Bombs For Bed Bugs Are Duds

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For decades Bed Bug ‘Bombs ‘or ‘Foggers’ have been commonly available for the Do-It-Yourself  consumer to battle common household pests. Recent scientific studies have proven this type of bed bug control to be futile—the infestation is not controlled, money is wasted, and effective treatment is hindered. The concept bombs are a cost-effective alternative to professional extermination services has exploded—bed bug bombs are duds.

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Urban entomologist Susan Jones  (Photo by Ken Chamberlain)Out of Ohio State University, authors Susan C. Jones, PhD, and Joshua L. Bryant are the first to provide published data to back-up this long-held belief of many practicing Pest Control Professionals that bed bug bombs are unproductive against bed bugs.  “Ineffectiveness of Over-the-Counter Total-Release Foggers Against the Bed Bug (Heteroptera:  Cimicidae)” is contained in the June 2012 edition of the Journal of Economic Entomology; a peer-reviewed publication of the Entomological Society of America. States Jones:

“These foggers don’t penetrate in cracks and crevices where most bed bugs are hiding, so most of them will survive…If you use these products, you will not get the infestation under control, you will waste your money, and you will delay effective treatment of your infestation. Bed bugs are among the most difficult and expensive urban pests to control. It typically takes a professional to do it right. Also, the ineffective use of these products can lead to further resistance in insects.” 

The study, funded by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Centre and Ohio State University Extension, evaluated Hot Shot Bed Bug & Flea Fogger, Eliminator Indoor Fogger and Spectracide Bug Stop Indoor Fogger on six different strains of bed bugs. Five strains were collected from residences in Columbus, Ohio in 2010/11; the sixth group, the Harlan strain, served as the control group as it had been cultivated in the lab since 1973 and had not been exposed to pesticides.

Most Of The Bugs Remained Unaffected

Making use of a campus building scheduled for demolition, petri dishes containing the bed bugs were placed in empty children’s wading pools equidistant from each fogger. After two hours of direct exposure to each of the foggers, the Harlan strain had succumbed in each incidence, while the remaining strains showed few adverse effects. The report states:

“Furthermore, 5-7 d [five – seven days] later, most of these bug remained unaffected, which suggests that these pyrethroid-based foggers lack delayed toxicity and have no long-term residual efficacy against field populations of bed bugs.”

One strain was the exception showing significant mortality five to seven days post treatment of the Spectracide Fogger.  

A second test provided filter paper or thin cloth to replicate the shelter the bugs would find from seeking harbourage in small nooks, cracks or crevices of mattresses, flooring or furniture. With this added protection, mortality was low for all strains exposed to all three foggers; even the pyrethroid-susceptible Harlan strain survived. Jones explains:

“The critical issue is that the droplets don’t penetrate cracks or crevices. They don’t even get to where the bugs are hiding.”

Only the Hot Shot labels specifically states bed bugs; the others target ‘crawling or flying insects’.  Jones asserts:

“Based on our findings, bug bombs should not be used for crawling insect such as bed bugs. These products shouldn’t even be labeled for bed bugs.”

Public Is Ill-Served

Jones plans to submit her study to the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hoping to initiate officials to re-examine the labelling standards – as each one tested claims to “kill on contact”. Jones points out, “The public is ill-served when products do not perform in accordance with labeling. Also, the ineffective use of these products can lead to further resistance in insects.”

There are additional negative attributes to complete the list regarding bombs: 

  • Application errors – not vacating quickly enough after releasing the bomb, re-entering too early have led to short-term fogger-related injuries/illnesses, e.g. headaches, coughing, nausea documented by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention; some required hospitalization.
  • Insecticides found in foggers, usually pyrethroids and pyrethrins, may deposit contaminates on counters and
  • The aerosol propellant is flammable necessitating the extinguishing of all flame sources prior to release of the bomb; failure to do so, has resulted in fires and explosions.

Add up all these points – and bed bug bombs do not warrant even a small risk from pesticide exposure. It is worth repeating – bed bug bombs are duds.

Canadians are not immune to the dramatic claims of consumer products marketed for bed bug control. A quick examination of Canadian retail shelves and internet retail sites reveals labels proclaiming ‘kills on contact’; targets ‘crawling’, ‘flying’ or ‘biting’ insects and a few specifically identify bed bugs as the target insect. There are even a number of foggers on the Canadian market at an enticingly low price point. It is time to remember the time-honoured adages: 

  • “you get what you pay for”
  • “if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is” and of course,
  • “buyer beware”.

As a consumer, you now realize bed bug bombs are duds. Makes you wonder about the efficacy of flea bombs, eh? 

Posted on June 25, 2012 and filed under kill bed bugs, news & events, product reviews.