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Insect Inferno Puts the Heat on Bed Bugs
In northern Minnesota, a place where temperatures of -30°F are expected to take care of any lingering outdoor pests, one company has developed a product to turn up the heat on the indoor invaders. It’s called Insect Inferno, a heated trailer that raises the core temperature of mattresses, furniture and other household items to a level that kills any deep-layer infestations so that customers can keep their household items instead of paying for costly replacements.
Developed by Corey and Sue Westrum of North Star Pest Control, Insect Inferno was their response to the increase in bed bug cases in northern Minnesota in 2005. The couple — who have owned and operated North Star since 1999 when Sue bought the company from her parents — had debated whether or not to enter the bed bug business after hearing about the many methods of heat and spot treatment that were commonly used but not always effective. Though the Westrums were used to dealing with pests such as flies, spiders and Asian lady beetles, they realized that this new market could provide a lot of opportunity for expanding North Star’s business — which they had already doubled since taking over — especially during the winter months. They decided, however, that if they were going to tackle bed bugs, they needed to find a way to ensure that their bed bug control would match the quality standards of their other North Star services.
Their answer came in the spring of 2006 when Corey was attending an annual pest control certification conference in Minneapolis and heard a speaker talking about bed bugs in New York City. “He said, ‘I’d like to shake hands with the guy who could drive 130°F into the center core of a mattress,’ and I thought, ‘I know that guy,’” said Corey. The man Corey knew was a manufacturer only 30 miles away from his home in Leonard, Minn. When Corey returned from the conference, he shared his idea with this manufacturer, and they set about developing the first prototype designs. “We needed the mobility. We knew we had to have a trailer. The other thing we came up with was the raising of the trailer,” said Sue. By using the same actuator lifting system as is commonly found in icehouse transporters, Sue and Corey developed a trailer that could lower to the ground for easy loading and unloading. The other big issues the Westrums faced were developing an effective airflow system, temperature range and control program. They did a lot of testing and research to make sure that an effective heat range would not damage or discolor households items or damage the electronic devices while still killing the bed bugs.
Though the Westrums began designing their prototypes in 2007 and developed their first model in 2008, it wasn’t until they won the 2010 Minnesota IDEA Competition that they received the feedback and funding necessary to push their prototype to the next level. In total, the Westrums estimate that they’ve invested almost $200,000 in their product, but say that the positive reception and effective results have made it all worthwhile.
The 411. So, how exactly does Insect Inferno work? For North Star, step one is always an inspection to make sure that bed bugs are present. Once the inspection is complete, they have the resident or property owner prepare the necessary items for a heat cycle. “It’s like moving out,” said Corey, though he also explained that inspections reveal which rooms must be emptied and which can be left alone. In order to get the household items into the trailer, North Star uses a customized set of encasements made by a local company that primarily sells boat covers. These encasements are industrial grade and use a Velcro feature to stay closed, ensuring that no bed bugs or eggs are spread to other areas of the site during transportation to the trailer. “The best part is, when you’re done using [the encasements], you just throw them in the trailer with the load,” said Sue.
Once the items are in the trailer, a series of probes are inserted into their core to monitor internal temperatures. The kill temperature for bed bugs is approximately 122.5°F, so the Westrums designed their computer program to aim for an approximate 133°F internal temperature. The trailer’s electronics, located in an enclosed control room at the front of the trailer, run the entire process without any necessary supervision, allowing the North Star pest management professionals to perform their four-step bed bug treatment program. The control room is equipped, however, with an electronic monitoring system that displays the core temperatures of the items being treated as well as the actual temperature of the unit.
Insect Inferno is heated using propane gas drawn from one of its two propane tanks — the same kind used with gas grills. Each tank is 20 pounds, and one tank can last for about seven to eight jobs. There is also a generator that powers the system, but the trailer only pulls seven amps of power to run, so it can also plug directly into an outlet if one is available. When the program is started, the air is heated and circulated by fans, while any exhaust leaves through a special vent in the trailer roof. When the trailer reaches the desired temperature, the heating system switches off to conserve energy, and the fans circulate the contained heat. Should the temperature drop below the desired heat level inside the trailer, the heating system turns on again to raise the temperature back up. On average, each cycle takes one-and-a-half to two hours, depending on the temperature outside the trailer and the size of the load.
