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Phillip Shane, owner of Priority Pest Control Inc., is using heat to kill bedbugs, a process he adopted earlier this year.
Phillip Shane, owner of Priority Pest Control Inc., is using heat to kill bedbugs, a process he adopted earlier this year.

Pest companies turn up heat on bedbugs

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A national problem has presented an opportunity for some local businesses.

Phillip Shane, owner of Priority Pest Control Inc., was seeking a more effective, safer and environmentally friendly method to eradicate bedbugs, a growing problem for hotels, apartment complexes, dorms and similar buildings.

When he discovered high temperatures kill the tiny parasitic insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans, Shane rolled out a new division, Priority Heat Inc.

“When you start to look at a chemical treatment, you’re putting a lot of treatment into a small area, like an apartment or hotel room,” Shane said. “With heat, you get a better kill.”

Exterminators kill the pesky bugs by heating the infested area to 130 F, about 17 degrees hotter than the temperature at which the insects die, Shane said. It takes his propane-powered burner – a 500,000 British thermal unit heater – about two and a half hours to raise temperatures to 130 F. Health issues caused by bed bugs include skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms.

Priority Pest Control has offered the service since Jan. 1, and one job sent the company across state lines to exterminate bedbugs at an apartment complex in Pittsburg, Kan.

To tackle the jobs, Shane bought a $20,000 thermal pest management unit from Pest Heat.

Other heating methods used by pest control companies include electric and steam. Bug Zero Inc. uses steam as part of its overall treatment package for localized eradication, said manager Michael Woodring.

Company officials say the cost of treatment varies by the amount of furniture being treated, the size of the room and the severity of infestation. Priority Heat charges $1 per square foot for treatment, Shane said.

Springfield-based Elliott Lodging, operators of hotels in Springfield, Branson, Joplin and Pittsburg, Kan., has taken the fight against bedbugs into its own hands.

“We’re able to make our own equipment work, and our cost is not that substantial,” said owner Gordon Elliott, adding that the company uses the thermostat-controlled heating in its hotel rooms. “I think our cost per square foot is 50 cents.”

Elliott said his staff now is more cognizant of insects of any kind.

“We’ve taught all of our people to check all the time,” Elliott said. “We’re not only making sure we don’t have bedbugs, but also bugs of any kind.”

According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, industry research indicates that bedbug infestations are increasing in all 50 states.  

Pest management companies have reported a 71 percent increase in bedbug calls since 2001, and annual sales from this pest increased by more than 30 percent in 2008, the association’s most recent statistics available.

The Washington, D.C.-based hotel association holds bedbug symposiums to help its members.

Armed with his new equipment, Shane is on a quest to fight bedbugs for his clients.

“I believe it’s the most surefire way, the safest way, to eradicate bedbugs,” Shane said. “This was the most cost-effective for a small business here in Springfield.”[[In-content Ad]]


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