Bed bugs are surprisingly difficult to deal with. As far as pests and infestations are concerned, they are among the most difficult to take care of. A homeowner’s first question after discovering a potential bed bug problem might be something like:
- What chemical kills bed bugs?
- How can I quickly get rid of them?
- Which DIY solution works best for bed bugs and eggs?
In order to answer the first question, we have put together this resource that discusses various chemicals and treatments that, to varying degrees, are effective at killing bed bugs.
To answer the second question, the best thing you can do to quickly get rid of them is to call a qualified exterminator and ask for an inspection. (If you’d like us to help, click here to contact us for a free inspection.)
The answer to the third question is the same as the answer to the second. We strongly recommend against DIY solutions without first speaking to an exterminator. Unfortunately, DIY solutions can often exacerbate rather than solve the problem.
Chemicals That Kill Bed Bugs
There is something that homeowners should be aware of before seeking to utilize any chemical treatments in an attempt to eradicate or kill bed bugs. Most chemical treatments will only kill the bed bugs with which they directly come into contact. Unfortunately, the chances of finding and spraying (or otherwise treating) every single bed bug in an infestation are not good. Bed bugs are notorious for being able to sneak into and hide in remarkably small, cramped areas.
Another thing to be aware of is that bed bugs have an extraordinarily powerful sense of smell. If they smell chemicals or other substances that are potentially harmful to them, they will tend to burrow deep into their hiding areas in order to survive. Once they do this, the infestation becomes much more difficult to eradicate. This is why we caution so strongly against DIY solutions. Instead, keep the following options in mind when speaking to an exterminator.
(CAUTION: Some homeowners will likely feel tempted to disregard our advice about working with a qualified exterminator. Please note that should you choose to attempt a DIY solution with one or more of the following substances, you may be putting yourself and particularly your children and/or pets at risk. Some of these chemicals can be quite toxic at certain levels. This is another reason why we strongly suggest at least having an inspection done by a competent exterminator. Please feel free to reach out and request a free inspection from us if you think you may be experiencing trouble with bed bugs.
See also: 7 Warning Signs That You May Have Bed Bugs INCLUDE LINK TO PREVIOUS ARTICLE
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the US government agency tasked with evaluating data to determine the safety and effectiveness of the use of various chemicals and insecticides for the purpose of killing bed bugs and eradicating infestations.
“EPA has registered more than 300 products for use against bed bugs… These 300 registered products fall into seven chemical classes of pesticides that are currently registered and widely used for bed bug control”
These seven chemical classes are:
Pyrethrins are botanical insecticides that are commonly used in compounds that are designed for the treatment of bed bugs and other indoor pests. They are derived from chrysanthemum flowers.
Pyrethroid-based compounds are also frequently used to treat bed bugs and other indoor pests. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemical insecticides that act in a similar manner as pyrethrins. Both of these chemicals can effectively kill bed bugs. Unfortunately, like many bed bug treatments, they have their disadvantages as well. It’s not unheard of for certain bed bug populations to become resistant to these two types of chemical treatments. When this happens, instead of killing bed bugs, the scent of these chemicals might alert bed bugs to a threat in the environment and cause them to burrow deeper into their hideouts, making them that much more difficult to eradicate.
Desiccants have the ability to destroy the waxy, protective outer layer of a bed bug’s exoskeleton. This kills bed bugs by causing them to slowly dehydrate. According to the EPA:
“Because desiccants work through a physical mode of action, the bed bugs cannot become resistant to desiccants as they can to pesticides with other modes of action.”
A couple of fairly well-known examples of desiccants are diatomaceous earth and boric acid. Please keep the following warnings from the EPA in mind:
“When using desiccants to control bed bugs it is critical to use those that are registered by EPA and labeled for bed bug control. Desiccants that are intended for other uses, such as food-grade or for use in swimming pools, pose an increased inhalation risk to people. Use of desiccants is limited to cracks and crevices use only to reduce inhalation risk.”
The only biochemical that is registered with the EPA for use against bed bugs is cold-pressed neem oil. The Neem tree, from whose seeds this oil is processed, is an evergreen tree that grows in certain tropical regions in Africa and Southeast Asia. In addition to being an effective bed bug killer, neem oil has multiple insecticidal and medicinal properties. It is also used as an ingredient in various types of personal care products including toothpaste, soaps, shampoos, and cosmetics. Impressively, neem oil is not only effective at killing bed bugs, but also at destroying bed bug eggs (the most difficult part of an infestation to eradicate). Unfortunately, as with other products, any bed bugs that a person misses when applying neem oil might become alerted to danger through their powerful sense of smell. As previously mentioned, this can cause them to burrow much deeper into their hiding areas and thus become much more difficult to kill.
“Chlorfenapyr is the only pyrrole pesticide currently registered for use against bed bugs. The compound is a pro-insecticide, i.e. the biological activity depends on its activation to form another chemical. The new chemical disrupts certain functions in the bed bug’s cells, causing its death.”
Neonicotinoids, which are synthetic chemical forms of nicotine, are effective at killing bed bugs through the overstimulation of the nervous system. These chemicals stimulate the nicotinic receptors in a way that causes the nerves to fire continually until they eventually fail. Even bed bugs that are resistant to other types of pesticides tend to remain vulnerable to neonicotinoids.
7. Insect Growth Regulators
“Insect growth regulators are chemicals that mimic juvenile growth hormones in insects. They work by either altering the production of chitin (the compound insects use to make their hard external "shell" or exoskeleton) or by altering an insect’s development into adulthood. Some growth regulators force the insect to develop too rapidly, while others stop development.”
Which Chemical Is Best At Killing Bed Bugs?
All of these chemical treatments have their advantages and disadvantages in treating, killing and eradicating bed bug infestations.
Some exterminators may attempt to treat your bed bug problem with a combination of these various chemical treatments.
But here at Presidio Pest Management, there’s another treatment that we recommend more than any of these chemicals.
Temperatures above 120°F will quickly kill not only bed bugs but also their eggs. Hard as bed bugs are to kill, the eggs are significantly more difficult to eradicate.
High heat very effectively takes care of both, and does so without leaving toxic chemical residue in your home.
A competent exterminator should have the required equipment and knowledge to be able to use high heat to provide you with a quick, simple, nontoxic solution to almost any bed bug problem you may have.
Again, as previously mentioned, even if you are unsure and you think you just might have bed bug trouble, we strongly advise you to quickly contact a competent exterminator. Feel free to reach out to us and request a free inspection by calling (248) 457-5233. We look forward to hearing from you!