Do-It-Yourself Heat Chamber for Bedbug Control

A few weeks ago I came across an an article from the University of Florida’s newspaper. This article described an experiment by researchers building a do-it-yourself heat chamber for Bedbug control. It made me extremely curious, so I tried it myself and it worked! I lost the pictures I had taken and anyone with kids knows that you shouldn’t leave a camera within reach of a 7 year old but I wasn’t thinking at that moment. The chamber was constructed with cheap foam board insulation, duct tape, an oil-filled heater and a small box-fan. It was simple and rather inexpensive considering the costs for a professional treatment.

I purchased the 3/4 inch X 24 inch x 86 inch foam boards for $7.86 each (x10 boards) at The Home Depot and I had an oil-filled heater, duct tape and box-fan already but the heater can be purchased for around $40.00 and a box-fan for under $15.00. I built a box around an old dresser I have in my basement with the foam pieces and fastened them with the duct tape. I didn’t use all of the foam and had to cut several pieces. I simply placed the heater, fan and a thermometer in the box along with the dresser which had all of the drawers slightly open. I had several vials of live Bedbugs of all stages throughout the dresser (in drawers and under a drawer on a piece of shelving that separated the top and bottom portions of the dresser). I plugged everything in and the box started to blow around, I had the fan too high. I lowered the fan to the slowest setting and placed some weight on top of the box to hold it down.  After about 20 minutes I pulled out the thermometer which was tied to a string in a drawer and the temperature was 107°F.  I placed the thermometer in another drawer and waited. Another 15 minutes passed and when I checked the thermometer and it read119°F. Since the thermal death point of Bedbugs is 113°F, I knew I was well over and waited another hour before opening the chamber. I opened the chamber and immediately checked the vials of Bedbugs. All adults and nymphs (immature Bedbugs) were dead. I wasn’t surprised as I have performed many profession heat treatments over the last year but I was surprised that something this simple was effective. This is a very basic set-up with a single piece of wooden furniture. I am certain that if there were more items or if it were a larger volume of space it would have taken a little longer for the heat to reach the thermal death point but I was happy that it worked. I waited 3 weeks to see if the eggs hatched in the vials and they didn’t. I achieved death in 100% of the Bedbug population.

Although the heater I used had a built-in thermostat that only went to 95°F, the heat in the chamber went well above that point. I am not sure if that is a good thing for when I use the heater in my home but for this experiment, I was happy it didn’t shut off. I am unsure of how big of a heat chamber can be made using the method I just described but on a small scale, it definitely works.

Please use caution if you are to try this method. Do not leave the system unattended for an extended period of time. One tip I can provide that I thought of after the fact: Use a surge protector.

For complete Bedbug prevention and early detection consider using Insect Interceptors, Bedbug Detection System (BDS) and Bedbug-proof mattress encasements.