Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Techletter, a biweekly training letter for professional pest control technicians from Pinto & Associates. To subscribe, visit www.techletter.com.
Bed bugs are resistant to many insecticides, and their habits make control difficult. In many cases, repeated applications of insecticides are required before control is achieved. While you should always take care to minimize exposure of people and pets to insecticides, it’s even more important when performing bed bug work. Incorporate non-chemical measures on bed bug jobs whenever you can to avoid accumulated “pesticide load” in accounts.
INSECTICIDE CONCERNS. Share the following with clients as it relates to insecticide use for bed bug control in residential and commercial settings:
- It’s your duty to inform and warn people about which areas have been treated, the products used, special precautions they should take and when they can reoccupy the space.
- When possible, have people vacate the site to be treated. The insecticide label may not require this, but it’s always a good idea to have people leave the area and return only after the insecticide has dried or settled. The label may require ventilation of the space before it is reoccupied and may specify a re-entry time. If not, two to four hours before re-entry will work in most cases.
- If an occupant or visitor to the site is, or may be, susceptible to pesticides, take special precautions. Infants and people who are elderly, bedridden, ill, pregnant or have allergies or asthma may fall into this category. Have them consult with their physician if there is a question. Try to have these people out of the area when it is treated. Choose a least-risk insecticide and read the label carefully. Consider opting for nonchemical controls such as encasements, heat or steam treatment, vacuuming or traps. Remember that the compromised individual may be facing more than one bed bug treatment.
- Don’t forget to protect pets, especially pets that are confined to the treated space such as tropical fish and pet birds. Like people, any pet that is very young, very old, ill or pregnant should be removed from the site during intensive insecticide treatment for bed bugs. Turn off aerators on fish tanks and cover the tank until airborne residues have dissipated.
NONCHEMICAL CONCERNS. Insecticide application is not the only possible hazard for people and pets during bed bug work. Alternative controls such as heat treatment and even vacuuming can present safety and health problems for certain people as well. Ask if residents have any health issues that might limit procedures discussed below, and then proceed accordingly:
- When vacuuming for bed bugs, be aware that you could produce airborne residues from the bed bugs and other pests, which may affect a resident with allergies or asthma. Newer evidence suggests that some people react to allergens from dead bed bugs as much as they do with cockroaches. Be sure that your vacuum has a HEPA or other filter installed that will minimize airborne allergens.
- High airflow from fans used during heat treatments or pressure generated by spot cold treatment equipment can stir up various allergens (insect parts, pet dander, dust mites, mold spores) and airborne particulates that can remain after treatment, causing problems for some.
- Heat treatments can cause undetected damage to fire suppression systems, smoke detectors or sprinkler heads that could leave residents unprotected. Make sure these systems are reactivated and operational before you leave a customer’s location.
- Commercial steam machines can cause instant burns to skin exposed to the hot steam as it comes out of the steamer tip at about 212°F (100°C). Similarly, Cryonite or spot cold treatments can freeze exposed bare skin. Make sure there are no people or pets nearby as you use steam or spot cold treatments.
- Steaming of mattresses, upholstered furniture and other fabric-covered items could result in mold growth if not aired and handled properly. Mold can cause respiratory and other health issues for sensitive individuals. If necessary, use fans and dehumidifiers to dry the treated item. Do not encase mattresses until completely dry.
- When you move and reposition beds and other furniture during treatment, be sure you get the items back in their correct places (take a photo first). Seniors or others with impaired vision or mobility issues may rely on furniture for support as they move about and an item out of place can result in confusion or even injury.
Remember, when it comes to pest management service work, including bed bug treatments, safety for your technicians and customers always should come first.The authors are well-known industry consultants and co-owners of Pinto & Associates.