An experience with a very cluttered home and observations on bed bugs hiding in a block of wood

I was asked to help an elderly man with his bed bugs. The home was very cluttered and I had to walk sideways when walking in the hallways due to the stacks of clutter. Less than 20% of the baseboards were accessible. The elderly man hired a whole home heat treatment from a local exterminator and stated that he had about a 1 week reprieve before the bugs were eating him again. The elderly man had a special thermostat in the hallway that recorded previous temperatures and the thermostat had reached a high of 155f – pretty hot but it still failed. Given my experience in heat experiments I was not surprised as the heat could not penetrate the dense clutter in only a few hours.

I requested that the home be decluttered but the elderly man stated that he could not part with any object. As such a chemical treatment would be equally ineffective. I decided that we would heat sterilize the beds and couches and place covered glue board/interceptor traps under the legs. The concept of bed isolation was explained and additional glue boards were provided to maintain the traps and both were promptly ignored. I was asked to return 4 months later and the traps were completely filled with bugs and the beds were touching the walls rendering the traps ineffective. The beds were also again infested. I asked the elderly gentleman for his evaluation of the bed heating and glue board isolation and he stated it was far superior to the whole home heat treatment, at less than 1/3rd of the price, but still a failure. Given the bed was touching the walls, the traps were not maintained, and that laundry was not done i was not surprised that the project failed. We reheated the furniture, refreshed the traps, and re explained the procedure required. We will see what becomes of the project – I suspect it will work poorly but given the circumstances I don’t know what else to do. I asked the elderly gentleman if his church could assist him but he was too embarrassed to reveal his predicament. I reluctantly honoured his request.

The headboard for one bed was a shelf unit and was supported by small square blocks of wood inside interceptor/glueboard combo traps to keep the bugs off the bed. I intended to salvage these blocks and hoped to heat sterilize them in the home’s oven. Unfortunately the oven was broken. I inspected the blocks of wood carefully and found no obvious sign of bed bugs. To be safe I seared the blocks on the open elements of the stove. Interestingly enough a number of tiny bugs came running out of a few tiny imperfections in the blocks of wood! Since then I have been much more respectful of the bed bug’s ability to hide. I now make fewer pronouncements that a particular item I inspected is bug free. Don’t underestimate the bed bug.

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