Bayer’s Jim Westhead shares his tips on how to ensure the best outcome for notoriously challenging bed bug treatments.
Having worked in the pest management industry for over 33 years, I have been involved in many bed bug problems and have provided extensive training for many pest companies, large and small. This article aims to refresh minds about how to successfully conduct bug jobs and shares the latest techniques from industry experts.
As most pest managers know, the incidence of bed bug infestations has grown substantially over the past ten years. It is an accepted norm for bed bug problems to exist in backpackers’ hostels, motels and smaller hotels. But in recent times, even the top class hotels, five-star (even six-star) hotels have seen outbreaks. However these problems are often kept in-house because the perception is that these pests exist only in a dirty environments, and clearly, prospective customers will be put off by knowledge of any infestation.
When treating hotels and guest accommodation facilities, an inspection of the infested room is not enough. The adjoining rooms (including rooms above and below) need to be thoroughly inspected and ideally, treated as well. Additionally, many accommodation facilities have luggage storage rooms, used by guests for early/late checkouts. These storage areas are a hotspot for potential bed bug transfer between luggage.
Bed bugs can sometimes be misidentified because of the radical change in their body shape after feeding. The main image above shows the appearance of a bed bug at various life stages, including after feeding, when it is engorged after a blood meal.
So what steps should a pest manager take when completing a bed bug job?
Firstly, ensure that the person who answers your company phone has a reasonably good knowledge of what is required to control a bed bug problem. Otherwise, poor advice can give the customer an unrealistic expectation of seeing immediate results, which will cause further problems for both the customer and the pest manager.
Secondly, like many pest management issues, a thorough inspection of the premises, along with a face to face discussion with the customer, is a must before starting the job. Third, keep in mind that the infestation will almost always be greater than the customer’s perception. The fourth step is to provide the customer with a ‘before and after’ to-do list, like the one below, to ensure the area is ready for a professional treatment.
Lastly, the treatments – with a non-repellent insecticide – must target the insect in all possible harbourage areas.
Customer checklist: before treatment
- Remove clutter off floors and away from the walls.
- Launder bed linens, bedspreads, etc. in hot water (and it must be hot). Leave the bed unmade.
- Wash clothes in hot water or have them professionally cleaned.
- Remove all items from drawers (nightstands, dressers, desk etc.) as all drawers must be treated.
- Vacuum thoroughly.
Clients should be instructed not action this list until they receive the go-ahead from the pest manager, after the initial room inspection has been completed.
Customer checklist: after treatment
- Open as many windows as possible (weather permitting).
- Vacate the property for four hours or until the spray has dried. Keep pets and children away from treated surfaces until the spray has dried.
- Mattresses not infested internally can be sprayed, but allow them to dry completely before remaking the beds.
- Do not clean the floors for 2-3 weeks! However, carpeted areas can be vacuumed.
- Discard infested mattresses, box springs, futons, etc.
- Launder all bedding, including protective pads, covers, pillows and soft toys.
- Launder or professionally clean all throws and rugs.
- Vacuum rooms prior to occupancy.
- Close off rooms after service until re-entry period expires (usually four hours – pest manager to confirm the label instruction).
It is important for customers to understand that a treatment requires time to work, at least 7-10 days. Rooms will need to be kept closed until given the all clear by the pest manager.
Treating bed bugs requires technical skill and knowledge. Many pest management companies will not undertake bed bug jobs, even larger well established companies. This should be a warning to pest managers undertaking this specialist work – staff need to be well trained and, ideally, regularly doing bed bug jobs. Companies (and their techs) who take on bed bug work infrequently will often struggle to achieve consistent results – without callbacks.
In my experience, failure to control bed bugs usually comes down to one of four reasons. Firstly, a failure to target cracks and crevices thoroughly. Secondly, underestimating the extent of the infestation. Thirdly, the reintroduction of new bugs (from the arrival of new guests) and lastly, a failure in the cleaning operations, where bed linen is not treated appropriately.
Choosing the right product is a key consideration. Many chemicals are registered for bed bugs; in fact, Bayer has more than ten products registered. The standout product for bed bug work is Temprid 75. Why? Temprid kills bed bug eggs when applied as a direct treatment and the dried residues prevent eggs from hatching. Since launching in the US in 2008 and shortly after in Australia, Temprid has continued to be a leading product for bed bug control.