Bed Bug Pesticides

Step #7: Using Bed Bug Pesticides

It is important to realize that using bed bug pesticides alone will not get rid of bed bugs – you must take additional steps.  Pesticide are just one weapon in the arsenal against bed bugs. Experts recommend using Integrated Pest Management practices – combining a variety of tools that work together to help eliminate bed bugs, as embodied in our 8-step process, with pesticides as a last resort when you are unable to bring your infestation under control. Pesticides can be a part of your strategy but they are dangerous chemicals that can have serious health consequences even if used correctly, and for that reason it is crucial that you are as careful as you can be when using them.

The following video discusses pesticide use for bed bugs and our recommendations on what to look for in a licensed pest control professional.

Should you decide to use pesticides, we highly recommend getting a professional to apply them.  Make sure they are using the correct pesticides, are fully licensed, and come recommended by others. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misuse of pesticides in the pest control profession and we have seen reports of unscrupulous operators using pesticides intended for outdoor use only with disastrous consequences.

When you talk to a pest control company about coming out to your home ask them what pesticides they use. If they use pyrethoid based pesticides you probably want to find a different pest control professional because many bed populations have developed resistance to pyrethroids.

Generally pest control companies are going to want to do at least two applications of pesticides. After the initial application they will usually follow up within two to three weeks to get any bed bugs that may have hatched since the first spraying. See what plan your pest control professional has and make sure you understand ahead of time what the full schedule and cost of treatment is estimated at.

As the effectiveness of pesticides is constantly changing for bed bugs we can’t really recommend any one pesticide as your best option. One thing we do know for sure is that pyrethroids won’t cut it, but beyond that you’ll want to research what your pest control professional is using to see how effective others have found it. Keep in mind as you read online reviews that even if a pesticide is effective it can be misapplied, or reviewers can misunderstand that multiple applications are often necessary, so don’t take every review at face value. One resource that we highly recommend is the CDC Bed Bug Product Search Tool.

The most important thing is the reputation of the professional you’re entrusting to treat your house: chances are if they have a good reputation they’ll be knowledgeable about up-to-date chemical treatments and willing to explain to you what they’re using and why.

Video Transcript

When you are weighing whether or not to use pesticides, keep in mind that pesticides alone are not a magic bullet. Alone they are not going to get rid of bed bugs. You really have to think of pesticides as just one more weapon in the arsenal against bed bugs.

That said, we at ZappBug do feel that they have a place but only when used in conjunction with all of the other steps. We also realize though that a lot of people feel really strongly against pesticides because of the exposure to toxins and that’s understandable. So, what it comes down to is you are really weighing on one hand the additional help that pesticides will give you in getting rid of bed bugs versus the exposure to toxins that you’ll get. That’s only a choice that you can make. For myself, I found pesticides to be helpful when I had bed bugs. But I have to say that I felt they were helpful only in conjunction with all of the other steps.

If you do decide to use pesticides, you probably should get a professional to apply them. They are toxic chemicals. But unfortunately, there are a lot of pest control professionals who are maybe using the wrong pesticides. What you want to do when you call up a pest control company is ask them if they are using pyrethroid based pesticides. This is what you want to avoid, pyrethroids. The reason is that pyrethroids have been around for a long time and bed bug populations out in the real world, a lot of those populations have gained a resistance to them. They are just not as effective as they might once have been (see our blog post about this – bed bugs resistant to 1000X lethal dose). If the pest control company confirms that yes they do use pyrethroid based pesticides, you probably want to find a different pest control company.

So, what should they be using? Well there are a number of more effective pesticides out there on the market. These are a very popular combination, Phantom here as a liquid, also as an aerosol and Gentrol. These are not the only ones that are used out there but they are a popular combination. Phantom is a relatively new pesticide and reports are that bed bugs don’t have resistance to it yet. The thing to keep in mind is that when exposed to Phantom, bed bugs don’t die immediately. It actually takes them a while to die after exposure. Gentrol is basically birth control for pests. In the past it has been used a lot to try to control roach populations and it has been found more recently that it’s also effective against bed bugs. What is does is it prevent the bug from molting and thus growing up and being able to breed and reproduce but it doesn’t kill the bug. So, that’s why Gentrol and Phantom are often used together. Gentrol works as birth control and Phantom as the actual killer.

When you have a pest control company come out they are going to want to come back at least one more time for a follow-up spraying. The reason is that they’ll want to come back in a week or two in hopes of getting any more bed bugs that may have hatched in the interim. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are two types of pesticides, residual and non-residual. Those are the two classifications. Residual means that the pesticide resides – continues to reside for a few months. Both Gentrol and Phantom are residual so after spraying they’ll last up to four months or so. That’s a good thing because they continue to kill any bed bugs that might get exposed to them. Non-residual means of course that they don’t reside and that they dissipate fairly quickly.

The other thing is that pesticides are classified as either repellant or non-repellant. Repellant means that if you were to draw a circle of a pesticide and the bed bug was in the middle, the bed bug would avoid going out of that circle. It’s repelled by that pesticide. Non-repellant is the opposite, it doesn’t repel the bug at all. With Gentrol and Phantom, they are non-repellant and bed bugs will readily travel through them. Diatomaceous earth which we discuss in Step 4 (see Step 4: Diatomaceous Earth) would be considered repellant if you are using a thick enough bead because it forms this barrier that bed bugs don’t want to actually travel though.

Now you can do your own pesticide control if you want. All of these chemical are readily available on the web, including spray bottles. If you do that, you would have to read the directions very carefully and follow them carefully. But we don’t recommend that. These are toxic chemicals so our advice is actually to get a pest control professional to apply them.

  • Pros

    Helpful as one step in an overall plan, so long as the correct pesticides are used.

  • Cons

    –Exposure to toxic chemicals.
    –Some pesticide professionals use the wrong pesticides.

DIY Pest Control for Bed Bugs

We don’t recommend applying your own pesticides for bed bugs. We have seen too many instances of misuse, and pesticides are very dangerous chemicals even when used properly by an experienced professional. If you choose to do this against our advice please be extremely cautious and follow all warnings and use guidelines on pesticides exactly. We cannot emphasize enough that you must exercise an abundance of caution whenever using any pesticides as they can lead to grievous injury or death.

Disclaimer: Some of the procedures outlined in this guide may be dangerous and should be undertaken at the readers own risk. Readers should consult all material safety data sheets for any products they use in their own attempts at pest control and consult with the manufacturers of all products regarding best usage practices. This guide should be construed as theoretical advice. ZappBug and its employees will not be held responsible for any injury due to the advice offered herein. This guide cannot be construed as formal advice and ZappBug will not be held liable in any instance of an action resulting from this story. This disclaimer assigns the readers all responsibility for their own decisions.