STATE COLLEGE — As bed bugs continue to be a growing problem in apartment buildings, dorm rooms, hotels, hospitals and homes across the country, a new treatment method is proving to be effective and less disruptive for students at Penn State Univeristy.
Whole room heat treatment is changing the way they treat for bed bugs in campus residence halls, said David Manos, assistant director of housing at Penn State.
“Previously, once a case was confirmed, the room would be quarantined and it would be treated with combinations of chemicals and heat treatments for individual items. All clothing and bedding would have to be run through the dryer, and the student would be displaced for a minimum of 21 days. It was very labor intensive, typically one room would require 20-30 hours of time, as well as very disruptive to the student,” says Manos.
Last fall, John Parks of Parks Pest Control in State College and the Centre Region Bed Bug Coalition, approached Manos about an alternative treatment for bed bugs. Parks had recently purchased a whole room heat treatment unit with four heaters and Manos expressed interest in trying it out.
“With whole room heat treatment, the entire room and all contents are heated to 130 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit,” Parks explains. “Bed bugs will die instantly at those temperatures. We use remote thermometers that can be monitored on laptops to make sure all areas of the room reach the right temperature.” The heaters will automatically shut off at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so no damage will be caused to the contents of the room.
Manos says it the new treatment method eliminates the use of chemicals to treat bed bugs completely and lessens the impact on students. “Typically the student can move back into the room within 24 hours, and they don’t have to move their belongings and treat everything separately.”
Depending on the degree of infestation, adjacent rooms will be inspected. Despite careful inspections by the housing staff and posted information about bed bugs and other educational efforts, bed bug cases at Penn State have almost quadrupled this school year, up from four cases last year to 17 so far this year.
“Without the new treatment program, it would have been very difficult to keep up. The collaboration between Parks and Penn State’s contracted pesticide control operator, Orkin’s Randal Ridenour, has resulted in big advantages to the students and the Penn State community,” says Manos. “There is no silver bullet for bed bugs; the best deterrent is still education. If barriers fail however, whole room heat treatments are vital to prevent the spread of bed bugs. It’s been the best answer at Penn State, and probably the best answer for the community.”
Information on effective bed bug management in multiple environments can be found at the Pennsylvania IPM Program’s bed bug resource web page at: http://extension.psu.edu/bedbugs.