What are the Different Types of Bed Bug Pesticides?

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  • Written By: Helga George
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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While not carriers of disease, bed bugs do bite humans, suck blood, and can cause itchy rashes. Although kept under control for much of the 1900s by the use of DDT, which is now banned, bed bugs have acquired resistance to many of the insecticides previously used to control them. Bed bug eradication is a difficult endeavor, generally involving professionals and a combination of non-chemical approaches, along with the use of bed bug pesticides. Several different classes of insecticides are used, including synthetic pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, one type of pyrrole, and insect growth regulators. Different formulations are also often used, including bed bug sprays, wettable powders, and bed bug dust, such as diatomaceous earth.

There is currently a pandemic of bed infestations in the U.S. These insects can become pests in perfectly clean dwellings. Even high-end hotels and resorts can be contaminated with the blood-sucking insects. There is sometimes confusion with bat bugs, a similar type of insect does not attack humans, instead infesting bats and birds in attics. One should always consult a professional if a bed bug infestation is suspected.


Once bed bugs have been identified on the premises, non-chemical techniques are usually employed first. This includes practices such as vacuuming, steaming, and treating clothing in heat. After the initial cleaning has been done, and the area has been removed of clutter, a mixture of insecticides is typically applied. There are a variety of chemical classes and different application types of bed bug pesticides to choose from. It is a constant battle as the creatures evolve resistance to the current generation of insecticides, forcing the development of new ones.

Another problem is that it is technically difficult to kill bed bugs. Their legs have little contact with the surface they walk across, so they do not pick up much applied chemical. This limits the utility of contact insecticides. Bed bug dust formulations are more useful for killing the insects than bed bug sprays. The dust penetrates further into cracks and crevices, and reaches insects that are hidden away more deeply. Bed bugs can hide in cracks the size of a credit card's edge.

The most important class of pesticides for controlling these insects is a class of compounds called pyrethroids. The original chemicals were derived from an African variety of chrysanthemum plant, and displayed little toxicity to humans. Insects became resistant to them, however, so synthetic pyrethroids were developed. Resistance to these is becoming a problem once again. Pest control companies continue to develop new pyrethroid compounds in hopes of better combating insect infestations.

An alternative to ineffective insecticides is one of the bed bug sprays called chlorfenapyr, a compound called a pyrrole. It is restricted to treating cracks, spots, and crevices. The treatment of beds is specifically forbidden.

Neonicotinoids are a promising group of compounds derived from nicotine, the highly insecticidal tobacco ingredient. Bed bugs with resistance to other types of bed bug pesticides do not show resistance to this class of chemicals. These are implicated in the collapse of honey bee colonies, however.

Several bed bug sprays are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Such compounds inhibit the transmission of signals in the nervous systems of insects and humans. They have the potential to be quite toxic to people and are not approved for use inside dwellings.

One intriguing group of bed bug pesticides is insect growth regulators, such as hydropene. These chemicals keep the young insects from maturing to adults, and eventually they die. These compounds usually need to be used in combination with other insecticides, however.

Even if the pesticide treatment is successful, it may need to be repeated a few weeks later, since eggs are unaffected by the pesticides. If conditions are particularly dire, fumigation of the whole dwelling with methyl bromide or sulfuryl fluoride may be necessary. Such treatments can only be performed by licensed professionals.

One must be very careful to follow product labels closely when using bed bug pesticides. Only some types can be used on mattresses. Others are to be used only in areas where humans will not have contact with them. Treating electronics is tricky and best done with insecticide dust. Generally, bed bug eradication is a complex process best left to professionals.


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Post 3

While bed bugs are a big nuisance, they are not deadly to humans. Keep this in mind when you are trying to find the best bed bug killer. In some cases, the cure is worst than the disease.

Post 2

A friend told me that flea and tick powder was good for getting rid of bed bugs. She said the bugs walk through the powder and eventually get covered in it. Once they are covered, I guess they are unable to eat or drink. I'm not sure how it works, but they are supposed to get dehydrated and die eventually.

Anyway, I used the flea powder. I created a border around the sofa in the workshop/office attached to the garage. This is where they were most noticeable. I also covered almost everything else in the room with flea powder. In the end, the bugs didn't appear to be too bothered by my efforts at exterminating them.

Now that I read in this article that bed bugs have little contact with the surfaces they walk on, I can understand why the powder didn't work very well.

Post 1

Is it just me, or does it seem like our efforts to kill bed bugs is an endless battle that goes in cycles? We seemed to have the upper hand for a long time, now the bugs are making a comeback.

This bed bug resurgence means we now have to come up with different weapons to use against the parasites. I guess there is no harm in this continuous battle, except that the weapons (chemicals) we create to kill the bugs also harm other creatures and humans, too.

The article mentioned the relationship between chemicals used to kill bed bugs and the decrease in the number of bees. Is the trade off worth it?

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