A concerned bed bug victim emailed us, “I’ve detected bed bugs in my laptop and I want to know how to go about fixing this problem.”

Good question!  Bed Bugs can and do occupy electronics and computers. This victim rightfully pointed out that bed bugs can and do live in any cracks and crevices of a location, including electronics such as personal computers, clock radios, laptops, and televisions.   

And as part of a thorough bed bug treatment you need to treat the electronics in a room.

There are three main physical treatment methods that  are used for a bed bug treatments: Freezing, Steam, and Thermal Dry Heat. When choosing a treatment method bed bug victims need to consider the effectiveness of the treatment and the risk of collateral damage on their possessions. What’s the point of treating your laptop if the laptop is rendered unusable?  It’s best to choose a treatment that is safe and effective.

How do these three treatment methods line up on their safety and effectiveness for treating computers and electronics?

This video is the clearest explanation that we can offer.

And to elaborate…..

FREEZING: Bell Environmental’s InstantFreeze service is unique in that it is safe to treat electronics and all other materials without damaging these items.  We can spray the laptop with our InstantFreeze. This spray kills bed bugs (including their eggs and larvae) and other insects by freezing them with carbon dioxide snow (dry ice). The carbon dioxide snow penetrates deep into cracks and crevices such as the keyboard, eliminating bed bugs from the places they’re most likely to hide!  Because InstantFreeze is dry, there is no liquid residue.  It may form snow on the surface of an item, but then it evaporates, so it’s completely safe and there’s no damage to electronics.   It only harms bed bugs and other insects!

STEAM: Steam can kill insects by exposing them to high temperatures- but you wouldn’t want to use steam on a laptop- because steam is just hot water- and the National Pest Management Association points out that water and electronics don’t mix.  The NPMA’s best bed bug practices state you should “avoid steaming heat-sensitive items such as electronics.”

DRY HEAT: We wouldn’t recommend exposing your iPad or other electronics to the high heat that is part of a thermal heat treatment.  Thermal heat treatments eliminate bed bugs by raising an entire room, including electronics to temperatures between 113 and 140 F.  Similarly, there are portable units and trailers in which you can place your items that will heat up these items to a sufficient temperature at which insects will die.

While these temperatures may kill insects, these extreme temperatures aren’t safe for delicate electronics.  Your instinct is right not to leave your cell phone on the dashboard of your car on a hot day in direct sunlight – so why would you expose your electronics to high temperatures.  The manufacturers agree: see Apple’s Environmental Requirements for the iPad that state that iPads shouldn’t be exposed to extreme temperatures.

  • Operating temperature: 32° to 95° F (0° to 35° C)
  • Nonoperating temperature: -4° to 113° F (-20° to 45° C)
  • Relative humidity: 5% to 95% noncondensing
  • Maximum operating altitude: 10,000 feet (3000 m)

Experts warn against having electronics in high temperatures– as there are real world examples of computers being damaged by high temperatures such as servers placed underground in New York City.

Alternatively the pest control companies employing these other methods do not treat these items, so their treatments are not nearly as thorough and the likelihood of success is much lower!  As the client noted above- you need to treat everywhere in an affected area as bed bugs do live in electronics.

CHEMICALS: What about Chemicals? You wouldn’t want to use liquid or powder pesticide on a laptop.  It could cause damage, and besides it’s a surface that you touch.

Bell Environmental has the best solution for treating an entire location, including the computers and electronics on site, whereas steam, dry heat, and chemicals will damage them.  InstantFreeze is uniquely safe for treating computers, server rooms, and data centers.

What was the resolution of the client’s problem?

We invited this victim to bring his laptop to our office, where we can treat his computer, and alternatively offered to send our bed bug team to his home.  He drove out to us and we were glad to help solve his problem safely and thoroughly!

Thanks for a great question!