Earlier this week, we got a call from a property manager who had been dealing with a bed bug infestation in an empty unit. They steamed and vacuumed throughout the new unit and applied residual sprays and powders for long-term protection. Unfortunately, the new tenant complained of bed bug bites after their first night in the unit. The manager had no choice but to re-treat the unit along with paying for the tenant’s hotel accommodation and additional expenses. This nightmare raises an important question: what must be done differently to treat bed bugs in an unoccupied room?
Unfortunately, most treatment guides found online are focused on occupied rooms. Steps like washing your bedding, encasing your mattress and box spring, and applying contact and residual insecticides are still very effective, and should still be used. However, there is one crucial step that must also be taken when dealing with a bed bug infestation in a vacant room.
Bed bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide and body heat emitted by their host. Without these signs of a nearby meal, bed bugs may never leave their hiding places to forage for food. With no one sleeping in a room, there would be nothing to bait the bed bugs to whatever insecticides or traps have been applied.
To solve this issue, there are multiple active traps now on the market. These emit carbon dioxide over time to attract bed bugs, even in an unoccupied room. This bait will encourage bed bugs to come out of their hiding places, making them much more likely to come in contact with insecticides that are in place.
Without a doubt, the most effective active method available is the NightWatch Bed Bug Monitor. The NightWatch combines CO2 and heat to deliver the most convincing attractant besides an actual human. When bed bugs reach the NightWatch, they will fall into the pitfalls on both sides of the device, allowing users to monitor the bed bug population over a treatment period. Plus, the NightWatch uses a digital timer to function during active feeding periods (usually between 10 PM and 6 AM). Each bottle of CO2 lasts between three and five days, and the bottles can be refilled at any sporting goods store.
If your budget doesn’t allow for the use of a NightWatch, don’t fret – there are other options available for less. The two most popular active monitors are the Bed Bug Beacon and the Verifi Bed Bug Detector. These are both smaller units with proprietary CO2 refill kits available. The Bed Bug Beacon ships with enough CO2 powder to run for up to two weeks, while the Verifi can run for up to 90 days between refills. The Verifi also has an optional backplate attachment available, giving users the ability to mount the trap on a wall.
Once you’ve selected your active monitor of choice, you’ll want to accompany it with the right killing methods. Ideally, you’ll combine a steam treatment, contact and residual sprays, and a residual powder that can be applied where sprays cannot. JT Eaton makes an effective contact spray, residual spray, and diatomaceous earth powder, a combination that is labeled for just about every nook and cranny that a bed bug could hide in.
Follow the labels’ instructions and apply the products throughout the room. The intent here is that after the steam treatment and contact killer cut down on the infestation, the remaining bed bugs are drawn out by the trap’s emissions and will come in contact with the residuals. This killer combo has been proven effective at treating a bed bug population in an unoccupied space.