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Pesticides for Bed Bugs

Table of contents

There are many types of bed bug pesticides available for home and professional use.

Among professionals, the most popular options come in the form of liquid and dust.  Less popular are resin strips, fumigants such as foggers and bug bombs, and aerosols. In terms of active ingredients, pyrethroids remain popular, with newer products containing β-cyfluthrin and imidacloprid, and the non-pyrethroid chlorfenapyr, which is completely invisible to bed bugs and kills insecticide resistant strains of the insect.

The application of bed bug pesticide takes a professional 3 hours, with 2 to 3 follow up visits for additional treatments to kill any insects that might have been missed during the initial visit. 

Most professionals (41%) have never had a problem with bed bugs insecticide resistance, and find all ingredients mentioned to be effective. 

You need more than one type of product to effectively eliminate bed bugs. These can be cost effectively purchased as part of a professional bed bug kit.

professional bed bug pesticide spray and dusterA Professional Bed Bug Kit Contains the Bed Bug Pesticides Needed To Eliminate a Problem Including a Mattress Safe Spray, Residual Spray, Dust Product, and Duster.
Shown: Bed Bug Supply Kit

Overview

click here to learn more

Bed bug pesticide choices come in the from of sprays, foggers, liquids and dust.  Each varies by the underlying active chemical or non-chemical ingredient, any lasting effect, effectiveness on bed bug eggs and if the product is mattress/fabric or food preparation area safe.

Pest control experts have access to a broader range of bed bug pesticide products than does the consumer. If you want to try the do it yourself approach to bed bug control, the most economical approach is to purchase a kit from a company such as Bed Bug Supply. Kits typically contain:

  1. Mattress safe spray which kills on contact
  2. Longer lasting spray which creates an invisible field to kill any bed bugs you might have missed
  3. Bed bug dust (and duster application)

Optional items includes bed bug mattress covers and items to put under bed legs which deter bed bugs.

Follow the manufacturers directions on the label.  If you have children or pets, at minimum make sure that whatever insecticide is applied has completely dried.  Of course, refer to the label regarding children and pets.



Sprays

There are many  bedbug sprays on the market.  Three of the most popular bed bug pesticide sprays are listed below. These products have been tested for bed bugs insecticide resistance.

Sterifab

Sterifab is alcohol based and will kill bed bugs on contact.  It is not marketed as having a residual effect.  It is labeled safe for treating the mattress surface, and is generally considered safe by the EPA.  It is also pet safe, but of course should not be sprayed directly on pets.

Phantom

Phantom is effective against a broad array of insects in addition to bedbugs.  Its' key selling point in that it is undetectable to bedbugs and therefore the bugs will not avoid the areas sprayed.  The product has a residual effect after spraying and is effective on both the bugs and eggs.  The manufacturer indicates that it can be used on mattress seams and folds, but not on the surface.  

Phantom Bedbug spray uses Chlorfenapyr as the active ingredient, a chemical tested for bedbug resistance and has shown to be effective. Phantom is a good choice for cracks and crevices. This product has a significantly longer residual effect  than the Sterifab. 

Bedlam

Bedlam Professional Bed Bug Insecticide is mattress safe and has a 2 to 4 week residual effect against bed bugs and their eggs.  This spray is specifically marketed to target bedbugs. 

Insecticide free sprays

There are also several bedbugs spray products available that are insecticide free.  These products claim to kill bed bugs on contact, but do not have a residual effect.  They are mattress, children and pet safe. A recent study by the Journal of Entomology has shown these sprays to be 90% effective against bed bug nymphs when sprayed directly. Only the Ecoraider spray had 87% egg mortality.

EcoRaider kills all stages of bed bugs including those that are resistant to some of the traditional pesticides.It is non-toxic, safe, child and pet friendly and safe to use directly on mattress and box springs.

Bed Bug Patrol is an environmentally friendly spray treatment that kills on contact with residual protection. It is natural and non-toxic, child and pet safe. 

Note that in tests these products did not work as well as products that contain chemical pesticides, but are effective alternatives. (see study below)

Pesticides

The chart below lists some of the most popular pesticides currently in use. Note that a University of Kentucky study showed that pyrethroids are starting to lose effectiveness against some bed bugs, but since there is no way to determine a resistant bedbug, the products are still used.

Active
Ingredient
Product Name(s) Class Formulation*
Chlorfenapyr Phantom pyrrole SC
Cyfluthrin •Tempo SC Ultra
•Tempo 20WP
Tempo WP
pyrethroid SC
WP
WP
Cyfluthrin &
pyrethrins
span class="style5">•Intruder HPX pyrethroid
&
pyrethrins
A
Deltamethrin •DeltaDust
•D-Force HPX
Suspend SC Lasts up to 3 months per application. Odorless and clear.
pyrethroid D
A
SC
Diatomaceous
earth or Silicon dioxide
• Natural Guard Crawling Insect Control
• Safer Brand Ant & Crawling Insect Killer
inorganic
desiccant
D
D
Esfenvalerate •Onslaught pyrethroid ME
Hydroprene Gentrol insect growth regulator that stops reproduction. Comes in an aerosol. EC
Lambda cyhalothrin Demand CS
•Bug Stop-Spectracide(OTC)
pyrethroid ME
RTU liquid
Permethrin •Prelude pyrethroid EC
Phenothrin with isopropanol with MGK264 Sterifab
Bedlam
pyrethroid RTU
A
2-Phenethyl-propionate
(PEP) with
piperonyl
butoxide (PBO)
and pyrethrins
•EcoPCO EC
•EcoPCO DX
botanical (PEP) synergist (PBO)
pyrethrins
EC
D
Pyrethrins/
pyrethroids
with piperonyl butoxide
•Kicker
•Prescription Treatment PI
•CB-80
•CB-123 Extra
•565 Plus XLO
pyrethrins/
pyrethroids and synergist
EC
A
A
A
A
Silica and
pyrethrins
•Drione
•Tri-Die
* PT Tri-die Pressurized Silica + Pyrethrin dust (Not available in NY)
inorganic
w/
pyrethrins
D
D
Tralomethrin< •Saga WP pyrethroid WP

* A (aerosol), D (dust), EC (emulsifiable concentrate), ME (micro encapsulation), RTU (ready-to-use), WP (wettable powder), SC (suspended concentrate)

Number of Treatments

Purdue University studied the use of popular pesticides on bed bug infestations. They researched a 15 story apartment building.

Products Used in the Study:

  • Liquid pyrethroid (deltamethrin, Suspend® SC)
  • Dust pyrethroid (cyfluthrin (Tempo® 1% dust)

The test treated the apartments in 2 week intervals when they observed that the bed bugs weren't fully removed. The study determined that to completely remove bed bugs using these products it required 2 to 4 treatments.

Chlorpyrifos Bed Bug Insecticide Warning

The insecticide Chlorprifos is legal in some countries for use as a bed bug insecticide.  It is banned in the United States for this use, with use limited to outdoor areas.  In other countries such as New Zealand, it can only be used by professional exterminators. It is also banned by the EU Biocidal Products Directive, since it is an organophosphate.  While organophosphates are found in many common products, they are linked to developmental problems in fetuses and children.

In Thailand, there is a case under investigation where the insecticide Chlorprifos is suspected of being applied incorrectly in a hotel called the Downtown Inn.  A Tourist named Sarah Carter died after staying in the hotel died after exposure to the bed bug insecticide (5/11/11).  Other tourists are thought to have died reason.

You read the U.S. EPA report on Chlorpyifos

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