edge of the skirting board. After completion of the steam treatment, dead bugs must be removed by suction, which will assist in determining the success of the treatment.
Some machines have a combined steam and suction process. Steam can damage heat-sensitive and water-sensitive materials, so the technician must always check the object to be treated in a non-visible area before starting the main treatment. Steam increases the humidity in the room, which can lead to the formation of mold if not properly ventilated after treatment.
Temperatures above 48°C are lethal for bugs. If the whole room with its contents is heated above this temperature and there is no loophole to the surrounding environment, all bugs and their eggs are eliminated instantly.
One of the main advantages of such a heat treatment is that the entire contents of the room, including furniture, mattresses and even infested linen, can remain in their position during the treatment process.
During the pre-treatment inspection it is essential that all potential escape routes are identified and blocked because the bugs become extremely active during the treatment process and will try to escape.
Air ducts that cannot be blocked should be treated with a residual insecticide to prevent insects from escaping and eventual return after treatment.
Providing heat treatment is a specialised area that requires a substantial initial outlay and a thorough knowledge of the heating systems used. In systems where the heat is generated electrically, a considerable electrical charge may be required, even triphasic, which may not be available in all rooms.
Treatment times vary depending on the heating equipment used and the environment to be treated, but times of 8-12 hours are typical and effective for hotel rooms.
To minimize the risk of property damage, heat sources should not normally exceed 58-60°C. On-site treatments, where all infested objects are treated in a fixed space, are an increasingly common practice today: items as large as beds can be treated on site, saving time and various removal and replacement costs.
Freezing has the advantage that it does not damage heat-sensitive materials. While this method cannot be used directly by the technician, for logistical reasons, it can be recommended for small objects within a property. Large horizontal freezers can be used off-site decontamination.
Items should be packed in plastic boxes, sealed before leaving the infestation and remain sealed throughout the treatment.
The duration required in the freezer depends on the density of the material to be disinfected. Dense articles have the longest thermal inertia and therefore require more time to reach lethal temperature.
Only 2 hours at -17 °C (the temperature of a typical domestic freezer) is necessary to kill all phases of life, however a recent study showed that 10 hours was necessary to sufficiently reduce the temperature of a 2.5 kg bag that is poorly compressed in a dry cleaner.
Finally, the use of insecticides can be added to these interventions. The type of formulation (e.g. liquid spray, aerosol or powder) selected for treatment will depend on the location of the bug shelters. Each individual product will have advantages and disadvantages and these should be intended to assess each product before treatment. The use of one formulation rather than another should be considered during the evaluation process and is primarily based on the effectiveness of each formulation on a given treatment surface and the risks that a product may pose in the path requiring treatment. For example, water-based sprays around an electrical pole are obviously not allowed; however, the application of a powder can provide effective control with minimal risk. Depending on the insecticide applied and the level of insecticide resistance of the population, it will often be necessary to apply more than one insecticide treatment. As eggs tend to be more resistant to insecticides than neanides, the minimum interval between treatments should take into account egg laying times, which in turn are influenced by temperature. An interval of two weeks is usually sufficient for all eggs to hatch, however, more time may be required in particularly cold conditions. When applying insecticides it is always advisable to remember to:
Keep residents and pets out of the room until all liquid insecticides are drained (usually 2-3 hours). A liquid part may remain in the room if well covered (air pumps should only be switched off after adequate ventilation of the room).
Insecticides must not come into contact with food. Avoid food preparation areas, dishes, utensils and anything else that may come into contact with food in the future.
Clothing should not be treated with insecticides and should therefore be removed from drawers and washed thoroughly at optimal temperatures (60°C).
Only treat mattresses with insecticides that have been approved for such use and therefore only if the mattress will then be covered with a sheet
Avoid over-use of liquid insecticides, which can lead to drift of the active substance on surfaces or areas intentionally intended to be spared by the treatment.
Post-bedbug pest control actions
Do not re-enter the treated area until the chemical residue of any substances applied has dried completely.
Refer to the instructions on the label for re-entry times.
After 10 days a complete cleaning programme should be carried out to remove all regressive signs of infestation, such as dead bugs, faecal matter on walls and mattresses and then proceed to a follow-up inspection.
All points previously identified as infested with bugs should be re-examined; cracks and crevices will receive special attention and the surrounding areas will be checked if the bugs have been removed by insecticides.
It is also necessary to inspect any adjacent places not previously occupied, as the bugs may have been moved. If live bugs are found, further treatment and subsequent inspection will inevitably have to be carried out.
How much does bedbug pest control cost?
Bed bugs are very complex to deal with, and even an inexperienced bed bug exterminator can have serious problems eradicating them.
If you have bedbugs in your home, you are probably thinking of eradicating them with the normal insecticides on the market. But that solution will almost always fail.
The cost of surgery is another reason to deal with the do-it-yourself problem.
Obviously the price depends on the number of premises to be treated and the severity of the infestation and therefore the number of interventions that need to be applied. Just to get your bearings, basic prices fluctuate around 100-150 euros, but of course this is a generic estimate for a low-grade infestation in a medium-sized bedroom.
At first glance it may seem a considerable expense, and after all an insecticide costs a few euros but the risk is to continue to share the bed with the bugs while you try to eliminate them. In addition, the insecticide can cause annoyance and inconvenience to you, damage to pets that you keep in the house and children. Finally, consider that you have no guarantee of results and you may have to buy a lot of insecticide, which in itself is not a big expense, it’s true, but you will almost certainly continue to suffer from the presence of bugs.