To date, the Westrums have sold nine trailers, and though each is customizable, they say that the core functions always operate on the same basic system. The most popular model is the 18-foot, which costs about $37,000 (primarily to cover the cost of the steel framing and aluminum structure) plus an additional $5,000 for transportation and training. “Once we get an order, we hand it off to our manufacturer. We’re in the sales side, [but] he’ll put up the best product every time. Nothing gets sent away or delivered until I’m satisfied,” said Corey, who handles all of the training himself. During training, the Westrums share their four-step treatment process and for an additional $400 each, they also will provide the same custom encasements that they use for transporting items into and out of the trailer. “We stand behind our products 100 percent,” they added.
Though Insect Inferno has brought a lot of media and public attention to the Westrums, when asked how entering the product development side of the pest management industry has affected their business, they said their number one priority is, and has always been, maintaining and expanding North Star.
“The main thing we did was to make North Star Pest Control even better. [It] made us known as the bed-bug experts in Minnesota. We’ve done one callback out of at least 120 jobs, and that’s just in the two-year period. Ask anyone in the industry. That’s unheard of,” said Corey. — Kelly Mannes
NPMA and PCOC Announce Bed Bug Forum 2012
NPMA and the Pest Control Operators of California recently announced Bed Bug Forum 2012, an opportunity for PMPs to receive the latest information from legal, technical, business and customer-oriented perspectives.
NPMA says this conference moves beyond bed bug basics and focuses on solutions essential to properly manage your pest control business.
At Bed Bug Forum 2012, pest management professionals will:
- Learn about the most up-to-date research, information and treatment strategies from some of the industry’s most respected speakers.
- Receive insight into the latest research and strategies for bed bug control, legal protection, treatment and more.
- Develop an understanding of the challenges and opportunities of entering the canine scent-detection business.
- Learn about the dos and don’ts of heat treatment.
- Interact with other attendees who share the same challenges.
- Engage with more than 30 vendors demonstrating current, innovative bed bug products and services.
Early bird registration ends April 6. The Bed Bug Forum 2012 will be held at the Crowne Plaza Anaheim Resort. For hotel reservations at the Crowne Plaza, call 866/442-7375 by April 10 to receive the group rate of $115 per night.
Innovative Textile Solutions
Sweep, developed by Innovative Textile Solutions (ITS), announces a complete bedding system that will effectively kill bed bugs and help prevent an infestation, the firm says. The EPA-registered technology kills bed bugs that remain in contact with Sweep for 24 hours and is designed to contact them where they live, Innovative Textile Solutions reports. The Sweep system is proactive and designed to kill bed bugs. The mattress pad, mattress bed band and box spring encasement technology have been independently laboratory tested, the firm reports.
The Sweep system was developed over a five-year period by a group of textile experts, entomologists and Ph.D.s. “It is, in fact, a spinoff of the chemistry currently used by the U.S. military to protect soldiers in the field from insect-borne disease,” said Jeffrey Erdheim, a 35-year textile veteran and ITS partner. In conjunction with the bedding system, ITS has developed and registered a full travel and storage system using the same technology. “The new system will be a ‘must have’ for travelers who recognize the danger of bringing bed bugs home and the importance of prevention,” said Jeff Goldman of ITS. It will include luggage liners, garment bags, a laptop case, under bed storage and laundry bags. Sweep systems will protect the user 24/7 and is available for international distribution.
Heat Assault 500X: A New Heat Bed Bug Eradication System
The Heat Assault 500X is a new heat insect eradication system that has been designed to be so simple and safe to operate that no special training is required, the manufacturer says, adding that this green technology will eliminate insect infestations at all stages of life in only a few hours.
How does it work? Heat Assault draws heat transfer fluid (HTF) out of its reservoir, heats it up in two oil-fired coil heaters and returns it to the reservoir. The heated HTF is then pumped out of the reservoir through the hoses to unit heaters in the insect eradication area. Fans in the unit heaters remove the heat from the HTF and blow it into the insect eradication area.
The HTF then returns to the Heat Assault for reheating. Only clean, dry heat is left in the insect eradication area. Remote temperature probes are used to track progress and ensure that the insect eradication is a success.
Heat Assault takes less than an hour to set up and is quiet, the manufacturer says, adding that it is designed for operation in residential settings.
