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Patrick Dente, co-owner of Abatem Exterminating in Massachusetts and Vermont, was sitting with his brother one evening going back and forth about ideas to confront the spreading infestation. “We realized there was a hole in the (treatment) market and we spent nearly a year coming up with the idea to create a heated truck,” said Patrick Dente. That was two years ago. In the meantime, brothers and co-owners Patrick and Daniel built their first heated truck in their backyard out of a U-Haul. The Dentes have now upgraded the technology in their trucks and are marketing the heat method nationwide. [See related: How to kill bed bugs]

"Heat is the only 100 percent way to kill bed bugs and their eggs,” said Patrick Dente. “Chemicals will never work 100 percent,” he added. Dente said the company's heat method is extremely labor-intensive, but in the end, you can keep your furniture safe and use far less pesticide in your home.

How bedbug heat treatment works:

The property owner packs up the entire household of solid goods, furniture, electronics, or anything else that is moveable. Clothing, bedding, and other soft items such as plush toys are packed separately once washed and dried in hot water and high heat in a dryer for 30 minutes. The soft items are placed in different plastic bags once properly cleaned. The company offers a trailer with portable clothes dryers to lessen infestation at local Laundromats. Companies in your area may provide the same service.

The company will move all of your furniture into a large (usually 24 feet long), specially equipped truck that will gradually heat up to 140 degrees over a couple of hours time. “Temperatures of 115 degrees will kill the bedbugs and their eggs, but we heat to 140 degrees for 100 percent eradication in a shorter period of time,” said Dente. “Bedbugs die at 115 degrees, but it takes a long time,” he said.

While your household items are being heat-treated, the company then uses a residual EPA-approved pesticide throughout your home. “Using the heat treatment really cuts down on the pesticide use by about 10 times less,” said Dente. “It’s also a lot better than us having to go in and spray your underwear drawer for example,” he added.

The heat treatment takes about 2.5 hours to bring up to temperature, then a couple of hours for a cool-down. “It’s a huge process, but that’s what you have to do to be thorough,” said Dente. He emphasized that the treatment requires cooperation between his company, the tenant and the landlord. “If anyone drops the ball, it’s not going to be successful,” he said. “We give them a list of everything they need to do.”


The technology of the heated trucks

Patrick Dente, who is the inventor of the heated truck system, has 20 years experience in electronics. “My brother has 20 years experience in exterminating, so we made a good team,” he said. The newest version of their invention is now automated and computer-controlled. “We’re also adding a wireless interface to connect to a lap top,” said Dente. The original model has to be manually operated by observing monitoring panels and making adjustments accordingly. Now, there are alarms and automatic shut-off systems should the system overload.

The insulated truck is heated by propane heaters. Sensors are placed around the truck which is fitted with a variety of racks and shelves. Sensors are also placed in between cushions and mattresses/box springs. Placing the sensors in many locations assures even heating (not just the air around the items) and proper monitoring. The newer version, depending on the outside temperature, is also faster.


The non-technical side of the business:

Due to perceived notions about who gets bedbugs, the trucks have no markings and good companies never even mention the word bed ug to anyone outside of the home being treated. Bedbugs can be found in every layer of society. Dente said infestations have nothing to do with how clean your home is or what socio-economic class you are in.


If you think you have bedbugs:

If you have checked suspected areas, such as bedding, upholstered furniture, electronics, and have either found what you think are bedbugs or red residue, call for a professional inspection. Sometimes people think they have bedbugs based on bites or welts they have. Dente said, “Different people react differently to bedbug bites, so bites are not always a clear indicator of infestation.”


How do bedbugs get into your home?

It is important to know that while uncomfortable or plain disgusting, bedbugs are not vectors for disease. Bedbugs do not fly or hop, but they can move quickly. Bedbugs do not travel, they are hitchhikers. The most common ways that bedbugs enter your home is via luggage, used furniture, bedding or electronics. They are most often found in bedding and seams of beds and furniture. Bedbugs can also be found in carpeting, inside and underneath drawers or in radios, phones and clocks near a bed. Bedbugs range from the size of a pin head to an apple seed and are flat. “They can live in cracks the size of a business card,” said Dente.

Dente said that the most important part of the process is education. “We ask a lot of questions and do a lot of education before we even start,” he said. Lastly, do not try using pesticides, bug bombs, or diatomaceous earth to try to get rid of bedbugs. Not only will it not work, you may endanger yourself, others or your pets.

This article was reprinted with permission. It originally appeared here on

MNN homepage photo: LonelySnailDesign/iStockphoto

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