Moving bed bug free is an exercise in deciding how much risk is acceptable

One of my specialties is helping people move from an infested home to an uninfested home without bugs. To help these folks be successful in the endeavour I spend a fair bit of time educating on the various risk factors. For example if the infestation is very small and there has been no self treatment efforts the risk of bed bugs being in the food is extraordinarily small. There would be a bigger risk of getting bed bugs from sitting in a coffee shop than salvaging the contents of the kitchen cupboards. As such I recommend taking the food directly to the new home. One could further reduce any risk by discarding the cardboard and paper (which bed bugs prefer) and keeping only the food.

In small infestations it is also unlikely (but not impossible) that bugs are in the electronics. As such I suggest the client take the electronics without heating as there is some risk from the heating process. But it is the tenant that must decide how much risk is acceptable. Some clients would rather risk some damage to electronics than accept any risk of bed bug transfer.

But suppose the infestation was larger and there had been a lot of self treatment efforts. Now the risks to the food and electronics would be much higher due to larger infestation and the scattering effect of self treatments. Now I would recommend heating all the electronics and taking only the food that had been de-cardboarded and carefully inspected. But once again it is up to the client to decide on the risks.

Some folks are not willing to accept any risk and will not, even in small infestations, take a single item without being heated. This is a perfectly acceptable option which reduces the risk of transmission to the new home to zero but comes at the cost of discarding food and heating every last item in the home right down to the stereo, DVDs, and microwave. Personally I like these folks and gladly accept them in my apartment block as tenants.

Some folks take huge risks in effort to save money. For example today I was contracted to help a family with bed bugs move to a brand new building. They did not want to spend any more money than necessary and therefore contracted only one load in my trailer. Normally a family would require two loads – one hot load for beds and couches and a cooler load (for a longer time period) to salvage electronics and books. Instead the family opted for one hot load and did not heat the flat screen television because of the risks of damage involved in the hot load. As a compromise I suggested that the family could discard the cardboard box that contained the television as it would be more likely the bugs would be in the cardboard than the plastic and metal tv. The family agreed and removed the television from the box. I looked in the empty box and found it was shimmering with cockroaches!! I pointed out the cockroaches and suggested that the cockroaches would also be in the tv. I actually pointed to a cockroach in the cooling fins and the family promptly got a stick and prodded it out. The family still refused to discard the tv or to even try heating as I did kill cockroaches on one other case with heat. As I drove away with the load the tenants were still poking at the tv and shaking it upside down to dislodge the cockroaches!!! I wish I had taken a picture. I would not recommend that level of risk taking but we all have our own risk thresholds and I must accept that. But I am glad I am not his landlord.

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