Suppose Small: Automobile Fumigation Wipes Out Mattress Bugs – PCT


If you’ve stayed away from structural fumigation because it seems too massive an endeavor, Dr. Dini Miller, a professor of entomology at Virginia Tech, suggests that maybe it is time to reduce your thinking. Miller and Dakotah Todd, a graduate student in Virginia Tech’s entomology program, conducted the first field assessment to document the effectiveness of sulfuryl fluoride in removing bed bugs from vehicles and trailers containing furniture and personal effects. The results? Hundred percent mortality of eggs, nymphs and adults.

“I grew up in San Diego, where drywood termites and other wood-destroying insects were constantly fumigated, but in the northern and central states, where these pests aren’t such a problem, PMPs aren’t that familiar with fumigation techniques,” Miller says. “You don’t have to be involved in structural fumigation to offer this as an option for treating vehicles or household items. Fumigation is a proven and reliable method of controlling bed bugs. “

Todd explains why he believes fumigation is superior to other methods of treating bed bugs in vehicles: “The molecular size of sulfuryl fluoride allows it to get into areas that insecticides cannot. Fumigation is the only tool we have to achieve 100 percent penetration into cracks, crevices and under plastic sheets. And while heat seems like a good solution, it is risky as it can damage console screens and other sensitive electronic devices that have become standard in today’s vehicles. “

Miller adds that container fumigation offers a solution for treating furniture, artwork, and other household items, as well as personal items that would otherwise have ended up on the trash heap. “The preparation instructions we gave our customers prior to bed bug treatment include throwing away personal items or sealing personal items indefinitely. Container fumigation enables PMPs to rid these items of bed bugs so they don’t have to tell their customers to throw away their grandmother’s Bible, family photos, or their favorite chair, ”she says.

Fumigant was added to this van through a high density polyethylene filler hose.

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Although fumigation has been used in pest control for over 60 years, there is renewed interest today due to the persistence of insecticide-resistant bed bug populations. Assisted living facilities have ongoing challenges with resident bed bug ownership, and the rise of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft has multiplied the demand for bed bug services in vehicles.

“When we talk to senior facility managers, they typically haven’t thought that residents might have bed bugs in their belongings or they might have bed bugs in their cars, but those circumstances can lead to ongoing bed bug problems.” Miller shares. “But you don’t have to tell taxi, bus, or ridesharing drivers that they are hitchhiking bed bugs. When I was in New York a few years ago for an appearance in the Dr. Oz Show was about bed bugs, my taxi driver showed me the contents of his suitcase. It was filled with a selection of consumer bed bug sprays that he had used to keep an infestation at bay. “

The results of Todd and Miller’s research show that container fumigation with sulfuryl fluoride can be a unique solution to these challenges. “PMPs should really take a fresh look at bed bug fumigation,” says Miller. “It’s cheaper than fumigating buildings because it’s done on a smaller scale, either in the customer’s driveway or in the pest control company’s facilities. It takes training, but it’s not difficult. You can learn it like any other area of ​​pest control. “

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The container is ventilated with a fan after the treatment.

Containerized fumigation: where to start

In addition to limiting fumigation to the confines of a vehicle or trailer, as Dini Miller and Dakotah Todd did in their experiments, PMPs can approach containerized bed bug fumigation in a number of ways. Jeremy Jackson, business development manager at Douglas Products, which makes Vikane gas fumigants (sulfuryl fluoride) and others, says container types vary from shipping containers, vans, and moving trucks to storage bins and free-standing walk-in coolers (which are not in use during fumigation) can ).

“Some fumigators modify a container – for example a shipping container – into a permanent chamber. Modifications include sealing seams and crevices, adding ports for fumigant introduction and monitoring tubing, and installing a vent fan for ventilation, ”says Jackson. “In determining whether a structure is suitable for fumigation, two questions need to be asked: (1) Can the structure be sealed with tape or tarpaulin so that the fumigant is effectively trapped during the fumigation? and (2) Can the structure be secured with locks, padlocks and chains, barricades, etc. to prevent unauthorized entry during fumigation? “

These questions are critical to the safe use of sulfuryl fluoride, a restricted-use pesticide that requires annual training, certification, and strict label compliance. “Compliance with all labeling requirements when fumigating with Vikane ensures that applicators, people and pets are not exposed to concentrations above 1 ppm – well below the level required for adverse effects,” he says.

Proper licensing, insurance, and equipment, including PPE, are also required for a PMP company to perform fumigation operations, but many operators find the investment well worth it, Jackson says. If your market is facing steady or growing bed bug pressures, the ability to offer a one-time eradication can be a determining factor.


To measure the effectiveness of sulfuryl fluoride in treating vehicles and personal / household items, the research team used:

1. Three Dodge Caravan minivans. Two transporters served as test vehicles, the third an untreated control. The minivans had complex interiors, including stow-and-go seating, glove boxes, cup holders, and door side pockets (all attractive bed bug accommodations), and electronic equipment. Minivan fumigations were performed daily for three days.

2. Three U-Haul cargo trailers. These trailers were 85 percent filled with books, furniture, and other household items to mimic cluttered living spaces. Again, two of these tags were treated with the fumigant while the third served as an untreated control. Fumigations of cargo trailers were carried out daily for three days.

© Amnat | AdobeStock

A polyethylene film was used as a tarpaulin, which was sealed to the floor around this van.

The team introduced bed bug eggs, nymphs, and adult animals into each of these enclosed environments, taking care to plant eggs in hard-to-reach spaces – specifically, an artificial wall cavity, a sealed garment bag that was 70 percent full, and an enclosed plastic storage container 95 percent filled with books (bed bugs were placed between the pages, in addition to a more random placement in the container).

Before these preparations, each vehicle was rolled onto a polyethylene sheet. After the interiors were prepared, another polyethylene sheet served as a tarpaulin, which was sealed to the floor; Monitors were used to detect a leak. The fumigant was fed to the test vehicles through a high-density polyethylene inlet tube attached to the front of a rotary blower with a cable tie. Concentrations of sulfuryl fluoride were measured during the fumigation process with two high density polyethylene monitoring tubes in each van and trailer attached to a sulfuryl fluoride specific high concentration monitor.

As soon as the dosage required for the label was reached, ventilation began. The tarpaulins were removed and fresh air was circulated through fans. Fumigant concentrations were measured to ensure safe re-entry and, after ventilation, bed bugs were removed for observation.

All-round success: the fumigated replicas showed 100 percent mortality across all stages of life, even the difficult-to-kill eggs. “This research confirmed the ability of sulfuryl fluoride to access and kill bed bugs in extremely inaccessible spaces,” says Todd. “This is the only pest control method that ensures the elimination of bed bugs in complex interiors with a single treatment.”

The author makes frequent contributions to PCT.