Do's and Don'ts of Bed Bug Control

As tiny as they are, bed bugs are one of the most troublesome and difficult-to-control pests. According to a survey by the National Pest Management Association Bed Bugs in America,

  • 20% of Americans have encountered bed bugs in their home or hotel, or know someone who has
  • 76% of pest professional consider bed bugs to be the most difficult pest to control.

Treating Bed Bug Infestations

Bed bugs can be controlled, however, warning that "ineffective bed bug treatments can take a bite out of consumers' wallets," an FTC web page includes information on bed bugs, advice for treatment and prevention, and recommendations to follow if you choose to hire a professional.

FTC advises consumers who wish to control bed bugs themselves to use an Integrated Pest Management strategy, which included prevention, monitoring, and limited chemicals, and to check the EPA product list for products registered for the planned application. The EPA product page includes the ability to search products by a number of factors. In addition, FTC states, "Consumers should not attempt to control bed bugs inside their homes with products that are made for outdoor use. They should avoid bombs and foggers, and should not spray pesticides in areas occupied by children or pets, or on top of mattresses, sofas, or other upholstered furniture."

Before using any pesticide, read the label and follow all directions. Never use a pesticide indoors that is intended for outdoor use. Other methods of control include heat and steam.

Avoidance of bug bombs and foggers is recommended because studies have shown that there is resistance to pyrethroids in these products and because they can cause the insects to scatter, making the problem worse.

Bug Bombs

A 2012 study by Dr. Susan Jones, associate professor of entomology at The Ohio State University, showed that over-the-counter bug bombs and foggers had little effect on bed bugs – even through direct exposure for two hours.

The total release foggers that were tested were Hotshot Bedbug and Flea Fogger, Spectracide Bug Stop Indoor Fogger, and Eliminator Indoor Fogger, all of which are aerosolized pyrethroids.

With some species, mortality did increase with longer exposure, however, if the bed bugs had any possible harborage, even that of a thin cloth layer, very few of the bed bugs were affected or killed by the pesticides.

In homes and businesses, there is virtually always available harborage and most bed bugs tend to hide in protected spots where they would not be directly contacted by the fogging mist.

Thus, Jones concluded from the study that total-release foggers should not be recommended for bed bug control because many are resistant to pyrethroids and are not affected by the low concentrations of foggers and the fogs have little to no penetration into the spots where the bed bugs harbor.

In fact, when a pyrethroid product does penetrate a harborage, it is more likely to cause the bed bugs to scatter than it is to kill them, thus making the problem worse by dispersing the bugs around the room or area.

Read the full study on The Ohio State University website.

Hiring a Professional

When deciding to hire a professional to treat for bed bugs or other pests, it is important to ensure that the service company you select is fully qualified and licensed.

A few resources for finding service professionals include:

  • NPMA - Find a licensed pest control expert to assist in proper identification and treatment of household pest problems. Enter your zip code to locate pest control companies and pest removal services near you.
  • Better Business Bureau – BBB assigns ratings by evaluating businesses in the following categories reflecting its degree of confidence that the business is operating in a trustworthy manner and will make a good faith effort to resolve any customer concerns filed with BBB. Fill in your location and the type of service you are seeking.
  • State Attorney General Offices – Search companies for consumer complaints or find a consumer advocate if necessary. The national association site includes links to specific state sites.
  • Consumer Protection Agencies – This site includes a number of consumer protection options, including consumer directories, resources for smart shopping, and the ability to file complaints.