The Real.Est List
Bed Bugs 101: Fumigation demystified
At BrickUnderground, we love working with sponsors we would recommend to our own friends and family. And we are bed bug geeks. So we are extremely psyched that the guys at Bed Bug Fumigation Specialists are joining our growing family of sponsors.
After many hours talking bed bugs with these folks these past few weeks, we can confidently tell you that they not only know what they’re doing (founder Gary Geiger alone has more than 50,000 fumigations under his belt), they also have the kind of vision, integrity and entrepreneurial zeal that is urgently needed to solve the local and national bed bug problem.
Visionary case in point: At BrickUnderground’s BedbuggedNYC Meetup on Sept. 15th, BBFS will announce a third-generation of its Fume Cube that we predict could become the next must-have apartment-building amenity, a no-brainer as essential as high-speed Internet access.
Today, however, we’re kicking off BBFS’ sponsorship of our bed bug content with a bit of demystification. Forget everything you ever thought you knew about fumigation. Here’s the deal, straight from the folks at BBFS.
1. What exactly is fumigation?
Let’s start with what it’s not: It is not poison. Fumigation occurs when an inorganic gas called sulfuryl fluoride (originally marketed under the name Vikane® by Dow AgroSciences) is pumped into an enclosed, sealed space stuffed with your household items. In a controlled environment, the gas replaces the oxygen, causing bed bugs and their eggs to suffocate and die. Used by qualified professionals,Vikane® gas fumigant can eliminate bed bugs--from just a few pieces of furniture, bedding or other household goods, to an entire home or building with its contents in place.
Depending on size of the structure, container or vehicle being fumigated, the treatment times can range from several hours (generally from 18 - 48 hours total treatment time). Once released, the Vikane quickly breaks down to its two naturally-occurring ingredients and floats harmlessly away.
2. Why fumigate?
- Vikane® gas fumigant is scientifically proven to be 100% effective against all stages of bed bug life, including the hard-to-control egg stage, in a single application.
- There is no resistance of bed bugs to Vikane®, unlike the resistance they now have to many commonly applied pesticides.
- Vikane® gas fumigant penetrates into cracks and crevices, into furniture and any other hiding places — yes, even into sensitive electronics — to eliminate the pests.
- Vikane completely dissipates to leave no surface residue, odor or film behind.
- Clutter is not a concern with a treatment of Vikane®.
- It is safe for all household items including clothes, fine artwork, upholstery and drapes, toys and other children's belongings, dishes, and utensils. There is no need to wash/clean any of these items after exposure to Vikane® (Many of these items can be damaged if treated with other techniques like heat or freezing, and pest management professionals are not allowed to spray beds, chairs or children’s toys.)
- Vikane® does NOT damage electronics, antiques or sensitive fabrics.
- If you’re moving from an infested apartment or building, or you are worried about picking up bugs in transit, get your packed moving/rental truck fumigated overnight with Vikane®.
- Depending on how many clothes you own, fumigating can be cheaper than dry-cleaning each item at $4-$8 each.
3. Is fumigation safe?
Yes. It leaves no residue and when released post-treatment, breaks down to two naturally occurring elements that aren’t harmful to the ozone layer, the immediate environment, animals, or people. It’s as “green” as it gets. And because it leaves no residue, you don’t even have to wash the toys or your kids’ clothes before using them.
4. Can I do it myself?
No. Only licensed and trained pest control professionals can purchase and use Vikane® gas fumigant. But you don’t have to hire professionals to pack your stuff or load it into a sealed truck or other container: BBFS recently launched a “D.I.Y.” rental truck fumigation program that costs about 50-60% less than hiring packers and movers.
If you’re D.I.Y.-ing, make sure you follow the instructions for packing, securing and sealing your stuff (and for hauling it out of the building without spreading the problem to your neighbors). Generally speaking, glass, metal and plastic containers need to be unsealed so the gas can penetrate; cardboard moving boxes sealed with tape work just fine.
5. How much does it cost? How long does it take?
Typically done overnight, fumigation using Vikane® takes several hours depending on the amount of stuff and size of the container holding all of your belongings. Check your moving truck into one of BBFS’s fumigation locations before 4 pm and it will be returned around 9 am the next day.
Cost of fumigation depends on the size of the overall container (e.g., moving truck). BBFS’ rates are below; they do not include your cost to rent a moving truck or to pack up.
- 10-foot moving truck (big enough for contents of average studio apartment) $499
- 14-foot truck (one- to two-bedroom apartment) $599
- 17-foot truck (1,000-1,200-square foot apartment) $699
- 20-foot truck (up to 3-bedroom single family home) $1,200
- 26-foot truck (single family four-bedroom home, or two 2-bedroom apartments) $1,500
Because you’re already paying for packing and moving costs, fumigating between moves is the most economical. But you can also save money—both on fumigation and on the expense of dealing with re-infestation--by joining forces with your neighbors (remember, bed bugs travel between apartments) and renting a large truck together.
