Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Techletter, a biweekly training letter for professional pest control technicians from Pinto & Associates.
In a bed bug infestation, the number and location of sites that you treat with insecticide depends on the extent and severity of the infestation, and on your experience. Always check the label for specific application instructions and precautions and be familiar with your state and local regulations, which may further restrict your use of a particular product. Following are some possible insecticide application sites and techniques for treating these sites:
BED FRAMES. Service for bed bugs usually includes treatment with a residual insecticide of bed frames, slats, and hollow legs or open springs, headboards and the floor around beds.
Remove the mattress and box spring and stand them upright. Treatment sites in and around the bed frame may include the following:
- Bed frame at the interface where the box spring rests, inside bed frame legs, wheels and hollow bed posts, and cracks and crevices in the frame;
- Wood surfaces, including slats;
- Spring coils, if present;
- Footboard and headboard, including the area where the headboard may be attached to the wall (often seen in hotels);
- In platform beds, treat inside the void under the platform, in cracks and crevices;
- In adjustable beds, treat potential hiding places around the hoses, motors, pistons and inside accessible chambers (Note: some of these may not be good treatment sites because of potential damage from the insecticide and might be better treated with steam or other non-chemical methods.);
- In futons, treat the joints for each slat and all cracks and crevices in wood; treat inside any hollow metal tubing; and,
- In water beds, you must drain and disassemble the bed in order to treat or inspect effectively; these beds may need to be removed and fumigated or heat-treated.
MATTRESSES & BOX SPRINGS. Pest control companies differ widely in how they deal with infested mattresses and box springs. Some require that they be discarded and replaced. Disposal is rarely necessary, however, unless the items are badly deteriorated and severely infested. Other companies encase mattresses and box springs. Some treat after confirming that the label of the insecticide specifically allows such treatment. Follow label directions and do not treat the bed of anyone who is ill or bedridden. Inspect and treat these sites:
- Underside of the box spring, especially the seams where the gauze cover attaches to the box spring frame.
- Inside the box spring void space where you may have to cut small holes or remove the gauze to get access (get permission from your customer); be sure to get insecticide all the way inside to the wooden portions of the frame of the box spring, and all the cracks and crevices there.
- Tufts, seams and buttons on the mattress and box spring, under the lifting straps and corner protectors, inside any rips or tears, under folds and pillow-top. Treat these sites lightly, not until they are wet. (Note: mattresses should not be re-covered or used until thoroughly dry.) Recommend that your customer use an encasement.
Some insecticide dusts also can be used to treat the previously listed sites, but not all dusts can be used on mattresses and box springs. And dust labels may have very specific instructions for minimizing the risk that residents might inhale the dust, including vacuuming after application.
OTHER SLEEPING AREAS. Bed bugs are typically concentrated near beds, but they also focus around other sleeping and resting areas such as sofas, upholstered chairs and recliners. For upholstered furniture, treat these sites:
- Under the cushions, behind the skirting and on the underside where the gauze attaches to the body;
- Inside the void under the gauze, similar to the directions previously for treating a box spring (again, get your customer’s permission if you need to remove the gauze); and,
- Infested seams on the top surface (some companies do not treat this site); only certain insecticide products are labeled for this use.
A few dusts also can be used to treat upholstered furniture, but the same precautions apply as discussed previously under “Mattresses & Box Springs.”
Although mattresses, box springs and upholstered furniture are the primary treatment sites for bed bugs, in a heavy infestation you’ll need to inspect and treat other diverse sites as well.
OTHER FURNITURE. Dressers, nightstands and other bedroom furniture sometimes can be infested. Which furniture pieces you treat, and how intensively, will depend on conditions at the site. Treatment of secondary furniture might include the following:
- For dressers, wardrobes and bureaus, first remove the drawers. Apply a residual into drawer slides, cracks, crevices, voids and the underside of horizontal surfaces. Don’t spray inside drawers unless they will be covered with a liner after treatment;
- For nightstands, treat under and inside; and,
- Apply a liquid residual in a band to the floor area around infested furniture.
WALLS & FLOORS. Many other sites, inside or outside of the bedroom, may be infested or provide harborage to bed bugs. These sites may need to be treated with an insecticide, depending on the extent and location of the infestation. These are some of the most common sites to treat in infested rooms:
- Behind baseboards, crown molding and other moldings.
- Around window and doorframes, and other moldings.
- Under carpet edges and tack strips under wall-to-wall carpet. Try to treat the edge areas of wall-to-wall carpet without “lifting” the carpet. Carpet can be difficult to reattach neatly and lifting the carpet may void the installation warranty. If you must lift the carpet, get permission from the resident.
- Cracks and seams in wood floors and other hard surface floors.
- Check and treat wall damage such as nail holes, chipped paint, cracks and crevices.
- Behind wall hangings such as pictures, mirrors, calendars and others.
- Inside and behind switch plates and electrical outlets, and sometimes in light fixtures.
- Infested wall voids are sometimes drilled and treated with insecticide dusts.
- Treat ceiling/wall intersections, and especially corners.
SECONDARY SITES. In heavy infestations, insecticide treatment may be expanded to include other potentially infested sites too numerous to list completely.
- Inside emptied clothes closets, specifically to the closet’s baseboards and molding, underneath shelves, and inside cracks and crevices.
- Inside drop ceilings, or crevices in “popcorn” ceilings near bed areas.
- In sprinkler heads mounted in ceilings and on walls.
- Within and behind draperies.
- In hotels/motels, service carts, laundry carts, luggage carts and similar.
- Small electric or electronic personal items such as TVs, computers, phones, video games, clocks, appliances, and other devices can be treated inside a sealed space with Nuvan Prostrips (DDVP) or Cirkil RTU neem oil (see later in article).
- Small fabric, paper or delicate personal items that can’t be washed or dry cleaned such as toys, books, DVDs, artwork, shoes, or purses can be treated inside a sealed space with Nuvan Prostrips or Cirkil RTU (see later in article).
SMALL ITEMS. To treat bed bug-infested small personal items with DDVP, place infested items, with the Nuvan Prostrip, into an air-tight container such as a plastic storage bin or other sturdy container with a strong seal (note: plastic bags may not be allowed on all labels) or in a closet or room that is kept closed. Follow the label instructions to determine the appropriate size and number of strips for the volume of space being treated. Label treatment times vary from 48 hours to one week. At the end of the treatment period, take the containers to a well-ventilated area (preferably outdoors), remove treated items, and air them out for at least two hours.
To treat small items with Cirkil RTU’s “Rag in a Bag” protocol, place infested items in a heavy-duty plastic bag. Spray a damp rag or paper towel with the product according to label directions, close and seal the bag, and leave for three to seven days.
Be sure that you are familiar with your state and local regulations, which may restrict your use of a particular product.
The authors are well-known industry consultants and co-owners of Pinto & Associates.