Before I get into my position on bed bug preparations (preparing for a bed bug treatment) I want everyone reading this to understand one very important thing: what you need to do for a bed bug treatment is pest control company specific. Meaning that every company is going to have a different list of things you need to do to prepare for THEIR bed bug treatment. I can’t comment on what’s right and wrong with every company and every list and I’m going to share MY perspective on the topic based upon the bed bug work we perform in New Jersey. So don’t run to your pest management professional and yell at them “I’m not doing this because Jeff said it’s not necessary” because what is necessary can change by region and company.
A few other caveats. In this article I’m talking about pre-initial service preparations for bed bug service. The situation is that you’ve identified bed bugs in your home and a company is coming to treat for the first time. Also, I’m not talking about heat treatments in this particular article. With heat treatments there can be more prep work due to heat-flow issues, etc…
That all being said, I’m here to tell you that all that prep work you’re about to embark upon (or are still sweating from just completing) probably isn’t necessary. The emptying the dressers and emptying the closets and standing the bed up and stripping the beds and moving the stuff stored under the bed and…..all probably isn’t necessary.
What we know about bed bugs is that when an infestation is first introduced to a home they gravitate to the bed. Research from the University of Sheffield found that in their infancy bed bug infestations are typically found within a few feet of the bed (and many times are still in the bed itself). What we know from our own internal research is that in your average apartment community about 90% of the infestations we deal with are “manageable” infestations – less than 100 bed bugs found during the initial service. Even in the 10% where there are over 100 bed bugs, half of those infestations the bugs are still being found primarily in the beds and couches. Combining those two pieces of information that means that in about 95% of all infestations most of the bed bugs are in the beds, couches or within a few feet of those areas.
So why do you empty closets and dressers for bed bug treatments? Because there might be a bed bug in the closet on your clothes and as a pest management professional I can’t treat your clothes and surely don’t have the time to inspect every article. Therefore the recommendation is made to empty the closets and dressers. But after what I just mentioned how often are there bed bugs in the closets? 1 out of 20 infestations (5%)? Yet many times companies ask you do empty the closets at the start of every treatment. (Obviously my recommendation changes if your bed, for whatever reason, is in the closet or within a foot or two)
What is necessary? I believe strongly in prep that is dictated by inspection. If I come out to your home and find bed bug spotting (fecal material) on the closet in your master bedroom I may ask that you empty that particular closet and launder those items. If I find bed bugs in the dresser in your guest bedroom I may ask you to empty that particular dresser. And lastly if I find that you have a bad, widely spread infestation you may need to empty everything and do everything I just said you wouldn’t have to.
The bottom line is that invasive and overwhelming bed bug treatment preps that are standard for every job has never made sense to me. In most infestations there are only a handful of bed bugs present and the bugs aren’t in the closets and dresser drawers so why are we asking people to empty them? Bed bug preps in your average traditional service should be based upon inspection and evidence….not just because.