6. Will fumigation get rid of all the bed bugs in my apartment?
Only if you fumigate the entire building at once (see #6 below), which is tough in NYC. Much more commonly, the contents of an apartment are removed and fumigated elsewhere in a sealed space like a moving truck or The Fume Cube, eliminating 50-75% of your bed bugs.
While your personal possessions are out of your apartment, your pest control operator (PCO) gets busy eradicating the remaining bed bug population in-unit.
BBFS recommends using a combination of heat treatment, pesticides/DE, and caulk-n-seal to create a sterile, bed bug free environment for your fumigated belongings.
Here's the procedure BBFS recommends that PCOs use to kill the bed bugs left behind:
- Start with dry vapor steam on carpets, baseboards, walls, under built-in furniture etc.
- Apply a residual pesticide, which lasts up to a few months, as well as diatomaceous earth dust (DE).
- Baseboards can be treated by drilling holes into them and blowing the DE dust into crawl spaces, or the baseboards might even be peeled off and replaced.
- The final step is to use caulk to seal all electrical outlets, water and electric piping coming through the walls, and holes made in baseboard trim, so that in the end, the only access bed bugs have to your apartment is through your front door via you or your belongings.
7. Can my entire building be fumigated at once?
Yes. In New York City, buildings up to 10 stories tall can be wrapped in a high-density tarp and fumigated. But besides height, there are a few preconditions. Buildings can’t be connected to an adjoining one in any way (eg a shared common wall) because the gas may permeate the walls, and there can’t be any exposure to underground tunnels beneath.
BBFS has fumigated several NYC brownstones at costs ranging between $5,000-$50,000 depending on the circumstances, from the size of the building to the difficulty of securing it.
8. What if my building doesn’t qualify for structural fumigation? Is there another option beside moving all my stuff out in a truck?
Another option to consider if structural fumigation is not available is BBFS’s Fume Cube. Recognizing a growing need for an effective, affordable and portable fumigation solution for multi-unit urban environments, BBFS founder Gary Geiger invented the Fume Cube.
The Fume Cube is a modular, insulated, sealed and temperature-controlled container wherein a BBFS technician administers a lethal dose of Vikane gas (Sulfuryl Fluoride) killing all bed bugs and their eggs within the Fume Cube without damage to personal property.
The Fume Cube can be erected outside of your building (such as on the roof or in an adjoining alley or courtyard) A state-licensed BBFS fumigator applies the Vikane® gas fumigant each time the Fume Cube is filled with bed bug infested belongings --about $750-1000 for the average cube, depending on the total expected number of treatments at that Fume Cube location. By eliminating the need for a moving truck, The Fume Cube provides a convenient and cheaper onsite way to fumigate personal belongings.
Some buildings opt to keep the Fume Cube even after the infestation is under control. They require that all new residents’ belongings must be fumigated along with any furniture deliveries. BBFS calls this “Source Elimination” or a “Bed Bug Checkpoint”, and it is part of their larger Integrated Bed Bug Management Plan (IBBMP).
9. What if I just want to fumigate something small, like a piece of thrift shop furniture or my luggage when I come back from a trip?
Right now there are no convenient drop-off or pickup solutions that make sense for one-off items. BBFS is currently developing a solution that will address the need to treat individual items, like those too big for the Packtite, a portable household heat-treatment chamber.
10. What is a fumigation certificate/log?
Once BBFS successfully completes a fumigation using Vikane, they will provide a Certificate of Fumigation and a Fume Log to you and anyone else you request detailing the specifics of the fumigation, such as the date/time(s) of fumigation, type of fumigation (structural, container, vehicle), type/amount of fumigant used, measurement control records/times, etc.
In a situation where you are fleeing an infested apartment, a certificate confirming that you fumigated your belongings before entering your new place could eliminate finger pointing if bed bugs turn up in your new building. (Remember, although landlords and owners are responsible for exterminating, the person who brings bed bugs into a building can be forced to pay for it.)
A fumigation certificate can help provide property owners, managers and landlords with peace of mind that their new tenants are making all possible efforts to avoid transporting bed bugs into their new digs.
Bed Bug Fumigation Specialists (BBFS) is the industry leading Fumigation Treatment Service specializing in bed bugs, termites, clothes moths, powder post beetles and other pest infestations. With over 40 years of collective fumigation experience, BBFS is the company with the record you can count on. Our professionals have safely completed more than 50,000 fumigations in our history, including over 2,500 successful bed bug eradications in NYC alone. BBFS is also a recipient of DOW AgroSciences Commitment to Excellence (CTE) award for safely administering Vikane for thousands of customers.