Household Treatments Ineffective Against Bedbugs

By Amir Khan on June 5, 2012 9:12 AM EDT

Bedbug
Common household treatments are useless against bedbugs, according to a new study (Photo: Creative Commons)

If you have bedbugs, treating them yourself may not be the best choice, according to a new study, published in the Journal of Economic Entomology on Sunday. Common do-it-yourself bedbug treatment, such as bug bombs and "foggers," are no match for the bugs and are ineffective and getting rid of the pests.

Many people buy these products as a cheaper alternative to professional exterminator treatment, researchers said, but at approximately $10, they said you get what you pay for.

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The majority of the bedbugs in houses and apartments are resistant to the insecticides used in the treatment, according to the study. But even bedbugs who are not resistant to the chemicals survive, as the fogger cannot penetrate their into the areas where the bugs hide.

"These foggers don't penetrate in cracks and crevices, where most bedbugs are hiding, so most of them will survive," Susan Jones, study author and urban entomologist at Ohio State University, said, according to WebMD. "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."

Bedbugs are small, flat insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people or animals. The rust-colored nuisances can grow to as long as a quarter-inch (7 millimeters). Travelers typically transport bedbugs, according to the CDC, as the vermin can hide in the lining of suitcases and sneak into folded clothes before infesting houses when people unpack.

"Most cities have bedbug problems today," Michael F. Potter, professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky, told MSNBC in 2010. "Any place you have a lot of people, or a lot of movement of people, you have bedbugs."

The researchers tested three products on five different groups of bedbugs for over two hours, and found that they had little, if any, effect on the bugs.

 "Based on our findings, bug bombs should not be used for crawling insects such as bed bugs," Jones told CNN. "These products shouldn't even be labeled for bed bugs."

However, only one of the products tested, the Hot Shot Bedbug & Flea Fogger, mentioned bedbugs on the label, according to the study. The rest mentioned "crawling" or "biting" insects.

Researchers said your best bet is to leave the treatment to professionals.

"Bed bugs are among the most difficult and expensive urban pests to control. It typically takes a professional to do it right," Jones said, according to CBS News. "Also, the ineffective use of these products can lead to further resistance in insects."

There are measures you can take to prevent or get rid of them yourself, however.

1)      Check all secondhand furniture, beds, and couches for any signs of bedbug infestation.

  • Look for reddish-brown or rust-colored spots on sheets and mattresses, especially before you lay down in a hotel bed, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. You can also look for skins or even live bugs underneath the mattress.

2)      Use a protective case that covers your mattress and box spring completely.

  • Bedbugs are excellent hiders. A mattress cover eliminates many of their hiding places. In addition, such covers are usually light in color, which makes bedbugs easier to spot.

3)      Reduce clutter around your bed.

  • Bedbugs typically live within 8 feet (2.5 meters) of your bed. Cleaning the area removes many of their hiding places.

4)      When traveling, use luggage racks to hold your luggage instead of putting it on the floor.

5)      When returning home, unpack your luggage directly into the washing machine and inspect it for any signs of bedbugs.

If your home does become infested with bedbugs, it can be very difficult to exterminate them because of their quick reproduction. A female bedbug can lay five to seven eggs per week, which take about 10 days to hatch. Bedbugs can survive for months without feeding, so getting rid of them often takes multiple treatments, according to the New York City Department of Health.

Although bedbug bites do not transmit diseases, they can be very itchy. Their bite marks look like mosquito or flea bite marks, and they appear from one to several days after the bite, according to theCDC.

If you notice bedbugs in your home, there are several steps you can take to get rid of them.

1)      Call an exterminator.

  • Bed bugs are resilient, and pesticides are usually necessary to get rid of them. Bug bombs are not effective against bedbugs, according to the NYC Department of Health.

2)      Wash any and all clothing, bedding cushions, and fabric in hot water.

  • Heat kills the bugs. Put anything you cannot wash into a garbage bag and stick it in the sun.

3)      Cover your bedposts in petroleum jelly.

  • Bedbugs cannot fly. Putting jelly on your bedposts makes it much more difficult for them to crawl into your bed.

4)      Repeat.

  • It usually takes several treatments to get permanently rid of bedbugs, and it could take months before they are gone for good.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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