Mobile bedbug killing machine cooks insects to clean belongings

A Kamloops, B.C., organization has built a mobile bedbug extermination van to help people dealing with the insects clean their belongings.

'We can salvage really viable things that otherwise would be discarded,' says organization

A Kamloops, B.C., non-profit has built a custom, mobile begbug exterminator out of a donated industrial refrigeration van. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

A Kamloops, B.C., non-profit has created a new weapon in the fight against bedbugs.

The ASK Wellness Society helps people struggling with housing and homelessness, addiction and AIDS and HIV.

As part of its work, it has also now has built a mobile bedbug exterminator out of a donated industrial refrigeration van.

The mobile bedbug extermination van heats up to 62.8 C to kill any bedbugs and eggs inside. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

The van comes complete with shelving, LED lighting, an emergency release hatch and sheet metal flooring and walls.

Executive director Bob Hughes came up with the idea for the mobile bug-killing machine four months ago, calling it a "respectful approach to dealing with what is a significant barrier for people to stay housed in this community."

"We can salvage really viable things that otherwise would be discarded," he said.

How it works

When a home has a bedbug infestation, traditional exterminators are able to target flooring and walls, but often residents must replace all their belongings.

Hughes said using the new van to clean those items instead can lift an otherwise large financial burden.

The team loads the van with belongings like books, photographs, clothing, furniture, televisions, etc.

The inside of the truck then heats up to 62.8 C and kills all the bedbugs and their eggs.

Anyone can call and request use of the van, but it comes with a cost based on how many loads have to be run through the process and how far the team has to travel to get to the residence.

The van is equipped with sheet metal floors and walls so no bugs can crawl out. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

"Ultimately in our industry, we know that heat works," said Tom Broad, owner of Broad Spectrum Pest Solutions. "It's always been part of the program, but to be able to do it beyond using a household dryer and to be able to put large items in there, it's a huge advantage."

Jo Bristol, who has been on the bedbug beat with ASK Wellness for two years, said this new machine will make her job much easier.

"It fills my heart to be able to help people like this without being so invasive," she said.

"To fire it up and hear that motor kick in and that heat start, you just go, 'Yes, die you nasty, little things.'"

Anyone can get bedbugs

Broad said the number of calls his company gets to deal with bedbugs has steadily increased over the past 15 years — he generally gets somewhere between three and six bedbug-related calls per week.

"It's one of those things that can happen to absolutely anybody," he said. "I've seen it in low-income housing all the way up to really fancy hotels or really huge houses. People can pick them up in so many places."

Hughes said the van isn't just a mobile bedbug extermination unit, it can also be used as a moving truck.

"I think it's something that's going to be invaluable to the non-profit community in Kamloops," he said. "It's a win-win."

With files from Jenifer Norwell