In addition to insecticides, PMPs have various non-chemical techniques available to them to control bed bugs. Vacuuming, trapping, heat, cold and steam are important components, especially in situations where bed bugs are showing signs of resistance to insecticides.
There’s one non-chemical tool, isolation, that you may be using or recommending without even realizing it. If you can isolate or separate people from the bed bugs in their homes, you will naturally reduce bed bug bites and reduce bed bug anxiety.
Isolating the bed from bed bugs is especially important in infested apartments or residential sites where infestations remain uncontrolled (for various reasons) and people must live with bed bugs for the time being. Bed isolation can provide a measure of relief.
COOPERATION IS KEY. Isolation involves special manipulation of the bed or other sleeping area so that bed bugs can’t reach sleeping people. Isolation methods require the cooperation of your customer. Although you may show the customer initially how to turn their bed into an isolation “island,” they will then be largely responsible for maintaining the system. It’s a simple process, but it’s a multi-step process. For that reason, it’s very important that you make sure your customer understands the concept of bed isolation.
Explain to your customer how bed bugs get to their hosts to feed. Some bed bugs are hiding right in the bed, but more are hiding in cracks and crevices nearby, coming out at night and making their way onto the bed. People make it easy for them to do so by providing “bridges” that connect from the floor or wall or furniture directly to the bed. Climbing right up the bed leg is probably the most common way for bed bugs to reach their host. They also get onto beds by moving from draperies that touch, or up bed skirts that reach the floor, or by climbing up from boxes and other items stored under the bed.
The goal is to make the bed an island that does not touch anything and nothing touches it. The bed should not make any contact with the walls or floor other than through the bed’s legs, which are sitting in the middle of their own islands, moat-style interceptor traps. Anything that touches the floor and thus creates a bridge, such as a bed skirt or bedspread, will provide a travel route for bed bugs and destroy the protection.
Proper bed isolation can offer almost immediate relief to residents at the beginning of a bed bug control program. In some accounts, you may be constrained from providing the level of bed bug control necessary to completely eliminate an infestation, but you can still offer the possibility of a good night’s sleep to bed bug-weary customers.
Pull the bed several inches away from any wall and make sure no drapes or curtains touch the bed. Bedside tables also cannot touch the bed.
Place each bed leg or caster into a moat-style trap such as ClimbUp or BlackOut. Bed bugs trying to reach the bed (or leave the bed) will get no further than the moat.
Once the bed is isolated, kill any bugs in the bed frame, headboard and footboard using your method of choice (insecticides, steam, spot-cold, etc.).
Seal the mattress, box spring and pillows inside bed bug-proof encasements or active bed bug liners. If the resident can’t afford encasements, the isolation concept won’t work as well.
Make sure nothing is stored underneath the bed. Items here not only hide bed bugs but can allow bed bugs to bypass the moat traps and get directly onto the bed.
Remove, or have the resident remove, any bed skirt (dust ruffle) and any bed toppers that could touch the floor (even if the bed covering doesn’t reach the floor on the sides, it often will at the corners).
It’s most important that the resident understand the importance of not providing a bed bug bridge to the new bed island. Clothing thrown on the bed, electric-blanket cords, even sheets tossed aside can form a bridge from the floor or wall to the bed. Tucking in covers all around can help.
Sheets and pillowcases should be washed at least every other week. Pillows not encased should be inspected often and washed or vacuumed frequently. Most blankets and comforters can be placed in a dryer or vacuumed in place.
Some of these same techniques can be used to isolate couches, recliners and baby cribs. Unfortunately, mattresses that rest directly on the floor, or platform beds without legs, can’t be isolated in this same way. Interceptor traps on bed legs and encasements are crucial components for effective bed isolation.