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The pest control industry now makes use of heat to kill unwanted arthropod pests. For example, heating homes to around 122 degrees fahrenheit for several hours kills termites nesting within structural wood, and indoor heat treatments have become the gold standard for bed bug infestation eradication. As it happens, pest control professionals and researchers are not the only people who have been experimenting with heat to kill arthropod pests. Since 2007, the amount of people in the general public who have killed indoor arthropods with fire has been growing with each passing year. This trend is unfortunate since many of these incidents end in disaster and serious injury.

Not long ago, an IT engineer had been struggling to kill a spider that kept appearing within his office. One day, while armed with a flammable aerosol can, the man ran into a bathroom in pursuit of the spider. The man saw the spider crawl behind a toilet before he used a lighter and an aerosol can as a sort of flamethrower to kill the eight legged creatures. Not sure if the spider specimen was dead, the man looked behind the toilet and lit his lighter so that he could see. The lighter lit the gas and blew the man right out of the stall, causing severe burns. Another incident saw a building owner in Chinatown place 48 “bug bombs,” or “foggers” within her roach infested multi-story building hoping to kill off the roaches once and for all. However, when the bombs went off they ignited a pilot light, causing the structure to explode. The explosion caused a load-bearing wall to cave in and numerous people were injured and several were found in critical condition. Another man set his house on fire while using a torch to burn away spider webs in his backyard, and surprisingly, these are just a few of the many instances of DYI heat treatments went terribly wrong.

When it comes to professional heat treatments to kill arthropods, there is much that experts do not know concerning the manner in which arthropods die when exposed to heat. “Thermal death” in these cases may result from protein coagulation, or damage to the cell wall. Heat may also cause toxins to build up in an arthropod due to metabolic disturbances. If heat robs an arthropod’s environment of oxygen, then death occurs by asphyxiation. In any case, heat treatments are highly effective at ridding homes and buildings of arthropod pests, but only when a trained professional is applying the treatment.

Have you ever used fire to kill one or more arthropod pests?