Bed bugs are a complex pest and currently there is no silver bullet treatment. Property owners, facility crews and homeowners will need to understand the variety of options available to them in order to utilize a multidisciplinary approach and effectively treat bed bugs. If conducted incorrectly, mishandled treatments can complicate infestations and drive up treatment costs. Poorly handled treatments can also adversely affect the property owners through lost productivity or bad press. Jan/san distributors can help by understanding and providing the proper tools.

Research has indicated that many of the pesticides commonly used have little to no effect on bed bug eggs. If one were to apply a liquid pesticide on unhatched bed bug eggs and the egg hatched several days later, the pesticide may have no effect on the freshly hatched bed bugs. There are several different ways to address this concern.

The first is to use ultra high or low temperatures. Industrial and some commercial grade steamers can be used to kill bed bugs and their eggs on contact. If a steamer achieves temperatures in excess of 180 degrees Fahrenheit at the point where the steam leaves the steam head, it will kill bed bugs and their eggs instantly. The effectiveness of a steamer can be tested by taking an instant-read, household thermometer and placing it under a fold on a fabric couch and seeing what temperature the thermometer reads while moving the steam head over the thermometer at one-inch per second.

On the other side of the temperature spectrum are Cryonite machines. This method utilizes compressed carbon dioxide to create a powder-like dry ice that kills bed bugs and their eggs on contact at temperatures less than minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Research has shown that temperatures around 120 degrees Fahrenheit are lethal to both bed bugs and their eggs in a short amount of time. The easiest way to utilize heat is to place any launderable items in a hot dryer cycle, which will kill bed bugs and their eggs in a short amount of time.

For large-scale treatments, equipment is available that can heat entire homes or buildings up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or higher to treat for bed bugs. While some are promoting these treatments as the “silver bullet” for bed bug control, field studies show that heat can eliminate manageable bed bug infestations in one heat treatment, but may only have the ability to crash the population of high level infestations, particularly when clutter is present. Even though heat may have the ability to eliminate bed bug infestations in one treatment, the exchange for using heat are higher-costs than traditional methods and infeasibility in certain environments.

Besides heat, there are a variety of over-the-counter, spray-products available on the market that can kill bed bugs on contact. However, these products have little to no effect once dry. One example is 91 percent isopropyl alcohol. If bed bugs are contacted with this, both the bugs and eggs will die in a short amount of time. As with similar spray products, distributors should review any research the manufacturer has in regards to how effective the product is against bed bugs prior to purchasing these items.

Although bed bugs are developing resistances to pesticides, chemical treatments still serve an integral role in bed bug management. Dust-based pesticides can be extremely effective against bed bugs. Liquid residual based pesticides have also shown to provide a benefit in eliminating this pest. Cracks and crevices throughout a facility should be focused on when treating for bed bugs. As with any pesticide, these items should be applied in a manner consistent with the label directions. Pesticide usage should only be one tool that is used in bed bug management.

To physically remove bed bugs from infested areas, cleaning professionals can simply use vacuums. After vacuuming bed bugs from infested areas, the contents should be disposed of in an outdoor trash receptacle. End users should be trained to dispose of the contents of the vacuum immediately after vacuuming as bed bugs can live inside a vacuum and re-infest the facility.

It is recommended to use a vacuum that empties into a bag rather than a dirt cup to help contain bugs during disposal. High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuums can be used to remove bed bugs, but its important to remember that immature bed bugs are only the size of a letter on a penny and emptying these filters can be difficult to do properly. Finally, vacuums will not address bed bug eggs; they are only effective on the insect.

Each of these tools represent just one part of what constitutes a comprehensive bed bug treatment program. A multi-pronged approach combined with education will empower communities across the country to increase prevention and respond efficiently and effectively against bed bugs.

Jeffrey White is a research entomologist for Lawrenceville, N.J.-based Cooper Pest Solutions and BedBug Central. Calvin Allen is the director of strategic communications for BedBug Central. For more information, visit