The Original Bed Bug Education Forum
BedBug Central presents the third annual BedBug University: North American Summit, to be held Sept. 6-7. The North American Summit is the largest summit about bed bugs and features the leading experts in research and the industry, BedBug Central reports.
Every session, speaker, exhibitor and attendee will be focused on bed bugs for this two-day event. BedBug Central’s all-inclusive price covers all food, sessions, events and receptions with one registration fee. The event will be held at the Red Rock Casino, Hotel and Spa. The show rate is $130 per night.
The North American Summit offers unique features, including in-depth sessions led by top experts in the fields of bed bug research, treatment application, business and legal policy. BedBug University offers specific learning tracks that provide a suggested focused itinerary for each attendee including: pest management managers, technical staff, hospitality, health care, education, multi-family/group homes, military and others.
This forum also includes individuals outside the pest management industry, which makes this different from typical pest management industry gatherings, the planners say. At the summit, participants will learn how each group views the bed bug issue from their unique perspective and understand what that means for their business. In addition, more than 75 leading vendors will demonstrate current, innovative bed bug products and services.
The summit also offers one-of-a-kind networking events, including the Annual Beer Tasting Reception and “Experts at the Bar.”
CimeXa Insecticide Dust From Rockwell Labs Quickly Kills Bed Bugs
CimeXa Insecticide Dust from Rockwell Labs Ltd quickly kills bed bug adults, nymphs and nymphs hatched from dusted eggs, including pyrethroid-resistant bed bugs. It also controls fleas, ticks, lice, roaches, ants, firebrats, silverfish, spiders and mites, and also may be used for the prevention and treatment of drywood termites.
CimeXa is odorless, non-staining, non-repellent and lasts up to 10 years when undisturbed, the manufacturer reports. The broad label allows the product to be used to treat cracks, crevices, voids, mattresses, carpets, pet rest areas, attics and many other areas. It also can be mixed with water and applied as a spray.
The engineered silica-based dust has exceptional absorption of water (in liquid form) and oil, destroying the insect’s waxy cuticle, causing rapid dehydration and death, Rockwell Labs says. It does not absorb water vapor except in very high humidity conditions, so the product will not become clumpy or deactivate after being applied. Amorphous silica gel has an excellent, extremely low-toxicity profile and is even allowed as a food additive, the manufacturer reports.
CimeXa comes in quart-size bottles, which hold 4 ounces of dust, and 5-gallon buckets that hold 5 pounds. The standard usage rate is 2 ounces per 100 square feet.
ActiveGuard Mattress Liners Now Can Be Used by All Ages
EPA issued a new label for ActiveGuard Mattress Liners, removing restrictions from its use. The product now can be used by persons of all ages.
ActiveGuard’s new labeling, which is being routed for approval at the state level, removed five restrictions from the previous label. These changes make the use of ActiveGuard available to persons of all ages, including children. Previously ActiveGuard was labeled for use those 5 years and older.
According to Joseph Latino, COO of Allergy Technologies, the new label opens new markets and will assist in expanding the company’s growing foothold in existing segments.
“The EPA’s decision is not only tremendously positive for Allergy Technologies but also for pest management professionals and end-user customers including homeowners, hotel owners and general managers, multi-family and public housing property managers, cruise ship professionals and more,” said Latino.
ActiveGuard mattress guards are thin and breathable and easily installed onto mattresses and box springs. They kill bed bugs and dust mites continuously for up to two years, the firm says. ActiveGuard mattress liners kill bed bugs within 72 hours, including resistant strains.
Distinct from encasements and originally developed as a natural extension of the globally used mosquito nets by a team of research entomologists for use against dust mites, ActiveGuard has been extensively lab and field tested for use in both active and preventive bed bug control strategies, the firm says.
Detect Bed Bugs with Bed Bug Alert
The Bed Bug Alert from Bird-X features a proprietary and attractant gel that actively lures and traps bed bugs — if they are present. The product is discreet, and the small, transparent monitor easily slips under the mattress or anywhere bed bugs are suspected, the manufacturer says.
The Bed Bug Alert’s patented housing is tamper-proof and the product is easy to use, Bird-X says, adding that its clear viewing window makes Bed Bug Alert inspection simple, because there is no need to open the device.
The Bed Bug Alert is reusable and can be checked daily, reinserted and reused. The product is durable, the company says, because its sturdy plastic construction prevents the monitor from being crushed while in use. The product attracts both adult bed bugs and second-instar nymphs.