One aspect of bed bug treatment that we know for sure is that you can, get rid of bed bugs and can usually eliminate them in a reasonable time frame (2-4 treatments). The two approaches widely accepted by professionals to treat for bed bugs are heat treatment and a pesticide-based protocol (often using non-chemical approaches in conjunction with pesticides to address resistance concerns). Both of these approaches can be extremely successful in eliminating bed bugs if applied appropriately by a knowledgeable pest professional.
One aspect of a “traditional” treatment protocol to bed bugs is to use steam to kill bed bugs on contact. With resistance to pesticides being common in many bed bug populations, steam is a good tool to kill bugs on contact without having to worry whether or not the bed bugs you are treating are resistant to what you are applying. Steam is commonly only used where bed bugs are observed and within 2-feet of those aggregations of bed bugs. The fact that steam can be effective for killing bed bugs often triggers homeowners and professionals alike to wonder if steam alone can solve a bed bug infestation.
Unfortunately, since bed bugs often hide in cracks and crevices and steam only treats the bugs and eggs it contacts, it is unlikely that you can solve an infestation using steam alone. That being said the key factor towards reducing the time it takes to solve an infestation is early detection. If you can identify bed bugs in your home before they begin to multiply, it is often much easier to treat the infestation. There are rare instances where a bed bug infestation is identified so early-on that there are only a handful of bed bugs present and if a homeowner steams or removes those few bugs you may solve the infestation in one treatment. Homeowners should be cautioned that this requires early detection of the infestation and luck that you have found the few bugs that exist.
Therefore, it is unlikely you solve an infestation with steam alone. Being knowledgeable about what bed bugs look like and how to conduct regular inspections can increase the chance that you detect an infestation early and, therefore, increase the value of a steam treatment. Steam can be a critical part of a bed bug treatment and provide additional protection against pesticide-resistant bed bugs and provide a “green” option to killing bed bugs on contact.