N.W.T. gov't buys bedbug heaters to blast pesky critters in public housing

The $137,791 contract, which includes employee training, is for four PestPro bedbug heaters. They’re expected to arrive this month.

North Slave, South Slave, Nahendeh, Beaufort Delta and Sahtu districts to get 1 heater apiece

The N.W.T. government has ordered four of these bedbug heaters for use in housing corporation units. They are expected to arrive this month. (Courtesy of PestPro Thermal Systems)

The Northwest Territories Housing Corp. has purchased new heaters to deal with bedbugs in its housing units.

The $137,791 contract, which includes employee training, is for four PestPro thermal bedbug heaters. They're expected to arrive later this month.

The corporation already owns one machine. With five, each its districts will get one.

"In the past it has often been a challenge to get contractors for fumigation to deal with bedbug outbreaks, especially in the more remote communities," said Cara Bryant, a spokesperson for the housing corporation, in an email.

A model walks with one of the bedbug systems. In order to work, bedbugs need to be heated to 54 C for at least two hours. (Courtesy of PestPro Thermal Systems)

"It uses only heat, but is highly effective."

The housing corporation doesn't track the number of outbreaks in its units, but they're said to happen "occasionally."

Damien Healy, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services, said in an email that between 2016 and Jan. 10, 2019, there were 20 complaints of bedbugs in homes. Of those, 17 were private homes. The three complaints of bedbugs in public housing were all made in 2016 and 2017.

Pair heat with pesticide: expert

Nina Jenkins, an associate research professor at Pennsylvania State University's Department of Entomology, says the equipment might have to work harder due to the cold temperatures in the territory, but it should still do the job.

She said 54 C is the temperature necessary to kill bedbugs during any of their life stages.

"It's really important when you do that, that all cracks, crevices, areas deep under cushions, and things like that, reach that lethal temperature for at least two hours," Jenkins said in a phone interview from Pocono Manor, Pa., where she was attending a conference about pests.

She emphasized that this kind of treatment needs to be handled in a co-ordinated way.

"It's a skilled operation and, if it's done properly, it works extremely well."

When bedbugs are found, there's a high likelihood they have travelled to other units within a building, even on other floors, she said. Electrical outlets and air vents can act as pathways for the pests.

Jenkins said alongside the heat, it's still good practice to use a pesticide against bedbugs, in case those that escaped the heat return.